What to Know About the Eclectus Parrot

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 26, 2022
5 min read

The eclectus parrot is a colorful bird — not just in appearance, but in personality. This parrot’s beauty, intelligence, and ability to mimic human speech make it an appealing pet. But what are they like in the wild, and how does this affect their behavior in captivity?

Here’s what you need to know about the eclectus parrot.

The eclectus parrot is a member of the Psittacidae parrot family. This parrot prefers proximity to water and coastal areas and can be found in swamplands, mangroves, and rural gardens.

This type of parrot is native to New Guinea, Indonesia, and central/coastal Australia. It’s also been introduced to Palau, Singapore, and the Goram Islands. The eclectus parrot habitat elevation is generally between 14 and 1,000 meters, and they make their nests in tree hollows between 14 and 22 meters above ground.

In their native lands, eclectus parrots don’t have a big impact on the ecosystem — they nest in trees, occasionally disperse seeds while transporting their food around the forest, and that’s about it. But when introduced to a non-native place, they can have an undesirable agricultural impact due to their tendency to destroy farm crops while seeking food.

Due to deforestation and habitat loss, the eclectus parrot population is decreasing. Using the eclectus parrot’s scientific name, Eclectus roratus, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species notes that there are between 7,300 and 51,000 mature individuals remaining.

But there are a number of eclectus parrot subspecies, which makes it difficult to determine the exact numbers. Although the eclectus parrot species itself is not endangered, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species also lists the following eclectus subspecies:

  • Papuan eclectus (Eclectus polychloros). Native to Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands. Decreasing population. Between 990,000 and 1,100,000 mature individuals remain.
  • Tanimbar eclectus (Eclectus riedeli). Native to Indonesia. Decreasing and vulnerable population. Between 6,600 and 10,000 mature individuals remain.
  • Sumba eclectus (Eclectus cornelia). Native to Indonesia. Decreasing and endangered population. Between 1,000 and 2,499 mature individuals remain.

The other eclectus parrot subspecies include E. vosmaeri, E. westermani, E. biaki, E. aruensis, E. macgillivrayi, and E. solomonensis.

The eclectus parrot is sexually dimorphic, meaning its appearance differs depending on whether it’s male or female. Their exact markings vary from subspecies to subspecies, but female eclectus parrots actually rival the males in terms of plumage. This is rare in the world of birds, where males are generally more flashy than females for mating and survival purposes.

Males are primarily green, which serves as camouflage when they’re hunting for food amid the trees. They have a yellow crown, red feathers under their wings, and tailfeathers colored green and blue tipped with yellow/white. Their upper mandible (beak) is a light orange color, and their lower mandible is black.

Females are primarily bright red with dark purple accents. Their tail feathers are tipped with shades of purple, blue, and yellow. They have entirely black mandibles. It’s thought that this coloring serves two purposes. First, the red color is conspicuous in the daylight, making it easy to draw attention from male suitors when the female is standing outside her nest. Second, the red color blends into the darkness, helping to conceal her when she’s inside her nest.

The eclectus parrot size varies from male to female. The males are larger, measuring between 4.5 and 5 inches long. The females grow to be between 4.1 and 4.6 inches long. The eclectus parrot weighs between 17 and 21 ounces with a wingspan that ranges from 8.9 to 9.7 inches wide.

The average eclectus parrot lifespan is 40 years. Interestingly, eclectus parrots seem to live longer when flying freely. Eclectus parrots in captivity live an average of 30 years, whereas they can survive for up to 50 years in the wild.

Eclectus parrots are generally timid birds — particularly the females, which often stay out of sight. Their days are spent resting, foraging for food, and eating. These social birds prefer the company of other eclectus parrots and roost together in groups at night. Eclectus parrots rarely fly solo and usually travel in flocks or in pairs.

Although they are on the shy side, that doesn’t stop them from making some (or lots of) noise. Eclectus parrots are talkative and often call to one another in the wild. Like most parrots, the eclectus parrot can also learn human words. Their vocabulary can be extensive, and their voice can sound surprisingly human.

The eclectus parrot breeding season is April through December. As part of their mating ritual, both male and female eclectus parrots flash their colorful feathers.

Eclectus parrots are polyandrous, meaning the female birds have multiple partners. If there’s more than one female in an area, the males may also have multiple partners (making them polygynandrous). Apparently, this behavior is driven by a shortage of desirable nest hollows — because they’re rare, males must share the females that have found them.

Females tend to select male mates in areas with plentiful protection and food. Females defend their nests, staying at their hollows for 11 months out of the year and relying on males to provide them with food.

Their breeding success rates are relatively low, with females averaging only two eggs per season. The female is responsible for incubating the eggs, which take about 28 days to hatch. After hatching, eclectus chicks take six months to become independent and three years to reach sexual maturity.

Eclectus parrots are herbivores. This means the eclectus parrot diet consists of fruits, leaf buds, nuts, nectars, flowers, seeds, and berries.

When keeping this bird as a pet, an important part of eclectus parrot care is providing the proper diet. The majority of their diet should be the following:

  • Raw or prepared vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Sprouts

Only about 20% of their diet should consist of nuts, treats, and pellets (all natural, without added vitamins, minerals, or filler). Vitamin A deficiencies are common in this parrot, so make a point of feeding them dark leafy vegetables and orange produce like cantaloupe, oranges, peaches, and pumpkin.

Owners may describe the eclectus parrot personality as animated, affectionate, curious, playful, and clever — but there may be a couple of obstacles along the way.

A couple weeks prior to weaning, the eclectus chick may become aggressive. This is a normal phase that ends. The female parrot may be more difficult to befriend than the male, as it’s her job to control the process of breeding, nesting, and rearing the chicks. Luckily, this doesn’t mean a strong bond can’t be formed with time.

Overall, the eclectus parrot can make a devoted friend for bird lovers. Due to their considerable lifespan, getting an eclectus parrot is a big commitment — make sure you have the time, patience, and space to ensure their well-being (and yours)!