Friday, September 26, 2008

The Facts About Punishing Birds

Using punishment as a teaching aid is still all too common these days, especially when the subject being taught is a bird! Birds do not think or function like humans do or dogs or even as a horse does. Birds are prey animals and we should study their nature and how they live in the wild to hopefully understand better how to work with them and enjoy their companionship.

The topic of "punishment" is a great source of confusion and guilt that is plaguing many people, and not just an unchallenged method of changing unwanted behaviour.

Susan Friedman Ph.D. explains why, and gives sound strategies for reducing undesirable behaviours in parrots.

The Facts About Punishment S.G. Friedman, PhD, Utah, and Bobbi Brinker, Ohio Published in Original Flying Machine, Issue 4: Jan/Feb 2001

Nowadays, the issue of punishment has become an emotional minefield of misconceptions, good intentions, and general confusion. And this is the good news. We would be loath to return to a time when the use of punishment was unquestioned and was the most common, if not sole, strategy for changing undesirable behavior. A large part of the present confusion results from the perennial gap between research and practice. However, the negative effects of some forms of punishment have been studied scientifically and are well documented. These studies reveal compelling information about the detriments of punishment that no parrot guardian should be without.

Read the entire article in PDF HERE

(Best viewed with Adobe Reader)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Koko Update

Koko is so different from Nick, both large Congo African Greys, Nick being 13 years old and Koko about 8 years old. Koko was DNA tested to be a hen (female) we just guess that Nick is male due to his size and behavior.

Nick has been getting organic baby food from a spoon as a special "nite nite" treat once a week or so for his entire life with me. He always digs his beak in and grabs a huge mouthful like there will be no more. Koko is so dainty and feminine in her little tastes. It take her forever to fill her crop where Nick is full and bulging in seconds!

Nick has always been a quiet and easy going kind of guy. Koko is all about Koko! lol As mentioned in an earlier post, Koko uses her name in every sentence she speaks. She craves attention and has been known to throw temper tantrums when she does not get what she wants...

She will throw her special treat cup around the bottom of her cage and finally out the door and on the floor. She will crawl on top of her cage while leaning way forward and flap her wings. I believe she was once fully flighted as she has tried to jump off her cage and our large "Tree" in the living room; only to Thud and skid across the floor. She will then shake herself off and proceed to march over to where ever you and demand: "Koko UP" or "Koko go Love" as she loweres her head for special skritches.

I see a few pin feathers here and there and a few on the upper part of her wings are going to be red. She will be gorgeous for sure!

Koko loves to play and forage around on the bottom of her cage. She enjoys watching the dogs play and is not phases in the least if one or two of the dogs come and say "hi" with their little wet noses either. Just last night she was on my chest while I was in the recliner trying to read. I also had two Bostons curled up one at my side and one between my legs. Everyone was very content and not concerned about the other.

Nick will hang out with the dogs but is always watching them and is somewhat "jumpy" around them, never really trusting them. Nick is content to play and whistle and forage in his cage or sit on his tree all day long never asking for attention but always ready to lower his head and get skritches or scratchies when I do approach him and ask him if he would like some.

Anyway, just wanted to share what is new with our new special Congo girl...

More On Foraging

Happily, there is more and more information available on the importance and benefits of creating lots of foraging toys and opportunities. I have been very excited to find more people blogging about it, writing about it and sharing ideas with us.

I wanted to share this great little article from one of my personally favorite places to buy toy and foraging supplies for my own African Greys: GreyFeatherToys.Com

Foraging Toys. Longevity Naturally!
By Monica Gonzalez, Grey Feather Toy Creations

Diet plays a major role in a parrot's life. Diet promotes good behavior, health and longevity! Here are some fun food toys to offer your bird which may even tempt the finicky birds who need to be on the road to better health!

A. Pouch Surprise: Take a washed, large leafy green (i.e. Kale, Mustard Greens, Beet Greens) and take some leftover Brown Rice (brown rice is more nutritional than white rice) and pour it into the center of the leaf. You can add some Cranberries, Sprouts, Raisins, or Blueberries. Try not to over fill the leaf. Grab all the ends of the leaf and tie them together to form a pouch. If you would prefer to make a veggie or fruit mash: Take some of their favorites and throw them in the food processor and use that in your Pouch Surprise! Use something that you know they love and can smell. Some birds like a whiff of cinnamon or the smell of parsley. Our flock seems to enjoy fresh garlic. Take about a foot of 100% Natural Cotton Rope and tie a knot and make a loop at the end to affix it in the inside of your bird's cage. Vegetable tanned leather strips can also be used to string up the Pouch Surprise. Note: Keep the rope very trim so your bird cannot get caught in the dangling rope strands and knotted tightly. They will be very curious of this new fun and healthy toy you placed in there and will rip apart the leaf and find the little surprises you have tucked within.

B. Weaving: If you are having trouble getting your bird to try some of those high vitamin items you desperately want them to eat. Try taking them and weaving them through the bars of your bird's cage. Start with a small leaf if your bird is afraid of new items within their cage domain. Perhaps washed Carrot Tops, Beet or Dandelion Greens would be a wonderful place to start.. Remember to be enthusiastic about these items. Parrots are very curious by instinct and will wonder what "all the fuss" is about. Before you know it, he will be ripping apart the leaves. The first step on the road to better eating is forming a taste for it. By ripping apart the leaves, your bird will be ingesting some of the nutrients. My flock loves to rub their feathers on the freshly washed leaves then tear it to shreds! You will see your bird will enjoy eating the stems of the leafy greens which is where most of the nutrients are!

C. Pick-Up Stix: I remember playing Pick-Up Stix as a youngster. Well this fun foraging game can be just as much fun for your avian companion!

Take some carrots, kohlrabi, beets - whatever you can find and cut them into long sticks. (Maybe 1/2 the size of a Chop Stick in length.) Here is where the fun begins. Just you and your avian companion at the kitchen table or counter. My flock loves to be on the counter and play with food items. Note: Remove all objects from the area so that nothing is around to "distract" those curious beaks. This will keep them focused. (for a moment or two at least). Start placing the "veggie stix" out and making a pile out of them. Watch your bird come over and pick up the sticks along with you. He may throw them off the counter - be warned! Put some newspaper down to catch whatever may go falling down.

Our greatest challenge as parents to these wonderful feathered creatures is constantly finding new and exciting way to keep them interested and intrigued. No doubt you will come up with your own ideas for your and your pet bird.

Note: There are many foraging toys on the market today which help to hide treats and make life more interesting for you and your avian companion. You can find some great ones at Grey Feather Toy Creations who has a great line of Stainless Steel Foraging Toys.

Snowball's first TV Commercial helps Bird Lovers Only Rescue

Snowball, the now famous dancing Cockatoo is hitting the big time! Snowball made a great commercial for Sweden recently and earned $1,500 towards Bird Lovers Only Rescue's fund to build an addition to help more birds in need of love and shelter. You can see Snowball's commerical by clicking here

Irena, Snowball's owner and founder of Birds Lovers Only Rescue tells us that the other birds at Bird Lovers Only understand completely if Snowball is first in line for pine nuts and pistachios!


Bird Lovers Only Rescue is a 501c3 not for profit bird rescue and sanctuary. They have been saving funds to build an addition for the birds. They believe they have found someone to build this at a reasonable cost, but it will be CLOSE! Please donate to their building fund by going to their main web site at: where you can receive Snowball DVDs, shirts, and other items in return for your donations.

Since Bird Lovers Only is a charity, your donations can be claimed on your taxes at the end of the year. Below is the information you will need in order to claim your donations.

EIN # 30-0391827
DLN # 17053028000038
Public Charity Status: 170(b)(1)(A)(vi)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Environmental Enrichment For Parrots

Environmental Enrichment For Parrots
By Dr Jeannie Thomason Copyright © 2008.

Environmental enrichment, refers to the practice of providing animals under managed care with environmental stimuli. The goal of environmental enrichment is to improve an animal's quality of life by increasing physical activity, stimulating natural behaviors, and preventing or reducing stereotypical behaviors.

In the wild, our parrots exhibit four main behaviors: socializing, grooming, sleeping and foraging. In fact, two thirds of a wild bird's day is spent foraging for food. Even their play and interaction with other involves problem solving and thought. Wild birds also are able to get plenty of sunlight and fresh air every day.

Compare this to our captive pets. Life is very different in captivity. We tend to keep our birds inside the house, behind closed doors and windows. Most pet birds are likely to spend most of their days in their cages and of course, too many of them have very little to do in there. Try to think of this from your parrot's perspective, it is like you being locked in a room with window (that is always shut) with just a bed and someone bringing you food three times a day, you have no control over any aspect of your own life. Nothing different to see or do , same thing every day, day in and day out. Some of the obvious results are naturally going to be ill health, and obesity, due to lack of exercise at the very least.

Read More >>> HERE

Friday, September 12, 2008

Birds keep man's life from tumbling out of control

Bobby Wilson made some bad decisions growing up in Watts. His hobby pigeons and their freewheeling somersaults helped straighten his life out, and now he's passing on his expertise.
By Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 12, 2008
Bobby Wilson, a.k.a. Kill Kill, is a roller pigeon fancier -- has been since he was a little boy in the projects in Watts.

He was walking his dog down Holmes Avenue when he first spotted the birds flying above Eddie Scott's house. He watched in wonder as they whirled and somersaulted through the sky. Bobby was 9 years old and a serial collector of animals -- spiders, red ants, hamsters, lizards. But he'd never seen this...

Read the entire wonderful story HERE

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Snowball and Irena Schultz Join Animal Talk Naturally Radio Show Again

We had repeat guest and friend, Irena Schulz from Bird Lovers Only Rescue visit us on Animal Talk Naturally Radio Show this week. If you were not able to be there live, I have posted the show in a media player below.

Irena discussed Snowball's research with Dr Patel and how it may well relate to recent studies involving music therapy on Parkinson's Disease patients. We also talked about how the state of the economy has increased the calls and emails from bird owners needing to rehome their birds.

Just click to listen below :-)

If the player does not show up for you, just click on this link for the mp3 version of the show.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


by Carolyn Swicegood
Land Of Vos

The name Eclectus is derived from the word eclectic because of the sexually dimorphic coloration. Some pronounce the name E-klek-tus and others prefer Eck-lec-tus. Eclectus parrots are blessed with physical features that make them uniquely beautiful. Their head and breast feathers look like silky hair.

Eclectus females are heavy bodied birds with a compact, rounded look. They have predominately red coloration of varying shades and most subspecies have beautiful blue or lavender-purple breast feathers, as well as a daisy-yellow tail band and vent on the female of the Vosmaeri subspecies. The mature female of all Eclectus subspecies has a jet black beak while the mature male's beak is a stunning candy-corn configuration of yellow, orange and red.

Eclectus males are streamlined, efficient flyers with feathers of brilliant shades of emerald green with blue or yellow hues, varying according to subspecies. They have splashes of red on their sides and some blue in the wings and tail. The upper mandible of the Eclectus male changes from a lack of pigment at hatching, to black for their first six to twelve months of life. Then the upper mandible of males of all the subspecies develops the characteristic stunning candy corn color, usually by the age of one year but occasionally delayed until 18 to 24 months of age.

Size and weight characteristics

The Eclectus is a medium size parrot with a wingspan of two to two and half feet. The length of the commonly available Eclectus subspecies ranges between twelve to fourteen and half inches. In my opinion, weight "ranges" are not useful because the ranges of the various subspecies overlap. Partly because of cross breeding between subspecies, weight ranges can cause more confusion than clarity. Of the commonly available subspecies, the Solomon Island Eclectus is the smallest and the Vosmaeri Eclectus is the largest but otherwise, few generalizations about weight are helpful. It might be more realistic to use a general weight range based on an average of the combined weights of all the available subspecies. Such a range was established by a well-known avian veterinarian and researcher, Dr. Susan Clubb. She worked with hundreds of Eclectus pairs and babies of the commonly available subspecies during her years of research at the Avicultural Breeding and Research Center in Loxahatchee, Florida. Dr. Clubb averaged the weights of adults of the most commonly available Eclectus subspecies and published this range in the reference book, "Psittacine Aviculture". According to Dr. Clubb, the average weight of the adult male Eclectus is 430 grams with a range of 388 to 524. The average weight of the adult female Eclectus is 452 grams with a range of 383-549 grams. Eclectus babies reach their maximum weight at the age of seven weeks. At fledging, they lose approximately ten percent of their weight in preparation for flight. Eclectus parrots continue to grow until the age of two years.


Eight to ten subspecies of Eclectus roratus roratus are recognized. They originate from the Cape York Peninsula of Australia, the islands of Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, and New Guinea. The nominate race is the Grand Eclectus, "Eclectus roratus roratus". According to one expert, there are nine Eclectus sub-species.
• Red-sided Eclectus -- Eclectus roratus polychloros (blue eye ring/no yellow on tail)
• Vosmaeri Eclectus -- Eclectus roratus vosmaeri (yellow on tail/no blue eye ring)
• Solomon Island Eclectus -- Eclectus roratus solomonensis (like small Red-sided)
• Aruensis Eclectus -- Eclectus roratus aruensis (larger Red-sided/male has red eyes)
• Macgillivray Eclectus -- Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi (largest, like Red-sided)
• Biaki Eclectus -- Eclectus roratus biaki
• Cornelia's Eclectus -- Eclectus roratus cornelia
• Riedeli's Eclectus -- Eclectus roratus riedeli
• Westermani Eclectus -- Eclectus roratus westermani

Subspecies identification

The Eclectus males are difficult to identify unless one is familiar with the identifying characteristics of the males of all the Eclectus subspecies. It is particularly helpful to observe specimen of several subspecies together for the sake of comparison. The difference in the hue, shade or tint of green is helpful for identifying the subspecies of the male Eclectus. The fluorescent yellow-green of the Vosmaeri male is obviously a lighter shade than the deep blue-green of the Red sided male. This characteristic is not useful to the novice observing only one subspecies. The longer neck and tail of the Vosmaeri male is a helpful trait for the purpose of identification, and the small size overall of the Solomon Island male is helpful. The Grand male is not easily identified because identification is made by subtle differences in beak color, tail length and tail tip color and this require an experienced eye.

The subspecies of the female Eclectus can be determined easily than that of the male. The Vosmaeri female is readily identifiable by her daisy-yellow tail band, the yellow "V" in the vent area, and the absence of a blue eye ring. The Red sided and Solomon Island females can be identified by their cobalt blue breast with a definite bib rather than the gradual blending of the breast colors of the Vosmaeri female. Also, a ring of blue feathers surrounding the eye is an easy identification characteristic of the Red sided and Solomon Island females. The Grand female has neither the wide, clear yellow tail band of the Vosmaeri female, nor the solid red tail of the Red sided and Solomon Island female, but rather a narrow tipping of dull yellow-orange at the end of her tail.


Some of the descriptive words used by owners to describe their Eclectus companions are "charming, outgoing, curious, childlike, clever, playful, intuitive, and intelligent". The intuitive instinct of Eclectus parrots allows them to easily read our moods, which is responsible for owners bonding with them on a deeper level than they bond with other pets. Owners therefore feel more loyalty and devotion toward them than to other animal companions. The empathetic nature of the Eclectus accounts for the fact that fewer Eclectus parrots are found in rescue facilities. It takes some getting used for some new owners who are not accustomed to the laid back nature of the Eclectus. These birds "freeze" when faced with danger instead of flying wildly in an attempt to escape. This characteristic might be explained by the type of predators in their natural habitat since "movement" of the intended prey is used by many predators to locate their victims. Overall, the Eclectus is a good choice for those who appreciate a "thinking" companion bird. They study situations and can be observed problem solving when engaged in play. Eclectus owners must be prepared for an ever-changing creature. Loving, dependent young birds mature into challenging and complex adult birds who remain affectionate, but on their terms. They need to be a part of family activity to keep their keen curiosity stimulated. They are not a pet to be ignored and treated like a beautiful decoration. They are adept at entertaining themselves but need regular interaction with their human flock mates which is after all, the reason that we acquire avian companions. Eclectus are amazingly gentle with children if the children are old enough and aware enough to be reasonably considerate of their size difference. Eclectus adapt well to change, but not to the stress of loud and angry exchanges in unhappy family situations. Just as fighting upsets children, tension and strife is stressful to these empathetic birds who sometimes internalize stress. This can cause feather destruction and other undesirable behaviors. Give them a happy home and you will be rewarded with a relatively quiet and steady companion whom you will come to regard as an equal member of the family rather than a "pet".

Talking ability

Aurora sings opera

Eclectus parrots are generally classified among the top three parrots for talking ability. Rivaling the African Grey and the talking Amazon parrots in clarity of speech and scope of vocabulary, they not only repeat many words and phrases but some learn entire songs. Some Eclectus chicks learn their first words before they are weaned if the hand-feeder repeats a word to them often. Eclectus parrots enjoy repeating interesting sounds as well as words and phrases learned from their human companions. They can imitate perfectly the sounds of a microwave oven, alarm clock, phone, or dripping faucet! Some males have melodious voices while others sound more like the men in their families, but nearly all Eclectus females have a charming, sweet and seductive voice, full and throaty like that of a "southern belle". As with all parrot species, there are birds that never learn more than "hello" and one must be prepared to love a bird even if it never talks. Most Eclectus do learn at least a few words.


Parrots in the wild are busy creatures. Most of their time is spent locating food, water, and nesting sites. These natural activities are unnecessary in captivity so every effort must be made to provide activities to prevent boredom. Otherwise, feather plucking, screaming, and other undesirable behaviors can become a problem. Here are some ideas for entertaining the Eclectus parrot:

* Food toys--Make mealtime more like foraging in the wild by weaving greens through the cage bars, skewering whole fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots, hanging coconut halves by a short length of chain. Give them whole nuts daily. The favorite nut of most Eclectus is the whole almond, which can serve as a half-hour game. Not only do they pick out the nutmeat, but they play with the shell until there is nothing left of the almond. Eclectus love the challenge of parrot toys that require manipulation to retrieve the food inside. These toys are available from many bird supply companies.
* Simulated trees--Play stands designed like trees or limbs can keep an Eclectus busy for hours, especially if interesting toys are attached and changed weekly. They love ropes for climbing, swings of all types, and especially the long spiral-shaped ropes called Boings or Bungees. There is a lot of bounce and movement in these spiral perches and some Eclectus will flap wildly to get them swinging. In the process, they get great exercise.
* Games & training--Eclectus are quite happy to engage in play with their owner(s). Games can be as simple as peek-a-boo or as complicated as teaching them a fun trick. There are several good books available on how to teach tricks. Any playful interaction with their favorite people is a favored pastime for these gregarious birds.


GeeBee loves showers!

Eclectus parrots should be bathed at least every other day and many thrive on daily bathing. Feather and skin health depends on sufficient moisture and during winter months, many homes are as dry as a desert. If a daily soaking shower is not possible, they can be drenched with a spray bottle. If possible, they should be provided with a bathing pool, which can be as simple as a large terra cotta plant saucer. There are reports of Eclectus parrots housed outdoors in cold climates breaking the ice on their bathing pool to enjoy a bath in freezing weather.


The general recommendation for housing the Eclectus is to use the largest affordable cage that one's home will accommodate. Eclectus parrots are active birds and they need ample space for recreation and exercise. Horizontal space is more critical than vertical space, although a tall Macaw cage with living space that extends to the floor provides enough room to include a spiral rope toy (Boing) which Eclectus parrots especially enjoy. The minimum interior cage space should be 30" wide, 24" deep, and 36" high. This is assuming that the bird will have daily time out of the cage which is important for both exercise and for the social interaction that is essential to the well being of the gregarious Eclectus. Outgoing birds will enjoy living directly in the traffic pattern that brings family members and friends by the cage throughout the day. A more introverted bird's cage should be placed away from the main traffic pattern where they can observe the activity of family and friends while maintaining enough private space to feel safe and secure. Cages should never be placed in a drafty area nor in front of a window without an area shaded from the sun.


"An Eclectus toy destroyed is a toy truly enjoyed"! Although Eclectus parrots are known for less destructive chewing habits than many parrot species, they do enjoy whittling soft wood, which is important for beak health. Shredding paper and other material is another favorite activity that can prevent feather destruction engaged in by bored birds of all species. Eclectus also enjoy destroying small pieces of soft wood, hand-held toys, and rolls of adding machine paper placed on top of their cage and threaded down through the cage bars for busy beaks to enjoy. They are adept at untying knots in leather, cloth and other flexible material, and they are excellent avian mechanics when it comes to unscrewing nuts and bolts and dismantling toys. Eclectus enjoy small hand toys, toys for toddlers, and any challenging toy that can be manipulated by beak and feet. Interactive toys such as V-Tech phones are another favorite. Toys that can be manipulated to make noise or music fascinate Eclectus parrots. Wood toys for chewing help to prevent overgrooming and destroying feathers. Eclectus parrots should be allowed out of the cage to enjoy a separate play area for at least an hour a day, and longer if possible.

Toy boxes are a good idea because the intelligent Eclectus becomes bored with the same toys every day. Rubbermaid tubs, laundry baskets, or untreated wicker baskets can be used as toy boxes. Cage toys should be rotated at least once a week and allowing the Eclectus to choose his weekly supply of toys from the toy box is fun for the bird and helps to prevent boredom when confined to the cage. Flea markets and garage sales are great places to find used quality toys in good condition. They often cost less than a dollar each and sometimes perfectly good infant and toddler toys are sold for 25 cents each. They can be sterilized in a dishwasher or in a bathtub or Jacuzzi with a tablespoonful of Grapefruit Seed Extract or 10% Clorox.

Food toys

The Eclectus parrot's love of food and playful nature makes food the perfect toy for them. "Food toys" provide not only hours of enjoyment but nutrition as well. Some of the favorite food toys of my Eclectus are:

* Coconut halves hung in the aviary. The birds pick the fibers off the shell and dig out the coconut meat to eat and to shred for fun.
* Whole bags of salt-free popped corn. Use a brown paper lunch bag with a quarter cup of plain popcorn. Fold down the top of the bag to seal, and microwave it until the popping stops. Hang it in the aviary and the birds will chew holes in the bag to get to the treats.
* Shish-ka-bobs of whole fruits and veggies such as apples, oranges, pears, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, broccoli spears, cucumbers, bell peppers, beets with greens, whole hands of ginger, and pumpkin quarters with seeds can be strung up in the cage or skewered on shish-ka-bobs. While the birds tear them apart piece by piece, just as they would tear into food in the wild, they also consume nutrients.


Joseph M. Forshaw in PARROTS OF THE WORLD wrote, "Eclectus Parrots feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, berries, leaf buds, blossoms and nectar procured in the treetops... Gut contents from specimens collected in the eastern Solomons comprised soft, mainly fig-like, fruit; and from other birds collected, fruit pulp and many small fruit stones."

Variety seems to be the major clue that we can take from the foods provided by Mother Nature for Eclectus in their native habitats. I offer variety by feeding fresh juicy fruits, fibrous vegetables, leafy greens, a variety of sprouted seeds, nuts, dry seeds, and cooked foods. Cooked foods would not be found in the wild, but sweet potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables contain some nutrients that require heat to break down the cell walls to be released. Eclectus find foods in all stages of growth in their treetop homes.

Sprouts are an easy way to provide living food with the many enzymes and trace nutrients found in the wild. Homegrown SPROUTS are the least expensive organically grown food available.

Greens are the most neglected component of the Eclectus diet. Few owners feed even one leafy green food daily although greens are the best non-dairy source of calcium, an important mineral, especially for egg-laying hens.

Nuts are "for the birds" not only because they are natural part to the parrot diet, but because they contain "good fats" which are important for health and feather quality.

Protein should be offered several times a week and hard-boiled eggs with the shell are the perfect protein food for parrots. Cooked chicken legs are another favorite.

Seeds got a bad rap when pellets became available. Vets saw many birds in poor health from seed-only diets, so when a convenience food became available, they routinely recommended pellets "instead of" seeds. However, seeds are valuable not only for their natural oil and nutrients, but because shelling seeds allows the birds to work for their food as they do in the wild. Eclectus in the wild have been observed eating many types of fruits, flowers and other vegetable matter.

Pellets can cause problems as a total or majority of the Eclectus diet, whose digestive system is efficient at extracting nutrients from foods. Their natural diet is comprised of foods that are "nutrient sparse" foods as opposed to "nutrient dense" foods like pellets. Since they assimilate nutrients so efficiently, they often exhibit symptoms such as "repetitive foot clenching and wing flipping" if oversupplemented or fed too many rich foods. Unless a vitamin or mineral deficiency is diagnosed by blood tests, Eclectus should not be given supplemental vitamins and minerals. Pellets contain a full complement of vitamins and minerals and apparently are too rich for the system of some Eclectus parrots. Natural juicy foods of deep color, including greens, sprouts, fruits and vegetables should be the mainstay of the Eclectus diet. They do not need vitamin A supplements nor shots, as was believed many years ago. They assimilate all the vitamin A that they need from the colorful orange, yellow, red, and green foods like pomegranates, mangos, cantaloupe, carrots, red and green bell peppers, kale, collards, dandelion and other greens. All parrots should be given organically grown produce whenever possible because of the damaging cellular effects of pesticides. If a complete diet of whole foods is given, pellets can be fed as a vitamin and mineral supplement but only as a small percentage of the total diet.


Eclectus are hearty birds with no particular health problems. They thrive on exercise, whole foods, and pure water. They need a wide variety of nutritious foods rather than vitamin and mineral supplements. Being "Old World birds", they have no natural resistance to the Sarcocystis falcatula disease that can be a problem in warm climates. This disease requires several intermediate hosts but basically starts with an infected grackle or cowbird eaten by an opossum that sheds the sporocysts in its feces, which then is carried to the parrot by cockroaches and possibly blackflies. Old World parrots that are housed outside, or in any area infested with cockroaches should inhabit tightly screened habitats to avoid Sarco, which is almost always a fatal disease.


When Eclectus parrots were first imported into the United States, little was known of their nutritional requirements and many birdkeepers tried to maintain them on an all-seed diet. Until their owners learned of their need for a variety of colorful, fibrous fruits and vegetables, many of them did not live for as long as they could and should have. Eclectus parrots live as long as other parrots of similar size, such as Amazons and African Greys. I personally know of one pair that is still producing at the age of thirty-plus years, so obviously thirty is not old age for an Eclectus parrot. Because they have not been commonly available in the United States for more than a few decades, there are few Eclectus over the age of thirty in captivity in the U.S. but they are capable of living for 50-75 years just as other parrots of comparable size.


Ten to twelve hours sleep is the general rule for Eclectus parrots, but if the family schedule does not allow for ten to twelve hours of uninterrupted rest, it can be made up with naps during the day if they are provided quiet time. Young Eclectus fledglings play hard and nap soundly throughout the day when they become tired. If it is impossible to provide a dark and quiet place for sleep, covering the cage at night is an option. A small sleeping cage that can be moved around easily is a solution to the problem of small houses where the day cage is in the center of activity. It can be placed in a small quiet room away from the entertainment area of the home.


Eclectus are quiet birds and they prefer talking to screaming, but there are exceptions to every rule and there are a few loud Eclectus. Because most of them are exceptionally quiet for large parrots, they are considered suitable for apartment living; however, if one should obtain one of the few exceptionally loud members of this species, that would not be the case. They are capable of very harsh, loud calls when threatened with danger. Fortunately, most of them do not use their warning call very often.

Sexual maturity

The female is the dominant member of the Eclectus pair. Puberty and sexual maturity are more dramatic with the female than the male, who seems to change very little as he approaches sexual maturity. The males continue to play like young birds and enjoy their human flockmates even while raising babies. They are happy-go-lucky guys whose ladies manage the home and family. Eclectus females are loyal to all who are lucky enough to win their affection, but they are fiercely protective of their nest and babies. They go through an aggressive stage as they mature sexually and become protective of the "nest area" which includes their cage as well as the nestbox. With consistent love and guidance from the owner, this stage passes and the female Eclectus remains a wonderfully loving companion to her human family. Even though they have a well-deserved reputation for being aggressive toward strangers when they have eggs or chicks in the nest, they will allow a trusted human friend to handle the eggs and chicks. Many small-scale breeders whose Eclectus pairs were loving pets before they became producing pairs, are allowed to be a "third wheel" and function as a member of the "family team". Interference by humans is not tolerated by many parrot species.


Eclectus parrots become mature enough to breed at two to five years of age. The smaller Solomon Island subspecies can reproduce as early as eighteen months of age, and some of the larger subspecies such as the Vosmaeri and Macgillivray, mature sexually as late as four to six years of age. Most subspecies lay two eggs per clutch and the Solomon Island Eclectus occasionally lays three or rarely, even four eggs. Fertile Eclectus eggs generally hatch in 28 days. The chicks hatch blind and naked but quickly double in size. It is important to allow first-time Eclectus parents to raise their chick(s) for as long as they will feed them. If one pulls the chicks after a few days or weeks, the parents will come to expect the babies to leave the nest prematurely and might never feed their chicks to the fledging stage.

Solomon Island Haley sitting in seed cup

Once an Eclectus pair starts producing fertile eggs and hatching and feeding babies, it is difficult to stop them. In captivity, they will lay eggs year round unless forced to rest in order to prevent the problems that accompany overbreeding. Once the birds figure out the logistics of breeding, incubation, and raising chicks, many Eclectus females are so determined to lay eggs that they will lay in food dishes or in any other suitable place they find if they have no nestbox. It is sometimes necessary to change the environment completely to force the birds to rest.


There is a serious problem in aviculture of crossbreeding the Eclectus subspecies. One of several factors responsible for this problem is the difficulty of identifying the subspecies of the male Eclectus. Birds often are paired on the basis of the subspecies that the male appears to be. By the time the pair matures and produces a female offspring by which subspecies purity can be determined with some degree of accuracy, the pair is bonded and likely to have been together for several years. Many owners are reluctant to break up a bonded, producing pair even though the chicks are crossbred.

Murdock gets a kiss from Kaitlyn

With a good diet and environment, Eclectus parrots are relatively easy to maintain. They are the best of all things avian -- in two beautiful packages!

Please visit Carolyn's extensive website on Eclectus Parrots at

Friday, September 5, 2008

KoKo Update

Just a quick little update on Koko Love.

KoKo was once very loved and possibly lived with a sick and elderly person. She has the worst sounding cough imitation I have ever heard and does a lot of loud sighing and moaning.

She continues to be a sweet girl for me but is madly in love with my husband. I had to be gone for a couple of days last weekend and left Koko, Nick and my husband to fend for themselves. When I got home, Koko had plucked all the feathers AND down except those on her wings and tail, she has a bare chest and back now, poor thing. I had assumed she would be happy in my husband's care since she is so crazy about him but with him being disabled, he was only able to come out and feed her three times a day and spend a few minutes with her out on his shoulder or chest while he sat on the couch. I am in the same room with her every day and all day and she and Nick and I just hang out together a lot. She obviously missed me in that respect and even with Nick's company across the room from her and the radio on, she felt abandoned by me and maybe neglected. I feel so bad for her, it was just too soon for me to be leaving her alone over night yet...

She eats well and plays with some toys. She adored the toy that Tracy made for and flew down here to California with in her carrier. She has totally destroyed and pulled everything off the ring now and seems to miss it. Hopefully Tracy will be feeling well enough again soon to make us some more!