I’d like to see the individual capable of resisting this teeny tiny parrot’s huge charm! The Pacific parrotlet is truly pocket-sized (smaller than a budgie, in fact), but make no mistake. These guys have huge personalities and make a great addition to your family if you’re looking for some life in the home. But don’t forget: all parrots require specific care and lots of attention.
Let’s go into Pacific parrotlet care and how to keep one happy and healthy in your home.
|Name(s) (common, scientific)||Pacific parrotlet, celestial parrotlet, Forpus coelestis|
|Natural habitat||Western Ecuador and Perú|
|Adult size||25-30 grams, up to 14cm/5.5″|
|Noise level||Low (for a parrot)|
Pacific parrotlet origin & natural habitat
The Pacific parrotlet is a neotropical parrot, which means it’s naturally found in South America. Specifically, this species’ natural range extends from northwestern Perú to western Ecuador. These areas border the Pacific coast, hence their common name! A flock has also been spotted as far north as Colombia (Brinkhuisen & Semola, 2014).
Pacific parrotlets aren’t too specific about their preferred habitat. Flocks of up to 50 birds inhabit both drier and more humid forested regions. Although some of these areas have been affected by deforestation, this hasn’t affected the populations too much. Pacific parrotlets are still listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.
Did you know? To the untrained eye, it can be pretty difficult to tell the different parrotlet species apart. Pacific parrotlets are the most common in aviculture, though, and they’ve been more extensively selectively bred into different colors.
Pacific parrotlet diet
It’s a bit difficult to find adequate information on wild parrotlet diet. Sources report their diet is seed-based, possibly with a preference for spiny amaranth, although I couldn’t find what else. They’re also noted to consume berries, fruits (notably cactus and tamarind) and possibly the occasional insect.
Pacific parrotlets can be seen foraging both in the trees and on the ground. They may also visit clay licks.
As with all pets (and humans), the key to healthy parrotlet diet is variety. The classic parrot seed mix isn’t gonna cut it, especially if it’s high in sunflower seeds. Nor will only parrot pellets.
A proper diet is crucial when it comes to keeping your parrotlet happy and healthy. Low-quality foods increase the risk of obesity and malnutrition, so go for lots of fresh and nutritious options! You could try a mix of the following for example:
- A high quality small parrot pellet
- A high quality small parrot seed mix
- Fresh vegetables and leafy greens daily
- Sprouted seeds
- Fruit (once in a while, due to the sugar content)
- Treats (for training, for example): millet, sunflower seeds, pieces of nut.
Other things you can feed occasionally include some boiled egg, foraged pesticide-free weeds like dandelion leaf, parrot-safe branches with fresh shoots or flowers. And don’t forget to not just throw some food into a bowl for your parrotlet to gobble up: offering part of its daily food in a foraging setting helps keep your bird’s keen brain stimulated.
Remember to always leave fresh water available, preferably from multiple sources.
Pacific parrotlet temperament
This is definitely a section you don’t want to skip when researching Pacific parrotlets. Although these guys are truly tiny, they are very feisty. In terms of personality, they can easily be compared with their larger Amazon parrot cousins.
Parrotlets, especially when kept alone, can be quite affectionate towards their owners. They’re also very intelligent and receptive to learning tricks. You do need to keep up with their training, as they can become bitey when untamed (and those tiny beaks are surprisingly powerful).
Pacific parrotlets are not known for being the best cage mates. They can be territorial and even downright aggressive, picking fights with birds and other creatures much larger than them. They’re not a great choice for a mixed aviary: if you’d like to get some company for your parrotlet, it’s often best to just find it a mate.
Did you know? Pacific parrotlets are sexually dimorphic. This means that it’s usually possible to visually sex them, making it easier to find pairs. Male specimens feature blue shadow behind the eyes, on part of the back and on the wing tips.
Pacific parrotlet housing
A Pacific parrotlet might be a tiny creature, but it’s a true pocket rocket, so don’t think you can get away with providing only a small cage. They need space! The minimum mentioned by many sources is 18″ x 18″ (45 x 45 cm), but this is really only acceptable if your bird will be spending almost all day outside. Something at least 30″ x 18″ (about 80 x 45 cm) seems like a much better place to start. Height is less important.
The bar spacing on the cage should be about 1/2″ (1.3 cm) maximum, as Pacific parrotlets are very small and can get their heads stuck in cages with larger bar spacing.
You’re not there yet with just the cage. As discussed below, having plenty of toys available is very important for any species of parrot. Additionally, you should provide multiple natural (wooden) perches and multiple food and water stations.
Did you know? Pacific parrotlets have been selectively bred into a range of different colors. Naturally, they are green, but blue specimens are very common. There’s also yellow, white, grey and more.
Pacific parrotlet enrichment
Although they’re small, Pacific parrotlets are very intelligent and curious. In the wild, they spend much of their day foraging, figuring out how to find food and interacting with their mate and other flock members. In the home, you need to provide plenty of enrichment. A bored and understimulated parrotlet is prone to issues like feather plucking, excessive vocalization and aggression.
So what can you do to make sure your Pacific parrotlet stays entertained? Luckily, you’ve got loads of options.
- Toys, toys, toys! There are loads of different types of parrot toys suitable for small birds like these. You can even make them yourself, or collect some chewable parrot-safe branches outdoors. Just be sure to rotate toys regularly to keep things exciting, and remove any that are starting to fall apart for safety reasons.
- Foraging. Use foraging toys or make a nice foraging box for your parrotlet to dig around in. Even serving veggies whole rather than chopped can keep a parrot busy for ages.
- Training. Such a good one! Spending some time daily training your parrotlet stimulates its smart brain, strengthens your bond and helps teach it desirable behaviors.
- Out of cage time. Unless you have a very large flight cage, your parrotlet should spend at least a few hours a day outside. This allows it to explore and exercise, helping to avoid obesity. It can be helpful to have a parrot playground on top of the cage or wherever suits you.
- Social interaction. Can’t stress it enough: you either need to have your parrotlet around you for a good part of the day (training, playing or simply hanging out), or it needs a friend/mate. They become absolutely miserable without enough attention.
Did you know? Before adding one to your family, consider parrotlet lifespan. Pacific parrotlets of 30 years of age have been recorded, and 15+ is not exceptional.
Pacific parrotlet sounds
If you’re looking to add a parrot to your family, you should research whether the species you’re interested in is known for being loud. Because many are known for being extremely noisy! Luckily, parrotlets are generally suitable for apartment living.
This species isn’t silent by any means, but it is among the quitest pet parrots. Expect to hear lots of quiet peeps and tiny screams throughout the day.
Do Pacific parrotlets talk?
A little! Although they’re no African greys or Amazon parrots, some Pacific parrotlets are definitely talented little mimics. They can learn to imitate noises, words, tunes and even short phrases. Don’t expect there to be any guarantee that yours will, though: it’s highly individual.
Talking training is a great way to bond with your parrotlet. Take the bird to a quiet spot and just start repeating! Be sure to have a treat ready to reward your bird.
Pacific parrotlet safety & emergencies
If you’re a parrot owner, you should have the number for an avian vet in your phone or on the fridge. No exceptions! The tiny parrotlet is extremely inquisitive and can easily get itself in trouble, no matter how much you try to keep safety in mind. You’ll definitely have to check each time before plopping down on the couch, for example.
Also be sure to keep in mind:
- Scented products and fumes are toxic to birds. This includes non-stick pans, perfumes, air fresheners, cigarettes, essential oils and more.
- Parrot-proof any room your parrotlet has access to. No electrical wires to chew on, no open windows, no toxic houseplants and no dangerous foods or substances!
- Take your parrot for a yearly vet check-up.
- Be aware of the symptoms of a sick parrot and don’t hesitate to call the vet if you suspect issues.
- Have a first aid kit ready with items like tweezers, blood clotting agent and bandages. This can help with minor injuries or if it’ll be a while before you can reach the vet.
If you have any more questions about Pacific parrotlet care or if you’d like to share your own experiences with these feathered South American gems, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
Brinkhuisen, D. M., & Semola, T. (2014). First record of Pacific Parrotlet Forpus coelestis in Colombia. Conservación Colombiana, 21, 30-32.