The parrot family of birds, which consists of everything from the smallest parakeets to the largest macaws and cockatoos, is a popular group of animals to keep as pets for a variety of reasons. Their beauty, their intelligence, their playfulness and their affectionate behavior make them a member of the family in many households. However, before deciding to bring one of these exceptional animals into your home, there are a few things a prospective bird owner should consider...
Eclectus parrots are medium-sized parrots and should be provided with a cage that is a minimum size of 32" x 24" x 62". The larger the cage, the more comfortable it will be for the bird. Also, it has to be big enough to hold all the perches and toys the bird will need. A good cage should have horizontal bars on at least two sides, as parrots are very acrobatic and love to climb. Bar spacing should be no more than 11¼2" apart to prevent injury.
Parrots are intelligent birds and will often figure out how to let themselves out of their cage. Make sure that the cage you choose has a secure locking mechanism that is bird-proof. You may also need to use clips to keep the food and water dish doors locked, as they will usually learn to open these to escape too.
These birds can be kept at room temperature. The general rule to remember is: as long as you are comfortable, the bird will also be comfortable. Be sure to place your bird and its cage off of the floor and away from drafty areas or hot places like open windows, air vents and doorways. If a wet bird (such as one who has just bathed) is suddenly exposed to cooler temperatures, they can rapidly chill and develop respiratory infections. Likewise, a caged bird that cannot move away from a heating vent may overheat, even if the rest of the room is cool.
Your bird's cage should have at least two or three perches of various sizes, shapes and textures so that its feet stay healthy and strong. Make sure the perches are thick enough for the bird to stand comfortably on without losing its balance. Good choices for perch materials are wooden dowels, natural wood, rope or concrete.
You should have toys in the cage to prevent boredom. In the wild, parrots spend all of their days in search of food, avoiding predators and raising young. Even though they are being raised in captivity, pet parrots still have these instincts, so they are in need of stimulation to keep their minds and bodies active. Bored birds are known to have behavior problems, as well as difficulties maintaining their good health and even getting overweight. Always keep a variety of toys of different textures and materials, such as thick plastic rings, wood of varying shapes and sizes, vegetable-tanned leather, bells and rope (as long as any frayed ends are cut short to prevent entanglement). Toys should be changed regularly to keep your pet interested and replaced if the toy becomes worn to prevent injury. When you change toys for your bird or even move your bird to a new location in the house, please be aware of how sensitive most birds are to changes. Never place a new toy directly inside the cage without first allowing the bird to see and get used to the new toy in a neutral area outside the cage.
Eclectus parrots come from tropical regions of the world and require 10-12 hours of sleep every night. If your bird is housed in a quiet room, you may want to get a cover for your bird's cage to help it to sleep at night. If your bird lives in a more active room, it may be kept awake by even low volume sounds, and will not get the proper rest that it needs to stay healthy. In this case, you may want to get a smaller cage for for your bird to sleep in and place it in a quieter room. Using a sleep cage will give your bird a safe, quiet place to get a good night's sleep.
The natural diet of eclectus parrots consists of berries, leaf buds and flower blossoms which are found in the forest canopy. At home, Eclectus can best be cared for by providing a variety of foods. Pellet foods can be fed as a daily base diet, provided they do not have any artificial dyes or preservatives, because eclectus parrots are sensitive to chemicals commonly used in these preparations. A small amount of seed can also be offered, but this should be considered a treat or a small supplement, as wild eclectus rarely travel to the ground to feed and dry seeds are not a part of their typical diet.
It is also necessary to include a considerable amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in your bird's diet. Wild Eclectus eat a great deal of vegetation, and captive birds still require that kind of diet to maintain optimum health. Some healthy fruits include apples, grapes, bananas and melons. Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, collard greens, romaine lettuce, and chicory also make great parrot food. Other healthy treat foods include cooked rice, pasta and multigrain breads. When feeding fresh foods, it is important to remove anything uneaten after a few hours so that the food does not spoil, and to wash the dishes thoroughly before using them again. It may be necessary to offer fresh food to the Eclectus twice a day.
With a well balanced diet you should not need to give your bird vitamin supplements. Vitamin supplements can actually be harmful to Eclectus, and should never be used unless under the advice of a veterinarian.
Grooming & Hygiene
Birds like to bathe, but different birds prefer to bathe in different ways. Some like to bathe in a shallow dish, some like to be sprayed with a fine mist and still others like to get in the shower with the owner. Bathing a tropical bird like the Eclectus should be a daily occurance to keep its feathers in good condition.
Clipping your bird's flight feathers is not necessary but usually helps in taming your bird. It also helps to prevent escape and injury. Consult your avian vet to have the wings clipped by a qualified professional. Nails should also be trimmed by a qualified person if they get too long, become unhealthy or hinder the bird's movements.
Clean the cage, perches and toys daily with warm soapy water. Use a non-toxic cleaner such as mild dish liquid and make sure that the soap is completely rinsed off when you are finished cleaning.
Disinfect the cage and perches with bleach water regularly while keeping the bird in a seperate room. Bleach fumes can kill your new pet. Allowing the cage to air dry in sunlight is a natural way to disinfect. Make sure the smell from the bleach is completely gone before you place your bird back inside the cage.
Rotate toys when your bird becomes disinterested in them but remember never to place an unfamiliar toy in the cage without first introducing it to the bird in a neutral location. One toy that should not be included in the parrot's cage is a mirror for the simple fact that parrots are territorial and will see the bird in the mirror as a possible rival, causing aggressive behavior and stress. They may also see it as a companion, which would compromise the bond between owner and pet.
Behavior & Interaction
Eclectus parrots are social birds who live in pairs or small flocks in the wild. For this reason, they need a lot of social interaction with their owner or with other birds in order to stay happy and healthy, a minimum of 2-3 hours per day of time out of the cage. The wild Eclectus parrot does not form bonds as strongly to other birds as some species of parrots do, so it is possible for it to become friendly to a variety of people within the household, instead of bonding strongly with one owner.
Unlike most species of parrot, the Eclectus parrots have a great deal of physical as well as behavioral differences between the genders. Male Eclectus parrots have brilliant green plumage and tend to be more social as they mature than females. They are also more likely to talk and adapt better to busier household life. Females have striking purple and red feathering, and as they are the sole incubators of their offspring in the wild and dominant within the structure of the flock, they tend to be more territorial of their cage and more comfortable in a quiet household. Both genders display a sensitive, intellectual nature which is unique. They watch everything around them carefully, but do not react in the same demonstrative ways that many other parrots do. Still, in the right environment, with the proper care and training, they can form strong bonds of trust with their owners.
There are several subspecies of Eclectus. Each one has unique coloring and behavioral attributes that set it apart from the others, even though at times they may seem very similar and (sometimes) difficult to distinguish. The Red-Sided Eclectus is a smaller, stocky bird, whose personality can best be described as independent and assertive. These birds require gentle patience and understanding to really bring out the best in their personalities.
If you would like your bird to bond with you, it is best keep one bird per cage. A mated pair of Eclectus can be housed in a large cage indoors, creating quite a striking display with their bold colors, but they will not always tolerate being handled once they have bonded to each other.
Eclectus parrots are considered quieter than other parrots, but that doesn't mean they are silent! Wild parrots use their calls to hear one another miles away through dense forests, which can translate to incredible volumes in a typical house or apartment. However, Eclectus are not nearly as loud as many of the macaws or cockatoos. They can learn to mimic household sounds, other animals and even their owners.
Both genders of Eclectus are often good talking birds, though it is more common for the males to mimic speech. There are a variety of training tools that you can use to help teach your bird to talk, such as training CDs and cassettes, as well as letting your bird listen to the radio or television. The best tool you can use, though, is free. You can train your bird to talk just by talking to it frequently.
While most people think of parrots as colorful birds who talk, it is important never to forget that parrots are not 'domesticated.' Unlike dogs and cats, who have lived with us for thousands of years, most species of parrots are only a few generations removed from the wild. Those raised in captivity are tamed and trained to make interaction with us easier, but they are still wild animals with the same instincts as their wild cousins. For the privilege of keeping such a magnificent animal, parrot owners must be willing to meet all the special dietary, environmental and socialization requirements to keep their birds in optimum health, both physically and mentally.
When taking your new bird home please remember that the surroundings in your home will be new to it and it may take some time for the bird to feel settled in the new environment. Speak softly and move very slowly whenever you are near the bird's cage. Do not try to handle the bird for at least the first few days as the bird needs time to adjust to the new home.
Birds can be scared to death. Frightening a bird can cause the bird enough stress to harm and possibly kill it. Move slowly and talk quietly to your bird until it is comfortable with you and its new home.
We recommend using warm water and a mild soap solution for daily cleaning of your bird's cage. Once a week remove the bird from the cage and use a diluted bleach solution to disinfect the cage. Rinse the cage thoroughly then place the cage in the sun to air dry if possible. Be certain the cage and bowls are completely free of any bleach smell prior to placing your bird back in the enclosure as bleach is toxic to birds.
Always wash your hands before and after handling each animal. If you own other birds, it is important to house your new pet in a separate room for a few weeks while it gets used to the sights and sounds of its new home. Make certain that you sanitize your hands before and after handling the new bird, and that no dishes, food or toys are shared between birds until you are certain it is in good health, which can be determined by a veterinarian.
We recommend taking your bird to the vet for regular checkups and purchasing a book about your new pet. If you notice signs of illness it is very important to get the vet promptly as most birds will hide illness until it is in an advanced stage. We recommend taking your bird to the vet BEFORE the bird ever becomes ill. Visiting your vet before the bird is ill will allow the vet to see your bird when it is healthy and help the vet create a routine preventive health care program for your new pet.