The Eclectus Parrot - Part 2
by Chris Hunt
Part 2 of this article covers the following areas:
Breeding in Captivity
Eclectus Parrots become sexually mature around the age of two or three years, but this does vary between birds. Females usually mature a little earlier than males and, in turn, can also become dominant towards their partner, causing breeding problems such as infertile eggs, stress or feather plucking. A close observation of your birds should be kept to ensure none of these problems occur.
The size of the nestbox or log is very important in the breeding of the Eclectus Parrot. Birds will sometimes mate in the nestbox or log so the design should be such that it ensures the nesting receptacle is large enough to accommodate this activity. A bad habit that females have is entering their box or log and dropping down on top of their eggs which usually leads to breakages. Because of this most breeders use and recommend an L-shaped nestbox [refer Figure 1] which allows the hen to lay and incubate her eggs in the far side of the nestbox, so when entering and dropping down she cannot break her eggs or damage young chicks. I use a different box [refer Figure 2] which is not as big and bulky as the L-shaped nestbox and my birds readily accept it. In this type of nestbox the hen enters the box and drops on to a ledge before entering the egg or chick compartment.
Another feature of this design is that the hen can look out of the box and see what is happening in her environment without leaving her eggs.
Hens will normally spend a lot of time in the nestbox or log, chewing or removing nesting material until the first egg is laid. Normally two eggs are laid with incubation beginning as soon as the first egg is laid. Some breeders will remove the first egg and replace it with an artificial egg until the second egg is laid, this is so the eggs hatch on the same day, giving both chicks as even chance when being fed in the nest. The incubation period usually averages out at about 28 days and the eggs are sat tightly by the hen only.
Eclectus chicks are almost naked when born and at about two weeks their eyes start to open and a dark down starts to cover their body. At approximately four weeks the first coloured feathers start to appear and the chicks can be sexed. The young fledge between 70-80 days and when they are observed eating and being independent from their parents they can be removed. They will breed almost all year round and because of this many breeders take full opportunity and incubate the eggs or remove the young for hand-rearing.
Some aviculturists prefer hand-raised birds because they believe they become less flighty or stressed. This, of course, opens up the market, allowing birds not only to be sold as breeding pairs, but also pets. A word of warning: during the breeding season Eclectus Parrots, especially the females, can become very aggressive and will even attack their owners.
Incubation and Hand-rearing
As already stated, most breeders prefer to handrear or even incubate young Eclectus Parrots from the egg. Nowadays this practice is not as difficult as it used to be, although it does demand a great deal of time and commitment. With the aid of thermostatically and electronically controlled incubators and brooders to keep constant temperatures, and designed to be easily cleaned and disinfected, the task is made a lot easier. The commercially made hand-rearing mixes on the market are undoubtedly the best we can have as veterinarians, chemists and nutritionists have worked together to produce such (commercially available) hand-rearing products which, in turn, gives these young parrots the best possible start in life. However, even with all this technology to make the job of hand-raising easier, you still have to be prepared to get out of a warm bed on a cold night to feed your baby parrots and to make sure that they are emptying out all right. Feeding times that young Eclectus Parrots need to be fed are:
Chicks can be hand-fed by using a crop tube, crop needle or a bent spoon. Some aviculturists prefer a crop tube or crop needle as this can make the job of hand-rearing quicker and cleaner. I prefer to use a spoon (with sides bent up) even though it can be a slower feeding process. I find if the chicks are cleaned after each feed they will be weaned just as clean as a crop-fed bird.
Eclectus Parrots are prone to feather plucking which can occur because of a number of things. Nutritional imbalance can be one of the main causes of feather plucking. Stress is also another contributing factor and can be brought on by many different situations including the cage or aviary being too small or too cold, a bossy partner, strangers in or around your aviary complex, the breeding season, change of diet, or even boredom can also lead to feather plucking. This, however, can sometimes be overcome by placing tree branches in their aviaries as this entices them to chew leaves and branches instead of their feathers, at the same time providing natural vitamins and minerals which are essential to their natural feather condition. Some Eclectus Parrots feather pluck more than others, and some birds will only pluck at certain times of the year, but it is very important that once a bird shows the first signs of plucking every effort should be made to eliminate the habit.
Whether you are looking at any Eclectus in an aviary [or even a photo] you will notice almost immediately that they have almost hair-like feathers which are quite different to the feathers of other parrots. Another diff-erent feature is that they don’t do into a hard moult but, instead, drop some feathers three or four times a year. Poor feather colour or abnormal feather colours can also indicate health, nutrition or stress problems.
The Eclectus Parrot is a great aviary bird and a delight to keep in one’s collection, however, a considerable amount of time is needed daily to care for these birds. As explained earlier (refer Feeding), they need and eat mainly soft foods that must be given daily, and all feeding receptacles must be thoroughly scrubbed after use.
Fresh eucalyptus branches must be given to combat boredom and fresh water provided daily. The Eclectus is fairly easily bred and they can make good parents. Likewise, they can be hand-reared to make great pets, talking and mimicking their owner’s voice. However, they are not a good bird for the suburban backyard, as they can be very vocal and have an ear-piercing screech that may not impress neighbours. I know one local aviculturist who kept "eckies" temporarily in a suburban backyard while waiting to move to the country who got up at 5am every day to switch on a radio in their aviary so that they would not start screeching! Apart from the noise factor I can thoroughly recommend keeping a pair of Eclectus Parrots.
This article was reprinted with the kind permission of the Author after first appearing in Australian Aviculture, the monthly journal of the Avicultural Society of Australia Inc, 52 Harris Road, Elliminyt, Victoria 3249.
About the Author
Chris Hunt has been a keen aviculturist for over fifteen years and currently keeps Bourke's, Neophemas and several species of Australian Cockatoos and of course, Eclectus Parrots.