Dusky-billed Parrotlets aka Sclater’s Parrotlets

The Sclater’s Parrotlet (Forpus modestus, syn. Forpus sclateri sclateri) – also known as the Dusky-billed or Black Billed Parrotlet – is endemic to South America. It is fairly common in parts of its range which includes south Colombia, north and west Brazil (Mato Grosso / Rio Cristalino), northeastern Ecuador (i.e., Napo Wildlife Center), eastern Peru and north Bolivia. Isolated and small populations occur in East Colombia. South Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, Guian and northern Brazil.

They favor areas along water courses, open rain-forest areas, tall secondary vegetation and open country with plenty of trees to 500 m (1,650 ft). Occasionally, they move up to 1000 m (3,300 ft).

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Outside the breeding season, they usually are found in flocks of 10 to 50 birds. Larger gatherings on favored feeding places have also been observed. Very rarely are they seen in pairs, except when breeding.

These are restless parrotlets that move around from tree to tree. They are usually heard before they are seen as they are well camouflaged by their plumage.


It resembles other parrotlets, but be distinguished from other parrotlets by their black upper bill.

Size and Weight

The Sclater’s Parrotlets averages 12 – 12.5 cm or 4.75 – 4.8 inches in length (including its tail); and the average weight range is estimated to be 30 – 35 g or 1 – 1.2 oz.


The general plumage is dark green. The forehead and cheeks are dull emerald-green; sometimes forming clearly defined facial area. The breast and abdomen are bluish-green with olive markings. The lower back, under wing-coverts and rump are dark violet-blue. The primary wing feathers (= longest wing feathers) are black with dark-green outer webs. The secondary wing feathers are violet-blue with green tips, The primary- and secondary-coverts are slightly paler violet-blue. The underside of flight feathers are bluish-grey.

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    The bill is horn-colored with a blackish base to the upper mandible. In some birds nearly all of the bill is black. They have narrow dark-grey narrow periophthalmic rings (rings around the eyes). The irises are dark-brown and the feet greyish-brown.


    Looks similar to the male, but is much paler. The lack the blue colorations of the male, which are replaced with green. The breast and abdomen have a faint yellowish tinge. The facial area is yellowish-green; in some females pale greenish-yellow.


    Look like adults, but are much duller. Young males have blue markings mixed with green.


    They make high-pitched twittering or soft, wheezing sounds made in flight or while perching.


    Their flight is described as swift and slightly undulating.

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      Diet / Feeding

      Their natural diet consists of various ripe and half-ripe fruits, berries, seeds, grass-seeds and greenfood foraged from trees and bushes. They regularly visit barreiros and river banks to feed on mineral soil.

      Captive Diet: They should have available a good quality dry food mix consisting of varies seed mix of wheat, oats, canary grass, various millets, weeds and some sunflower; millet spray (also sprouted). They are likely to need a variety of fresh fruits (including apples) and vegetables (i.e. carrot). Rose-hips and greenfood (chickweed, dandelion etc.) should also be offered daily. During the breeding season in particular, insects and various soft foods should be available as well.


      In their natural habitat, the breeding season is estimated to commence in July. They nests in dead trees. The egg measures 18.2 x 14.8 mm (0.72 x 0.58 ins).

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        These parrotlets are 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. Little is known about captive breeding of this species. Some small differences in breeding behavior compared to other parrotlet species have been noted.

        The general recommendation for such an active parrotlet would be to provide a spacious flight with a minimum dimension of 3 x 1 x 2 m (9 x 3 x 6 ft). Depending on the climate, a heated shelter may be required. The temperature should not be allowed to go below 15°C (59°F) for birds that have been acclimatized to the climate to the climate; and the temperature should not go below 20°C (68°F) during acclimatization.

        Parrotlets enjoy bathing very much, so it’s recommended to make available a shallow bathing dish on daily basis.

        To satisfy their urge to chew and also for entertainment, provide fresh willow twigs (not necessary in planted aviaries).

        They are active little parrots and require large flights for good health and well-being. Good-sized aviaries with these dimensions or bigger are optimal: 3 x 1 x 2 m (9 x 3 x 6 ft). Breeding is also possible in spacious birdroom cages / flights. Communal aviaries have been successful, as long as no other Forpus Parrotlet species are placed in the same aviary.

        Provide an upright nest box 15 x 15 x 25 cm (4 x 4 x 10 ins) with a 5 cm (2ins) entrance hole at all times, as they like to roost in them. Also, some birds breed outside the typical breeding season. Breeding usually begins in August. The breeding condition is signaled by an increasing silvery-blue tinge to the bill.

        The average clutch consists of 6 to 8 eggs, laid every other day. The hen broods alone and usually starts incubating the eggs after the second egg has been laid. The incubation period is about 19 days and during that time she rarely leaves nest and is fed by the male. During this time, she is sensitive to disturbance and nest box inspection, and she may abandon the eggs or chicks if disturbed. The fledging period is 4 to 5 weeks and the young are continued to be fed for 3 to 4 weeks after leaving nest. It is important to remove the young quickly should the parents start breeding again, as the chicks are sometimes injured by parents anxious to breed again.

        Taxonomy (Nominate Species)

        Genus: Scientific: Forpus … English: Parrotlets … Dutch: Muspapegaaien … German: Sperlingspapageien … French: Perruche moineau

        Species: Scientific: Forpus modestus, syn. Forpus sclateri sclateri … English: Sclater’s Parrotlet … Dutch: Sclaters Muspapegaai … German: Sclaters Sperlingspapagei … French: Perruche moineau de Sclater

        Sub-Species / Races Including Nominate: eidos, sclateri

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          CITES II – Endangered Species


          Schomburgk’s Parrotlet (Forpus s. eidos)

          Distribution: They are endemic to French Guiana, western Guyana, Venezuela in Bolívar and most southerly part of Amazonas Province; most eastern part of Ecuador and upper Rio Negro region in Brazil and extreme Eastern Colombia,

          Description: They average 12 cm or 4.75 inches in length. They looks like the nominate species featured above, but is generally paler. The facial area is bright emerald-green. The breast and abdomen are more yellowish-green. The lower back, under wing-coverts and rump are violet-blue.

          Female look similar to male, but are much paler. The markings that are blue in the male are green in the female. The breast, abdomen and especially under tail-coverts have a yellowish tinge. 


          Genus: Scientific: Forpus … English: Parrotlets … Dutch: Muspapegaaien … German: Sperlingspapageien … French: Perruche moineau

          Species: Scientific: Forpus sclateri eidos … English: Schomburgk’s Parrotlet … Dutch: Bleke Muspapegaai … German: Blasser Schwarzschnabel Sperlingspapagei … French: Perruche moineau de Sclater Peters

          CITES II – Endangered Speci

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