Basically there are three critical areas of eclectus care: Housing, Diet, and Handling.
Housing for most pet birds is in a cage inside a home. So the question is which cage is best? Often the answer is the largest cage you can afford or which will fit into your home. However, there are other factors. What is the cage material? What about the perches? Or the cage bowls?
Quality stainless steel is a great choice as it is easy to clean. Powder coated cages are okay. I would just not be purchasing a cage made in China. So, check with the manufacturer. Some cages are made of extremely heavy metal and thus difficult to use. Eclectus parrots are not hard on cages like a macaw or cockatoo, so they do not have to use a heavy barred cage like the large cockatoos and macaws need.
Perches can be a very serious problem because most commercial pet cages come with dowel perches. These are not recommended for eclectus parrots because they are so hard the birds cannot chew the dowel and thus they learn not to chew on wood. The result is that their beaks become overgrown. It is best to replace dowel perches in a new cage with regular untreated pine or fir 2×2’s from the lumber store. Just wipe them down before installing with vinegar water to remove dust. These perches are chewable and will need to be replaced now and then, so it is advisable to purchase several at once. They can be hung in the cages using 2×4 metal hangers you attach to the cage bars with sturdy wire. Then just slip the 2×2 into the hangers. Perches are easy to replace with this system.
Food and water bowl placement in cages sometimes fit into metal straps inside the cage or the bowls are placed in attached metal bowl cages or interior bowl cages or containers. These bowl containers are a serious hazard for all parrots IF they are left empty. Even if you are not going to put anything in a bowl, keep a bowl in the container so that the bird cannot get into that space, as birds that get caught in these bowl containers may break a wing or even get stuck in there for hours and die. It helps to have two sets of bowls for each bowl container. Stainless steel bowls are quite useful as they are light weight and won’t break like ceramic bowls. Six inches in diameter is the recommended size for bowls.
As with all parrot diets, there are many varying recommendations on websites, on facebook and from breeders. However, some of the recommendations are based on outdated information, marketing agendas, and some are downright dangerous for eclectus parrots. Examples: some recommend feeding eggs. That is a surefire method for cutting the life of your eclectus short due to plaque in the arteries leading to stroke and death. Then there are the recommendations for colored pellets. The dyes in colored pellets are extremely irritating to eclectus, causing them to chew on their feathers and their flesh. Commercial parrot treats are another source of irritation due to the use of man made vitamin A in the products. This causes the bird to be unable to appropriately utilize the calcium in the blood by transferring it to muscles. The end result is muscle spasms known as toe-tapping and wing-flipping. Avoiding colored pellets, commercial parrot treats, vitamin mixes, cooked eggs, and of course, junk foods will help maintain good health for your bird.
So what to feed your eclectus parrot to keep the bird healthy and happy? A balanced diet works well. Greens like endive, kale and commercial dandelion are important. A mixture of vegetables, fresh or defrosted, well cleaned and chopped into small items and then added to soaked and cooked brown rice and a variety of beans, with the addition of at least two fruits a day: chopped granny smith apples, papaya with seeds, blue berries and in season, cherries, cranberries, pomegranates, kiwis, and many other fruits. Feeding this soft food mixture in the morning is advisable and removing the bowl at the end of the day.
For young birds under 2 years of age, a mid day snack is a good idea. A third of an ear of fresh corn on the cob on a skewer, a slice of cucumber, some whole green beans, or a spray of millet are appreciated.
For the evening feeding it is recommended that you use items that are not going to spoil, like a clean seed mixture, a few natural colored pellets, perhaps a walnut half, or a half a spray of millet. It is not recommended to feed peanuts. Parrot seed mixes that contain colored pellet items are not recommended. A small amount of sunflower seeds is fine. Balance in the diet is the key to maintaining a healthy bird.
Handling and behavior are extremely critical for the development of a good relationship with your eclectus parrot. The most important tool to achieve a positive relationship is observation. You need to study your bird. Learn from the bird what is worrisome, what is perceived as positive interaction, and what are the signs of good health and of illness.
An eclectus parrot in a new environment with new people is likely to be quite worried and possibly stressed and fearful. Fear is shown by the bird raising the feathers on its upper back, possibly opening its beak, and backing away. Those are fear responses and you should not push the bird to interact when these behaviors are displayed. Talk to the bird but do not push it to step up or do anything. As long as the bird is afraid, don’t try to have the bird step up. You will know when the bird is comfortable with you when the bird comes forward on the perch. This can take anywhere from an hour to a month, depending on the bird, depending on the environment and depending on how you approach the bird.
Talking to an eclectus when approaching the cage is a must. Talk means you are friendly. Predators are quiet. When you stare at the bird and you are quiet, the bird sees that as a predatory behavior. Most parrots are programmed to be wary of predators because their greatest threat is from predators. For instance, if you have a visitor wearing a hat, or a t-shirt with a hawk on it, then the bird will likely be fearful.
With new eclectus parrot owners, we recommend purchasing the DVD by internationally known and respected bird trainer, Barbara Heidenreich, at Good Bird Inc as it is very helpful to parrot owners. Patience coupled with close observation will work wonders in terms of you and your bird developing a positive relationship.
Recognizing a Sick Bird
How do we recognize a sick bird? A bird that stops talking, stops activities like playing with toys, sits with feathers slightly lofted and head tucked behind its shoulder during the day and has unusual feces or very few feces, does indicate a concern that the bird is ill. This means one needs to observe feces to see what is normal so that one can recognize when feces are abnormal. A bird with lofted feathers is a bird that is cold. When a bird is ill, it loses its ability to maintain its normal temperature and such a bird needs to be placed into a small container where additional heat is added so that the bird is comfortable. A temperature of about 85 to 90 degrees Farenheit in a plastic container is advisable. Never use a heating pad directly on a bird or place it where the bird can chew on it and become electrocuted. Heat is to be provided until you have access to an avian veterinarian.
It is usually not advisable to take a bird to a dog and cat vet, as they generally do not have a background in avian species and can make incorrect decisions. IF you do go to an avian vet, be sure to stay with your bird and do not let the bird be taken into another room without you accompanying it. Basic tests are the CBC blood test, swabs taken of throat and vent and cultures grown. These are the tests that will provide information about possible infection from bacteria or fungus and make it possible for the vet to diagnose the problem accurately. Be sure to follow the correct procedures for administering any recommended drugs. When the drugs are working to clear up an infection, the bird is restored to normal behavior. However, if the time period for the drug administration is not yet concluded, be sure to complete the entire treatment.
For answers to questions re housing, diet or handling, please Contact Laurella