Parrotlets In Aviculture


Look no farther than the small parrotlet for a bird with a huge parrot personality without the enormous parrot. These lovely birds have all of the charm of giant parrots but cannot eat at a table. When hand-fed, parrotlets are cute, clever, lively, and loving. They can learn to communicate, need minimal room, are resilient, sexually dimorphic, simple to breed and care for, and do not scream. Parrotlets, which were relatively unknown 10 years ago, are quickly becoming one of the most popular parrots in aviculture. They are also the smallest species on the planet, and are often mistaken with lovebirds or grey cheeks. However, as real parrots, they are most closely related to the giant Amazons. They may be found in the wild in Mexico, South and Central America.

Pacific Parrotlets

The most well-known and popular parrotlet species is the Pacific or Celestial parrotlet. They measure around five inches long and weigh 30 grammes. Males have a cobalt-blue feather stripe running from the eye and cobalt-blue on the rump and wings. Many females have an eye streak, although it is emerald green rather than cobalt. Their backs and wings are dark green, with yellow-green feathers around the face. Both sexes’ legs and beaks are pink when they hatch and progressively become horn-colored as they mature. Females in one subspecies have a teal rump, while males have grey wings and backs. Furthermore, various Pacific colour variants have been created, including blue, dark factor blue, American yellow, European yellow, fallow, and lutino.

Pacific parrotlets are the most bold and aggressive species. They are also quite territorial, particularly the hens. You cannot keep more than one pair in the same cage. If given the opportunity, they will attack other creatures, even much bigger parrots. Hand-fed newborns make excellent pets if put in a family soon after weaning and handled on a regular basis. Because they are exceptionally bright, they can frequently be trained to perform tricks and to converse. Pacific females are more dominating than males and may get irritable if spoilt or mistreated. When Pacific couples are not raising children, it is not uncommon for them to argue. Most couples are great parents and may be used to raise other parrotlet species.

Green Rump Parrotlets

Green Rump parrotlets, another popular species, are also the smallest, weighing roughly 22 grammes and measuring less than five inches in length. Their bodies are slender and sleek, and their beaks are tiny in comparison to their heads. The beaks and legs are horny. Females are mostly apple-green with a patch of yellow feathers between their eyes and above their nostrils. The main wing feathers of males are vivid cobalt blue, while the secondary wing feathers are turquoise. They are the only parrotlet species with green rumps rather than blue rumps. Green Rumps are kind, cautious, and timid (particularly when compared to Pacifics), and they seldom bite. They are also a reasonably simple species to reproduce, with little conflict between couples.

Mexican Parrotlets

Mexican parrotlets are one of the bigger species, measuring five and a half inches long and weighing over 40 grammes. Both sexes have grey beaks and legs, however females do not develop grey beaks until they are ready to reproduce. Males have turquoise rumps and main and secondary wing coverts. Mexicans are an exception to the rule of being active and fun. The breeding pairings seem to be sluggish. They are also picky eaters, often neglecting fruits and vegetables. Most Mexicans will only breed in groups of more than three couples. Unlike other species, they only have one clutch every year, and occasionally just one clutch every other year. Unfortunately, they are also considerably more sensitive to stress than other parrotlets.

Spectacled Parrotlets

Spectacled parrotlets are on the little side, weighing roughly 25 grammes and measuring less than five inches in length. Males are a deep, rich evergreen with a vivid blue eye ring, cobalt rump, primary and secondary coverts, secondary and under wing coverts, and primaries and rump that are bright violet blue. Females are not as dark green as males and have an eye ring, but it is emerald rather than blue. The beaks and legs of both males and females are horn-colored. The only parrotlets with a genuine eye ring are spectacles. They are also highly prolific and relatively simple to produce, therefore their numbers have skyrocketed.

Yellow Face Parrotlets

The Yellow Face parrotlet is the rarest and biggest species, weighing 50 grammes and measuring about six inches in length. Males exhibit deep violet blue primary and secondary colours, as do male Pacifics, as well as a blue eye stripe. Females have blue rumps that are lighter than males. Both males and females have brilliant yellow faces, as the name indicates. Their legs and beaks are likewise horn-colored, with a black stripe running down the front of the upper beak. There are just seven confirmed pairs of Yellow Face in the United States, despite the fact that they are easily bred in Europe.

Slater’s Parrotlets

The Sclater’s measures around five inches long. They have never been introduced into the United States, and they are only sometimes raised in Europe. The lower back and rump of males are a bright violet blue, deeper than in any other species. The main and secondary coverts, as well as the secondary and under wing coverts, are all blue violet. The top mandible is grey, whereas the lower mandible is horn coloured. The legs have a greyish brown colour.

Keeping Parrotlets

Pet parrotlets are best maintained as single birds. Ideally, the newborn parrotlet should be put with its new owner between the ages of six and ten weeks. They’ve been weaned, and their connection instinct is at its peak. If put in a loving and caring environment, the parrotlet will become a part of the family. Females are often “one-person” birds, and they will frequently attack everyone else in the same manner as their Amazon relatives. Males have a particular individual, but they will frequently accept other persons, even strangers, handling them.

A cage for a pet parrotlet should be no less than 18 inches tall, 13 inches wide, and 14 inches deep. Because most parrotlets prefer to climb rather than fly, it is essential to choose a cage big enough to hold a variety of toys. Pull-out trays with grates should be provided in cages to keep the birds off the bottom. Food and water should be stored in areas where they will not be contaminated by droppings. To exercise the bird’s feet, natural wood perches should be used instead of dowels.

Use open feeding bowls since parrotlets will frequently not push their heads into a dish with a hood and will hunger as a result. A glass tube fountain with water should be supplied. Parrotlets often bathe in their water bowls, splashing out all of the water. They will play and splash until they are saturated if given a canary-sized bath. Parrotlets will also bathe in wet spinach or lettuce by rolling their whole bodies on the moist leaves.

Parrotlets are often high-energy creatures that spend their days swinging, climbing, and playing with a variety of toys. Ropes, ladders, leather chew toys, bells, beads, and Olympic rings are among the most popular items. They are incredible acrobats that often play with many toys at once. They may also be trained to utilise a playpen, but they must be closely observed since they often return searching for their human. Their inherent curiosity might lead them into danger if they are not supervised since they are brilliant and brave. Always keep their wings trimmed to keep them out of mischief and to prevent them from getting nippy.

Parrotlets require a lot of fuel since they are such busy birds. They consume more calories per gramme than a macaw. Baby-feeding couples often eat three or more times the typical quantity of food. Hand-fed parrotlets should be exposed to a broad range of meals while they are young. Feed a high-quality tiny hookbill or cockatiel seed mix. They may also be given commercial pelleted diets, however parrotlets are one of the few birds that need some seed in their diet while mating. Fortunately, unlike other parrots, they will generally consume both seeds and pellets. They need fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens on a regular basis whether given seeds or pellets. Breeding couples should be provided sprouted seed, egg food, cooked beans, whole-grain breads, potatoes, rice, and pasta many times each week. Fresh water, mineral block, and cuttlebone should always be accessible. Several times each week, vitamins should be sprinkled over soft meals. If desired, spirulina may be included with the egg meal.

The value of calcium to breeding chickens cannot be overstated. Cuttlebone and mineral blocks should always be accessible, and calcium powder, in addition to vitamins, should be sprinkled over soft meals. Most chickens will consume enormous quantities of cuttlebone just before laying eggs. A six-inch cuttlebone is often consumed by hens once a week for many weeks prior to laying. If the chickens do not get enough calcium, they will become egg-bound.

Breeding Parrotlets

Parrotlets, especially hens, should be at least a year old before breeding, otherwise they will get egg bound and die. Males that are too young often do not supply adequate food for the hen and her chicks, who are consequently abandoned or killed. Young couples may be maintained together until their first moult, after which they should be separated until they are at least eleven months old. Hand-fed birds may start laying as early as seven months old, which can be devastating.

Most species can reproduce successfully in a cage that is at least 18 inches tall, 24 inches long, and 24 inches deep. They may also be successfully produced in flying cages three to six feet long. Mexicans and Yellow Faces both reproduce far better in the air than in cramped cages. Unsurprisingly, many breeders believe their birds are in considerably better health and producing more big flights. Infertility may occasionally be traced back to unsteady or unstable perches, thus perches must be securely affixed to the cage.

Nest boxes six inches wide by ten inches tall and seven inches deep should be mounted on the outside of the cage and filled with roughly two inches of untreated pine shavings for breeding couples. Boxes should be put in front of the cages so that the birds only view the interior of their cage when they look out. Some birds, notably Green Rumps, like to fling the nest material out of the box, so keep it replenished. If babies are left on the bare floor, they might develop devastating orthopaedic disorders. In contrast, birds may sometimes bury their eggs and lose them in the shavings. Mexican parrotlets seem to be especially prone to this behaviour. If this is the case, remove the shavings gradually until the issue is resolved, or try using heavier shavings. In any event, by examining nest boxes on a regular basis, you will be able to monitor the pairings and address any issues that emerge. Following a schedule will also educate the birds to accept your presence.

When there are more than one couple of birds in the aviary and they can hear but not see each other, the birds breed best. Wooden barriers, vegetation, burlap, or even cardboard may be used to divide pairs of cages. Hand-fed birds are the finest parents because they are less susceptible to stress and are used to humans. Hand-fed birds, on the other hand, have no fear of humans and, if given the opportunity, will inflict a terrible, bloody bite. Parrotlets have a well-deserved reputation for refusing to release go once they latch on. When removing babies, a piece of cardboard may be used to restrain the hen, since she does not normally escape the box as males do. Females have been known to assault newborns while being dragged, therefore extreme care is advised.

The male will normally explore the box first and then attempt to attract the female into it if he believes it is safe. After mating, the hen will lay four to eight eggs, however Pacific hens have been known to deposit 10 viable eggs. She won’t leave the nest box for many days before laying until the final kid is gone, which may take up to nine or 10 weeks! Every other day, females deposit one egg. The babies of most species hatch between 18 to 21 days. Mexican and Yellow Face parrotlets are the exceptions, which often need 24 hours. In all parrotlet species, the females incubate the eggs while the males provide food and shelter. The hen may sometimes let the male inside the box and even incubate the eggs, although this seems to be a personal choice in each relationship.

Parrotlets, like other infant parrots, are blind, deaf, and almost naked when they hatch. Despite their small size, Green Rumps, Blue Wings, and Spectacles may sometimes be heard clamouring for food when they are just a few hours old. When they hatch, they are about the size of a bumble bee. Unlike many other parrot species, parrotlet hens start incubating nearly soon after laying the first egg, thus the youngsters hatch in the sequence in which the eggs were deposited. This creates a significant age gap between the oldest and youngest offspring, particularly in big clutches. Most hand-feeding breeders keep their pups with their parents until they are ten to fourteen days old. Babies should be put in a brooder set to 89° F and monitored often to ensure they are comfortable. Younger birds, notably Green Rumps and Spectacles, need a temperature of 91° or higher. They are fed every four hours between 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. Younger chicks are fed more often and are fed around 2:00 a.m. A spoon or a syringe may be used to feed parrotlets. Ten-day-old newborns typically consume one to two ccs every feeding, eventually increasing to a maximum of six by three weeks.

Accurate records are essential in any effective breeding programme. Each baby should be closed-banded, and all information about the parents, the date the egg was deposited, the date the baby was retrieved, and any medical or veterinary information should be noted. Furthermore, newborns should be weighed each morning before their first meal to track growth and losses.

When babies are four to five weeks old, they begin to show an interest in solid meals. Millet spray, finely chopped fruits, vegetables, and greens, full grain bread, tiny seeds such as finch and cockatiel, pellets, cooked rice, and pasta should be provided. Dry meals are strewn throughout the brooder’s bottom, while prepared items are put in flat plates. As the youngsters feather out, the temperature in the brooder is progressively reduced to room temperature. They are put in a big weaning cage with low perches at around five weeks of age, and food is provided on paper plates or little flat dishes placed on the floor of the cage. The birds are normally entirely weaned by the age of six weeks. However, since birds are individuals, if one is weaning more slowly than the others, he should be fed longer. It is preferable to continue eating for a few more days rather than face a disaster. Some species, such as Blue Wings and Spectacles, need eight weeks rather than six to wean.

When parrotlet infants are around three weeks old, their sex may be confirmed. The males’ blue feathers may be seen by the time their pin feathers come in. The blue feathering on the rump of Mexicans, Spectacles, and Blue Wings may take as long as their first moult, but it is visible on the wings as soon as they begin to feather out. Color improvement following the first moult may also occur in other subspecies, such as the Pacific subspecies’ hens.

Cleanliness and sterilisation are essential in all bird breeding operations. While chlorine bleach is fine for cleaning most equipment such feeding dishes, cages, baskets, tubs, and scales, a virucide/pseudomonacide should be used for soaking syringes, feeding spoons, brooders, and anything else that has come into touch with either infants or a sick bird. Use common sense as well, such as avoiding introducing unfamiliar infants into the nursery and always quarantining new birds for at least 60 days.

Whether producing parrotlets for the pet market or attempting to create captive breeding cooperatives for conservation purposes, these little parrots have a lot to offer. They are lovely, clever, quiet, hardy, and reasonably simple to breed. Hopefully, as aviculturists, we can find a home in our hearts as well as our aviaries for these interesting birds so that future generations may enjoy them.

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