Parrotlets – Big Birds in Small Bird Bodies
PACIFIC PARROTLET (Forpus coelestis), beautiful bird perched on the branch of a cypress in freedom. Lima - Peru

Parrotlets – Big Birds in Small Bird Bodies

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

Parrotlets – although appearing to be about the size of a parakeet, is not how they see themselves. They definitely have a big bird mentality and an abundance of energy. Because they had not been in captivity for all that long nobody really knows their average lifespan which is generally expected to be around 15 to 20 years, some say even 30. With proper care, these little birds can be quite durable pets.

In spite of their size, these little birds possess all the intelligence and the attitude of the biggest of Macaws. Unlike the big Macaws, Parrotlets are easily suited for apartment dwellers as they cannot scream and are actually one of the quieter parrots you can have. They can learn to talk and can even whistle songs. With enough work like any bird, they can be taught simple tricks providing hours of entertainment for you and yourself.

The most popular species of Parrotlet is the Pacific or Celestial Parrotlet. One of the larger ones coming in at almost 5 inches long with an average weight of about 30 g (28 g = 1 ounce). Parrotlets are dimorphic meaning that you can tell the males from females by certain coloration. Notably, the Pacific males have this cool streak of feathers, kind of a cobalt blue extending from their eyes. You’ll see the same color on their butt and their wings. Females have an emerald green streak by their eye. Their backs and wings are olive green with a tinge of yellow-green feathers about their face.

Green Rump Parrotlets are the smallest weighing about 22 g and are not much longer than 4 to 4-1/2 inches. Their relatively small beak accentuates their tapered body for the size of their head. They’re basically apple green with the males having very bright cobalt blue splashed on their wing feathers and a little turquoise of the secondaries. A patch of bright yellow feathers just above their nostrils helps designate the female

Parrotlet Species

The most popular Parrotlets kept as pets are the Mexican Parrotlet, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Turquoise-rumped Parrotlet, Spectacled Parrotlet, Dusky-billed Parrotlet or Sclater’s Parrotlet, Pacific Parrotlet or Celestial Parrotlet, Yellow-faced Parrotlet.

Other Parrotlet species indigenous to South America but rarely if ever seen as pets are the Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Red-fronted Parrotlet, Blue-fronted Parrotlet or Red-winged Parrotlet, Sapphire-rumped Parrotlets, Brown-backed Parrotlet, Spot-winged Parrotlet, Tepui Parrotlet, Manu Parrotlet or Amazonian Parrotlet, Tepui Parrotlet, Manu Parrotlet or Amazonian Parrotlet


Parrotlet Housing

Once again housing is a paradox with Parrotlets. For a small bird, a big cage is recommended. We suggest something no smaller than 24 inches wide by 20 inches deep with half-inch bar spacing. This will give your small energetic bird lots of room to perform acrobatic feats. Be sure to include a ladder or two climbing ropes to give them plenty of exercise. A minimum of three perches of different textures are recommended for all bird cages but Parrotlets really enjoy swings and at least one should be introduced to complement the other perches.

Toys should be size appropriate, in other words, toys that a parakeet or cocktail may play with. They love bells, vines and Wiffle balls and with enough toys can keep themselves entertained until they are able to enjoy your attention. Leather and rope should be introduced as separate pieces or incorporated into the bird toys hanging in a cage

Parrotlet Nutrition
Although feedback from our customers indicates that they do feed their Parrotlets pellets, some breeders will tell you that if you have color mutation Parrotlets, pellets should be avoided altogether. The problem seems to be (especially with the “red-eyed” birds) developing kidney problems from high uric acid levels resulting in calcification of the kidneys.

One theory is that because seed-based diets are higher in fat than pellet diets, the fat helps store water in the body. Many parrots that migrate from pellets to seeds begin drinking a lot more water than when they were on the seed diet. Parrotlets don’t normally drink a lot of water even when on pellet diets thereby possibly resulting in kidney problems. Unfortunately there’s really no hard and fast rules here but to be on the safe side we did not include any pellets in the Parrotlet bird supply category.

Parrotlets are herbivores so they should be encouraged to enjoy the same vegetables we eat when choosing healthy foods such as bok-choi, broccoli, cauliflower leaves, cabbage leaves, collard greens, dandelion leaves, kelp, mustard leaves, seaweeds, spirulina watercress. Occasionally amaranth leaves, beet leaves, carambola (starfruit), chard, parsley, spinach & turnip leaves served cleaned or in a chop.

Fruits (excepting avocados of course) like figs both dried and fresh are encouraged. Just about all the citrus like grapes, mangoes, melons, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums although you do have to be careful about separating the pits and the seeds as they can be mildly toxic. Ironically the tiny seeds from fruits like bananas, blueberries elderberries, eggplants, persimmons, pomegranates raspberries and strawberries, and even tomatoes are all acceptable.

Sprouts are always good whether they come from alfalfa or buckwheat. Almonds, lentils, and pinto beans are fine but are careful if you feed any red kidney beans as they must be cooked thoroughly because uncooked red kidney beans are toxic.

Eggs either hard-boiled or scrambled are a healthy source of animal protein. Too much animal protein is unhealthy for Parrotlets as well as most parrots. We use to scramble up one whole egg and keep it in a small dish in the refrigerator for Sunshine, our Ringneck. The one scrambled egg would last three days. 10 -15 seconds in the microwave made them “nummy”.

And remember because of their intelligence they need a lot of mental stimulation and companionship. Without engaging your Parrotlet for a reasonable period of time daily you could very well end up caring for a pair of sewing shears – with the wings.

Please let us know if you would like to add to this information or if you have any questions.

Until next time
Mitch Rezman
Windy City Parrot

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