The Pacific Parrotlets (Forpus coelestis) – also known as Celestial, Western, Lesson’s or Ridgway’s Parrotlets – occur naturally in Western Ecuador and North-western Peru (on the Pacific coast). They are resident (non-migratory) within their range. These birds inhabit arid lowland scrub and semi-open tropical deciduous woodland.
These tiniest of all parrots are often referred to as “pocket parrots” due to their compact size and fondness of climbing into pockets. They are very popular and common in captivity, and are the most well-known of all parrotlet species.
Pacific Parrotlets measure 4 to 4.8 inches (10 – 12 cm) in length and weigh between 1.1 to 1.2 oz (31 – 34 grams).
The “normal” male is bright apple green on the forehead, crown and cheeks, becoming silver-blue over the occiput and the nape of the neck, with blue coloration being most prominent immediately behind the eyes. The lower back and rump are dark cobalt blue, as are the under wing-coverts and axillaries (feathers under the wing – the “armpit” or “wingpit” of a bird – please refer to Wing Anatomy), with the upper tail coverts being greenish blue. The ‘upper part of the back and the scapulars (shoulder feathers) are greenish gray. The inner secondaries (shorter, upper “arm” feathers) are similarly colored, with the outer secondaries (shorter, upper “arm” feathers) being cobalt-blue. The lower surface of the flight feathers is bluish green. The underparts are green, with a prominent gray suffusion on the sides of the breast and flanks. The tail feathers are a dull shade of green on their upper surface, and dusky beneath. The beak is pale pinkish white; the legs pinkish; and the irises dark brown.
Those areas that are blue in the male are emerald green in the female, although some individuals retain a slight blue suffusion behind their edges, and occasionally on the rump as well. They are a purer shade of green overall, with less grayish suffusion, most noticeably over the wings. Females are generally (but not always) slightly smaller in size.
Sexing Tip: Blue feathers on the parrotlet indicate male birds.
Young birds resemble adults, but have a pinker beak on fledging. They can be sexed at this stage although young cocks are less colorful than adults. The area of blue behind the eyes is reduced, as is that on the wings. Additionally, the lower back and rump are of a bluish green shade, rather than being pure blue. [The Atlas of Parrots, Dr. David Alderton (1991)]
Diet / Feeding
In the wild, they feed on seeds, berries, cactus and Tamarindus fruits, and other plant material. It is suspected that they also take small insects.
Captive birds are usually provided a dry seed mix with safflower and hemp seed, smaller amounts of oats, buckwheat and limited sunflower seed. Spray millets are usually cherished as well. In addition, they should be fed green leaves such as: Swiss chard, lettuce, dandelion, chickweed and seeding grasses.
When rearing young, hard-boiled egg, wholegrain bread, low-fat cheese and carrots – all ground to crumbly consistency – will help the parents feed the chicks. Apple and other fruits are a nutritious addition as well.
Breeding / Nesting
Pacific Parrotlets are excellent breeders and highly dedicated parents. They are commonly used as foster parents to incubate eggs and raise the chicks of other parrotlet species. In the wild, they usually nest in cavities of trees or fence posts; or they may over the abandoned nests of other cavity nesting birds. In captivity, they do fine with a lovebird / cockatiel-sized nest box – minimum size, for example one of the following dimensions: 6″ x 6″ x 6″ (15.2cm x 15.2cm x 15.2cm).
The average clutch consists of 4 – 6 glossy white eggs that are incubated for about 18 days. The young are cared for by both parents and leave the nest when they are about 4 – 5 weeks old. The parents will continue to feed them for several weeks after leaving the nest box.
These little birds are affectionate, inquisitive, feisty and sometimes stubborn.
The Pacific Parrotlet is considered to be the most fearless, bold and aggressive species of all commonly available parrotlets. It tends to be very territorial, which may present problems if it is sharing its space with other birds. In fact, it is usually not possible to keep more than one pair in a cage. They may also not get along well with other animals in the household, unless they were introduced to them at a very early age.
For those who prefer a less aggressive pet, a Green-rump Parrotlet may be an alternative. Although Green rumps are very shy (especially initially and with new people), they are very gentle creatures. These parrotlets need a safe and stable environment to thrive.
Males may become possessive or aggressive. Females tend to gravitate to one person. while males are usually more gregarious.
Pacific Parrotlets are generally more resilient in nature; and highly intelligent.
Some learn to talk (males more so than females and they up to 10, maybe 15 words and imitate a variety of sounds and tunes). They share the “big parrot” attitude of lovebirds. They can get nippy, and require training. They are not very noisy, about the same noise level of a cockatiel.
Pacific Parrotlets are active little birds and a large cage with plenty of out-of-cage time is essential, or else they will become obese. Ideally, they should have a walk-in enclosure with a minimum length or 7 feet (2.1 m) or indoor flight with a length of 6 feet (1.8 mt). Plenty of toys, swings, ropes and branches for perching should be provided. However, if a cage is the only option – this will not to their detriment, if they are allowed to spend a good part of the day outside. In fact, they are ideal apartment birds. They are less destructive than other birds and far less noisy. In fact, their calls can be quite pleasing.
Pacific Parrotlets tend to be very affectionate with their owners – a very devoted pet indeed. However, if kept alone for extended periods throughout the day, they may be quite lonely. If they are alone a lot, it is best to keep at least two of them – better yet if they are two birds that are bonded already. They will keep each other company when you are not available. The trade-off will be that they are likely to be more bonded to each other than you. However, provided they are handled sufficiently throughout the day, they can still remain good pets.
They also like to bathe – therefore, a shallow bathing dish, in addition to a drinking dish, should be available every day.
Training and Behavioral Guidance:
Parrotlets can be nippy, as they do discover their beaks as method of “disciplining us” once they are out of the “baby stage” and they can generally be somewhat naughty, and it really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established. Even a young bird that has not been neglected and abused requires proper guidance; this becomes even more challenging when it involves a rescued bird that may require rehabilitation. Spraying them with a mister bottle helps in curtailing any negative behavior; however, continuous guidance is important.
- Web Resources: I put together web resources for you to help you understand your pet bird and properly direct him. Please visit the following website to learn more about parrot behavior and training.
They are closely related to the Yellow-faced Parrotlets (Forpus xanthops).
Most authorities consider the Pacific Parrotlet monotypic (one single species); however, a few recognize one subspecies:
- Pacific Lucida Parrotlet or Ridgway’s Parrotlet (Forpus coelestis lucida)
Many beautiful color mutations have been bred in aviculture, as you can see from the below beautiful photos that have been provided by Marcy Covaul, President, Pyrrhura Breeders Association – www.birdcompanions.com.
Calls / Vocalizations
- Calls are high-pitched and rapid. In flock situation this produces a constant chattering. During the breeding season, the male’s soft and pleasant song can be heard.
- Sound Recordings
Provided they are not victims of an accident, predation or substandard care, these parrotlets can live up to 25 years.
Alternate (Global) Names
Chinese: ????? … Czech: Papoušícek modravý, papouší?ek šedok?ídlý … Danish: Spurvepapegøje … Dutch: Blauwe Muspapegaai, Grijsrugmuspapegaai … English: Pacific Parrotlet, Western Parrotlet Finnish: Ecuadorinaranen … French: Perruche-moineau céleste, Toui céleste … German: Himmelspapagei, Himmelsperlingspapagei … Italian: Pappagalletto del Pacifico, Pappagallino celestiale … Japanese: mamerurihainko, mamerurihashiinko … Norwegian: Grønnmasket spurvepapegøye, Lessons spurvepapegøye … Polish: wróbliczka zielonolica … Russian: ?????????? ?????????? ??????? … Slovak: papagájik modrokrký … Spanish: Catita Enana Amarilla, Cotorrita de Piura … Swedish: Pacifiksparvpapegoja
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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