Husbandry and Management of Eclectus Roral US

Jim Ellis, Karen Lynn Goode


Eclectus parrots are members of a monotypic genus that exhibits extreme sexual dimorphism in coloration. Males are generally green overall with patches of red, blue and yellow beneath their wings, on their body feathers and on their tail feather tips. Females are generally red overall with patches of purple, blue and yellow on their wings, body and tail feathers. Females as adults have black upper and lower beaks whereas the males have bright yellow/orange upper mandibles. Immature birds generally have black beaks flecked with yellow or orange. The feather coloration of immature birds is that appropriate to their sex as soon as they begin to lose their charcoal gray down feathers.

Forshaw (1973) and Low (1980) report eight to ten races "the males of which are difficult or impossible to distinguish.'' At one time these birds were considered to be two distinct species due to the color which today is recognized as a sexual dimorphic character (Forshaw, 1973; Austin, 1961). The taxonomic history of this genus is rather sketchy and beyond the scope of this paper; however, in reviewing information on past breeding records of birds in captivity, this group is listed as the genus Lori us bodaert by Prestwich (1950-52) and the Duke of Bedford (1969). Currently, however, the group is recognized as the genus Eclectus wagler as is evidenced in recent literature of Forshaw (1973) and Low (1983) among others.

This genus ranges throughout New Guinea, the neighboring islands of Indonesia and the Solomons, parts of northern Australia, the Moluccas Islands and the Lesser Sudan Islands (Low, 1980; Forshaw, 1973). Forshaw (1973) additionally reports them as being introduced to the Palau Archipelago of the Pacific and the Goram Islands of Indonesia. This species generally inhabits lowland forest and has a wild diet consisting of fruits, nuts, seeds, berries, blossoms and nectars.

Eclectus parrots have apparently been held in captivity as early as the 1800s with Prestwich (1950-52) and Low (1980) reporting the first successful breeding in Germany in 1881. Interestingly, Prestwich reports "hybrid" crosses between the twelve subspecies of ''geographical variants" recognized at that time. The earliest zoo breeding of this genera may have been at the San Diego Zoo in 1931 although Prestwich does mention successful breeding at the Taronga Park Zoo, London Zoo and intermediate success at the Adelaide Zoo all during the 1930s-1940s. Prestwich (1969) reports as well a number of private bird breeders as having success with this genera in 1912, 1913, 1952 and 1968.

The Duke of Bedford (1969) reports that for that time period the average survival in captivity of Eclectus was two to three years. Low (1980) states that captive breeding efforts in the 1970s appear to have been fairly widespread with 31 being bred in Britain alone by the "Parrot Society" members. The importation of this genus for the bird trade was reported by Nilsson in 1981 when she surveyed the U.S. trade in avian species. In 1977 100 were imported, 1978 is listed as having only 5 imports, 1979 is listed as having 94 live birds being imported out of 127 shipped, and 1980 Nilsson reports 312 live specimens being imported out of 353 being shipped.

The 1980 Census of Bird Breeding Program by the Zoological Society of San Diego reports of Eclectus roratus roratus 87 males and 78 females in collections with 21/17/5 being captive raised and for E. r. polychloros 22 males and 15 females in collections with 16/13/1 being captive raised. On the other hand, the International Species Inventory System (I.S.I.S.) mid-year species distribution report as of June 30, 1984 lists the status of E. roratus as being 54/47/5 individuals in 25 collections with the subspecies polycbloros being represented by 2 males and 4 females in two collections. This report also documents that between July, 1979 and June, 1984, 61 new birds entered the population through acquisitions and hatchings. Based on this rather sketchy information and on personal experience with this genus, I would venture to state...

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The Duke of Bedford 1969. Parrots and Parrot-like Birds. T.F.H. Publications, New Jersey. 210 pp.

Forshaw,J.M. 1973. Parrotsofthe ITT:,rtd. Doubleday and Co., Inc., New York. 584 pp.

International Species Inventory System 1984. Species Distribution report-June 30, 1984 (microfiche). Minnesota Zoological Gardens, Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Low, R. 1980. Parrots: Their care and breeding.

Blandford Press. Dorset, England. 654 pp.

Nelsson, G. 1981. The Bird Business. Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, D.C. 121 pp.

Prestwich, A.A. 1950-52. Records of Parrots Bred in Captivity. A. Prestwich, London. 384 pp.

Prestwich, A.A. 1969. Some breeders of Eclectus parrots.

Avicult. mag. 1975(4). 145-146 pp.

Zoological Society of San Diego, 1980. Bird Breeding Programs 1980. San Diego Zoo, San Diego, Calif. e


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