Parrotlets in Brief
Scientific Name: Many different species available
Adult Size: 4.5 to 5.5 inches (11.5 to 14 cm)
Weight: ¾ to 1 ounce (21 to 28 g)
Life Span: Up to 30 years
Talking Ability: Slight
Parrotlets are among the smallest parrot species, but they pack a lot of personality into their tiny bodies. A happy parrotlet is rambunctious and full of energy. Let’s learn a little more about them to help you decide if a parrotlet is right for you. If you already live with one, I’m sure that you will learn something new.
There are at least 15 species of parrotlets. All are small, stocky parrots who resemble lovebirds at first glance. Most species are predominantly green in color, with splashes of other colors elsewhere on the body—typically the wings and tail. A parrotlet has a short tail for his body size.
Unlike most parrots, the parrotlet is sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females have a different appearance. In most species, male parrotlets have blue markings on the wings, tail, and/or head, while the female lacks these markings or has very pale versions of them.
Like all parrots and parakeets, parrotlets are part of the large group (technically known as an order) of birds called Psittaciformes, and parrots are sometimes called psittacines [SIT a seens]. Parrots are also called hookbills, for their strongly hooked bills that the birds use for climbing, digging, cracking open seeds, and preening their feathers.
Only two species of parrotlets are commonly available: the Pacific and the green-rumped. You may see others on occasion, including the spectacled parrotlet and the Mexican parrotlet.
The Pacific parrotlet (Forpus coelestis) is the most common parrotlet in the United States. He is a light olive green that becomes more yellow-green on his face. This spunky bird is often stubborn and fearless but also devoted and cuddly. The Pacific parrotlet has been bred in many different colors, including white, yellow, and blue.
The green-rumped parrotlet (Forpus passerinus) is the smallest species, normally not more than 4.75 inches (12 cm) long. He is bright green in color. The green-rumped parrotlet is shyer than the Pacific parrotlet.
In the Wild
Parrotlets are found throughout Central and South America. They can be located in many different places, from rainforests to savannahs to semi-desert habitats. Several species seem to have benefited from deforestation, as they are adaptable and able to live in degraded habitats. Parrotlets live in flocks of up to 100 individuals. They eat a wide range of food in the wild, including leaves, fruits, nuts, twigs, seeds, and the occasional insect or small animal.
Parrotlets as Pets
A parrotlet can make a wonderful pet for the right household. However, he needs a lot of daily attention and training. Be prepared for this ahead of time so that you and your parrotlet will be happy.
Cage and Accessories
A parrotlet needs a large cage for his size—active birds needs space. The best cages are made of wrought iron or powder-coated steel. Make sure that the bars of the cage are spaced so that your bird cannot stick his head out between them—no more than 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) of space between them. He also needs perches in a variety of sizes and materials to keep his feet healthy. Natural wooden perches with the bark still on them are highly recommended by most authorities.
Provide numerous toys to keep your bird mentally stimulated when you aren’t around; rotate the toys regularly so that he doesn’t become bored. Choose toys that are sized for lovebirds and budgies. A parrotlet has lots of energy, so a variety of toys will help him burn off some of that energy.
Most parrotlets enjoy bathing, so consider buying your pet a birdbath or use a shallow dish. Some enjoy being lightly misted from a plant mister or even showering with their human companions.
Your parrotlet will need fresh food—a variety of fruits, vegetables, cooked grains and beans, and healthy human food—two times a day. He should have pellets available all day, and provide a small amount of seeds and nuts once a day. Fresh, clean water must be available at all times. Like other parrots, parrotlets can be messy eaters, so be prepared to clean the water bowl, cage, and surrounding area regularly.