Sandee & Robert Molenda
Often called the "tiniest Amazons", parrotlets are one of the most delightful if not the smallest species of parrot. Only five and one-half inches from head to tail, these wonderful birds have all the personality of the large parrots but cannot eat your dining room table. Although often confused with lovebirds, they are actually most closely related to Amazon parrots. Indeed, they often mimic their larger cousins' both in behavior and personality. Parrotlets also can learn to talk, need little space, are easy to care for and incapable of screaming. Most hand-fed birds enjoy physical contact and love to have their heads scratched. Both males and females are bright green, but males have blue on their backs, wings, rumps and head. Most females lack blue feathers and are simply various shades of green and yellow. There are actually seven species of parrotlets but only two, Pacifics and Green Rumps, are sold as pets.
The Pacific parrotlet is the most well-known species of parrotlet in aviculture. Also known as Celestial parrotlets, the males have a cobalt blue streak of feathers extending backward from the eye as well as cobalt blue on the back, rump and wings. Many females also have an eye streak but it is usually light turquoise or emerald green. Females also have dark green backs and wings with lime-green feathers on the face. There is one subspecies where the females have turquoise blue rumps and the males have gray wings instead of green. Pacifics have bold and outgoing personalities but they can also become aggressive and territorial if they are spoiled.
Green Rump parrotlets are the smallest species of parrotlets weighing around twenty-two grams. They are also the only species in which the males lack blue on the rump. They have a delicate, streamlined body with a small beak in proportion to their heads. Predominantly apple-green, the females have a patch of yellow feathers between their eyes above the cere. The males have dark, cobalt blue on their primary wing feathers while the secondaries are turquoise.. They are timid and gentle birds which make exceptionally sweet pets. There are four subspecies of Green Rumps, one in which the male has a light turquoise rump.
Both species are bundles of energy, spending hours swinging, climbing and playing with toys. Ropes, ladders, leather chew toys and Olympic rings are particular favorites. They are amazing acrobats and often play with several toys at once. Being intelligent and fearless, their natural curiosity can get them into trouble if they are not supervised. Parrotlets are very territorial and will attack other animals, especially other birds, much larger than themselves.
Even though they have no problems keeping themselves (and you) entertained with their antics, they become very attached to their "person" and want to be with you the moment you walk in the door. Hanging on the bars to their cage, they will chirp incessantly until you come take them out. After that, they are quite content riding around on your shoulder or in your shirt pocket just checking out the scenery. They will also learn to use a playpen but it should be in the same room as you so the bird does not wander around searching for you. Parrotlets should never be permitted to have run-of-the-house privileges as it is too dangerous due to their tiny size and intense curiosity.
Parrotlets kept as single birds make the best pets although you can have more than one. Just make sure they are housed separately and individual time is spent with each bird. Ideally, a young parrotlet should be placed with its new owner at six to ten weeks of age. They are weaned and their bonding instinct is strongest at this time. If the parrotlet is placed in a loving and caring home, it will soon become a member of the family if not the center of attention. Female parrotlets are usually "one-person" birds however if they are handled by different people they will become tolerant of everyone. Males tend to be more gregarious than females.
A single parrotlet should have a cage no smaller than 18 inches tall, 13 inches wide and 14 inches deep. It must have a grate on the bottom to keep the bird away from old food and droppings. Natural wood perches, not dowels, should be provided. Make sure that food and water is placed where they will not be soiled by droppings. Water should be provided in a glass tube fountain. Often, parrotlets use their water dishes to bathe in and will splash out all of the water. If provided with a canary-size bath, they will play and splash until they are soaked. Parrotlets will also bath in wet spinach or lettuce by rolling every inch of their body on the wet leaves.
Any animal who expends so much energy must have a highly nutritious diet. Fortunately, most hand-fed parrotlets are introduced to a wide variety of foods while young so they will eat almost anything. They should be fed a good-quality small hookbill or cockatiel seed mix. A large hookbill seed mix can be provided, however, parrotlets cannot crack open the nuts often contained in these mixes. They can also be fed a commercial pelleted diet instead of seeds. Whether fed seeds or pellets, they still need fresh fruits, vegetables and greens every day. They also love whole-grain breads, potatoes, rice and pasta which should be fed several times a week. "People food" such as pizza crust, popcorn and muffins are especially relished. Fresh water, mineral block and cuttlebone should be available at all times. Vitamins can be sprinkled on the fruits and vegetables several times a week.
A parrotlet who lives in a clean environment, is provided with sufficient high quality nutrition, receives loving attention from its owner and is not exposed to other birds will be happy, healthy and long-lived. Although their exact life span is unknown it is believed they can live twenty years or more. Feisty and affectionate parrotlets can be devoted pets who provide their owners with many years of delightful companionship.
Robert & Sandee Molenda - Certified Avian Specialists
The Parrotlet Ranch
The International Parrotlet Society
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