Q & A: “Is it better to breed Eclectus parrots in pairs or in a colony?”

February 23rd, 2016 | by Tony Silva
Q & A: “Is it better to breed Eclectus parrots in pairs or in a colony?”
Tony Silva NEWS

In the early 1990s, Australian aviculturists Peter Chapman and Keith Dickins, the owner of Loro Parque Wolfgang Kiessling, and myself visited Queensland, Australia. We spent time at Musgrave Station looking at wild Golden-shouldered Parrots (Psephotus chrysopterygius), which nest in peak-shaped terrestrial termitaria, but our focus of that trip and the final destination was even further north than Musgrave—it was the Iron Range. Here are found two species that were on our “must see” list: the Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) and the Australian Eclectus (Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi).

Peter Chapman, who is an extolled aviculturist and field observer, literally told us the time and location where we would see both. The Palm Cockatoos had come to the ground to drink on the spot and time he indicated. The Eclectus nested in a tree in whose base we set up camp. We could observe the nesting habits of the Eclectus. The days spent with Peter were like watching a movie for the second time: you knew where and when events would occur.



The tree under which we set up out tent had an active Eclectus nest. The female was fed and mated with multiple males. She was like a bee who controlled the hive (the males), calling for food when hungry and mating when she felt it was necessary.

Those days of observation changed my entire perspective of Eclectus. Before seeing them in the wild, I knew that the female was dominant, that they lack a pair bond—the nexus seen in macaws and cockatoos, for example, which spend long hours preening each other (the hair like feathers on the head of Eclectus do not require preening for the sheath enveloping the feathers to fall) is not present in Eclectus—and females accept food and the mating advances of multiple males. This allowed me to experiment with colonies and with trios. In a colony, the females can bicker over a particular nest; I had one crush the lower mandible of a cage mate, even though they were sisters and had been reared together. In a trio, the hen could pick the male with whom she wanted to mate and she could receive food from both f her consorts.


File:Eclectus roratus (male) -juvenile pet -8d.jpg

Young male (c) Peter Békési. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en


More pairs of tame Eclectus produce clear eggs than any other group. Every time I visit an aviculturist that has multiple Eclectus I am asked about infertile eggs. In many cases a quick glance gives me the answer. The male is afraid of the female, never feeding with her, never sitting on the same perch and avoiding close contact at all cost. Such males rarely build up the courage to breed. Because of this, I always recommend that when Eclectus are to be kept as pairs, that they should be introduced when very young. The female then learns to tolerate the male and as such does not display aggression towards him. I prefer pairing young parent reared birds but find that hand-reared youngsters reared together are also make suitable future pairs.

Pairing adults, perhaps even tame, former pet birds, is a complicated affair. I would recommend acquiring more than one male and housing them with a female. If more than one female is at hand, a simple system can be used: two separate cages, each with one nesting box, can be constructed and interconnected with multiple tunnels. By adding multiple males, the female can pick and choose which male she will accept food from and also mating. This cage also reduces the risk of a female aggressing one particular male, who can flee to the other cubicle. Also, by housing multiple males together they seem to build up courage to confront a female who may turn bellicose.

If only one cage is available, then a solid board should block view of the next nests; females tend to perch with the head emerging from the nest and if they can see each other, they are more prone to fight.


File:Eclectus roratus -North Carolina Zoo (female)-8a.jpg

Eclectus roratus vosmaeri female (c) Ben Thomasson. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


With Eclectus it is important to pair birds of the same subspecies. Unless this is done, eventually aviculture will be confronted with a single hybrid species—a domesticated Eclectus whose genetic constitution is composed of multiple races.

With the likelihood of wild imports ever again appearing being virtually nil, maintaining subspecies integrity is very important.


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author: Tony Silva

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Title photo: (c) Dick Daniels. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.



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