Saturday, February 5, 2011

Parrotlet Lifespans, Spectacle Parrotlet Availability

I am a parrotlet owner and have been doing some digging for research on parrot foraging, nutrition and lifespan but due to the lack of research on parrots and general and especially parrotlets, I havent been able to find real conclusive facts about parrotlet lifespans. I am sure this is due to the fact that they werent widely bred until recently so we may not even know for sure what is normal. My question for you is what is the longest you have known them to live?

I also have another question regarding purchasing a spectacled parrotlet as a pet. I am not looking for one immediatly but am researching and preparing and was wondering if you breed them for pet homes and if so, how much are they?

Thank you in advance for your time

M. J. Roach

Dear Mary:

Thank you for your email. Let me provide you with a brief history.

Parrotlets have been in the United States since the late 1800's. The first pairs were bred in zoos starting in the mid-1920's. They have been kept as pets since the 1950s so they certainly are not recent additions to Amercan aviculture. Indeed, I have kept them for almost 30 years and the 1970's and 80's there were tens thousands of parrotlets that were imported including Yellow Face and Sclater's. In 1992, the United States cut off importation of almost all species of parrots except under extremely limited circumstances. The International Parrotlet Society was formed in 1992 and worked tirelessly to add color mutation parrotlets to the Approved List of Captive-Bred Birds and have been imported, again by the thousands, since 1995. They are one of the very few species of parrots that are allowed to be imported into the United States.

The reason there is little known about their lifespans isn't because of lack of research per se. The reason is, very few people other than myself have kept them long enough to make that determination. Most of the people who breed parrotlets these days have kept them less than 10 years - a mere blip on the radar screen of bird keeping. Indeed, there is no 'research' that can be done other than the actually keeping individual birds from birth to death and these days, that is extremely rare. I only know of maybe 6 people in the US that actually have that type of experience. Everyone else, particularly those on the Internet, have no personal experience and only repeat what they have been told or read. Unfortunately, on the internet, anyone can be an expert - all they need is a keyboard and an opinion.

When I stared with parrotlets in the early 1980's, I had wild-caught birds as did everyone else. Ironically, most people these days that have parrotlets have never seen a wild-caught bird let alone work with them. I did for more than a dozen years. Those birds easily lived more than 20 years although we were not sure how old they actually were. The reason we know they lived to be more than 20 years old is because we actually kept individual birds that long. Of course, these were adults when they were imported so we really don't know how old they were. We only know they easily lived 20 years or more. These days, they can live to be that age but it is extremely rare. Most parrotlets meet their demise from accidents, usually preventable, but even if they are protected, it seems 10-15 years is much more the norm. This could be for a variety of reasons including diet (I am a firm believer in fresh, whole natural foods for parrotlets not pellets or other 'fortified' diets). It could also be the natural progression of animals that are kept in captivity. Seems the more humans are involved with breeding animals, the more their lifetimes are shortened. This is true with pretty much all domesticated animals. It could be people are taking too many 'short cuts' with breeding - not waiting for the birds to be mature or it could be due to inbreeding. Color mutations may also have had an effect because they are genetically abnormal and in the wild, they would never have lived long enough to breed and pass on their defective genes. These days its almost impossible to find a normal Pacific parrotlet that has no color mutations in its background at all. But, since color mutations have only been around 15 years or less, no one can definitely answer that question. Perhaps we will have that answer in another 15 to 20 years.

I do breed Spectacles and was one of the first to breed them in the US when they were imported in 1992. I always have a waiting list for all of my birds and my list for Spectacles is months long. Unfortunately, my prediction made back in 1994 before any mutations were imported, has come true. That all the other species would disappear once people started breeding mutations. I charge $300 each.

As I said, I have bred parrotlets for almost 30 years. I have kept every species except Sclater's (only one pair was known to produce and they died, along with their offspring, in a house fire in the 1980's) and was one of the first to actually breed parrotlets. I also have awards for working with rare and difficult species such as Mexicans and have a first breeding award for producing the first of a particular subspecies of Blue Wings. I cofounded the International Parrotlet Society and have written 3 books on parrotlets including the most recent addition of Barron's Parrotlet Handbook. I also write for Bird Talk magazine and am a panel expert on parrotlets with Bird I give seminars and speak at national and international conventions on parrotlets as well as other issues involving parrots.

So, I hope this answers your questions. Thank you again for your email.

Sincerely yours,

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

Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization

A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

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