Red-fronted Parrotlets

The Red-fronted Parrotlet, Touit costaricensis, has historically been listed as a sub-species of the Red-winged Parrotlet as Touit dilectissima costaricencis. However, most experts nowadays agree that these are two separate species.

Distribution / Range

The Red-fronted Parrotlet is endemic to Central America in southeast Costa Rica, occurring around Puerto Limon and Turrialba volcano, as well as western Panama. During the wet season, they favor wet cool forest areas from 500 m up to 1000 m. They move up to 3000m in early dry season. Occasionally they go down to sea level. Overall, they appear to prefer cold, humid middle altitudes.


The Red-fronted Parrotlets usually occur in small family groups of up to six members. They are shy and quiet, and are rarely seen except when in flight. Their flight is swift and the flock members tend to fly close together. Identification is possible by the black wing feathers during flight, but the red head coloring is only visible at much shorter distance.

They move around quietly in trees and bushes and are well camouflaged by their mostly green plumage.


These parrotlets only occur in a few localities, where they can be quite common. The Red-fronted Parrotlets is endangered and its two subspecies have already been eradicated in many areas due to extensive deforestion and resulting loss of habitat.


The Red-fronted Parrotlet averages 15 to 17 cm or 5.9 to 6.75 inches in length (including tits short tail).

The plumage is mainly geen, but the forehead, lores (the region between the eye and bill on the side of a bird’s head), shoulders and the leading edge of underwings are red. The remaining underwing coverts are yellow. The edges of the tail are also yellowish. Red markings are also visible under the eyes.

Female look similar to the males, but they have less extensive red markings to the wing-coverts and the inner primary wing feathers completely black (please refer to wing anatomy).

Immature birds look like females, but the forecrown is green with a few scattered red feathers; and their irises are grey.

Diet / Feeding

Their natural diet consists of various ripe and half-ripe: small fruits as well as flowers. They are likely to also feed on nectar, seeds, berries and buds.

Breeding / Aviculture

In their natural habitat, the breeding season starts in January. They nest in arboreal (above-ground) termite mounds, rotting trees and occasionally in large wall crevices of deserted houses.

These parrotlets are rare and unknown in captivity. Any captive individual (that cannot be released) should be part of a well-managed conservation program to ensure this species’ continued existence.

Calls / Vocalization

They are reported to produce nasal tou-iit calls when flying, as well as making chattering sounds.


Genus: Scientific: Touit … English: Spotted-tailed Parrotlets … Dutch: Bontstaartpapegaaien … German: Buntschwanzpapageien … French: Perroquet à dos couleurs

Species: Scientific: Touit costaricensis formerly Touit dilectissima costaricencis … English: Red-fronted Parrotlet … Dutch: Roodvoorhoofdpapegaai … German: Rotstirnpapagei … French: Perruche aux ailes rouges

CITES II – Endangered Species

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