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Parrotlets are found in three genera in the family Psittacidae (true parrots): Forpus, Nannopsittaca and Touit. Parrotlets are smaller than most other true parrots and rarely grows bigger than 5 in (13 cm). The body is stocky and the tail is broad.
Wild parrotlets are found in South and Central America where they inhabit many different habitats, from deciduous forests to lowland woodlands and arid scrub environments. In the wild, parrotlets live and travel in flocks, especially later in the year when many different families come together to form a flock consisting of anything from four to over 100 birds depending on species.
A majority of the commonly kept parrotlets belong to this genus, such as the Pacific Parrotlet and the Mexican Parrotlet. The genus currently contains the following species: (continues below picture)
- Blue-winged Parrotlet Forpus xanthopterygius
- Green-rumped Parrotlet Forpus passerinus
- Dusky-billed Parrotlet Forpus modestus
- Mexican Parrotlet Forpus cyanopygius
- Pacific Parrotlet Forpus coelestis
- Spectacled Parrotlet Forpus conspicillatus
- Yellow-faced Parrotlet Forpus xanthops
The members of this genus live in Venezuela, Guyana, Bahia (a part of Brazil), and in the northern Andes. The genus currently contains the following species:
- Blue-fronted / Red-winged Parrotlet Touit dilectissimus
- Brown-backed Parrotlet Touit melanonota
- Golden-tailed Parrotlet Touit surdus
- Lilac-tailed Parrotlet Touit batavicus
- Red-fronted Parrotlet Touit costaricensis
- Sapphire-rumped Parrotlet Touit purpuratus
- Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet Touit huetii
- Spot-winged Parrotlet Touit stictopterus
This genus only contains two species:
- Tepui Parrotlet Nannopsittaca panychlora)
- Amazonian Parrotlet Nannopsittaca dachilleae)
The Tepui Parrotlet lives in Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela, while the Amazonia Parrotlet inhabits the western Amazon basin, from southern Peru to northwestern Bolivia.
Before you purchase a parrotlet, it is important to find out if it is captive bred or wild caught, and if trade in the particular species is regulated by national or international rules. Several species of parrotlet are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but many of them are only listed as “Least Concern”. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is comprised of seven categories: least concern, near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild, and extinct. As of 2008, only the Brown-backed Parrotlet (Touit melanonotus) is listed as endangered. Four species are listed as vulnerable; the Golden-tailed Parrotlet (Touit surdus), the Red-fronted Parrotlet (Touit costaricensis), the Spot-winged Parrotlet (Touit stictopterus), and the Yellow-faced Parrotlet (Forpus xanthops). One species is listed as near threatened, the Amazonian Parrotlet (Nannopsittaca dachilleae).
Parrotlets are intelligent, sociable and fairly quite birds and they do not take up as much space as their larger parrot relatives. Generally speaking, males are more inclined to speak than females. It is not unusual for a male parrotlet to learn up to 10-15 words, and some specimens also learn to whistle musical tunes that are played in their home. Some parrotlets can learn fairly advanced tricks, but they are not as skilled as the Macaws. Basic commands such as “step up” or “kiss-kiss” are usually no problem.
Since the parrotlet is an intelligent and curious bird, it is important to provide it with plenty of toys and things to investigate in the cage, otherwise it may grow bored and listless. They need suitable things to chew on and tear apart, otherwise they may destroy dishes and similar in the cage. Placing new branches in the cage now and then is a good idea since it will make the environment more natural, give the birds something new to climb on and explore, and provide them with a safe outlet for their chewing urges.
In the wild, parotletts form strong pair bonds and they are often kept as pairs in captivity. If you keep a single bird, you have to spend even more time with it than you would do with a pair since it will feel really lonely otherwise.
once a day clean water and food dishes, clean bars and perches
twice a week change bottom trays, replace dirty litter
once a week wash all bars, perches and toys
once a month clean the entire cage
once or twice a year disinfect the entire cage
In the wild, parrotlets normally feed on seeds, fruit and small insects. They are not hard to feed in captivity and will accept a long row of different foods. You can for instance use a parrot mix with added vitamins as a base and supplement with plenty of fruits and vegetables. If you suspect the diet to be low in protein, give your bird occasional servings of boiled eggs or cottage cheese. Providing your parrotlets with a mineral block and cuttlebone is recommended.
Parrotlets are sexually dimorphic and therefore easily sexed. If the bird has cobalt blue markings on its head, wings and tail, you are most likely looking at a male specimen. In some colour mutations the markings are no longer cobalt blue, but they are still more apparent in males. Albinos are tricky to sex based on outer appearance; they usually require DNA analysis.
As mentioned above, parrotlets for strong pair bonds.
When a parrotlet falls ill it is often hard to determine the illness and its cause, and it is best to let a veterinarian (preferably one specialized in birds) check your pet.
Visible signs of illness in parrotlets:
- lustreless plumage
- ruffled plumage
- bare spots begin to appear in the plumage
- feather plucking
- discharge from nostrils
- loss of appetite
- unusual faeces
- the bird screams more than normally
- the bird sleeps more than normally
Feather plucking can be a sign of loneliness. Parrotlets are highly social birds and you need to spend a lot of time with your bird if you want it too stay healthy and happy in captivity, especially if you keep a single bird.
Parrotlet fact # 1
Within the pet trade, you can find many different colour mutations of parrotlet. The popular Pacific Parrotlet can for instance be obtained not only as normal green, but also as blue, blue pastel, green fallow, blue fallow, lutino, pied, and dilute.
Parrotlet fact # 2
The Pacific Parrotlet is considered to be the most bold and dominant species of parrotlet, and it is highly territorial.
Parrotlet fact # 3
If you want a less aggressive species of parrotlet than the Pacific Parrotlet, you can for instance opt for Green Rumps. Green Rumps are very shy and gentle and need a safe and stable environment to do well.
Parrotlet fact # 4
Within the species Blue Wing Parrotlet, the subspecies Forpus xanthopterygius flavissimus is much calmer and less nervous than the other subspecies.
Parrotlet fact # 5
Sometimes breeders use Pacific Parrotlets to raise eggs from other species of parrotlet, since Pacific Parrotlets are known to be apt parents even in captivity.
Parrotlets can live for over 20 years.