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


Why Bird Breeding Facilities Do Not Allow Visitors

Why Bird Breeding Facilities Do Not Allow Visitors

Dead baby eclectus.

When you look at this photo, you are looking at a dead baby eclectus parrot, a baby which was healthy, normal and alive a few hours ago. What happened? An unauthorized person entered the building and walked past the flight housing a pair of vosmaeri with new chicks in the nest.


Most parrots are quite sensitive to intrusions into the area around their nest sites. Depending on the individual birds or the pair, the consequences can be fatal to chicks in the nest and even to the female parrot brooding the chicks, especially if the birds are cockatoos. Male cockatoos will not only kill the chicks but also the brooding female of the pair.

This is something that the average person does not realize. Even individuals who own pet parrots or other birds do not realize the seriousness of entering the area where parrots are nesting. These intrusions by strangers cause extreme stress for the parent birds, stress so severe that hens will purposefully kill chicks or inadvertently kill them during their rush back into the nest area.

This issue of stressed parent birds is the main reason that most serious knowledgeable professionals who breed parrots or other non-domesticated exotic species will not allow strangers to enter the breeding area. That is the main reason that inspection programs like the Model Aviculture Program, make a point of recommending against inspections during breeding season. Even the slightest intrusion can be devastating for nesting birds. Sometimes even a strange yard worker or electrician or noisy neighbor at a distance can be sufficient to cause extreme stress to nesting parrots or other exotic avian species.

Dangers in Our Homes: Respiratory Problems

Birds are not mammals. While that seems to be quite obvious based on their physical appearance, there are also important differences between birds and other animals that are not always apparent. One very important difference is in the respiratory system. While birds and animals both have lungs which aid in processing oxygen in their bodies, birds have an additional part to their respiratory process: air sacs. In the case of most parrots and soft billed birds that are our pets, their respiratory system is far more efficient than mammals, including humans. This is likely due to their need for sufficient oxygen during flight, as the air sacs are very active during flight.

However, due to the great efficiency of the air sacs in our birds, that also means that they are quite efficient with intake and processing of anything in the air, including dangerous toxins. While it often requires a lot of toxic stuff in the air for us to be aware of it, the least little bit can be deadly to our birds. For instance, one woman who kept a pair of love birds in her bathroom, decided to use hair spray on her hair. She sprayed her hair. She noticed the birds showing extreme distress, and in a few minutes they were both dead. While the woman did not have respiratory distress, but the birds died.

One person lost a clutch of baby African greys that were being transported in a kennel where the owner had installed a device which is used to provide heat to herps. The device had not been used prior to the baby greys being kept warm with it. The outgassing of the surface material was sufficent to kill them.

Veterinarians recommend that you avoid cigarette smoke, aerosols such as hair spray, deodorants, perfumes, and cleaning products around your birds. Keep in mind that there are air currents in our homes which move sprays from one area to another. That means if you use ANY of these products, your birds need to be in another room which is securely closed. If you use cleaning products, you need to make sure that the area around the door is secured with tape or toweling, otherwise these dangerous chemicals will enter the room thru the slight cracks around, under and over the closed door.

Examples. A man left his parrot with a friend who managed a dog kennel. The kennel owner was cleaning his kennel with a routine product which does not affect the dogs. However the parrot died during the cleaning of the kennel from breathing in the fumes of the cleaning fluid. In another case a family had a large garage area and built a special room in that area just for their many pet birds. The room was completely closed off from the garage. The entry door was inside the garage. One day the husband decided to spray a pair of shoes to protect them from moisture. He took the pair of shoes to the garage and sprayed them. Later that day when they went to bring more food and water to their birds, they found them all dead. Apparently some of the aerosolized spray had floated under the door or thru the small cracks in the doorway and the birds breathed those few spray particles and died.

One interesting case involved a Blue and Gold macaw. The owner had taken the bird to several vets to find out why the bird had sores on its facial skin. Finally one observant avian veterinarian in California talked with the owner and observed the bird. He asked her if she stroked the bird’s face. She said yes. He noted that her fingers were stained with cigarette residue. He told her to stop stroking the bird’s face. This was the cure as her cigarette-stained fingers were leaving a residue of irritating material on the bird’s facial skin and causing the sores. Once she stopped the stroking, the bird’s sores healed.

Bottom line, if a spray or liquid product contains ANY chemicals or is teflon coated and heated, do not use it around your birds. If a space heater is used, be sure to plug it in and run it outdoors for many hours prior to using it indoors in your home or aviary. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Responsible Aviculture

“Within aviculture, we must choose the responsible route when it comes to the breeding practices within rare or endangered species. In the wild and certainly now in captive breeding, when there is a small genetic diversity within the population due to a low numbers of birds, there is a greater risk of extinction within that species. This is due to the fact that there is a poor chance for that population containing so few individuals to survive a medical, environmental or even a poor breeding season. As any population becomes more inbred, the offspring tends to become less infertile and many physical abnormalities begin to show up. When birds found in the wild or in captivity are in great numbers, there is a large genetic diversity within that population. Genetic diversity insures that a species will survive when any environmental conditions occur (hurricanes, etc.) or when medical disasters occur. This last is especially serious within rare captive populations.”

– Dale Thompson 1943-2009