More than just a good-looking bird, this species has something to say.
By Angela Davids
Ask any eclectus owner or breeder and they’ll tell you there’s something special about the bird. They may mention this bird’s radiant, hairlike feathers, which in males are an electric green and in females are lavender to deep violet on the body and crimson to burgundy on the head.
This dramatic difference in color makes it easy to distinguish males from females, but telling the difference among the 10 subspecies (especially the males) takes an expert. All eclectus parrots are of the same genus (Eclectus) and species (roratus).
The personality of the eclectus also makes it unique. Like other popular parrot species, it is intelligent and inquisitive, but the eclectus can be a bit more laid back and not as adventuresome.
“They are the great watchers of the bird world,” says Darla Mirabal of Riverton, Wyo., founder of the Ekkiechat.com website. “They love to observe.”
“They like to study every situation before they act,” says Susie Christian of Morro Bay, Calif., who has been breeding eclectus for more than 15 years.
She says they are both contemplative and intuitive, picking up on the emotions of those around them. They can be fearful of new and strange things, so owners should approach their eclectus when they are calm and introduce new toys and people gradually.
“They are easy to get in tune with and eager to please us and obey if we approach them correctly,” Christian says.
Her five eclectus pets are so well-behaved that they have the run of the house whenever she is home.
“They know where the perches are and the food is, and don’t trespass where they shouldn’t,” she says. “How many other parrots can be allowed to do this?”
Once an eclectus is comfortable, it can be outgoing, talkative and eager to interact with all the members of the family. The species can be cuddly with their favorite people, though they certainly aren’t as physically demanding as cockatoos, for example, or macaws.
“If you were to compare a macaw with a dog, you might then compare an eclectus with a cat,” Mirabal says.
Eclectus breeder Gail Scovil of Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada, says they can enjoy petting and cuddling.
“But you always pet in the direction the feathers grow; never ruffle the neck feathers against the grain as most other parrots love. This could be somehow related to the fact that eclectus feathers are fine and almost look more like hair than feathers. They don’t bow their heads down like an African grey and many other species do for a good head scratch,” she says.
On those occasions when they do want to cuddle up or get out of the cage or have a treat, there’s a good chance the eclectus will simply let its owner know.
“Eclectus are excellent talkers and exhibit the ability to communicate with their vocabulary,” says Sandra Green of Buddy’s Birds in Pompano Beach, Fla. She and her husband, Ken, have been breeding Solomon Island eclectus for 10 years. “Generally, males are better talkers, but not always,” she says.
Mirabal says she rates eclectus in the top five of all parrots for speaking ability.
“They speak clearly and very sweetly,” she says. “In general, only the African greys and the Amazons have the reputation for being better speakers.”
Christian says that some of her eclectus talk and sing so well in her voice that anyone hearing them thinks it is her and answers them.
“My eclectus also say the appropriate comments at the right times,” she says. “The best one was minutes after our earthquake in 2002. When I walked downstairs to assess any damage, my Vosmaeri male said, ‘That was loud.’ And many others kept asking me, ‘Are you OK?’ as I walked around peering into their cages.”
Meet the Eclectus
Even ornithologists disagree on how many subspecies there are, and as many as 10 have been recognized: the grand (E. r. roratus), Vosmaeri (E. r. vosmaeri), red-sided (E. r. polychloros), Solomon Island (E. r. solomonensis), Macgillivray (E. r. macgillivrayi), Aruensis (E. r. aruensis), Cornelia (E. r. cornelia), Riedeli (E. r. riedeli), Biaki (E. r. biaki), and the Westerman’s (E. r. westermani).
The natural range of the eclectus is the islands near New Guinea, the Mollucas and the Solomon Islands. Some subspecies are found on the northeastern tip of Australia.
Eclectus parrots appear brighter and more vibrant than other parrot species. The males are known for their brilliant green bodies and candy-corn beaks. The females can range in color from lavender to deep violet on the body and crimson to burgundy on the head.
The Eclectus is considered a medium-size parrot. The length generally ranges from 12 to 141⁄2 inches and the wingspan is 2 to 21⁄2 feet. The sizes and weights of the different subspecies can overlap.
Although eclectus parrots are known for less destructive chewing habits than many parrot species, they enjoy whittling soft wood and shredding paper.
Eclectus can turn into exceptional talkers if they get plenty of interaction to stimulate their desire to talk. A bird that gets lots of interaction may learn to copy many different words and phrases.
Breeders describe their other vocalizations as louder than an African grey or a quaker but quieter than a conure, macaw or cockatoo. Generally they are not high pitched or repetitive. They may get a bit redundant in the morning and early evening as most parrots do.
“They have an excellent, bell-like sound to their voices, sweet and not too high or low pitched,” Mirabal says. “The only repetitive noise most eclectus make (besides a word or phrase that a particular bird might be overly fond of) is their normal contact call, which sounds like ‘huh?’”
Room and Board
Variety is the key to a healthy eclectus. Start with a commercially manufactured diet of pellets and add plenty of juicy fruits, vitamin-packed vegetables, leafy greens, sprouted seeds, dry seeds, nuts and cooked carrots and sweet potatoes. In her 12 years running Birds of Paradise Aviary, Scovil has found that eclectus parrots require more vitamin A than most other parrots. She recommends feeding a species-specific pellet, and fruits and veggies high in Vitamin A.
Green and Christian both recommend the largest cage the owner can afford, at least 24 by 36 by 48 inches.
“The amount of cage height isn’t nearly as important as the horizontal space,” Christian says.
There needs to be room to flap their wings, with wingspans ranging from 2 to 21⁄2 feet. Their length ranges from 12 to 141⁄2 inches. Where to place the cage depends on the personality of the individual bird. Some may prefer limited interaction at different point during the day, while others will call out to their owners if they can’t always be in on the action and supervise flock activities, Mirabal says. To feel secure at night, an eclectus may prefer to have a cage cover, be against a wall where they are safe from predators, or be placed in a sleeping cage in a dark, quiet room.
During the day, the eclectus will enjoy destroying toys made of soft wood, manipulating hand-held toys and meeting the challenge of a toy with a treat trapped inside. Spiral perches, swings and ropes around the cage will encourage exercise, and perches of different materials and diameters will promote movement and good foot health. But the cage should not be so crowded with toys and equipment that there is no room for the bird to move around.
Playgyms positioned around the house are great for the sociable, observant eclectus.
Christian says eclectus aren’t nearly as destructive as other parrots, and males almost never chew up anything they should not. She warns, though, that females will seek out dark areas when they reach maturity, and perhaps destroy things because of the instinct to nest and chew. Eclectus can use their beaks to untie knots of leather, rope and cloth. Be careful, because they can unscrew nuts and bolts and dismantle toys. Toys with large parts that can’t be swallowed are designed to safely keep smart parrots like the eclectus entertained. <HOME>
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