What one must NOT do with eclectus parrots

Tony Silva is an American ornithologist and aviculturist, and the author of books and articles about parrots.

Tony writes:  “As part of my objective to disseminate expert advice, I asked Eclectus expert Laurella Desborough a series of questions. Her answers follow:

What one must NOT do with eclectus parrots.

Diet issues:

1) Never feed colored pellets. The dyes in colored pellets are extremely irritating to eclectus parrots to the point that those on a continuous diet of colored pellets have been known to chew on their flesh. (Chemical Dyes and Our Birds’ Health by Alicia McWatters, PhD.http://www.africangreys.com/articles/nutrition/chemical.htm)

2) Never feed vitamins UNLESS a medical veterinary test has indicated a specific bird is low in a specific vitamin. The best solution then is to feed diet items which provide that vitamin in natural form. Adding vitamins to the daily food as a routine practice often leads to muscle spasms known as toe tapping and wing flipping. This is the result of man-made vitamin A which cannot be easily flushed from the eclectus system and ends up creating an effect which blocks the natural uptake of calcium from the blood into the muscles. (GREG J. HARRISON, DVM, Dipl ABVP-Avian, Dipl ECAMS DEBRA McDONALD, P hD, BS c (HONS I) http://avianmedicine.net/cont…/uploads/…/03/04nutrition2.pdf)

3) Never feed eggs to eclectus parrots. They do not normally consume eggs in the wild, except for nesting hens who will often consume the shells of hatchlings or will consume infertile eggs. When fed cooked chicken eggs on a routine basis, veterinary necropsy reports on young birds that have died indicate plaque filled arteries. Owners of these birds indicate that they have routinely fed eggs to their pet eclectus parrots, sometimes as often as three times a week.

4) Never feed a diet consisting primarily of pellets to an eclectus parrot. Vegetable fiber and roughage is an important component of their diet. Recent research on eclectus diet has indicated the importance of fruits and fiber. (Dr. Rob Marshall’s presentation at International Conference on Avian heRpetological and Exotic mammal medicine ICARE in Venice, Italy, in March, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch… )

5) Never feed pasta, breads, and related processed foods to an eclectus. These foods end up causing serious metabolic problems for these parrots. What works well for other parrot species may not work for eclectus parrots.

Caging Issues:

1) Never place two eclectus in the same pet size cage. One of the birds will decide he or she owns that cage and the other bird is going to be attacked mercilessly, and perhaps killed. Young eclectus clutch mates, raised together, often reach the point where they will attack each other in a standard size pet cage. Even in a six foot flight, two eclectus that are not a pair will often be hostile and aggressive towards each other, creating stress and eventual sickness, as the stressed bird is susceptible to random bacteria.

2) Never place an adult female eclectus in a cage or flight with an immature male. She knows he is immature and depending on the subspecies, she may well attack, harass, and eventually kill that young bird. (Some owners have discovered this the hard way!)

3) Do not use hard wood dowels, plastic perches, hardwood branches for preferred perches for eclectus parrots. They will stop chewing on hard woods and this will result in birds being unable to properly groom their beaks. Instead, provide soft woods such as untreated pine or fir, willow or fruit tree branches, which they can and will chew.

4) Do not leave worn out rope or loosely woven fabric covered flexible metal perches in the cage. Hanging threads and loosely woven threads catch and hold toes, causing the bird to chew off toes in order to free itself. In addition, fabric huts are potential death traps, as well as encouraging nesting behaviors in adult birds.

5) Do not place full spectrum lights closer than 24 inches from the heads of eclectus parrots. Full spectrum lights do cause cataracts or blindness if placed too close to the birds’ heads and the birds are unable to avoid the lights shining into their eyes. (Some owners have blind birds as a result of placing full spectrum lights inappropriately.)

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Handling issues:

1) Never force a new pet eclectus into stepping up or coming out of the cage. Allow the bird to become comfortable in its new home and use persuasion, not force. This may take days or weeks to occur. Using force with a newly acquired bird only stresses the bird and can result in eventual alienation and loss of pet quality.

2) Never take your bird out of the house or aviary without the bird being in a harness or in a container. Even wing clipped birds can fly because of the lift they gain from the slightest air movement. Also, birds that are on hands or shoulders are targets for hawks and for aggressive dogs. Parrots have been taken by hawks directly from owners, and taken by dogs also.

3) Never let anyone bring a dog into your house if you have a parrot out of its cage. Many dog breeds have a powerful prey drive that kicks in quickly on the sight of a bird. The dog grabs and kills the bird before anyone can act. This has occurred too often with naive pet bird owners.

Disease issues:

1) Never take an eclectus parrot to a pet store or bird groomer UNLESS you know that the groomer disinfects the grooming table and disinfects the grooming tools which remain in a special chemical bath until needed. Birds that are groomed with tools and equipment which are not disinfected run the risk of contracting viral diseases such as polyoma and PBFD. (This has happened in a pet store where an infected bird was groomed, resulting in the loss of many birds in that store.)

2) Never buy bird food from an open bin in a pet or feed store OR food that has been packaged by store personnel. There is no way that a bird owner can be sure that the food hasn’t been accidentally contaminated by store personnel or by store clients. (Contaminated food has caused illness in pets.)

3) Never expose a young eclectus, (under a year of age), to other parrots or birds of unknown health condition. Some parrot species can carry viral diseases while appearing to be quite healthy. They then spread those diseases to healthy young parrots. Eclectus and caiques are especially vulnerable to polyoma virus, which is generally fatal for youngsters of those two species.

©2017  Laurella Desborough


2 thoughts on “What one must NOT do with eclectus parrots

  1. I 100% agree.
    Surprised about not feeding eggs as my ekky loves them! Oops.

    I have learnt the hard way that they can fly with their wings clipped! He was fully clipped and a bunch of noisy minor birds all swooped down, he jumped off my shoulder and within seconds was above and beyond the closest house. I’m so grateful I got him back, although others may not be so lucky. So please learn from my mistake and harness train or get a carrier!


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