The Pacific Parrotlet (Forpus coelestis) is also known as the Celestial Parrotlet and is a small parrot that lives in Ecuador and Peru.
Of all the parrot family, parrotlets are the second smallest with the Pacific being 4 ½ to 5 ½ inches in length. They live in tropical forests, moist lowland areas or tropical dry shrubland as well as heavily degraded former forests. Of the seven species of Parrotlet, these are the most commonly kept in aviculture. Their lifespan is said to be as long as 30 years.
The wild colour of the birds is an olive green and grey body with lighter blue streaks from their eyes. The males have a cobalt blue rump with blue patches on the wings and a lighter, yellowish green face while the female is mostly green with no blue rump or wing feathers. These patterns following into the different colour mutations that have been bred in captivity also.
Common colour mutations which have occurred in captive breeding include; blue, cobalt, olive, American yellow (where the male still has the blue markings), European yellow or pastel (where the make has no blue markings), fallow, American White (where the birds retain their blue markings), European White, Albino, Lutino, Isabel and pied birds.
People who have had experience with parrotlets have described them as having the same amount of personality, intelligence and temper as a big parrot in a much smaller body. If they have not been handled and reared with humans from a young age, they can be unruly and are very aggressive towards other birds, both of their own species and any others. But a well-trained, hand reared bird makes an inquisitive and affectionate companion bird. Females tend to bond with one specific person while the male birds tend to be more friendly with everyone.
Their nickname is the ‘Pocket Parrot’ but their closest relative is the Amazon Parrot and owners of both have noted many similarities in their behaviours. Some birds can learn to talk or mimic noises they hear around their home. They are less noisy as a rule than the larger parrots, but when scared or mis-behaving there is nothing quiet about them, much like lovebirds or budgerigars.
Because they are so small, it is easier to get substantial and appropriate housing for parrotlets than for a larger bird. This is not to say that they don’t need a big cage, because bigger is always better for any parrot. They need toys to play with and plenty of things to keep their attention. They will also need time out of the cage to exercise and to bond with their humans. They are very curious little characters, so make sure you bird-proof the space they will be visiting to save accidents and injuries to them and your furniture!
If you are looking to keep these birds in an aviary – beware. These birds are highly territorial and cannot share a cage with even another pair of pacific parrotlets, as they will spend all their time arguing with each other, to the detriment of breeding. They can also attack other species of birds so are best housed in a breeding cage on their own. Successful breeders have recommended having more than one pair in a breeding shed where they can hear but not see each other. This can give them an outlet for their territorial behaviour by shouting at each other, but nothing more than this.
Parrotlets are chewers, like most parrots, so bear this in mind when construction their home. They do not generally bath much but may appreciate a misting with a fine spray or rolling on wet grass if this can be provided to them.
Parrotlet have a very high metabolism and need access to food at all times. The basis of their diet is small seed, millet, pellets where available, fresh fruit, vegetables, and protein sources such as boiled egg.
Their favourite seeds will often include hemp and oats as well as peanuts without the shell and sunflower seeds. All of these should be given in moderation as quite high in fat, especially if the bird is in a cage. Egg food is often eaten and can be used to give calcium or vitamin supplements if required. Parrotlets often need a higher protein and fat diet when breeding and rearing young in comparison to other small parrots.
Favourite fruits and vegetables include carrot, pear, apple, orange, banana, kiwi, papaya and mango as well as green foods and weeds such as chickweed and dandelion. They will also enjoy a range of berries including fruit such as strawberries or raspberries and even berries from trees such as mountain ash and rosehips. They will eat cooked beans and legumes, cooked pasta, cornbread, whole or multi-grain bread, poppy seeds, pinion nuts and even a small amount of shredded wheat.
A typical breeding box for parrotlets is around 18cm x 18cm by 40cm high and with a 5 cm entrance hole. The box is filled with untreated pine shavings, usually to within a couple of inches of the entrance hole.
Four to seven eggs are laid with the hens beginning to incubate from second or third egg. The hen does the majority of the incubating with the male either joining her, or very occasionally incubating in her place. The male feeds his mate while she is on the eggs and also once the chicks are born, which she then in turns feeds to the young. The eggs are incubated for 18-21 days and they fledge from the nest at 4-5 weeks. They can produce two or three rounds per breeding season depending on the bird’s fitness.
The young are mature at 10months but it is recommended to wait until the age of two years before allowing to breed themselves. As soon as they are weaned, remove the young from the cage with their parents, as the male bird will often kill them as competitors for the hen.