The strikingly beautiful Eclectus hails from the South Pacific. Depending on which authority you believe, there are 9 or 10 subspecies of Eclectus, but I am aware of only six presently available in the United States: Grand, Vosmaeri, Red-Sided, Solomon Island, Biaki, and McGillvary. The first three listed are considered common, and the Solomon Island is becoming more easily available. Only 15 Biaki Eclectus were brought to the United States a few years ago by some Fundamentalist Missionaries. I know of only two producing pair at this time, and the offspring from those pairs which we purchased two years ago are presently laying. I have heard a very small shipment of McGillvary Eclectus arrived a few years ago, but some people refute this claim.
I have been told that when Eclectus were first introduced in the United States, many of the subspecies were hybridized, and, unfortunately, that practice still exists at some facilities. So when considering purchasing a new Eclectus, it would be wise to obtain a photo and arrange for a consultation with an authority on Eclectus to verify you are not acquiring a hybrid.
The color of the Eclectus varies somewhat in the different subspecies, mostly in the female. Known as the most color dimorphic parrot in the world, they were kept and considered gifts from the Gods in early Egypt because of their beautiful feathers. In fact, it was once believed the males and females were two different species.
The males are all generally translucent green with red underwings, but more red appears on the smaller subspecies. The Vosmaeri male has a lemon- yellow band on the end of his tail . All males have a yellow to orange beak which resembles a piece of candy corn. The females are generally red, mauve and yellow, or red with a royal violet blue belly and underwings, with deep maroon wings, and her beak is black. Adding to the unique appearance, the plumage appears to be hair rather than feathers. Scattered gold strands give the transclucent appearance.
When housing an Eclectus, one must consider their large wingspan and accomodate them in the largest cage possible. Most of our cages are 3′ x 4′ x 5′, but we consider this to be on the small side. However, most of our Eclectus spend at least one hour each day outside the cage during playtime.
The Eclectus diet consists mostly of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and pellets. Since Eclectus don’t eat many seeds in the wild, and since they are deficient in so many nutrients, we feel they are more crunch than lunch, so they are the exception rather than the rule at our house.
Eclectus require a diet high in Beta Carotene and vegetable protein. Their digestive tract is longer than most other species, with a larger proventriculus and longer intestines, so fat intake must be limited to avoid fatty tumors. But this does not mean “no fat”, especially for youngsters who are very active. Some fat is needed to store the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and D. Also, with all species, if cholesterol is too high, the excess accumulates in the liver and, through the blood stream, travels to the heart where it accrues; a problem evidenced by fatigue, failure to breed, secondary nutrient deficiency problems (such as Candida, hypocalcemia, hypoprotenia, etc.), fatty liver disease, poor feather quality and discoloration, general unthriftiness, and the inability of the other nutrients to be properly utilized.
I use No Oil Roudybush Maintenance Pellets for Hookbills. Too much oil in the diet can cause black feathers on both the male and female. These are easily distinguished from black stress marks or black liver disease marks because the pattern is different. Some pelleted diets are high in sugar which can cause kidney problems or hyperactivity. Some are also high in artificial colors and flavors which can add to toxicity problems. There are some pelleted diets on the market which are organic; but lack of preservatives can cause growth of unwelcome yeast and bacteria if left in the cage for more than one hour.
One customer told me he felt his Eclectus was a hybrid; half Eclectus and half pig. It’s true. I stay out of their way when they are eating. Our Eclectus are definitely not picky eaters, and grow until they reach about age 2 years.
Eclectus make wonderful pets and have excellent talking abilities. They also love to mimic their favorite sounds, such as microwaves, laughter, opera, and sneezing. Our Eclectus sing, watch television and love to listen to the radio. They are adventuresome and love to explore new places and people. Ours understand many commands, such as kiss, eagle, there’s a birdie, inside, fly, jump, come here, no, up, and naughty. The Eclectus’ speaking ability will be dependent upon the individual, its bond with its human, how much time is spent speaking directly to the bird, its health status, age, and a number of other circumstances. I found that playing the repeating tapes did not help or improve speaking ability.
Many bird owners do not allow their birds to sit on their shoulders, referring to the rule that the bird’s eye level should not be above the human’s eye level because of possible dominance. I might believe this if we were speaking of a wild or untamed bird being domesticated. However, if an Eclectus is purchased while still an infant and “Pecking order” is established at a very young age, I see no reason not to allow the bird on your shoulder, as long as it is not placed in a situation where it becomes frightened. In fact, your shoulder will probably become one of its favorite places to be.
Our Eclectus are very playful and enjoy hanging upside down in their cages and flapping their wings, playing with toys and interaction with us and the other birds. They are very tidy and can be easily potty trained. Also, they do not throw their food. Many experts have written the smaller Solomon Island Eclectus are the most calm and docile of the Eclectus species, and I must agree. They are generally quiet, non-chewers, non-screamers, and since they live in colonies in the wild, they tend to bond to a family rather than just one person.
They produce no feather dust, because they have an oil gland rather than a dust gland for preening. Because of this, one should never see feather dust on the beak of a healthy Eclectus parrot. Instead, its beak should be clean and shiny.
Eclectus are very intelligent and focus their eyes on their owner to closely observe every movement. They show interest not only in you but in everyone and everything around them. They love to explore and usually show little fear.
But an Eclectus will display the normal fear response, which is referred to as “flight or fight”. If something frightens them, they will let out a scream and fly quickly in any direction. The best solution is to speak quietly and slowly to the bird until it is calmed down.
We have noticed our Eclectus are sensitive to loud noises such as thunder, fireworks, alarms, etc. I have read that hens may trample their eggs or chicks during these disturbances, but we have not had this problem.
It is very common to see a young bird with broken tail feathers. This usually happens because of the high activity level among infants, and is not normally nutritionally related. Some breeders pull the broken feathers out with a pair of pliers, but we opt for letting the tail feathers fall out during molt and grow back normally.
The female of the Eclectus species is the dominant gender, and many people find that when the infant female reaches puberty, she becomes aggressive. This is simply those hormones talking, and the female needs her space during these mood swings. This is strictly an instinctive behavior and not meanness. The male is very subservient and probably makes the least moody pet. The tameness of any pet parrot depends on the amount of direct attention, play time, handling, and interaction with its handler and other birds as an infant. Even the moody female will eventually mellow out as she matures.
Generations of Aviculturists can tell us about those two obvious growing stages all youngsters experience. The first one is generally known as the “Terrible Twos”. It is basically a stage when the bird will learn about pecking order. He may lunge or nip at his owner, but this is all very normal. Our baby Eclectus experience this growing stage at between 3 and 5 months of age. For the owner to maintain the alpha position, he must keep the upper hand. For example, if the new owner wants the youngster to step up onto his hand but the baby does not appear interested, the new owner must physically force the bird to step onto his hand. If the owner fails to maintain dominance, the bird may gain the alpha position in pecking order and the owner will find, as the bird matures, that it is not a well socialized pet.
The second growing stage is what we call “Puberty”. It occurs in Eclectus between 9 and 18 to 24 months. What we see in this stage is an attempt to find an outlet for those newly discovered hormones. We may see fast, undirectional movements, quick unexplained mood changes, occasional screaming, shadowboxing, and masturbation, along with the expected courting activities. These stages usually pass and the Eclectus mellows out by the age of 2 or 3 years.
Many Eclectus owners tell me their birds dislike being touched, scream, feather pluck, and are generally unfriendly. Where do some people find these “Birds From Hell”? I believe that an Eclectus who has not been properly socialized as an infant will fit this category. To properly socialize an infant, the caretaker must hold the baby as much as possible, and touch it all over its body, including underneath the wings and feet. The caretaker should talk or sing to the baby as much as possible to familiarize it with the human voice. I spend most of my day in the Nursery, so my babies become accustomed to the company of a human. Unless it is necessary, we do not separate our infants in the brooders if at all possible so they will be habituated to the possibility of sharing their owners’ attention with another pet or person.
Our adults feed their babies for the first few weeks before they are pulled for hand feeding. We feed with a spoon or syringe. The brooders are washed and the aspen bedding or paper towels in the brooder are changed with each feeding. Brooders are disinfected daily to avoid bacterial or fungal growth.
As a novice several years ago, I took some good advice from Jim Petrie, who told me to expose the infant to as much stress as possible. Stress is the number one killer of birds, either directly or indirectly, and if the baby is going to become ill, we want it to happen while it is still in our care rather than after it arrives at its new home.
One of the first Eclectus books published instructs the hand feeder to burp the infant after each feeding because Eclectus do not have the pumping motion most neonates use to release excess air. To burp the babies, I hold each one just as I would hold a human infant after a feeding. They usually “burp” two or three times. Some breeders release the excess swallowed air by pushing it out the esophagus with a thumb, while holding the commissures with the other thumband index finger.
Eclectus are known as being a difficult neonate to hand feed, and I must admit that after they reach the age of about 6 weeks to weaning, that statement holds great truth.
After experimenting with several hand feeding formulas, I have concluded that Pretty Bird Hand feeding formula works the best for my babies. It contains additional digestive enzymes and lactobacillus. Some baby formulas contain yeast, and it seemed my babies were more susceptible to yeast infections if the heat or humidity rose slightly in the brooder while using those particular formulas. Some formulas thicken too quickly, and this can cause a slow moving crop. With any hand feeding formula I tried, however, a slow crop could be immediately remedied with the addition of a pinch of pure actobacillus from the health food store (I use Nature’s Brand), and the addition of a small amount of Gerber’s Papaya baby food. (Use caution when adding fruit because the sugar attracts yeast.)
With proper high calorie diet, vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and herbs, very little chemical intervention is needed in a growing baby. So, during infancy and as they grow, the immune system is constantly stimulated and develops quite efficiently so the bird’s own body can fight off most minor problems. If we do encounter a problem in any of our birds, we usually use liquid Vitamin B complex or lecithin to increase metabolism which in turn stimulates the immune system, and Echinacea and Amino Acids which also stimulate the immune system. Medication is the exception rather than the rule at our facility, unless it is a matter of life and death.
In the proper environment and with the correct diet, Eclectus produce all year long. In fact, the only way to stop them is a temporary separation. Removing the nest box does not always stop production in an Eclectus pair, because the hen will simply lay the egg from the perch onto the floor of the cage.
Our Eclectus males are such Casinovas that copulation can occur anyplace, with anyone present. I have observed one pair copulating in the food dish, and while most copulate on a perch, many will copulate on the cage floor. One talented male will even attempt to copulate while the hen is hanging from the side of the cage. Eclectus are not monogamous, so during playtime, I may find a male soliciting the female of another pair. I can also switch mates to prevent tedium and stimulate interest.
Our pairs start their next fertile clutch 18 to 21 days after babies are pulled from the nest box. A clutch usually consists of 2 eggs, but I occasionally find 3 fertile eggs, and once I found 4 eggs in a single clutch, with only 3 being fertile.
Eclectus make wonderful pets, so if you are trying to decide what your next bird will be, please give serious consideration to an Eclectus.