The Eclectus Parrot Handbook
Eclectus parrots are one of the large parrot species that make great pets. With their vibrant green or red feathers, calm and friendly temperament, and intelligence and ability to mimic, these birds are very popular pets. Like most parrots, Eclectus parrots live a long time, around 30 to 50 years, and require plenty of love and attention. Besides their distinctive honk when stress, ekkies tend to be quiet and work well in calm quiet environments. Prone to stress and with a unique digestive system, Eclectus parrots can be quite a handful, but they’re totally worth it! Birds like these can easily become friends for life. The following information in this handbook should help you decide if you’re ready to take on the responsibility of Eclectus parrots and give you some pointers on how to care for your new friend.
Eclectus parrots are originally from the pacific and Indonesian islands and are most commonly called: Eclectus parrot, Solomon Island Eclectus parrot, Grand Eclectus parrot, yellow-sided Eclectus parrot, Vosmaeri Eclectus parrot, blue-bellied Eclectus parrot, red-sided Eclectus parrot, and dusky Eclectus parrot. The most common pet Eclectus parrot is similar to the green and red varieties from Solomon Island, and these will be the ones this handbook focuses on. We will be talking about the diet appropriate for jungle canopy dwellers, as well as the kind of space that birds naturally born to fly in the treetops require. While this information will cover what most Eclectus parrots need, you can always consult your avian vet to make sure your bird is being well cared for.
What should I consider before buying an Eclectus parrot?
Eclectus parrots are intelligent and friendly birds that make great pets but also require a lot of attention and care. The first and most important thing to consider is that Eclectus parrots require you to spend time with them. Ekkies require a lot of personal interaction because they like interacting with their families! It’s recommended that you set time aside to spend with your Eclectus parrot, which includes feeding, play and exercise, and even just hanging out with your bird. Because of their intelligent nature, Eclectus parrots are sensitive and stressed when they feel like they’re being neglected. Both neglect and malnutrition can lead to behaviors such as feather plucking, toe-tapping, and wing flipping, the latter two of which are particular to Eclectus parrots. Before buying an Eclectus parrot be sure to consider if you have enough time to spend with them.
Though it has been said that the female Eclectus parrots are less prone to stress compared to the males, all Eclectus parrots require social attention and low-stress environments. The bird’s friendly nature makes them seem an ideal pet for children, but keep in mind that Eclectus parrots are a big commitment that should never be cared for by a child alone. They don’t like to be startled and prefer calmer, quieter environments, so be sure to consider the environment of your home before considering an Eclectus parrot.
What else do I need when considering an Eclectus parrot?
Eclectus parrots need a lot of attention, and a lot of space to move around in. Large cages are recommended, that allow some flying space. Ekkie wingspans are approximately three feet in length, so if you want to give them enough wiggle room, large cages that are anywhere from 3’ by 4’ by 3’ to 11’ by 3’ by 4’ are recommended. Basically, your ekkie needs plenty of room to move and fly around in. You’ll also want to have enough toys and perches to keep your Eclectus active and healthy. Perches aren’t just for sitting on – they keep parrots’ claws and beaks at a healthy length, and allow parrots to both rest and play.
They also make the environment of the cage interesting for your parrot and mirrors the environments full of branches in their natural environments. As mentioned before, Eclectus parrots are birds that need a lot of attention and stimulation, so toys can help when you’re away. Make sure your parrot feels at home in their cage, because while you should interact in the same spaces sometimes, your Eclectus should have a retreat of its own.
Should I be concerned about what my Eclectus eats?
Eclectus parrots, of all types, have a unique digestive system compared to other large parrots, like Macaws or Cockatoos. Their unusually long intestines mean that it’s much easier for ekkies to absorb nutrients from their food. While this means that they do well on fruit and vegetable diets, it means that you need to be cautious about overfeeding or overdosing on vitamins. Some foods that are high in protein are recommended when your ekkie is molting, breeding, or for chicks, but most of the time vegetable protein is perfect for your Eclectus parrot. Generally, Eclectus parrots do better with softer foods, which means seeds and pellets can be hard for them.
This is not to say that you can’t use seed or pellets in your Eclectus parrots’ diet – that just shouldn’t be the basis of their diet. Ekkies need a high fruit and veg, low-fat diet, but birds love variety. Experts suggest Eclectus parrots eat sprouted seeds, or soaked seeds, to make it easier on their stomach. The thing to remember about pellets is that they are high in man-made nutrients and vitamins; Because ekkies are built to absorb nutrients easier, it’s also easier for them to overdose on vitamins when concentrated in pellets. Overall, 60% - 80% of your Eclectus parrot’s diet should be fruits and vegetables, to keep them healthy and avoid behavioral problems like toe-tapping and feather plucking.
What exactly does my Eclectus naturally eat?
In the wild, Eclectus parrots live in tree canopies and scavenge for food in the treetops. This results in a diet that is mostly tree fruits, like figs. Ekkies don’t tend to look for food on the ground unless pressed to, and therefore don’t naturally eat many seeds, unlike Macaws and Cockatoos which scavenge on the forest floor. As pets, Eclectus parrots enjoy fruits and vegetables, even if they aren’t necessarily the same varieties they would find naturally.
What should I feed my Eclectus?
Fresh fruits and vegetables as a basis for your Eclectus’ diet is best. Approximately 40%-60% of an Eclectus parrot’s diet should be fruits and vegetables. Later in the handbook, there will be a list of fruits and vegetables for ekkies, but they generally like red, orange, and yellow fruits, and dark green, leafy vegetables. As a general rule of thumb, feed your parrot only food that you would feasibly eat. This means that all of the fruits and vegetables for your Eclectus should be fresh, ripe, organic, and washed before they eat.
Pulses, legumes, and sprouted seeds can supplement your ekkie’s normal diet and provide them with some variety. Eclectus parrots also like to graze between meals, so it’s important to provide light snacks. Because Eclectus parrots are intelligent and playful, a fun way to do this would be to give them a toy with a treat inside – pellets and seeds are good treats because they can be out in the cage for longer, and eaten sparingly.
How much does an Eclectus eat?
It’s important not to overfeed your bird, but it is hard to tell precisely how much an Eclectus will eat. Their appetites fluctuate with molting, breeding, and as they mature from chicks to adults. Most adults regulate their appetites outside of the molting and breeding times, however in the wild ekkies can breed year-round, so they might be hungrier if they are hormonally stimulated. In general, it is recommended that food be changed out for two to three meal times, with at least a full cup of food per day. Fruits can have a lot of sugar, so around half to two-thirds of the day should be vegetables, to mitigate weight gain.
The problem with all-seed diets
Your Eclectus can’t handle an all-seed diet – even birds who naturally eat seed can’t do all-seed diets! All parrots need variety in their diets to get the correct nutrients. Because of the Eclectus’ digestion, it is recommended that seed is given to them sparingly, and is either sprouted or soaked. Both sprouted and soaked seeds are easier on an ekkie stomach made for digesting soft foods. Seed can also use as a treat or grazing food since it can be left out longer than fruit.
Fat is a big reason why seeds aren’t ideal for Eclectus. Most seed mixes available out there contain nuts. Nuts can be fatty, and especially for a fat sensitive bird like the Eclectus, this can cause health problems. If your seed mix has nuts in it, your Eclectus is more likely to go over the 6% fat intake they should be getting.
Seed mixes in general should be used with caution. Many mainstream mixes that you can pick up at pet stores are very likely to contain genetically modified (GMO) seeds. The troubling thing about most GMO seeds is that they are grown for the purpose of being used in cooking oils. You’re really asking for trouble in terms of short-term and long-term health issues for your Eclectus when you go with a seed mix full of high-fat nuts and GMO ingredients.
The problem with an all-pellet diet
You may have been given the advice to load up on pellets now that you’ll be bringing a parrot into your home. While perhaps more convenient for the owner, all-pellet diets are terrible for your Eclectus. Along with disadvantages all parrots experience, like lack of variety, lack of ability to forage, and just overall being boring, all-pellet diets can severely harm your ekkie’s digestion. Because Eclectus parrots are more able to absorb nutrients, they are more prone to Vitamin D and iron overdoses common with all-pellet diets. Pellets are man-made concentrated nutrients that your ekkie is just absorbing and holding because they don’t need that much! Be especially cautious of pellets that are dyed, as Eclectus parrots are known to react poorly to dyed pellets, particularly red. Pellets are an appropriate treatment when given sparingly but never use as the basis for an Eclectus diet.
Can Eclectus parrots eat cooked chicken?
Yes, in moderation and particularly when they need more protein, like if they are feather plucking, molting, or growing chicks.
Can Eclectus parrots eat rice?
Yes. Cooked rice and whole grains can help the Eclectus get the fiber they need in their daily diet.
Can Eclectus parrots talk?
Yes! Eclectus parrots can repeat words, phrases, and songs.
Are Eclectus parrots loud?
When stressed, Eclectus parrots do squawk in a definitive and loud way. Most of the time, however, they are quiet birds.
Can Eclectus parrots be red?
Yes! Red Eclectus parrots are the females of the Eclectus species. If you see green Eclectus parrots, the males, more often, it is because people believe they are easier to train. Eclectus parrots are one of the few parrot species that are sexually dimorphic, meaning the males and females are different colors. Researchers thought they were different species for years!
List of fruits for Eclectus parrots
Since the Eclectus’ diet is mainly fruits and veggies, here’s a list of popular fruits that are okay for Eclectus parrots:
- Fresh pineapple
- Juniper berries
- Kiwi fruit
- Rowan berries
- Mandarin oranges
- Hawthorn berries
- Wild elderberries
Don’t forget to remove pits and seeds from fruits like apples, apricots, pears, peaches, and cherries before giving them to your Eclectus parrot. Seeds and pits can lead to choking or accidental cyanide poisoning. It’s also smart to wash all fruit skins before serving fruit to your Eclectus parrot and dice up bigger fruits to make it easier for your parrot.
What about vegetables for Eclectus parrots?
Your ekkie should have veggies all the time! Mix these in with your fruits, or let your parrot have a full veggie meal. Here’s a list of veggies that Eclectus parrots enjoy:
- Red chili peppers
- Broccoli leaves
- Broccoli flowers
- Dandelion greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Turnip leaves
- Collard greens
- Bell peppers
- Swiss chard
- Sweet corn
- Brussel sprouts
- Snow peas
- Bok choy
What should I NOT feed my Eclectus parrot?
Keep all of the foods that are known to be hazardous to birds and animals away from your Eclectus. Things like chocolate and coffee are totally off the table for your bird! Anything that contains caffeine is not considered a bird-friendly food. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for any food that contains something called solanine. Toxic solanine is found naturally in foods like potatoes, garlic, eggplant, and tomato leaves. Avocados and asparagus should also be avoid. Your avian veterinarian should be able to provide you with a complete list of foods that are potentially toxic for Eclectus parrots. Of course, foods don’t have to be “poisonous” to be toxic for your Eclectus.
Foods that contain high levels of fat, salt or sugar can create digestive, behavioral and health issues for your bird. You may think that it is kind to include your Eclectus when the family is enjoying snacks and treats on special occasions. However, “celebration” food for humans can become a cause for misery for an Eclectus. Candy, chips, buttery foods and cookies should not be given to your Eclectus.
What about people's food?
Cooked plain rice, plain cooked chicken and crackers are appropriate for your Eclectus when giving sparingly. Otherwise, your Eclectus should not be having table food. Of course, if your family’s human food for the night has parrot friendly food, like any of the safe fruits and vegetables listed above, they can have some. Feel free to eat the same kinds of fruits and veggies that your Eclectus likes – it can help them bond with you, and show them that it’s safe to eat if it’s a new food. If you feel like your parrot should participate in special events, but just read about how dangerous cake and cookies are for ekkie, try giving them treats that they don’t get that often. Still special, but also safe!
Nuts, Fats, and Legumes
It is extremely important that Eclectus parrots have low-fat diets – only about 6% fat, which can double if your eclectus parrot is younger. That doesn’t mean exclude all fats, since they do need some fats to survive, but you should be mindful of feeding your Eclectus fatty foods. Nuts, therefore, should be given sparingly, as most have high-fat contents. Your ekkie would still appreciate nuts as a treat, or at times when they need extra nutrients overall, like breeding, molting, and laying, but for the most part, nuts should stay out of your ekkie’s diet. Legumes, excluding peanuts, are recommended as treats and protein boosts as well. Beans and sprout beans are excellent supplements to your parrot’s diet, and can also give to your Eclectus when cooking plain as well.
Carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and cellulose found naturally in food, necessary for all animals’ survival. Most foods, including the recommended fruits and veggies, include carbohydrates, and those carbohydrates should be sufficient for your Eclectus parrot’s needs. If you are thinking carbohydrates as in bread and bread products or artificially sugary foods, it is best to keep those away from your Eclectus.
Crackers and some whole grains are good for your Eclectus parrot when they have them infrequently or as treats, but processed bread products could cause health issues for your parrot. Process bread products are potentially dangerous for your parrot in the same way GMO seeds can be they’re originally made for consumption by people, and humans’ digestive systems are drastically different from our feather friends. Unless your avian vet tells you otherwise, it is safe to assume that your Eclectus’ natural diet of fruits and vegetables, plus the occasional cracker, gives them the right amount of carbohydrates.
Does my bird need extra vitamins, minerals or amino acids?
Many parrot varieties are susceptible to deficiencies in calcium and vitamin A. The Eclectus parrot is unfortunately one of them. It is recommended that these vitamins are supplemented naturally in your fruit and vegetable choices; Mangos, cantaloupes, grapefruit, papaya, and tangerines all have vitamin A, as do carrots, sweet potatoes, and collard greens. When in doubt, look for orange and red fruits and veggies, and dark green leaves. A diet healthily supplemented with these should give your ekkie everything it needs.
Nutritional needs vary, though, and it could be that your ekkie needs extra vitamins and supplements. If your bird is experiencing behavioral or nutritional problems, always contact your local avian vet. Your Eclectus might need vitamin supplements in pellet form, in which case your vet should recommend of supply you with the correct vitamins for your bird.
What pointers should I remember about feeding my Eclectus?
Be sure to dice up your fruits and veggies into manageable pieces. The pieces shouldn’t be too small, to avoid choking hazards and to make sure it’s still interesting for your ekkie to eat. Make sure you take away old food fairly quickly after your parrot is done eating, to avoid it rotting. Eclectus parrots like their soft food, so try to make sure that anything hard is softening up enough for them to eat comfortably (like soaking seeds or cooking carrots). Cook or steam fruits and veggies could be something to try if your parrot is fussy about their food. Finally, add some variety! Try to change up your ekkie’s diet every few months to keep them interested and healthy.
Can I just put food in a food dispenser when I’m away?
If you are going to be away for a long time, don’t just leave food out for your parrot. It’s tempting, especially with seeds and pellets, to just load up a food bowl and trust your feathered friend to eat when it’s hungry. Unfortunately, your parrot could overfeed itself, overdose on vitamins, or have issues with eating when you’re not present. Plus, parrots have high standards! Most parrots also have a tendency to throw out food that isn’t good enough anymore, which both means that you’ll have a messy floor when you come home and that your parrot won’t be eating.
You especially shouldn’t just leave out food for your Eclectus parrot. It’s super easy for them to overdose on pellets, and their normal fresh fruit and veggie diet will go bad pretty fast if left out. Because Eclectus parrots have sensitive, highly absorbent stomachs, they will be picky about eating food that has gone bad. Leaving out grazing snacks if you’ll be gone for two hours is perfectly fine; leaving out food overnight and hoping your Eclectus will eat it won’t turn out well for you or your parrot.
How can I get Eclectus to eat healthily?
Spice up their diet! Both literally and metaphorically. Eclectus parrots don’t have capsaicin taste receptors, so they love red chili peppers as a treat now and then. On the more metaphorical side of things, try to make sure there’s enough variety in your ekkie’s diet to keep them interested in eating healthy. Change up your fruit and veggie mix every few months, and add occasional treats and treat toys to keep your ekkie engaged. If your Eclectus parrot is fussy about their fruits and vegetables, you could always try cooking them. Parrots are picky eaters and can detect things we can’t, that might be able to be cooked off. Or, especially in the case of Eclectus parrots, they could just like their food a little bit softer.
Remember that you control the foods and the portion sizes. Always make sure your Eclectus parrot isn’t eating anything that you wouldn’t reasonably eat yourself, and wash your fruits and veggies before putting them in the cage. Ekkie’s appetites fluctuate, so if it seems like your parrot wants to eat a little less or a little more, pay attention! In general, keep their diet at around a cup of fruits and veggies per day. If you worry about your ekkie overeating, or not getting enough nutrition, consult your avian veterinarian on their diet – they can often give you advice specific to your parrot.
Eclectus parrots are friendly, calm, and bright parrot companions – in more than one sense! As with all pets, Eclectus parrots require a considerable amount of responsibility. In particular, Eclectus parrots are prone to stress, require lots of space and attention. A specialized diet due to their unique digestive tract. Unlike most house parrots, the Eclectus parrot cannot subsist on a diet of mostly seeds or mostly pellets. they require low-fat diets and can overdose on artificially nutrient-packed pellets easily. Instead, your Eclectus parrot should receive a diet of fresh and organic fruits and vegetables, with seeds, nuts, and pellets used as treats or grazing food. Food should be changed regularly and not left out, and for the most part, human food is a no-no!
However high maintenance their diets may seem, these birds are definitely worth it. They are quiet and loving and enjoy being a part of a family. They’re smart and can mimic your words and sounds, and develop deep bonds with their humans. Ekkies love being around you, and will play with you, sit with you, and hang around, sometimes literally! As long as they have space, attention, and nutrients they need. Eclectus parrots can be excellent pets, good friends, and even valuable members of the family.
You should always consult with your avian veterinarian when choosing a new food for your Eclectus parrot.