One often hears that the Eclectus Parrot is "easy to breed but hard to feed." This is a reference to the fact that proven Eclectus pairs are prolific producers, but that Eclectus chicks are more difficult to feed than the young of many other large parrot species. Breeders who are accustomed to the strong feeding response of macaw chicks often are surprised to discover that the feeding response of Eclectus chicks is much weaker. They do little if any pumping during feeding. Obviously feeding can be a time consuming proposition that requires a little extra care and patience.
For the handfeeder who is new to the joy and frustration of feeding a dayone Eclectus chick, a curved-tip glass eye dropper is worth its weight in gold. From day one through the first week of life, this inexpensive tool can save the lives of Eclectus babies while giving the handfeeder great peace of mind. This dropper is available in the eye-care section of most pharmacies and allows the handfeeder to place one drop of formula at a time on the side of the upper mandible. For the first week of life, an Eclectus chick has a tiny crop that holds only a few drops per feeding. The eye dropper feeding method assures that a small, exact measure of formula is dispersed gradually and evenly into the chick's mouth.
This helps to guard against aspiration caused by the sudden and unexpected introduction of a large amount of food into the tiny beak. It is much more difficult to dispense a small amount of formula from a handfeeding syringe. The formula should be just thick enough to form a strong droplet, or the consistency of fruit nectar. If you dip the end of the dropper into the formula, one drop should adhere to the end of the glass rube. The consistency of the formula should be thickened daily as the chick grows. By the time the chick is three weeks of age, the
formula is the consistency of pancake batter and a syringe is a better choice of feeding tools because it holds more food. The curved tip dropper is inexpensive insurance against aspiration of newly hatched Eclectus chicks.
Eclectus Parrots are prolific yearround breeders once they bond and figure out the logistics of mating, but there are a number of obstacles on the path toward that goal. The first hurdle to overcome is to find pure subspecies specimen birds to set up together as breeding pairs.
A majority of Eclectus Parrots in the U.S. and other countries carry the genes of more than one subspecies. Pure subspecies Eclectus are very difficult to locate. Eclectus males of the commonly available subspecies look frustratingly similar. To maximize the chance of getting birds that are not of crossed subspecies heritage, enlist the help of a knowledgeable Eclectus breeder who is familiar with the various subspecies.
There is a serious problem of crossbred subspecies in Eclectus aviculture. A large part of this problem is because the subspecies identity of the male Eclectus is almost impossible for the novice to determine. In fact, subspecies identification of the male can be a challenge even for the experienced breeder.
Birds often are paired on the basis of the subspecies that the male appears to be. By the time the pair matures and produces a female offspring, by which subspecies purity can be determined, the pair is likely to have been together for several years. When a mismatch is discovered, the owner is sometimes reluctant to break up the pair and obtain new mates of the appropriate subspecies.
Some breeders insist that raising young, unrelated Eclectus males and females together is the best way to
obtain successful breeding pairs. Others believe that pairing adult birds is a faster and easier way to achieve the same result, but the success of this method is dependent upon one's source of birds. Buying adult birds from any source other than a known and trusted breeder requires caution because birds that have problems, such as mate aggression and egg eating, are more likely to be offered for sale than are problem-
free birds. The careful buyer always
asks why a proven male or female is being offered for sale.
Once compatible individuals are set up in a breeding situation, things might go exceptionally well. A newly paired Eclectus male and female sometimes bond immediately. Males have been observed regurgitating to newly introduced females within an hour of their introduction. Some "love at first sight" pairs lay fertile eggs within a month of being introduced. However, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
Some birds set up as pairs are incompatible or take considerable time to develop a pair bond. Switching mates is often effective and it is sometimes done even after Eclectus pairs have produced many clutches of babies. Either male or female Eclectus can lose interest in their partner and cease to produce. The Eclectus attitude toward bonding covers the entire spectrum from bonding for life to an attitude of "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." Random mate swapping is not unusual in an Eclectus colony breeding situation.