BASIC IDENTIFICATION OF THE ECLECTUS PARROT
Often referred to as the Christmas colored birds Eclectus have only 2 areas of color that are the same on both male and female. No wonder so much mis-information has been published about them, they weren’t even thought to be the same species until less than 100 years ago.
So much has been written in the last 5 years as their popularity has increased that I hesitate to add my observations but I have been asked to do so by so many who consult with us about Eclectus.
Identification of the subspecies should be a priority when considered for breeding. If selecting an Eclectus as a pet I believe one should research first and then select the bird you fall in love with and who picks you. Researching will help you to know what to expect but since every bird is different the choice should be very personal. After all this is a companion who will live as long as you do.
Gerry and I raise and love Eclectus. We recognize the difficulty identifying the different subspecies without considerable study. We began our study of Eclectus in 1994 after loosing my heart to a little 9 weeks old baby girl who climbed up to my face and gave me a kiss. We now raise all four subspecies of Eclectus and still don’t have enough babies for those who love them.
In my opinion all of the Eclectus are delightful and charming, so I would not be able to choose between them based only on the subspecies if I were looking for a pet. I would start there but be open to the one who won my heart. Each Eclectus baby face makes me fall in love all over again. They are all beautiful in their own distinctive ways. Like children in a family, all are different from one another yet similar.
I am sharing my experiences and research with the hopes that by doing so lovers of Eclectus may more knowledgably discern the subspecies they own or the one they are considering. As pet birds this may not be important, but as a breeder it is my strong belief that we should make ever effort possible to avoid mixing the subspecies. Not only does mixing sub species dilute the beauty of the individual Eclectus, it often makes life as a pair extremely stressful to impossible, as these subspecies have different languages and different attitudes.
THE BREATHTAKING ECLECTUS
Eclectus appear to be relaxed and have carefully calculated movements. Eclectus often stand statue-like for quite some time, leading to questions of “is that a real bird?” Indeed they are very real. Eclectus supply all the colors of the Tropics in one beautiful pair of birds, and they seem to be aware of their extraordinary beauty.
Eclectus are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the male and female can be easily distinguished from one another. From the South Pacific, they are considered an Asian parrot. Unlike most other parrots that have only been in existence for approximately 3,000 years, the Eclectus is believed to have been here for 10,000 years.
They are a medium sized parrot ranging in length from 10 to 14 inches with a wing span that is nearly two feet. Their weights range from 350 grams to around 550 grams. They are a stocky, social bird.
In their natural habitat of tropical rain forests and low-lying plains, Eclectus parrots gather in large flocks, forage together, and live in colonies. It is believed that there may be as many as 10 or more subspecies of Eclectus Parrots. I will only mention the four subspecies most often available.
All Eclectus are strikingly beautiful. The similarities of all Eclectus males are; varying shades of emerald green feathers with deep blue primaries, a yellow-orange upper mandible and black lower mandible, dark grey legs, red feathers on both sides of the breast extending to the under wing coverts, iridescent light blue at the bend of the wing, and a blackish green tail.
Unlike other species of birds, the feathers on Eclectus’ heads appear hair-like. This hair like feather structure makes them one of the few birds that people with allergies can tolerate. Eclectus do not shed or molt as other birds, rather they just seem to look slightly bald during a really bad molt, but with little to no dust or feathers to indicate a molt.
Differentiating between the subspecies of males can be extremely difficult unless you have all four the subspecies to compare. The variations are slight and not easily detectable without study and comparisons.
The Eclectus females’ plumage makes them easier to distinguish. The similarities of all Eclectus females are; deep scarlet red heads, shiny jet black beaks, backs and wings of deep burgundy to maroon, bright blue feathers on the shoulder, primaries of dark blue to black, and dark grey legs. Their eyes are extremely expressive and range in color from cream, to golden yellow or amber-red. You can clearly see the female Eclectus eyes dilate as she surveys and assesses her environment.
The Grand and the Vos Marie females do not have a blue eye ring. The Grand Eclectus is in the same family as the Vos Marie. They are of medium size, smaller than the Vos and larger than the Solomon Island Eclectus. The Grand’s red feathered bib extends lower into her tanzanite color blue-purple chest feathers than other subspecies and is distinguishable. Her tail colors blend yellows and red into a sunset pattern. The Grand Eclectus are a rounder bird than the Vos but have the slightly flatter head at the rear top of the head similar to the Vos. Like the Vos, the beaks of both male and female seem too small for the size of their heads.
The Vos Marie Eclectus are the most distinct subspecies. Their bodies are longer and slimmer with an overall elegant appearance. The female is the only Eclectus to have a bright yellow vent, or tail coverlet, and the same striking bright yellow band at the tip of her tail. The Vos Marie Eclectus have a slightly flattened head at the back top of the skull, and a neck which seems to be longer than all the other subspecies established in captivity. The females red head feathers gradually merge with her bright blue chest feathers leaving an appearance of having a lavender colored chest. Actually they are a blend of red and blue much like the Hawk head parrot but not quite as distinct. Unlike any other female Eclectus, she does not have a distinctive bib. The Vos male is also distinctive in that his under tail coverts can contain feathers with a lemon yellow color as does the tip of his tail, obvious unless worn off.
Eclectus are one of my favorite family birds. They develop a very animated,
charming personality and generally participate with all members of the family
and friends and seem to enjoy being with well behaved, active, entertaining
Eclectus can be very talented talkers, speaking clearly and distinctly. If taught to speak they will entertain you spontaneously with a hysterical monologue of every phrase they know, complete with inflections and melodious tones that they come up with all by themselves.
Only in the last 100 years has the Eclectus been successfully raised in captivity, so the information concerning them as pets has been limited and sometimes distorted.
Eclectus appear to be very easy to hand feed. Quite the opposite is true. Because they do not pump and are very accommodating they can easily be aspirated by an inexperienced hand feeder. Baby Eclectus do not usually do well with changes in caregivers. Unless you can depend on an experienced hand feeder and have help when needed I would not consider buying an unweaned baby.
Eclectus need to be weaned slowly and lovingly at their own pace. Predicting when an Eclectus will wean and be ready to go to their new families is not absolute. Our best guess is between 12 and 14 weeks. Predicting is complicated however as weaning is just a part of the equation. Flight training is equally important.
Male or female? This is the best of all worlds in that you can choose between eight birds and still have an Eclectus. There are a variety of nuances between the sub species in temperaments, and the choices between the sexes.
Many believe that the female is the more outgoing of the sexes and the male is the gentler. There certainly is a marked difference between the two, but both can be playful and both can be gentle. Like children from the same family, each is different and each brings their own personality to the mix.
In a breeding pair of Eclectus the female is the dominate partner. Because of this trait the male has been programmed to watch for changes in the females’ mood to initiate breeding. This ability to interpret body language carries over into the very desirable traits a male brings with him to the human - pet relationship.
For an inexperienced parrot owner, and families with well behaved, gentle small children, I usually recommend a male Eclectus as a pet. Our Vos Marie Eclectus both love children, but all birds are different, and males in general are a little slower to react and this gives a small finger a big advantage. Older children will be delighted as the female takes over their games one moment and snuggles down next to their face for a nap moments later.
The colors of the females and her clownish nature are too irresistible. Females tend to be more out going, less reserved and more playful. They seem to enjoy more active play than the males and do well with adult families and older busier children. You might say the female Eclectus wants to help you do your activity and the male wants to observe you do your activity. Of course every bird is different but this is sort of the basic differences I have found in the personalities of the sexes.
New Eclectus owners need to learn to dispense gentle but firm guidance to their bird. A female may need to hear the word “no” twice whereas the male seems to be more than willing to never be in the position of having to be told no; he will usually read your body language before you need the word “no”.
Because many females tend to be more adventurous it may take a little extra work on your part to teach her to obey. It is well worth the effort. Both are usually wonderful, loving, gentle, playful companion of unprecedented striking beauty and in the case of the female, a strong personality. Since most companion Eclectus live to be 40 years of age or more, instruction and guidance early on is easily justified and very satisfying.
Eclectus are very intelligent parrots. Most owners are astounded when their Eclectus makes up sentences appropriate to the situation in their very human voices. Eclectus usually develop a very strong relationship with their owner. Establishing a strong rapport with your Eclectus reinforces their outstanding speaking abilities.
Since the Eclectus is known to have the speech capabilities among the best in the parrot world, if you are a good tutor your bird can develop a repertoire of sentences which, when interacted, will give the impression that they are carrying on a conversational dialogue with you.
Eclectus do not need to groom one as other birds do because of the difference in their feather structure, thus it is very important that they be held, petted and scratched all over as babies to help develop the desire to be petted.
Even an Eclectus that has not learned to enjoy being petted will want your attention and company. They enjoy snuggling with you as you relax or running around with you as you do chores. They love and need stimulation. Many Eclectus accompany their owners horse back riding, hiking, biking, collecting rocks, dining out, and just doing house work.
The females love to disappear into the cabinets or behind the furniture and jump out at you like a cat when you walk by. Of course care is always needed when any bird is free ranging, but the Eclectus female takes extra diligence to avoid her games and not step on her or close her up in a cabinet accidentally. Females like hidey holes.
Eclectus are not heavy chewers and do not have the ability to crack most nuts. (Peanuts are not nuts.) Slightly crack almonds for your young bird and they will learn to get into them by themselves. Once they are through the baby stage of checking out everything in their beaks they are easy on toys and furniture.
Eclectus are not known to be biters but if frightened or their “last nerve is frayed” they may use their beaks to communicate “no” to you! They can clamp down with their beak as any bird can, the difference is an Eclectus doesn’t let go. The less secure they feel the harder they hold on, so don’t try to shake them off. You both may get hurt. Use the skills mentioned on my information on the “About Babies” page for details about controlling this tenancy if your bird is so inclined. Biting is a learned response, so if your bird has learned to bite as a form of communication pay attention to what has taught him to bite and you make changes to that stimulus.
Eclectus also do not have a very strong grip with their feet, so they need soft wood perches that are not slippery and of various sizes to rest their feet. The females like to sleep lying down flat as possible so I always ask owners to put a shelf in the cage near the top so your little girl has a place to be comfortable.
Every bird should have a cage to rest in where he or she feels safe and familiar. This is a place of security, not to be used as a place for neglect or punishment. Having a perch or play stand away from the cage area where your Eclectus can watch the activities of the house without risking being stepped on, or being in the way, is highly recommended.
Since Eclectus do not destroy their cages they do not need cages made out of heavy gauge wire. You can get a larger, lighter weight wire cage for the same price as a smaller heavy gauge cage. Many Eclectus owners cannot rest until they have a pair of Eclectus to make their lives more colorful and interesting so you may want to get a cage large enough for two Eclectus just in case.
More space is always desirable. After all, where are all those toys going to go? An enclosure 36" H x 20" W x 20" D is sufficient for one Eclectus and a 48" H 36" W x 20" D is good for two Eclectus pets, but as big as you have room and pocket book for is best. A bigger second hand cage (that you sterilize) is better than a small new one if you have to choose.
Avoid round cages, and be sure the bar spacing is close enough that your bird can’t stick its’ head between the bars. Eclectus are one of the few birds I would consider giving a cage with a playpen on the top, since they do not have a tendency to be territorial. Our Eclectus love to survey the world and exercise on the top of their cage on their play gym.
Learn as much as you can about caring for birds and you will have a friend for about a half century. Remember to keep all birds away from dangerous chemicals, poisonous plants, zinc toys and products with zinc, or toys they can get caught in or hang themselves on. Watch that they don’t get under foot, especially when you have company, and check for openings in your home when they are out so they can’t get spooked and fly away. The more you learn the more about birds the more you will enjoy your feathered five year old.
NOW, WHICH SUB SPECIES?
The four Eclectus sub species
available in the
The Solomon Island Eclectus is the smallest of the subspecies and has the reputation of being the most gentle of all the Eclectus raised in captivity. They are terrific with families and older quiet children but in my experience Solomon Island Eclectus, especially the male, should not be placed in a household with the boisterous activity usually associated with young children.
The Red Sided Eclectus we now raise are just as gentle and sweet as the
Pure Grand Eclectus may still be harder to find but we have the pleasure of having experienced enough Grand Eclectus babies to determine that Grand Eclectus do indeed make excellent, sweet companions with both the male and the female having similar tolerance and enjoyment of all activity. They take approximately three years to mature so they are baby like a little longer than the Solomon and Red Sided.
The Vos Marie Eclectus can appear intimidating just because of their size. I find them both the male and the female sweet, delightful and different from one another. The five years that it takes a Vos to mature gives you extra baby time to bond. Both are great with children, activity, travel, etc. Since Vos Maries have fewer babies they are often not as easy to find.
There will never be enough written or said about Eclectus to totally describe the experience of having one as a pet. If you have the opportunity, I suggest getting to know several Eclectus owners and make your own observations. Eclectus are not for everyone regardless of their delightful ventures. They can be like any feathered kid; head strong, funny, moody, silly, delightful, aggravating, messy, sweet, too loud, too quiet, entertaining, and loveable.
Copyright 2003 Updated 5/11/06