Possible First U.S. Breeding of Blue-winged Parrotlet Subspecies


Every once in a while something actually turns out to be better than expected. Such was the case in April 1995 when Robert and I went to the Sanjose airport to pick up a shipment of more than 40 pairs of parrotlets. Although we knew we had obtained Blue-wingeds, to our astonishment, we found we had a very distinct subspecies that we had never before seen in the United States.

The nominate species of the Bluewinged Parrotlet, Forpus xantbopterygius, is found primarily in Argentina. In addition, there are five subspecies of Blue-wingeds that are found in Columbia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

These large parrotlets are five and one half inches in length and weigh 35 to 40 grams. Mostly deep green, the males have deep violet-blue wings, backs, and rumps. Females have light yellow-green feathers between the eyes. Both males and females have gray beaks and legs. Also, these birds have very large eyes compared to other parrotlets.

The surprise subspecies we received in the shipment is Forpus xanthopte1ygius flaoissirnus which is found in Brazil. This beautiful bright emerald-green bird has a striking butter-yellow face, cheeks, and forehead. Males have brilliant lilac-blue feathers on the wings, rump, and back which is much softer and brighter than found in the nominates. Females have limegreen underbellies and evergreen wings. These parrotlets also have gray beaks and legs but are smaller than the nominate species. Flauissimus are approximately five inches in length and 30 grams in weight.

Once we got the birds home and into the quarantine room, we had a chance to examine them more thoroughly. All new birds are given a physical examination which includes a visual inspection, weighing, cultured, gram stained, a psittacosis test is run, and the bird is checked for megabacteria. Supplemental psittacosis tests are done after 30 days and prior to their release from quarantine at 90 days. We also record each bird's band number, sex, mate's band number, the date we obtained the bird, and from whom they were purchased. Any unusual characteristics or observations are also noted. Any birds in distress are immediately isolated, placed on heat, and taken to our avian veterinarian.

After quarantine, the birds were set up in our indoor aviary. This building is heated during the winter (and foggy summer days) to keep the temperature at or above 60°F with 50% relative humidity. During the summer it is not air-conditioned so it can get as warm as 90°F and the humidity as low as 8%. It also has an air filtration and artificial lighting is on 13 hours a day.

Each pair was placed in a wooden cage 2 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 18 inches high with wire fronts and bottom. All parrotlets tend to breed best when they can hear each other but not see each other. Also, the wood has the added bonus of keeping fruits, vegetables, and droppings from being thrown into a neighbor's cage. This cuts down on the risk of spreading disease. A wooden nest box is filled with untreated pine shavings and mounted on the front of the cage. Natural wood perches are provided to encourage chewing and foot exercise.

Since parrotlets are one of the few birds that eat both pellets and seeds, we give ours both. We blend our own seed mix from a safflower-based large hookbill mix, remove the peanuts in the shell, and add extra hemp seed and black oil sunflower. Parrotlets, unlike cockatoos and Amazons, need extra fat and protein when breeding and feeding babies. They also have Petamine™, cuttlebone, and mineral block available at all times. Water is biologically filtered and provided in glass tube fountains.

The bulk of the diet is made up of fruits, vegetables, and greens. They are also fed cooked beans, rice, or pasta, egg food, and whole-grain breads daily. Vitamins and powdered calcium are sprinkled over the soft foods; Spirulina™ and wheat grass powders are mixed into the egg food and are alternately given several times a...