Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Parrotlet Not Eating

Hi Sandee,

Things going well over here, but we cannot manage to make him eat anything other than millet and thawed peas+corn since he got here.
Does not even touch the seeds. Should we try a bird bread to get him to eat seeds and pellets?


Dear Trinidad:

Sorry for the delay in responding - I just got back from a speaking engagement in PA.

I'm very surprised to hear he isn't 'touching' his seeds. If he isn't, its probably because of environmental conditions. One of the mistakes many new owners make is to constantly watch their birds, almost never taking their eyes off of them. This is not good for birds - especially new birds that are adjusting. People forget these birds are wild animals and that humans are predators and birds are prey. Watching them constantly, never allowing them privacy makes birds nervous and keeps them from engaging in natural behaviors including eating. I would suggest you feed him in the AM and then leave him alone and that means not making eye contact for several hours. He needs his privacy and to find his comfort level. As time goes on, he will adjust more and more until this is no longer an issue. You are welcome to feed "bird bread' as it can be healthy and nutritious no matter whether he is eating a complete diet yet or not. I can tell you, unlike seed which is what he was weaned too and certainly knows is food, he has never been fed bird bread in my house and may not accept it at first.

He hasn't been there really been with you for very long - not even a month so I'm sure he's still adjusting and learning. Millet, a complex carbohydrate that also contains significant amount of protein and the corn/peas will keep him alive and while he can't live on it forever, he won't. It’s a matter of time, patience and allowing him to do what he does naturally - be comfortable and self-sufficient in his cage.

Be sure and keep me posted!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Dogs & Parrotlets

Dear SAndee.. Petey sees molly chewing on it possible he thinks she could chew him??????he still is active and eats well.but hard to get out of cage to love and preen him...I dont even try unless she is ourside. I am finally moving into rental house,and have lots of space.. will give new address after I am settled.still get mail here.the managers at the park will help me with main question could Petey think this???love Ollie need answer

Dear Ollie:

Good to hear from you! Glad to hear you are settling in to your new place. Please send me your address. I’m behind on the journals again but will be caught up soon.

Dogs are predators and birds are prey. No matter what, they will always be natural enemies and one should never allow them to have physical contact. So long as Molly does not have physical access to Petey, you should have no problems. However, I’m sure Petey keeps a very close eye on Molly – it is the way Nature designed them and chewing or other behaviors really as nothing to do with it. It is simply a matter of who eats whom.

Hope this helps! Keep in touch and its always good to hear from you!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Parrotlet Chewing on Cage Wire

Good Morning,

I have recently acquired an 11 year old Parrotlet and she has started biting on the bars of her cage, what I would call "strumming" or "picking" them. Her name is Chloe and she is a beautiful little thing and I have had a couple other issues with her, but I really would like to help her or stop her from this practice as it seems there is something emotionally or physically causing this problem. Can you offer any help or suggestions?



Dear Mark:

Thank you for your email. I have to admit in 30 years I have never had anyone ask this question. Since I am not there and cannot observe the bird’s behavior, I’ll give you some background on this issue.

Birds chew on wire. It is part of their natural behavior. It could be because the cage is too small, she doesn’t have enough toys or enrichment items, it may be she is missing minerals in her diet, it could be because of the stress of going into a new home or it may be something she just enjoys doing. I would go through each issue – make sure the cage is large enough – at least 18” by 18”. She should have a variety of toys and perches made from different materials. Be sure and provide her a nutritious diet with lots of fresh foods including vegetables, fruit, greens, cooked legumes, whole grains and sprouts. She should also have access to minerals such as cuttlebone and mineral block. You might want to add some vitamins or bee pollen to her diet although only a pinch of either several times a week is all that is needed. If it is due to the stress of the move, you will just have to wait that out. The older the bird, the harder it is for them to adjust to a new environment. Also, if this is a behavior she has been doing her entire life, you are not likely going to change it and attempting to do so by putting bitter materials on the cage bars or trying to discourage it by adverse training, is going to be more harmful than the chewing on the wire itself. 11 years old is pretty aged in parrotlets these days – it would be like trying to get a 90 yo person to stop smoking. Probably not going to happen. I do know that so long as the wire isn’t toxic – i.e., made from zinc, lead or brass, it isn’t going to hurt her. Its probably more annoying to you than anything else but it isn’t harmful to her.

I would try these other things and see how it goes.

Best of luck to you and your bird.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Toilet Training a Parrotlet

Hi Sandee,

Dibblee continues to get tamer and tamer. Okay, is this my
imagination? After he is on my shoulder for awhile he loves to go
down the front of my shirt and sometimes he stays there for a long
time. Lately, he has been coming out from down below and climbing
back onto my shoulder and thoughtfully pooping there instead of down
in my clothes. At first I thought it was a coincidence but he has
done it the last three or four times he has been out. So...Also, when
I place him on a flat surface or on my bed while I change shirts or
something I noticed that he would immediately poop when I put him
down. So it got me thinking. Now when I have him out I occasionally
take him off my shoulder and place him on the table or counter on a
paper towel and he does his thing and he's good to go for awhile.
I've been trying to associate the paper towel with a command but I
think he's getting the message. If he is out for many hours and I
periodically put him on a paper towel he often stays perfectly clean
the whole time out. Am I reading too much into this or is he one
smart guy?

Thanks for listening to my parrotlet ramblings.


Dear Randy:

Thanks for the update. No, it isn't your imagination. Most birds do not like to step in their own excrement so its not that difficult to 'toilet' train them. Actually, it is more training you to respond to their needs rather than the other way around. My latest book has an article on how to teach the bird. I'm sure that Dibblee is very happy with your progress!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dilute/Yellow Pacifics, Color Mutation Nomenclature

Was just wondering why the American yellows were renamed dilute? I can't believe how much has change with these birds in the last few years.


No problem Matt. The name was changed to dilute years ago – at least 5 years ago or probably longer. The reason? The bird isn’t yellow. Genetically, it is a dilute not a yellow and since the probably is that eventually we will have a true yellow, the name was changed. One only has to look at “American white” also not a genetic white and the name was changed to the correct term of dilute-blue. We now actually have a dark-eyed white so it was prudent to get the name corrected before the white was produced.

A lot of people have the misconception that just because there is a new color mutation in a bird like a parrotlet that it can be named whatever people want to name it. Not true. There are nomenclature standards that are accepted by the world-wide scientific community for the genetics of color mutations in birds. These are based on scientific and biological interpretations and follow the guidelines established for other birds. Hence a blue ringneck is the same genetically as a blue parrotlet as a blue Amazon as a blue budgie and so on.

Hope this helps and have a great weekend!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Parrotlets & Timothy Hay

Tonight I saw at a pet store that they had put some timothy hay in
with the parrotlets. I bought a small amount but did not want to give
it to my bird until I asked you about it. Is it okay for him to eat
or play with. It looks clean but did not want to take any chances.

Update. The last frontier. When I put my hand in Dibblee's cage he
now jumps into my hand to come out. When I put him back in he won't
get off my hand. He has come such a long way from that untrusting and
biting little guy. Still does not play with toys though.

Okay, thanks again for everything.


Sounds like you are making progress Randy. I knew you would. Just takes patience, perseverance and a little luck.

Timothy hay? I have never heard of that. What is their reasoning for it? Parrotlets are not cows or horses so I see no nutritional benefit to providing it. They are also not lovebirds that would use it for nesting. The only think I can think it would do is possibly get wrapped around their legs, feet and maybe neck and cause injury or worse. Also, when hay gets wet it can grow mold, mildew and provide an excellent growing material for bacterium and fungi. If they are using it for substrate there are many other safer alternatives including newspaper. But perhaps you should ask them. I have no idea, have never used it, can't see any reason to use it and I would think it would be dangerous so I definitely would not recommend it.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Death of Parrotlet

I purchased my beautiful parrotlet 16 years ago. he was the love of my life. he started developing cyst on the back of his neck area and started chewing the feathers under his neck. I wasn't sure what was wrong with him so I took him to an avain vet in va beach, va. the vet showed me how to remove these cyst and he seemed to be getting better. I had noticed recently that his droppings were increasing. his weight was very good and his appetite was good. if his droppings did not slow down I was making another trip to the vet. unfortunately i lost him this past sunday. he passed away in my hands peacefully and my heart is broken. can you shine some light on what i did wrong to lose him at 16 yrs. old when i've read they can live as long as 25 yrs.

Dear Sharon:

Thank you for your email. I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your birds. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to life expectancy in any animal but especially birds. Look at people – some die in their 50’s, others can make it to their 90’s. I do know when I started with wild-caught parrotlets they lived a lot longer than the domestically raised birds we have today. No one really knows why but I can tell you that 16 is very old for most parrotlets these days. I’m sure it was simply his time. I hope you find comfort in the fact he had a long, wonderful happy life with you.

Hope this helps.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

PDD & Parrotlets


I was reading your article on dilatation disease and was wondering how common this was. I have a parrotlet that is 5 yrs old now and has been sick for a month now and the vet is not sure what is wrong. He does not act sick but has a hard time balancing himself. He also sometimes shakes or has like tremors. He seems to be weak in the legs. Can you what to look for or who to ask??

Thank you, Brenda

Dear Brenda:

Thank you for your email. I’m very sorry to hear about the problems with your bird. PDD is a gastrointestinal disease that causes wasting syndrome and death from starvation. It involves the inability for birds to process food and is characterized by severe weight loss, vomiting and the passing of whole seeds in the stool. While parrotlets are not immune to this disease, it is very rare for them to be diagnosed with it. Especially in a parrotlet that is not around other birds.

What you describe sounds like some kind of neurological problem. While PDD can have neurological impact it is usually in very advanced case and most parrotlets would have died from starvation before the disease would impact the brain. However, you need to discuss this with a vet competent in avian medicine. Neurological problems can have a variety of causes – injuries, viruses, bacterial infections, prions, fungal infections, genetic abnormalities, tumors, congenital defects, cancer – only a veterinarian trained in avian medicine can diagnose the problem. If your vet is not avian certified, I recommend you contact the Association of Avian Veterinarians at and see if you can find one that may be able to help you.

Best of luck to you and your bird.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pacific Parrotlet/Yellow Face Hybrids

Hi Sandee,

What a pleasure to "meet" you today! I am forwarding the pictures of my two hens, Lauper and Abby, Abby being the one I believe to be hybrid. I hope these are good enough but I can take new ones if need better pics.

I await your feedback and guidance. Again, many thanks for taking the time to help, it is greatly appreciated!

Kind Regards,


Thank you for the pictures. In my opinion, they are both hybrids between Pacifics and Yellow Face. Abby is probably about 90% Pacific; I’d say that Lauper has more YF – but is also a hybrid. I’d say probably 50%-60% Pacific. Hope this helps!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,


Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I am disappointed but grateful for the information. I guess I should stop thinking about breeding them, even Lauper, if she's not yellow faced, the whole point of me breeding them was to try to help the conservation efforts of these little guys!

May I pick your brain as to what made you see the pacific in her? I know I am but a novice, and to my untrained eye, she looked like a full yellow faced, but haha, I've only ever seen them in pictures in your book and on the web! If you could guide me in what you saw that led you to conclude she was hybrid, I can be more discriminating if I try again.

Since you mentioned the virtual impossibility of getting full 100% yellow faced here in the US, would you suggest I try to get them from Peru or Europe instead? How hard would it be to do this? I read the plight of Henry (how saaad!!!) but I am wondering if there have bee nany changes since you wrote it in 2006... any laws changed yet or who do I have to harass?? (haha!)

On another note, I am also very interested in the Lucida Pacific, but seem to have a hard time finding 100% full that have not been crossed. In your article you mentioned that you had started the Lucida breeding with birds caught in the wild, I was wondering if you still had availability of these? I would love to be able to conserve these.

Thanks for taking me under your wing, so to speak!! : )

Kind regards,


Dear Didi:

Unfortunately, there are many species of parrotlets in the US which are pretty much genetically dead – Yellow Face are certainly one since they were never imported in large numbers. Mexicans are almost gone since they were difficult to breed in the first place. Blue Wings are also on that list – most people finding them difficult to breed and they were considered too nervous and flighty to be good pets so after almost 20 years of non-importation, these species are pretty much gone from US aviculture. Fortunately, there are tons of them in Europe and Asia so even if Americans can’t breed them, the species’ will survive. Also none of these parrotlets are highly endangered in the wild.

I don’t know how I can explain to you the differences in a YF/Pacific hybrid since you have never seen a pure YF. Its kind of like describing a Catalina macaw (blue & gold hybridized with a scarlet) if you have never seen a blue and gold macaw. Mainly its size – YF are much larger than Pacifics about the size of a PF lovebird, the structure – YF weigh about 30 grams or more than Pacifics, placement of color – the yellow is supposed to go from the crown of the forehead around the entire face including cheeks and chin, down the throat, the entire chest, belly and all the way to the tail and it is a pure deep yellow and not that washed out greenish yellow. It is a deep, deep bright yellow. Finally, the beak doesn’t have enough black on the upper mandible nor is it dark enough. The entire upper mandible should be dark black. So while there is YF in both birds, one is at least 3 generations of hybridizing with Pacifics, the other could have had one Pacific and one YF parent although I doubt it. It probably is 2 generations of hybridizing with Pacifics.

As for the lucida subspecies of the Pacific, these birds have been bred interchangeably since people first started breeding Pacifics and certainly since the WBCA ban in 1992. With the introduction of color mutations, they are all but gone although unlike the YF, they are not hybrids. They are called ‘generics’ because they are still Pacifics but have a commingled subspecies.

Sorry. I appreciate your offer but you cannot change the law. There are exceptions to it if you are a zoo, a US&FW approved foreign breeding facility or a breeding cooperative sponsored by a non-profit (which is what IPS tried to do but was unable due to people refusing to cooperate and the fact that the most of the birds were either hybrids or had TB or both). But the WBCA was written in accordance with the parameters set up by CITES (Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species) which the US is a signatory. They were written to protect species from becoming extinct in the wild. More and more countries are passing laws to prevent the sale of wild caught birds – the EU passed their own version several years ago. The only species of parrotlets that can be legally imported are visual color mutations of the Pacific parrotlet. Ironically, it is because of this exception that we have lost most of the other species from American aviculture as people dumped the rarer species in order to make more money when the new colors were imported.

Hope this helps.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Fertile Eggs, Taming Without Hand-Feeding

I was wondering if you would give me your opinion. I currently own two parrotlets and the have five eggs not sure if they are viable or not but the female will not leave the nest so I am hopeful. My question is I know nothing of handrearing babies and was wondering if it is possible to tame the babies around 5-6 wks for pets? Thank you for your time and opinion.

Dear Jodi:

Thank you for your email. The fact your hen is brooding really is no indication of whether or not the eggs are fertile or will hatch. She is driven by instinct to brood the eggs whether or not they will hatch. Even pet hens with no mates can produce eggs and they too will sit and brood them often for the entire 21 days of incubation.

I’m assuming this is a pair of Pacifics? If so, then it is extremely unlikely you will be able to tame the chicks without hand-feeding them from 10 to 14 days. If it were, most people wouldn’t hand-feed since it is extremely time consuming – they need to be fed every 4 hours at least 4 or 5 times a day as well as handled and socialized. This is called ‘imprinting’ and it is done to overcome the natural wild instincts that parrotlets have since they are not domesticated birds like cockatiels or budgies (parakeets). Moreover, parrotlet pairs are extremely aggressive especially hens and will not tolerate interference so removing the chicks, handling them and placing them back in the nest almost never works; the hens often kill the chicks. This type of co-parenting can work with larger birds such as macaws but parrotlets are too biologically hard-wired to accept this kind of intrusion and more than likely will abandon or kill the offspring.

You can let them be parent-raised. They will not be friendly nor will you be able to handle them as pets but they can be sold as breeders.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Male or Female Parrotlet As a Pet

Hello my name is Meg and I have been trying to get some info or advice on whether to get a male or a female parrotlet. I can't find the answer online so I wondered if you might help. My worry is that the male will get aggressive when he gets to the stage where he wants to mate, I had a female parrotlet for a few days before I gave her to a friend and her personality was wonderful, but now I am feeling conflicted because my breeders newest clutch has 2 blue males and 1 blue female so far and we don't know what the 4th baby is yet. I read online that males can tend to be a little more outgoing and nippy and females are a little more down to earth. Since you are a breeder what do you think? I think I should listen to my gut about getting a female I am just worried that I will only have the one female to pick and wonder if I should consider one of the males if I like its personality. I am just worried about later down the road. Any response would be appreciated.

Dear Meg:

Thank you for your email. It is important to remember that just like with people, dogs or any other living creature all animals are individuals and no one can really predict what kind of personality any particular animal is going to have just based on things like species or sex. Parrotlets are not domesticated birds like parakeets or cockatiels and therefore still rely predominantly on their natural, wild instincts rather than having been bred to accommodate human tolerances. Parrotlet personalities are based primarily on the bird’s own individual personality – some birds naturally prefer other birds and others will accept human companionship – and imprinting. Imprinting is the process where wild characteristics are overshadowed by imprinting desired behaviors. Many people call this ‘socializing’ or ‘bonding’ but really it is simply acclimating the bird to overcome its natural instincts such as escaping from humans to enjoying being around and accepting human contact. As someone who has bred parrotlets exclusively for almost 30 years I can tell you that the way was raised, handled and socialized by the breeder is a much greater indication of how a bird is going to be as a pet as opposed to sex or species.

That being said, both males and females can and do have issues with hormones as well as natural metabolic processes – again, it is about their basic instincts for survival in the wild and not because they have been programmed for captivity by selective breeding. Males and females can be territorial, particularly with regard to their cages – this is very natural behavior for all species and genders of parrotlets. Same with certain times of the year where things like molting happens. Again, both sexes have the ability to become aggressive and nippy. Indeed, all birds can become nippy based on a variety of reasons - I always tell people if you really want to get a bird that won’t nip or bite, get a canary and never take it out of the cage. Otherwise, just like with dogs or any other animal, its personality largely depends on the bird itself, how it was raised and socialized and how it was trained by the owner.

Hope this helps.

Sincerely yours,
Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Parrots, Selling Sick Birds, PBFD

I was wondering if you could tell me if there is any regulation
concerning selling a contagious parrot to another. I was sold an
ecleptus which I was told had plucked her feathers due to neglect.
After taking the bird, I tooke her to the hospital and a test confirmed
she had beak and feather. Unfortunately she had been kept in my home
until the tests came back and possibly infected my beloved Congo and
conure. Is there any thing i can do about this. I am just sick. I was
trying to rescue the bird.

Dear Dianne:

Thank you for your email. I am sorry to hear about this situation. You need to speak to a lawyer as I cannot give you legal advice. Also, every state is different when it comes to consumer protection laws regarding the sales of animals. I would imagine that the person selling the bird would have had to have known about the bird being sick prior to the sale and that might be difficult to prove as very few people have these kinds of tests run. Even if they do, there may be problems with the test such as receiving a false negative but you should speak to a lawyer in your county.

Also, since birds, as are all animals, considered 'property' you would have to prove that your birds were indeed infected by this bird. Furthermore that they have been harmed and what the damages would be but again you need to speak to an attorney. Fortunately, not all birds that are exposed to PBFD become infected and even those that are, do not succumb to the disease. You should talk with vets who specialize in PBFD and have your other birds tested. I would also immediately put that bird into quarantine and exercise quarantine procedures when it comes to caring for all the birds.

Best of luck to you and your birds and again, I am very sorry to hear about this.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Color Mutation Pacifics

Hi Sandee,

I am looking for a blue dominant pied female to pair with my green/blue male
who is about 4 months old. In the future, I would also like to add some
other mutations such as pastel, ino's, or fallow. I currently have two pair
of breeders that I bought as a proven pair. They have both produced
beautiful babies, but the baby's mutations don't match the outcome for what
I was told the parent's are. I really would like to put together young,
healthy pairs without any hidden splits, but I am having a very hard time
finding breeders offering these birds. I am hoping you may be able to help.


Thanks Kelly but I specialize in rare and uncommon species not the latest
color mutations. I do breed fallows but have none available and don't know
when they will be breeding as I put my birds' on hold for 2 years while I
cared for my mother who died of cancer. They have not show interest in
breeding and I suspect, since I've been doing this for almost 30 years, that
it will take a long time to get them interested again. Sorry.

Please remember that its not always the breeders' fault when it comes to not
knowing what is in the background of these birds since all the color
mutations, except dilute, were imported from Europe and their backgrounds
were unknown. I do have a blog about that at that gives the history of these birds and
the reasons some colors are produced.

Best of luck!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Thanks Sandee. I look forward to reading your blog. Is there a new violet mutation? (Well, it is new to me anyway). I will continue to learn all I can about these wonderful birds. Maybe someday I will have a true rare mutation. In the mean time, I really love the pied parrotlets and will continue to look for my little pied hen. :)

I am very sorry to hear about your mother. I work for a Home Care company and just recently care for a gentleman who passed away from cancer. Your mom was very blessed to have you to take care of her. I hope your birds decide to bless you real soon with new babies.


Thank you Kelly. You are very sweet and I'm sure my birds will breed again. I've been doing this for almost 30 years so I know my birds better than myself. Its people that can be the problem - no one has patience anymore. So I just as soon not take any names or give people times as to when the birds will be available because I simply don't know. Another thing people are reluctant to admit these days - they don't know. :) Especially online - everyone with a keyboard is an 'expert'.

As for the violet mutation I'm sure there is one in Europe an you're correct 'new' is a relative term. The Europeans are light years ahead of Americans when it comes to producing new mutations. As for 'rare mutations', again it is a relative term. What is 'rare' in the US is probably very common in Europe. In reality, no mutation is rare because they can always be reproduced and, unlike species, they can be imported. The US has tons of color mutations these days but even what used to be 'common' species like Green Rumps and Spectacleds, are becoming more and more rare. Species such as Mexicans, Yellow Face and Blues Wings are pretty much genetically extinct in this country. Very sad. I always tell people that 'mutations' are man-made but only God can make a species.

Glad to be of help!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Parrotlet Aggression & Territorialism, Interaction With Other Birds

Ms. Sandee,

On June 29, 2010, I purchase a blue male parrotlet (now named Jasper) at a Florida bird fair. He was born April 1, 2010. He has shown no signs of aggression. The only exception to this is his cage. Jasper must be out for me to put my hand in his cage to change or add something; otherwise he comes charging. My Green Cheek, Sydney, is also cage this is nothing new. The exception to this aggression is coming out of his cage. Jasper then hops right on my hand ready to go. He also lets me rub his head some.
I respect his wishes if he does't want me to.

I also have a very gentle 5 yr old cockateil and a 1 yr old.mischievous but sweet Green Cheek Conure. I have all 3 birds out of their cages all the time and on me with no problems. I have been doing this since the quarantine was over. We do this everyday since I spend a lot of time with my birds.

There have been a few non serious swipes a couple of times among the three but nothing with intent to harm & no harm done. I immediately separate, discourage, scold, and stress not to get in the other's area. If I see one heading toward another's area, I immediately run interference. I might have one bird on one shoulder, another on my collar or neck, and one on the other shoulder or my head. Each is to stay in their own area. They also play on the table, bed or their cage tops with me supervising at all times.

I have recently read a few things that worry me concerning aggression in the parrotlet. My son warned me just today. His friend knew a parrolet that tore the beak off another larger bird. I do not want to be foolish and have someone hurt. Yet, Jasper has shown no aggression toward my establish flock.. I would appreciate it very much if you could please take the time to advise me. Thank you.


Dear Betty:

Thank you for your email. Your parrotlet’s behavior is very normal for a Pacific parrotlet. Almost all parrotlets are very territorial and aggressive around their cage. That is why it is so important to teach them the “Step Up” command as soon as possible so you can remove them from the cage before you have to service it.

Parrotlets are not domesticated birds like your cockatiel but are still very much wild and are guided by instinct. They are also not ‘flocking’ type birds like your conure. Parrotlets have a well-deserved reputation for not getting along with other birds. This is largely due to the fact that they originate in a very dry, desert-like region in which they have to compete for everything – food, shelter, nesting spots, etc. They are also very tiny and easily preyed upon by everything from reptiles to other birds; even spiders are bigger than they are so nature has designed them to be tough and aggressive in order to survive. These instincts do not change just because they are hatched in captivity and kept as pets.

However, unlike this story of a parrotlet biting off the beak of another larger bird, which, I have to admit after almost 30 years of breeding parrotlets, I find very difficult to believe, it is generally the parrotlet that is injured or killed when they attack another bird. A larger bird such as a conure can easily injure or kill a parrotlet in one bite should the parrotlet exhibit aggressive behavior. Indeed, lovebirds, which are not much bigger than parrotlets, often maim or kill parrotlets so both your cockatiel and your conure are a danger to the parrotlet rather than the other way around. It is because of the danger to themselves that I recommend species’ separation. They should never been kept in the same cage as other birds and should always have their wings kept clipped and only allowed interaction with other birds on a strictly supervised basis. Personally, I would never take the chance and would simply keep the parrotlet in its own space such as a basket or playpen and not allow it to have physical access to birds that exhibit more flocking behavior like conures and cockatiels both of which are much more social birds and do live very harmoniously with mixed collections. Parrotlets are just not built that way and for everyone’s safety should be kept physically separated. It isn’t hard to do – just keep everyone’s wings’ clipped and make sure the parrotlet has his own space to play and be active on.

I hope this helps!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pacific Parrotlet Mutation Percentages

I started breeding parrotlets a year and a half ago. I purchased a bonded pair from another breeder and was told this was their genetics: hen - dilute split dilute blue and the male - green double split dilute and blue. There first clutch I got a dilute, albino, green and lutino and the second I got lutino, dilute blue and albino. I tried to fiqure out the offspring percentages, but I get confused. Could you please help me out? I'm not sure how I'm getting lutinos and albinos.


Dear Kim:

I have several pages on my website about mutations including a percentage table at Generally, I try to avoid percentage because they cannot duplicate real life. The percentages are based on 100 offspring produced, which no single parrotlet hen can do so they are largely inaccurate. I always tell people its like playing roulette or craps – there are “percentages’ but each spin of the wheel or each throw of the dice are specific to what that single outcome is. Same with birds and genetics. Each clutch has its own contributions of genetic material by the parents and no one can predict what you will get. Sometimes, people get all blues or blues and dilutes or dilute-blues and greens that are split but no one can give you the exact percentage of chicks that will actually hatch in each individual clutch. I always tell people, just like dice or roulette, you get what you get and you can’t really predict exact percentages in each individual clutch.

As for your birds, first, dilute-blue is not a color. It is a combination of two colors, dilute and blue. Therefore, your bird cannot be dilute split to dilute-blue. It is dilute split to blue. This is true even if one of the parents was a dilute-blue. However, if you are getting lutino and albino’s, then both of your birds are also split to lutino. So, your hen is a visual dilute split to lutino and blue. Your male also has to be split to lutino in order to produce lutino and albino. Dilute, lutino and blue are all primary mutations; albino and dilute- blue are combinations. Albino is a combination of lutino and blue and, as I explained, the dilute-blue is a combination of dilute and blue. Btw, since one of your parents is a visual dilute, all your green chicks will be split to dilute plus different combinations of blue and lutino. Of course, you won’t know which combinations until they are bred.

Hope this helps!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Personalty Differences, Noise Factor, Shipping, Waiting List

Hi Sandee,

I am interested in a hand-fed male parrotlet.

I've read that Pacifics tend to be more feisty/stubborn with the exception of the blue mutation. I've also read that Green Rumped and Spectacled are also more mellow than Pacifics in general. Could you compare/contrast the temperament (in general of course, I understand each individual bird is different) of blue Pacifics, Green Rumped and Spectacled please? In addition, how do the noise level and tame-ness compare across all three?

I understand you have a waiting list right now - could I ask how long it is? Last but not least, what is the cost of shipping?


Dear Joseph:

You are right in that when it comes to parrotlets that all birds are individuals and that it’s more nurture than nature when it comes to personality. These birds are not domesticated animals like dogs and cats or even budgies or cockatiels – species that have had hundreds of generations to domesticate them and have their personalities become more predictable. Parrotlets are still very much wild creatures acting on instinct rather than ‘designed’ by humans through selective breeding. Therefore, “imprinting”, the process by which wild instincts are over-come by socialization and human interaction, is much more important than species.

I always tell people parrotlets are not like breeds of dogs where a poodle has a much more different personality than a pit bull but are more like standard poodle vs. a miniature poodle vs. a teacup poodle. That being said, generally speaking, Pacifics tend to be more outgoing and bold. Green Rumps tend to be much more timid and shy and Spectacles, are somewhere in the middle. Outgoing but not so stubborn as Pacifics but not timid like Green Rumps. I don’t really see much personality differences in the mutations although generally speaking people consider them ‘less aggressive” although I don’t believe that is a correct assumption. Pacifics do not originate in the rainforest or jungle but come from a very dry almost desert–like region where they not only have to compete for food and nesting space but are preyed upon by everything from reptiles to other birds. I believe that since Nature weeds out the mutations because they are a genetic anomaly they do not develop a survival instinct like normal Pacifics. People misinterpret this lack of a survival instinct as ‘sweetness”. Same thing with the Green Rumps and Spectacles that come from regions that are lush and tropical and there are plenty of places to nest and find food. Again, these are generalizations not hard and fast rules. I have seen very aggressive Green Rumps and very sweet and gentle Pacifics. Also, Pacifics are the most popular pet parrotlet in the world and are owned by small children, the elderly and people with disabilities. It really depends on the individual bird’s personality, how it was raised and socialized and dealing with a breeder that will honestly evaluate their birds and match them with the prospective owner’s desires for a pet.

As far as ‘noise’ factor is concerned, that is even more nebulous. I always say that noise is in the ear of the beholder. All species of parrotlets tend to be ‘quieter’ as far as volume level from other hookbills. Indeed, canaries and budgies are louder volume wise. However, parrotlets chirp and chatter and tend to chirp and chatter all day long. Some people find this pleasant and appealing, others do not. I know I have a problem with the location calls of male cockatiels and would rather listen to a macaw screaming at full volume but again, that’s my individual preference. Other people are different. I always recommend that people go listen to a parrotlet before they purchase it as only you can determine if you are annoyed by their calls.

I always have a waiting list and right now it will probably be at least 4 months before I would have birds available depending on what you want. I spent the last 2 years caring for my mother who died of cancer and have only recently set my birds up. The Pacifics are breeding but again my list is at least 4 months out. The Spectacles will take longer and it would probably be 6 months or so and the Green Rumps have shown no sign of any interest in breeding so I’m not even taking names for those. I work on a first-come, first-served basis and do not take deposits. If you are on my list, about a month before the bird is weaned, I will contact you. If you want it, great, we will make arrangements. If not, I just move on down my list. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee I will have a bird available by the time you want it as I have no control over the birds’ breeding nor whether or not a bird will make a good pet. If it isn’t pet material, I will not sell it as a pet.

Shipping depends on the airlines but generally runs about $100 plus I charge a $50 refundable deposit on the cage and carrier.

Hope this helps.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Friday, July 30, 2010

Parrotlet "Adoption", Waiting List Policy

Dear Sandee,

We are very interested in adopting a pet parrotlet and were wondering
if you will have any available babies ready for adoption around the
last week of September.


Thank you for your email.

I understand that a lot of people like to use the term 'adoption' because they feel bringing a bird into the family is like adding another family member. However, as a bird breeder and someone with a legal background it is important that you understand that I do not 'adopt' birds but I 'sell" them. Legally, the term 'adoption' means you obtain a bird that has no permanent home from a non-profit organization and you probably are not paying a fair market value for the bird but a standardized adoption fee. I am a breeder who has spent almost 30 years breeding healthy, well-socialized parrotlets specifically as pets and take great care and time in both raising wonderful pet parrotlets and making sure they go to good permanent homes.

I currently have birds that are on fertile eggs and expect to have birds available sometime around that time frame. I always have a waiting list and am happy to place your name on it. I do not take deposits and work on a first-come, first-served basis. I contact people about 3 weeks before the bird is ready to go home and if you still want it, we can make arrangements to either have the bird picked up or shipped. If not, I just move on down the list.

Please let me know if you are still interested and thank you again for contacting me.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

2 Parrotlet Hand-Feeding Tips

1. Tired of lumpy hand-feeding formula that clogs the syringe? Use a small hand-held strainer to sift the dry formula before adding the water. It will make it very fine and get rid of lumps and large pieces so it will flow easily out of the syringe. This is very important for our little ones since the syringes are narrow, especially if using the canula tips and it also prevents it from using excessive force which can spray hand-feeding formula all over the chicks as well as the table and yourself.

2. Keep a cup of hot water next to you while hand-feeding. If the chick doesn't want to feed, simply fill the syringe and then dip the tip into the hot water. Don't draw up any water but then place it next to the chick's beak. Instinct will cause them to immediately open their mouths and you can feed. I've used this method for almost 30 years and it works like a charm!

Friday, July 23, 2010

IPS Bands, Color Mutation Terms

Hi Sandee, I'm Pam from Nebraska. An amateur, hobby breeder. I was wondering if you still offer colored bands for Pacific parrotlets? Other than silver? I now have a second hen laying on eggs, (the fathers are brothers from the same clutch) and I would like to have a different color to distinguish between the two. If so, how much? Also, how do you interpret green split to blue, or double split? Is that describing the father first, then the mother? What is double split, or triple split? Thank You Pam

Dear Pam:

Thank you for your email.

I'm assuming that when you said 'you' regarding the bands you meant the International Parrotlet Society. IPS does offer other colors of bands - blue, green, red, black, its just silver is the easiest to read for most people so that is the 'default' color but you're welcome to use another color of you wish. It is the same price as the other bands; there is no additional charge.

Recessive mutations have nothing do with sex; those are sex-linked mutations and we only have one of those, so far, in parrotlets. They are called 'palid' and those have not been imported into the US at this time.

Recessive mutations are very simple - either parent can pass on the color gene but both parents need the same color to produce visual offspring. The term 'split' refers to a bird that carries a color gene but looks like a normal bird. So a blue split would be a green bird that carries the blue gene. A double split is a bird that carries two color genes. True triple splits are rare but its possible to have a bird split to three colors such as dilute, blue and fallow. Double and triple splits can be visual i.e., such as a blue bird carrying a dilute gene but it can also be a green bird that carries blue and dilute.

I have a lot of information on my website at on breeding mutations including terms and basic inheritance modes. Most people find it very helpful.

Hope this helps!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Free-Flighted Parrotlets, Housing, Keeping Two Pets, Availability

I'm going to buy one or two parrotlets soon. I would like to drive down to pick them up. Is that possible? How long in advance do I need to make an appointment?

I would like to set aside a room in my home for the birds, and I have a couple questions. I'm worried about potentially harmful stuff in the room. I need to screen off an area, and make a screen door for their room. Is there a type of wire I need to avoid? Is there a "best type" of wire to use for this? The room is painted sheet rock with painted baseboards. If I have plenty of other stuff for them to chew on, will they chew on the paint? Anything else you can think of that I would need to know regarding giving them the run of a room?

Also, what are your feelings on one vs. two birds? Are they happier with companionship? Frankly, I don't want to deal with young birds. Would two same-sexed birds fight?

Thanks a bunch

Dear Steve:

Thank you for your email.

I have known several people that have attempted to keep parrotlets in a free-range, free flying situation and they have not turned out well. First, parrotlets, like all parrots do chew and would chew on everything from sheetrock to the floor coverings, all of which are very toxic. You could keep them in an aviary and there are many manufacturers of quality aviaries made with stainless steel which is the safest wire you can use.

Second, parrotlets are very territorial and aggressive birds. They are not domesticated birds like cockatiels or budgies and are still very much wild animals that respond by instinct. They have been designed by Nature to be aggressive and territorial ‘space’ because where they originate they compete for food, nesting space and safety. Many different animals eat parrotlets including other birds so being protective and defensive of their territory is what they do to survive. Many people report parrotlets being protective of their cages and most have to be removed from the cage in order to clean it and replace toys and perches. I always recommend feeders that can be accessed from outside the cage so owners can easily feed their parrotlets without having to remove them or worry about getting bitten. Having them free flying access to an entire room, they will perceive the entire area as their territory and they will, most likely, defend it with vigor especially if they can fly. In some cases this has resulted in the birds actually attacking their owners in order to drive them out of their territory. I have never recommended keeping parrotlets in this type of environment and do not feel it is either safe for them or their owners. I also do not recommend keeping parrotlets fully flighted for the same reasons. It is really the best way to teach a bird to be aggressive and learn to bite. All they have to do when they want to get away is bite harder and harder until the person let’s go. This reinforces the desire to be both aggressive and to bite.

I generally don’t recommend keeping two parrotlets as companions for one another. Pet parrotlets imprint on humans through the hand-feeding and socialization processes. They lose their instinct to bond with other birds and usually look at another bird as a rival or competitor not a companion or friend to keep them company. Also, as I have stated, they are territorial and aggressive and one often becomes dominant over the other and will not allow the other bird to eat, perch, etc. It doesn’t matter if they are being kept in an appropriate sized cage or a huge flight – they will attempt to drive the intruder out and this can result in injury or even death of one of the birds. Most people eventually have to house them separately and watch them whenever they are out of their cages and have physical access to one another. Most parrotlets that have a large cage, lots of toys and daily interaction with their owners are perfectly contented and healthy and not need nor want the companionship of another bird.

I am currently feeding 3 chicks but I have a waiting list for them; I probably will not have more birds until September or so. I almost always have a waiting list for my birds. I do not take deposits and work on a first-come, first-served basis.

I hope this helps and thank you again for contacting me.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Eggs Not Fertile or Dead in Shell?

I would really like to know more about how to tell if the eggs are
infertile or dead in the shell. I am sure that most of your breeders
probably already know this information so I am not sure if it would
make a good article or not. If there is a previous article that you
would recommend me purchasing please let me know. Thanks. Paula :0)

Not sure if an article is warranted or not but I can tell you the following:

Eggs do not candle fertile until they are a week old. If the embryo
dies before that time there is no way to know if it was ever fertile or not.

Once the embryo starts to develop, if it dies before the chick is
formed, it will be reabsorbed into the yolk sack. If you are checking
the eggs daily, you will see it as fertile then it will 'go blank'. If
not, it will usually be re-absorbed within 24-48 hours so you might
miss it if not checking daily.

If the embryo fully develops but dies late in shell, then you will be
able to see the dead embryo.

Hope this helps!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Will Hen Feed Chicks When Male Has Died?

Hi! A person on the parrotlet forum suggested that I contact you with my question. Our male parrotlet died suddenly a few days ago and left behind his mate who just hatched out a chick today. I understand that the male helps feed the chicks - so am not sure what we should do. The female looks to be fine, but we are really not experienced with breeding birds - let alone face a situation like this. Any help you can give us would be appreciated.

Thank you for your email. Sorry to hear about the loss of your male. Actually, males usually do not ‘help’ feed the chicks. They provide food to the hen who then feeds the chicks. Some hens allow males to feed but usually it is not enough to keep the chicks alive. His job is to provide food to the hen and she feeds them.

In this instance, whether or not she will continue to incubate and provide to the chicks depends on your hen. It certainly isn’t what nature intended. Usually, they abandon the nest. In the wild, they cannot both provide food and protect the chicks and certainly will not starve themselves so it would not be unusual for her to abandon the chicks and remaining eggs. However, I have had a few hens in this situation that did continue to provide food and care for the offspring. They were hens with a lot of experience in raising offspring. Only time will tell. If this is a first-clutch, I sincerely doubt she would care for them. Instinct prevails in this situation and Mother Nature designed them to care for themselves so they can go on and raise more chicks in the future rather than sacrifice themselves over this clutch.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Recessive, Dominant & Sex Linked Color Mutations


I have a question and if you have the time to answer I'll be glad to know your reply.

Are the parrotlets male have dominant genes like the cockatiels?

For example:

An albino cockatiel can produce albino babies and it don't matter the female mutation color. But an albino female cockatiel can't produce albino unless you pair her with an albino or split to albino male.

My question is because I have a green parotlet split to blue male (I think that is split to blue because both of his parents are green split to blue) and I want to buy him a mate that can produce blue or yellow.

Thank You,

Thank you for your email Sheila. I have a page on my website at that I think you will find very helpful in understanding parrotlet mutations. First, remember that unlike cockatiels, there are several species of parrotlets and the one that has the most color mutations in the US are Pacifics. Also, all but one, dominant pied, is recessive. None are sex-linked as the only sex-linked mutation, the palid, to my knowledge, has not been imported. This includes lutino which is sex-linked in almost all other birds including cockatiels. Albino in Pacifics is not a true genetic albino but a combination of blue and lutino.

If you think of inheritance modes instead of colors, you should have absolutely no problems. After all, recessive in parrotlets is the same as all other birds including cockatiels, budgies, lovebirds and even chickens.

Hope this helps.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Shipping Parrotlets, Speaking Engagements, Parrotlet Handbook

Hi Sandee,

Thank you very much for your referral. I contacted one of the breeders and mentioned your name. I hope to hear back from him.

I have to admit that the thought of having a bird – especially a bird as small as a parrotlet – being shipped makes me very paranoid. I do see you also breed your own birds. Have you shipped your babies to Indiana or the surrounding states? Did they have to switch airplanes and travel for half a day without water, food, and any interaction? I noticed that one of the parrotlet books by Barons is authored by you. Just by looking at the pictures in the book, I can see you raise top-quality healthy parrotlets.

Mine passed away on April 24 at the age of 13 after a very brief illness. He peacefully went into sleep in my husband’s hand. My other flock members (green cheek, African Grey, Solomon Island Eclectus, and cockatiel) miss him as much as I do. The dynamic of the flock changed, and I can tell they miss him a lot.

I have been looking for another parrotlet for my flock, my husband, and myself for quite a while without any success. So I really appreciate your information. Do you have many parrotlet for sale? Do you have any plan to be at a bird show in this area?

Again, thank you so much for responding to my email. Your blog page is wonderful. I will start visiting it frequently.

I am so glad you contacted Conrad. He has magnificent birds and I’m sure you will be happy with one you get from him. I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your parrotlet – 13 is considered very old these days so I’m sure he must have had a very long, happy, well-cared for life.

I can understand how it would be scary for people who aren’t familiar with shipping birds to have misconceptions about it. It is perfectly safe and harmless for the birds; as I stated, they are used to being kept in small confined areas and the airlines must, by law, provide them with a climate-controlled, pressurized environment. I ship my birds with food and water sources in specially designed cages and containers. They are large enough to allow the bird to have movement but not so big as to have them be subjected to injury. I try to use direct flights but even if I can’t, I ship the birds ‘counter-to-counter’ not cargo. This means the birds are hand-carried on the plane and off and transported directly to the next flight by a human being. They are never left in the elements or warehouse and the airlines take excellent care of them. As I said, I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years and have never had a problem of any kind.

It’s important to remember that good breeders spend so much time and money caring, feeding and socializing their birds. The price I charge does not cover the costs or time it takes to raise a parrotlet to weaning and placement in its new home. I would never do anything that would jeopardize the safety or comfort of my birds and would never ship them if there was any danger involved.

I have only recently set my birds up for breeding as I was caring for my mother who died of cancer. I do have several pair on eggs and expect to have babies available soon. I have no plans to be in your area anytime soon although I was in Chicago earlier this month speaking at a bird club. I do have a Facebook page for The Parrotlet Ranch where I post my speaking engagements.

Thank you for your very kind compliments about my birds, my book and my blog. I sincerely appreciate it. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Question on "Turquoise" Mutation Parrotlets

Hi Sandee I don't remember if I asked you already but is the Turquoise Parrotlet mutation Dominant or recessive also can blue parrotlets be split for Turquoise?

Thanks Mark. Good to hear from you.

“Turquoise” is actually an inaccurate name because it is not really a color. It is really a blue mutation where only part of the allele is altered. It is recessive and blue parrotlets can be split for ‘turquoise’ because technically it is a blue mutation.

Hope this helps.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Parrotlet Stress Seeing Wild Birds Out of Doors

Is it ok to put my parrotlet's cage in a place that has views out of
a window, including a view of a bird feeder? I typically get mourning
doves and house finches on my feeder. Part of the cage would be out of
sight of the feeder, but I want to make sure the sights and sounds would
not cause the parrotlet undue stress.

I don't imagine that would be an issue. Parrotlets can be aggressive and territorial with other birds but so long as they can't have physical contact, I don't think it would be an issue.

Appropriate Indoor Temperatures For Parrotlets, Drafts

I live in San Mateo, CA, and my apartment typically ranges from 60F
to 80F all year round. The upper and lower ends of this range are
slightly outside the parrotlet's recommended environment- is that dangerous?

Not sure where the parameters came from - I know people that keep parrotlets out of doors in places as diverse as Florida where it is very hot and humid to CO where it can snow. Certainly any environment you are comfortable in will be fine for a pet parrotlet, particularly if it is indoors. They can withstand a wide variety of temperature ranges if they are healthy and acclimated to them.

Is it safe to put my parrotlet's cage near an open (but screened)
window, or are potential drafts too dangerous?

I have no idea what kind of 'draft' your bird would be subjected to as I don't live where you do. I do know that air conditioning vents can have detrimental effects if they blow directly on the bird and if you are close to the ocean with damp, cold fog, that could be a problem but this are birds designed by nature to live out of doors. A breeze isn't going to be a problem for an otherwise healthy parrotlet.

Cooking Fumes, Cleaning Products, Bird Feeders & Parrotlets

I have only a small apartment. My main living area is a combined
living room / kitchen that is about 20' x 15'. If I keep the
parrotlet's cage on the opposite side of the room as the stove (as far
away as possible), are cooking fumes still a risk? I typically run
apartment fans and leave the windows open while I cook.

Cooking fumes themselves are not generally harmful - overheated nonstick pans are as well as smoke. I am not in your home and don't know how it is when you cook but if the area is well-ventilated and you're not overheating pans or making things that generate smoke, I would imagine it would be ok. Many people keep parrotlets in apartments and manage to keep them safe and healthy; you will have to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary.

I anticipate cleaning my parrotlet's cage with Clorox "Green Works
Natural Glass and Surface Cleaner." Once a week, I plan to remove my
parrotlet, spray the cage with the cleaner, wipe off any obvious stains,
and then give the whole cage a shower. Would this cleaning procedure be
safe for the parrotlet?

I do not use any chemicals on my birds' cages. I am old school and good old soap and water that is well rinsed is perfectly fine for most cleaning procedures. Chemicals not only produce dangerous fumes but if not completely rinsed can kill the bird. Soap and water is just as effective for cleaning and doesn't involve the risks of chemicals.

I clean my apartment once a week, and I use the same Clorox cleaner
mentioned above to clean all my surfaces. I use a harsher cleaner for
my shower, but I keep the bathroom door closed and fan on while doing
that cleaning. If the apartment windows are open and fans are on while
I clean, will the parrotlet be safe from fumes?

You should check with the manufacturer. I would imagine these chemicals would be very dangerous for birds but I don't use them so I don't know.

I maintain a few bird feeders outdoors, and I bring them in to clean
them each week. If I wash my hands several times after cleaning the
feeders, should I be concerned about transferring germs from the feeders
to my parrotlet?

I would think if you washed everything thoroughly and changed your clothes and shoes after cleaning the bird feeders, you would be safe in preventing disease transmission.

Will My Parrotlet Disturb My Neighbors?

I live in a small apartment, where the neighbors' apartments share
walls with my own. My apartment's rental office does not tolerate pets
that cause a lot of noise, so I can't afford to get a loud pet for fear
of having to give it up (which would be unfair and cruel to the pet).
Would I be safe with a parrotlet? Do they chirp all day? Can they be
heard through walls? I would plan to get a female parrotlet (they
presumably make less noise than their male counterparts, no?). Can you
think of other precautions I might take?

As I've written, parrotlets are the quietest hookbills you can get. Even my canary is louder. However, 'noise' is in the ear of the beholder. Only you can determine if the volume of a parrotlet would be annoying to your neighbors. They do chirp and chatter and they do that all day - both males and females btw - but only you know how thick your walls are and if the volume of their voices would be disturbing to your neighbors.

I Work All Day - Will My Parrotlet Be Lonely?

Will my parrotlet become lonely or stressed out, given my 8am-6pm
work schedule and the fact that I live alone? Is it ok to leave my
parrotlet alone during the day?

As I stated most people have to work all day. So long as the bird has appropriate food, a good-sized cage, lots of enrichment items and one on one time with their owners each day, they are generally pretty content. Parrotlets are not birds that require constant attention and so long as these environmental parameters are met, they generally do pretty well all day while their owners are at work. Ironically, birds that receive constant attention from their owners and are never left alone tend to have more issues with aggression, feather picking and other undesirable behaviors than birds whose owners set limits and stick to a regular schedule.

Covering The Parrotlet's Cage

I wake up at 7am, go to work at 8am, and I don't get back from work
until about 6pm. I'd like to play with my parrotlet after dinner,
sometime between the hours of 8pm and 11pm or 12pm. This leaves me in a
pickle, since I'm not home during the day to uncover the parrotlet. I
can either uncover the cage at 8am (which means the parrotlet would be
uncovered for more than 12 hours), or I can leave the parrotlet covered
all day until I return home at 6pm. Which is better, and what are the
possible side effects?

How thick does a cage cover need to be to prevent parrotlets from
being exposed to too much daylight (i.e. days longer than 12 hours)?
Does the cage cover need to be heavy to block out all light, or will a
light white bed sheet suffice?

I cannot imagine keeping a bird covered all day unless you were awake with it all night. Keeping a bird in the dark for almost a 24 hour period of time I think would be detrimental to its general health and also be inheritantly cruel. Most people work or go to school all day and spend time with their bird when they arrive home. If you uncover the bird at 7 AM and put it to bed at 7 or even 8, while it would be more than 12 hours, I don't think it would be as harmful to a bird as keeping it covered all day and all night and still allow you a couple of hours of time to spend with it. If that doesn't work with your schedule, I would not get a parrotlet or really any bird for that matter. The only birds I know that can spend all day and all night in darkness are owls.

The birds need darkness that blocks the light shining on the eyes. Anything that keeps out the light would be appropriate. A dark towel or blanket would work.

How Much to Feed Your Parrotlet?

Am I correct in understanding that a parrotlet eats about an ice
cube's volume of food each day?

I have never measured the amount of food I feed my birds. I would think an 'ice cube' amount would not be enough. Parrotlets eat like hummingbirds and as I have written, for their size, eat more than macaws due to their high metabolisms. I do give mine at least a 1/2 cup of fresh foods of day and at least that amount in seeds (or pellets). If they don't eat it all, so be it but with parrotlets they will starve to death or possibly kill their cage mates if not provided with enough food. Also, as true parrots they have been designed by evolution to waste food.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Feeding Picky Eaters - Green Rumps

Once again I'm asking for advice. I can't seem to get my green rumps interested in any fruit or veggies I've offered. I tried apples, oranges, spinach, carrots, broccolis, and fresh as well as dryed egg food with no luck. They will take whole grain toast. I have not tried cooked dried beans yet but today I did give them cooked rice. They at least played with it. I'm thinking that they my prefer their veggies cooked. What do you think?

Green Rumps are notoriously bad eaters. Also, if the previous breeder/owner did not offer a wide variety of fresh foods starting at a young age, this will certainly make it even more difficult. All I can tell you is to keep trying. You can feed them in bowls near their favorite perches. You can chop the foods very fine. You can bake them into bread and feed it that way. You can hang them on specially designed bird kabobs. You can sprinkle sprouted seeds on the top. You can try cooking it although I doubt that would do anything except make it easier for bacteria to grow quicker but that is up to you. Rice is good to feed because they steal it from farmers in the wild but certainly it isn’t cooked. It’s the grain they are interested in not the form of presentation. If they will eat rice, I would chop veggies very fine and mix it in with the rice. And playing with food is always a good sign – they play with it first and then they usually start eating it. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula and there are no magic foods. You just have to keep trying until they accept the food offered. It may take weeks, months or even up to a year or more. And even then, there are no guarantees. But as a long time bird breeder I’m sure you already know this. Just keep trying and making different offers and hopefully you will eventually figure out what it is they will accept.

Best of luck!!

Keeping & Breeding Green Rumps

I truly thank you for your kind offer to answer questions about Green Rump Parrotlets. You must understand that I’m not an amateur at this sort of thing. I’m 64years old and have been breeding birds of one type or another, off and on for about 55 years. I have worked with everything from pigeons and poultry to endangered species of South America. As a matter of fact, when I was living down there in Paramaribo, Suriname, I was seriously working with Purple Honeycreepers (or as they were called there, Yellow-legged Honeycreepers) and several types of Oryzoborus and Sporophila (Seedeaters), Euphonias and not so seriously with some macaws and parrots.

One Saturday while doing the weekly shopping for the family, I came upon an Indian boy selling birds on the sidewalk. The little green parrotlets were fascinating. I asked what they were called and was told they were Guianese Parrotlets. He said, I could identify the males and females by coloring. So I picked a male and a female, and paid the boy about 2 to 3 dollars(US) for the pair. Dump luck prevailed and the pair were on eggs in about 6 weeks. I was seriously working with the other species I had and only bought the Green Rumps because they were cute. I gave them no effort and so it was surely dumb luck.

This time I do not want to rely on dumb luck. I want to know what to do in case the pair I bought three weeks ago are not as willing to reproduce as the wild birds I bought 18 years ago. I have read the things you posted on the web site and think I have a good feel for what is required of me, but still have a few questions. So please allow me to ask the few I still have:

(1) First; in your "Breeding Parrotlets", when you say "Blue Wing" several times, are you referring to Forpus xanthopterygius, rather than the "Blue Winged Parakeet" listed as an alternate name for the Green Rump?

(2) Do you recommend plants (artificial or live) around the cage to create an atmosphere of isolation?

(3) What size nest box is best? The pair I had in Suriname used a deep box (about 6" x 6" x 14").

(4) I have read you suggestions on diet and have but one Question. Is there any fruit or vegies I should not offer? I once lost a pair of Euphonias feeding a fruit that was not native to South America.

(5) The pair I bought appear to be young, and I did not get their age from the seller. Is there any way to tell when they are about a year old?

(6) And finally, how long is incubation?

Well, that is enough for now. I'm sure I will have more questions at some later date. But I just want to do it right this time. And I want to thank you in advance of your answering.

1) I am indeed referring to Forpus xanthopterygius not the erroneous name of Blue Winged Parakeet. Although I do mention Blue Winged Parakeets in my latest book as a previous name for Green Rumps, it is for reference only. The genus of Forpus parrotlets were once called South American lovebirds at one time as well but the nomenclature has changed to correctly identify the birds. Both terms are archaic and incorrect as the birds are neither parakeets nor love birds but true South American parrots, of course.

2) I do not use plants in my aviary but do put barriers between the cages in order to give the birds privacy and cut down on their aggression. However, I would not see any reason not to include plants if you wished.

3) I prefer to use small grandfather-type boxes that are taller rather than deeper or wider. My boxes are 10” tall, 7” wide and 7” deep but the dimensions you use would work as well.

4) Other than avocado, which is controversial, I feed almost any vegetable and fruit. I do recommend feeding a diet higher in protein to Green Rumps and since they feed on flowers, I also provide lory dry powder and been pollen which helps increase protein levels and seems to have an influence on the birds’ tendencies to have problems with beak overgrowth.

5) No. You cannot tell the age once the birds are over 6 months old, unless they are banded of course. They could be 8 months or 6 years. No way to tell by looking at them.

6) 21 days. Same as most Forpus species.

Housing Retired Pairs Together

I have a few older pairs of Parrotlets I want to retire from breeding. I have a large outside flight that is 8' X 20' X 8' tall. Can I release them in it together. They have been faithful parents and want them to retire happy. Thanks for your help,

Thank you for your email. It has not been my experience that more than one pair of parrotlets (male and female) should be housed together and that includes birds that may be too old to breed, especially Pacifics, which I assume these are. Green Rumps or Spectacles maybe but not Pacifics. They are too aggressive and territorial and that instinct does not fade with age or time. I had tried to house retired pairs together in large flights although I confess they are not as large as the ones you are proposing – mine were 6’ tall, 6’ wide and 10’ long and were planted and I still had aggression problems. The most dominant pair attacked and bullied the others and no matter how many feeding stations, perches, enrichment items, plants and other things I placed in the flight, nothing stopped their instinct to drive away the ‘intruders’. This is very reflective of their behavior in the wild so I would doubt having a larger flight would make it safer. However, they are your birds and you certainly can do whatever you want to with them but my almost 30 years experience has proved that the instinct that made them such good parents, probably does not diminish when it comes to setting up territory and defending it from others. If you do decide to put them together I would love to know how it works out for you.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Breeders & Pets? Breeding Lifetime/Annual Frequency?

Hello. I am looking into purchasing a breeding pair of parrotlets. I would like them to be pets but also raise and sell their young ones. 1 - will a breeding pair be friendly to humans if handled several times a day. 2 - how long do they breed (until what age and how many times a year)? Thank you.

In regards to your first question, no, parrotlets are not domesticated birds like cockatiels or budgies. They are still very much wild parrots with instincts that guide their behavior. They either imprint on humans and become good pets or they bond with other parrotlets and, hopefully, breed and raise offspring. They don't do both, at least that has been my experience breeding these birds for almost 30 years. Also, it has been my experience that males in particular, when imprinted on humans, do not accept a female under any conditions even after years of being kept with parrotlets.

Breeding lifetime depends on a lot of things. Indeed, I have written entire chapters in books. It depends on their age, sex, species, color mutations, environment, management, heredity, diet and the breeding characteristics of each individual bird. With all those factors in mind, generally speaking, normal (not color mutation) Pacific parrotlets if carefully managed, bred at the proper age, provided with the correct environment including diet and the number of clutches limited to no more than 3 per year, hens can breed until 5 to 7 years of age, males can go into their early teens.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Where Have the Parrotlet Subspecies Gone? Introducing "Generic" Parrotlets.

I always say there are two types of parrotlet keepers – those that had parrotlets before 1992 and those that started keeping them after 1992. Why is 1992 so important? Because that was the year that the U.S. Congress passed the Wild Bird Conservation Act which severely limited the importation of exotic birds into the country and all but put a stop on the importation of all wild-caught birds. While people have many opinions about the WBCA, the fact is that more than 18 years after its passage, a lot of things have changed. Some of these things have been good, Americans are certainly some of the most successful breeders of parrots in the world, other things have not been so good. Many species that were commonly kept, gradually disappeared. The most notable are the Brotogerius species such as Canary-Winged and Grey-Cheeked parakeets. Another thing that has largely disappeared is subspecies of most species of parrot. This also includes almost all the pure forms of the subspecies previously found in parrotlet species.

At the end of 1992, a shipment of Spectacled parrotlets were imported into the U.S. just before the WBCA was passed. The newly-formed International Parrotlet Society realized that the probability of obtaining more Spectacleds was non-existent so a small group of very dedicated breeders formed the first IPS breeding cooperative to ensure the establishment of this species in the United States. The breeders who participated came from different parts of the country. Some were in California, some were in Florida and some were in the Mid-West, mostly in Michigan.

Fortunately, many breeders were successful with the first breeding of these parrotlets, as Spectacleds turned out to be rather prolific breeders. Like most parrotlet species, they had no set breeding season and, under the right conditions, bred year-round. Breeders began working together to exchange chicks so that a viable genetic pool could be established in order to minimize inbreeding as much as possible.

One thing that Spectacled breeders soon discovered is that, unlike Pacifics or Green Rumps, the males’ coloring, especially on the rump and around the eyes, did not develop until the birds went through their first or even second molts. At that time, most of the breeders got together once or twice a year at conventions so they could exchange birds. It was not until time had passed and the parrotlets matured, that breeders realized the birds did not look the same. It was not because the birds were hybridized or were color mutations, it was because they were different subspecies. This was verified by checking the drawings and descriptions as written in the “Bible” of parrot identification, Parrots of the World.

This created a moral and biological dilemma for both Spectacled breeders and the International Parrotlet Society. Should the breeders concentrate on preserving these subspecies in their ‘pure’ forms or should they work to establish the species in American aviculture. There was an extremely limited amount of stock to work with, less than 30 Spectacleds had been imported in total. Also, the Spectacleds that were originally imported were domestic stock that came from Europe, not wild-caught birds. There were no guarantees as to what their pedigrees were and no way of knowing whether or not the subspecies had been crossed before they were ever imported into the US. More importantly, many breeders had already set up their pairs and were not anxious to break them up as they were breeding second and even third generations of Spectacleds. The breeders and IPS agreed that, under these circumstances, it was better to establish the species with the healthiest, unrelated stock as possible and not to try and keep the subspecies pure. Now, 18 years later, we have Spectacleds aplenty in the United States, so much so they are sold into the pet trade, much to the delight of many Spectacled parrotlet owners today.

The same biological changes in subspecies have pretty much happened to all the parrots that have been domestically bred in the United States. Eclectus parrots, Senegals, lories, conures, even long-lived species such as macaws and the large cockatoos have almost no pure subspecies left since the passage of the WBCA.

Many people who had parrotlets in the early 1990’s did not realize there were different species let alone subspecies. IPS spent most of its time trying to educate people on identification of species to avoid hybridization. Identification of subspecies was largely used to help people figure out what species they had so people would not breed Green Rumps with Pacifics or Blues Wings with Mexicans.

Unlike the larger species of parrots, our tiny little parrotlets are birds that most species mature and produce offspring at a year of age. Almost 20 generations of parrotlets have been produced since the WBCA was passed. In birds such as Green Rumps, many of those countries stopped exporting even earlier – the subspecies deliciosus was the first to have importation stopped back in the mid-1980’s. For years, many breeders did not realize there were two different subspecies of Pacifics so those birds were regularly bred together. Blue Wingeds and Mexican parrotlets were so difficult to breed that if you got a male and female to produce, no one cared if they were two different subspecies.

So where does that leave us today? It leaves us with beautiful, healthy species of Spectacleds, Pacifics and Green Rumps that are available to breeders and pet owners at reasonable prices. However, the price of that is the loss of pure subspecies in most if not all parrotlet species. These commingled subspecies have a biological term and are called “generic” subspecies. Unlike a “hybrid”, which is the breeding of two separate species, such as Green Rump and Pacific, “generics” are the same species but are a mix of subspecies. This is why chicks from the same parents look different. Some Green Rumps may be very tiny like the deliciousus and some can be bigger like viridissimus. Why some Pacific hens have blue on their rumps, even in the color mutations, and some do not. Unlike recessive mutations, subspecies’ characteristics will be passed on to the offspring.

It is important to remember that these are not bad things, it is just the way things are. Had breeders not combined these various subspecies, all parrotlet species, except for possibly Pacifics, would no longer exist in American aviaries. The birds would have been inbred and in all likelihood, simply died out as they got progressively genetically weaker. Any species that survived would be in such small numbers they would be prohibitively expensive and certainly there would be few, if any, color mutations available. After all, color mutations were placed on the Captive-Bred List available for importation by the hard work of the members of the International Parrotlet Society. The government was receptive to the listing in large part because of the success of IPS’ breeders in establishing long-term, captive-bred, species of parrotlets in the United States.

So the next time you see deliciosus Green Rumps or lucida Pacifics, realize that the bird is most probably a generic that exhibits the traits of that subspecies but probably is not a pure subspecies. But that is all right – its very existence proves that the right decisions were made and that Americans will be able to have beautiful, healthy species of parrotlets available for generations to come.

Question on "Clean Green" Parrotlets

I got my March Bird Talk and read your article on parrotlets. I find it very interesting. Do you have any “clean greens” available? I have a question about “clean greens”. I have a couple of pairs. One pair have given me all greens every clutch. The last clutch they hatched out one green and three yellows. I was wondering if you have ever had this happen? If so why are they not green? I talked to the breeder and she assured me that she can go back five generations of “clean greens”.


Thank you for your email. Thank you for the email and the compliment on the Bird Talk article.

I have to clarify the term ‘clean green’ you mean birds that have no color mutation genes and cannot produce anything but normal green parrotlets? If so, the birds are referred to as 'wild-type' or 'normal' parrotlets. These are biologically-recognized terms and should be the ones used so that no misunderstandings or miscommunications can arise.

Since dilutes (yellows) are recessive birds, the answer to this question is very simple - the birds are not normal but are split to dilute. There is no other answer. I realize that the breeder may have produced five generations of these parrotlets but unless they have kept the original imported wild-caught stock (which importation was cut off in 1992) no one knows what is in their background prior to the five generations. I am sure according to the breeder’s records and breeding, the ones produced looked "normal" but obviously they were not. It can be safely assumed the mutation line was bred into the parrotlets before the breeder got the birds.
When the first mutations were imported back in the mid 1990’s, breeders had no idea what were in the parrotlets’ genetic backgrounds. Cinnamons were produced by blues, albinos came from lutinos and recessive pied appeared in fallows.

Unfortunately, unless one can trace back a particular parrotlet’s lineage back to the original, wild-caught bird, there is no way of strictly guaranteeing an accurate pedigree in Pacific parrotlets.

Correct Pronunciation of the Word "Parrotlet".

Many people ask how you pronounce the word 'parrotlet'. It is 'parrot'-'let' and means 'little parrot'. It is most often mispronounced as 'parro-let' but I've also heard 'parro-lay' and 'parrot-leet' but 'parrot-let' with emphasis on the middle 't' is correct.

Correct Pronunciation of the Word "Parrotlet"

Are Parrotlets The Smallest Species of Parrot?

Contrary to popolar belief, parrotlets are not the smallest species of parrots in the world. Parrotlets are certainly one of the smallest but not the smallest. The African Pygmy Parrot is the smallest species of parrot in the world but has not been successfully kept in captivity.