What to Know About the Pacific Parrotlet

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on December 09, 2022
6 min read

Pacific parrotlets are highly popular among bird owners. While they have a strong voice, they can't scream or talk as well as other bigger parrot species. Thanks to their quiet nature and smaller size, they are very suitable for those who live in condos and apartments and lack the space to raise a large pet bird

These adorable little birds are often called "pocket parrots" because they love hiding inside the pockets of their owners. If you're looking for an intelligent and charming bird that will also make an affectionate pet, the Pacific parrotlet is a great choice for you.

The Pacific parrotlet is a tiny, sparrow-sized parrot native to South and Central America. Their scientific name is Forpus coelestis.

These parrotlets are mainly found in the Tumbesian region, which includes the area from south to northwest Peru, northwest Ecuador, and the middle Marañon valley. They usually prefer dry habitats such as deciduous woodlands, deserts, and arid scrubs. However, due to deforestation, some have begun living in humid foothills and lowlands. You can easily get these birds, even during the breeding season, if you live in Canada, Europe, or the United States.

The IUCN Red LIST currently classifies the Pacific parrotlet as a bird of "Least Concern" since they have a stable population size. 

But many experts worry that the supply of these wild-caught parrots may run out due to their growing popularity among pet owners. Hence, all parrotlets — including the Pacific parrotlet — are grouped under the Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). This means that, although these birds are not currently endangered, they face the danger of becoming extinct if their trade is not properly controlled.

Physical characteristics. Pacific parrotlets share many features with their larger cousins. For example, their heads are big, their beaks are curved, and their tails are pointed and short, just like the yellow-faced parrot. What sets them apart are their horn-colored legs and beaks as well as the natural green color of their bodies.

All parrotlet species are dimorphic — meaning you can separate the males from the females by their unique features. While the female Pacific parrotlets are all green with different shades of yellow, the males feature bright green faces with beautiful blue markings on their heads, wings, rumps, backs, and behind their eyes. You can also find these birds in shades of fallow, yellow, pastels, Isabel, and albino, as the colors in Pacific parrotlets often show mutations.

Being the world's tiniest parrots, the weight and size of Pacific parrotlets are on the lower side. These birds weigh around 1 ounce (30 grams) and are usually no more than five inches in length.

Suitability as pets. The Pacific parrotlet is an intelligent, fearless, and curious breed. While they're small in size, they behave like large parrots and ask for just as much attention. These parrotlets — especially the females — are highly territorial. Try to keep them alone in their cage, or at most, in a group of two.

These birds may also behave in a rowdy and naughty manner when not properly trained and handled. 

It's best to raise hand-fed babies, which are brought to your home right after weaning. Such parrotlets are sweet and friendly and make amazing companions. You may also find it easier to breed domestically-raised parrots as compared to the imported ones.

To take good care of your Pacific parrotlet, pay proper attention to these areas:

Grooming. Many assume parrotlets to be low-maintenance owing to their small size, but this isn't true. Rather, birds like Pacific parrotlets enjoy bathing or misting every day. To bathe them, offer them a bowl for bird bath at least twice a week. You can also check if they enjoy showering with you. For misting, use a water bottle kept aside specifically for your bird.

Pacific parrotlets have heavy bodies and are at risk of falling due to a lack of balance. To avoid this, get their wings clipped regularly. You can find this service, along with nail trimming and others, at many avian veterinary clinics. 

Living conditions. Although Pacific Parrotlets are small, they like a spacious environment. When kept in a small cage for a long time, the quality of their feathers tends to decline. It's best that your bird has access to different kinds of habitats throughout the day as well as a special retreat for sleeping at night. This will keep them physically and mentally healthy.

If you plan to keep your bird in a day cage, make sure it's roomy and gets plenty of air and light. The size of it will depend on its design as well as the other kind of living quarters you'll provide your Pacific parrotlet. Moreover, if you wish to make an indoor aviary for your pet, keep its length no less than 5.9 feet (1.8 m).

Training. Pacific parrotlets are as intelligent as other parrots. With proper and regular practice, you can easily train them to do a few tricks. For example, every time your bird gets off the play stand, put them back on it. By doing so, you can teach your bird to stay on the play stand.

All parrotlets are social and affectionate. If you wish to teach them what's expected of them, use loving discipline, positive reinforcement, and engaging toys. This is the best way to train parrotlets.

Exercising. Just like most other parrots, Pacific parrotlets need to spend time socializing outside their cages to stay healthy. They are naturally curious and thrive in an engaging and stimulating environment. When feeling bored or neglected, they engage in destructive behaviors that can even harm them. 

To keep them entertained, give them objects like:

  • Ropes
  • Swings
  • Puzzle toys
  • Foraging toys 
  • Weaving materials 
  • Pine or fir branches
  • Bird-safe chewable toys

You can take your Pacific parrotlet out for a stroll or to your family events to help them socialize. The safe way to do this would be by using a parrot backpack or a bird transport cage.

Health problems. Parrotlets are generally hardy and not overly prone to diseases. The average lifespan of Pacific parrotlets ranges between 15 and 20 years. If taken care of properly, it can even extend up to 25 years. However, they can catch diseases like aspergillosis and psittacosis due to harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses. 

In such cases, your parrots may exhibit:

  • A tendency to purposely pluck their feathers
  • Drooping wings and a puffed-up look
  • No appetite
  • No desire to groom themselves
  • Eye discharge, nasal discharge, or constant cough.

If you notice any such symptoms, immediately take your bird to a vet. Moreover, check their weight at least once a week to prevent obesity and keep them in good health.

Pacific parrotlets have a strong metabolism and voracious appetites. So, make sure they always have access to food.

Your parrot's diet should include:

  • Bird-safe fruits and vegetables
  • Greens 
  • Dried beans
  • Whole wheat bread 
  • Sprouted seeds (barley, cantaloupe, millet, grass or flax seeds)
  • High-quality pellets
  • Cooked rice
  • Protein sources such as eggs
  • Calcium sources like cuttlebone 

Remove any foods that have been left open for over 24 hours. Never feed Pacific parrotlets sugary foods, fried foods, junk foods, or chocolate.

The Pacific parrotlet's plumage is not at its best after being housed in a small cage. Although the bird is smaller than a Budgerigar, it likes a roomy environment.

It's best to get a Pacific parrotlet as a pet when you don't have other pets at home. These birds are known to become aggressive towards dogs, cats, and even other birds. If you still wish to have other pets with them, make sure your parrotlet is physically separated from the other animals and birds.

While both males and females can talk, their speaking abilities are quite limited as compared to their Amazon cousins. The Pacific parrotlet may not be a suitable pet for you if you're looking for parrots that can easily mimic their owners' voices.