How to identify Eclectus Parrot subspecies. PART III

May 19th, 2016 | by Rudy Caccia
How to identify Eclectus Parrot subspecies. PART III
Taxonomy
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Read also the second and first part of this article:

How to identify eclectus parrot subspecies? PART I

How to identify eclectus parrot subspecies? PART II

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New Guinea Red-Sided Eclectus (Eclectus roratus polychloros)

This is the most common subspecies of Eclectus due to its stable numbers in the wild and vast range of habitat. They are found on the mainland of West Papua, Papua New Guinea, the Kai islands just off the mainland in the Arafura Sea and the Trobriand Islands which lie in the Solomon Sea. This is the largest Eclectus subspecies habitat and, therefore, the size range varies substantially from region to region. Some birds are the size of the Grand Eclectus subspecies while others can be larger than the Vosmaeri subspecies. On average, these birds measure around 370mm with a weight range between 450gm and 550gm.  Average tail feather length is 150mm. The cock birds have a dark forest green that really accentuates the red flanks along the sides of the breast and abdomen. This is why this subspecies is generally referred to as the Red-Sided Eclectus. The body shape is stocky and larger than that of the neighbouring subspecies like the Solomon Island and Biak Island but smaller than the Aru Island Eclectus. The iris colour is dark orange to red and the tail tip is suffused with a light yellow colouration.

The hen is stocky bird. The head has a bright red colour that bleeds into the neck and low hanging bib line on the chest. This bib line is below the wing bend when the wings are closed. Below the well defined bib line the royal blue feathers spread down towards the under tail coverts which are bright red as are the  thighs and back feathers. The back feathers sometimes have a trace of green in them. The tail is reddish maroon being lighter towards the tail tip.  The iris colour is creamy white and surrounded by a royal blue orbital eye ring. These orbital eye ring feathers are more evident in mature birds.

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Eclectus roratus polychloros (c) Tim Williams

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Eclectus roratus polychloros (c) Tim Williams

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Eclectus roratus polychloros (c) Tim Williams

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Eclectus roratus polychloros (c) Tim Williams

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Solomon Island Eclectus (Eclectus roratus solomensis)

This popular Eclectus is found on the Solomon Islands east of Papua New Guinea. It is distributed throughout the islands of Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Malaita, Santa Isabel, San Cristobal and Choiseul. This subspecies is also found through the Bismarck Archipelago Islands of New Britain and New Ireland.

These are small and stocky birds which measure around 330mm with a weight range of 350 – 400gm on average. Tail feather length is 127mm on average.

The cock bird has a light green colouration similar to that of a Vosmaeri. A light yellow hue is evident on the upper wing coverts. When viewed on a perch the primary wing tips are almost in line with the tail tip which gives this subspecies one of the shortest tails, comparative to the Tanimbar Island Eclectus. This short tail to wing tip ratio gives the bird its very rounded and compact body shape. The topside of the tail is heavily suffused in blue and the tip has about 10mm of pale yellow. The upper mandible is yellow and not as orange as most of the other subspecies. The iris colour is deep orange to red. 

The hen is in many ways is similar to a New Guinea Red-Sided  hen but is much smaller. The body shape is also a lot more compact due, at least in part, to the short tail. The red upper wing feathers are a lighter red than the almost burgundy red colour of the New Guinea Red-Sided.  The breast and abdomen feathers have a royal blue with a purple hue instead of the royal blue colouration evident in the New Guinea Red-Sided. The tail feathers are dark red and end in a lighter shade on the tips. The blue orbital eye ring of a Solomon Island hen is usually a lot broader  and more prominent than the other orbital eye ring subspecies.   The iris colour is creamy white.

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The light grass green coloration and pale upper mandible is typical for Eclectus roratus solomensis male (c) Laurella Desborough

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Eclectus roratus solomonensis (c) Laurella Desborough

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Eclectus roratus solomensis (c) Rudy Caccia

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The tail and primary wing feather tips are practically in line with each other (c)Rudy Caccia

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Eclectus roratus solomensis pair (c) David Skidmore, Austral eclectus aviary

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Eclectus roratus solomensis pair (c) David Skidmore, Austral eclectus aviary

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Eclectus roratus solomensis female (c) Rudy Caccia

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Australian Eclectus (Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi)

The mighty Australian Eclectus is the last of the nine subspecies but certainly not the least, as it is the biggest Eclectus of them all. This beautiful subspecies is found in the Cape York region in Far North Queensland. The Iron Range National park holds the biggest population, however, they are also found in scattered rain forest pockets south towards the Mcllwraith mountain ranges east of Coen. These birds are a protected species and very limited numbers are available within aviculture. These big birds weigh around 650gm and measure around 420mm. Tail feathers have an average length of 185mm.

The cock birds are unmistakable. Besides their big long bodies they have a very unique head shape. Their forehead is quite wide and the side view of their head block shaped. The mature iris is a very striking deep red orange. The upper mandible has a deep orange to red upper half. Their beaks can look quite small on their large block heads. The green plumage of a cock bird is similar in colour than the New Guinea Red-Sided and sometimes has a blue aqua hue through the head area similar to that of a Tanimbar Island cock bird.  The heavily blue coloured suffused tail is the longest of all the subspecies and does give the bird a very elegant look. It has a rather wide band of pale yellow on the tip and is around 10 – 15mm wide. 

The hen is a sight to behold, as large as the cock bird with the similar block shaped head. The blue orbital eye ring is thick and similar to that of the Solomon Island subspecies.  The red upper wing feathers are a lighter red than the New Guinea Red-Sided burgundy red. The breast and abdomen feathers are royal blue but with a sky blue edging which are also evident on the shoulder and wing bends. The tail is a burgundy red and lighter in colour towards the tips. The under tail has dark charcoal colouration towards the vent area and is quite striking. The iris is creamy white in colour.

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A good angle to demonstrate the square block shaped head (c) Cape Capers Tours

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(c) Cape Capers Tours

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(c) Cape Capers Tours

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Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi (c) Rudy Caccia

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Blood red iris and very long tail are typical for Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi (c) Rudy Caccia

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Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi (c) Rudy Caccia

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Conclusion

As you can see it is very hard to appreciate the differences between these subspecies if you can’t view them next to each other. The shades of greens, reds and blues are all similar and can be influenced by diet.  In addition, for example, the iris colour can also be affected by whether the bird is indoors or outdoors. There are a lot of factors that can alter these wild bird identification traits within aviculture. Some of these subspecies are in grave danger of extinction in the near future due to bird smuggling and deforestation. Palm oil production for instance has left some island habitats devoid and barren of Eclectus

What can we do? Don’t support products detrimental to Eclectus or any animal habitat for that matter.  Study up on the Eclectus you have and take a firm stance against cross breeding.  Join breeding networks and clubs. These birds are worth much more than being measured in financial terms and we should all work together in prolonging the limited bloodlines and gene pools we have in aviculture.

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Author: Rudy Caccia

Acknowledgements:

A Guide to Eclectus Parrots by Dr Rob Marshall and Ian Ward

Eclectus Parrots – an experience by Graham Taylor

Laurella Desborough 

and a thank to you the various photographers and breeders included in this article!

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Follow Eclectus Facebook group 

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Title photo: (c) H. Zell. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.

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READ  How to identify eclectus parrot subspecies? PART II

One Comment

  1. Patrick Donnelly says:

    I posted the article presumably again, to the FB Eclectus page. There is concern expressed about the possible sanctions that the Eclectus can attract under protective legislation.

    I have asked the QLD Gov to give me details of the procedures that they have regarding the identification of the MacGillivrayi subspecies. This is important as the Act/Regulations only mentions this subspecies, specifically. No other Eclectus subspecies attracts sanctions nor require a licence to hold or move.

    Any details provided will be posted to the FB page.

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