Our Eclectus companions and breeder pairs are barely a century away from their counterparts in the wild. They are very much influenced by the instinctive behaviors that would help to ensure survival in their natural habitat. It is important to learn about their origin and their natural life strategies so that we can better understand their behaviors in the foreign environment of our homes. By considering the original need for their natural behaviors, we can help them to adapt their survival skills to our domestic environment and better meet their needs. Thus, problem behaviors can be avoided and a happier, more satisfying arrangement can be secured for our companion birds and for us.
In the following paragraphs, the natural environment, life strategies, and behavior of wild Solomon Islands Eclectus will be briefly described. Also discussed will be how some common behavioral pitfalls were avoided with a domestic-raised pair through observation and an understanding of their natural world.
The Solomon Islands - a chain of over 900 islands strung over 900 miles in a southeasterly arc starting at Bougainville, Papua New Guinea across the Coral Sea to Vanuatu. The larger islands are Bougainville, Choiseul, New Georgia, Santa Isabel, Guadalcanal, Malaita and Makira. The global address of the chain is between 50 and 150 South latitude, and 1550 and 1700 East longitude, which gives it
a tropical monsoon climate.
Temperatures generally range
between lows of 75°F and highs of 85°F reaching as high as 90°F in the warmer months of November and December. Humidity is consistently about 80%, and a little lower in the warmer months. Rain falls in every month of the year, averaging about nine inches each month, steadily rising to as much as 12 inches during]anuary to April, the wettest months of the monsoon season which extends from November to April.
The Solomons are situated at a crux of several geologic plates. The direction of the movement of these plates and the pressures produced resulted in several volcanoes, which formed the rocky base of the Solomon Islands and other islands in the area. Over time, the rocky islands were colonized by corals and reef-forming organisms. Other coral islands and atolls also formed. This, combined with the warm, wet climate, encouraged the development of soils, and colonization by plant and animal life.
The complexion of the Solomon Islands chain then, varies from geologically active, rugged, mountainous, rainforested islands with steep valleys to low-lying coral atolls. Soils range from volcanic and fertile to relatively infertile limestone. These soils are home to a wide variety of plants and trees such as ferns, orchids, palms, mangroves, casuarinas, and many fruit and nut producing species. These rich food sources are exploited by reptiles, including the largest of the prehensile tailed skinks, the Solomon Island Skink, Corucia zebrata, mammals, such as many species of fruit bats, and birds, including several species of fruit doves and parrots.
Forshaw's Parrots of the World indicates there are 11' species of parrots on the Solomon Islands. These include several Lories (Loriidae), the Ducorps Cockatoo, Cacatua ducorpsii, Singing Parrot, Geo.ffroyus heteroclitus, and the Solomon Islands Eclectus Parrot, Eclectus roratus solomonensis.
The genus Eclectus is monotypic with nine recognized subspecies. All of these, in nature, inhabit the general area of New Guinea and the surrounding islands, and the Cape York Peninsula in Australia. Each subspecies inhabits a different part of this area, and is unique from each other subspecies in such characteristics as size, conformation, color, vocalizations, and the length of time necessary to mature and to hatch and raise the chicks. These differences indicate that the subspecies have been distinct from each other for a long period of time.
In Parrots of the World, Forshaw describes a theory that Rainbow Lories, Tricboglossus baematodus, may have spread into their current range from New Guinea, and proposes the possibility that the original population of Eclectus parrots may have done this as well. At this time, it is not known where the founding population of the Eclectus subspecies may have originated, nor is it known for certain how the population spread from island to island. As Eclectus are strong fliers, they may have simply flown to closer islands, however they may have moved to more distant regions borne on the winds of typhoons or other storms that move through the region. They may also have moved over islands or "land bridges" exposed during raising and lowering of sea levels during various climatic changes.
By whatever means this occurred, once separated, the original population would have continued to follow its evolutionary path in its location. The daughter population would follow its own path, reinforcing the genetic traits of its smaller number of members and changing in response to its new environment, creating a separate subspecies.
The following is a list of the subspecies, with a common name and a brief note on their distribution as indicated in Parrots of the World:
• E. r. macgilliorayi'
Macgillivray Eclectus Cape York, Australia • E. r. vosmaeri
Larger islands in the northern and central Moluccas
• E. r. aruensis: -Aru Eclectus
• E. r. polycbloros" -Red-sided Eclectus
-New Guinea, western Papuan
islands, Kai (Indonesia)
• E. r. biaei: -Biaki Eclectus
-Biak Island West Irian
• E. r. cornelia -Cornelia Eclectus
-Sumba in the Lesser Sunda Islands
• E. r. roratus -Grand Eclectus
-Buru, Ceram, Amboina, southern
• E. r. solomonensis' -Solomon Islands Eclectus
-Solomon Islands, Bismarck
Archipelago, Admiralty Islands
• E. r. riedeli -Riedel's Eclectus
* denotes "blue-eye-ring" subspecies
Details of the range, specific island names and descriptions, and measurements of the different subspecies of Eclectus Parrots can be found in many sources, including Parrots of the World.
Eclectus are the most sexually dimorphic of parrots, which means the males and females look very different. Other unusual characteristics of Eclectus are that they also have a feathered cere and the ends of their body feathers are "hair-like." Four of the subspecies are common in aviculture. In approximate order of size (largest to smallest) these are vosmaeri, polycholoros, roratus and solomonensis.
A detailed description of the Solomon Islands Eclectus follows:
Solomon Island Eclectus Parrot, Eclectus r. solomonensis Rothchild and Hartert 1901
Length: The solomonensis subspecies have a large distribution range in the wild that corresponds to a big difference in their size and length. They have a marked geographic size variation with the western (islands) birds being the same size as the similar appearing Red-sided Eclectus and the eastern (islands) birds being much
smaller in size and length. Those solomonensis in captivity are from the eastern range of the island group and thus are small in size. The length of these parrots is 33-34 cm 03-13.5 inches), making it among the smallest of all the Eclectus subspecies.
Distribution: Originates through the Bismarck Archipelago (Umboi, New Britain, the Wuti Islands, Lolobau, Wotam, Duke of York, New Ireland, New Hanford, Tabar, Lihir, Tanga, and Feni), the Admiralty Archipelagos (Manus and Rambutyo) and through the Solomon Island group includ!ng Buku and Bougainville east to San Cristobal and its satellites.