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Meet the Australian King Parrot The Friendliest Aussie Bird

Animals Australian King Parrots being hand fed sunflower seeds

The Majestic Australian King Parrot: A Vibrant Gem of the East Coast

The Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) is a stunning endemic species that graces the forests of eastern Australia with its vibrant plumage and melodic calls. From the tropical reaches of Cooktown in Queensland to the temperate woodlands of Port Campbell in Victoria, these regal birds captivate bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Let’s explore the distinctive features, habitat, diet, behavior, and role in aviculture of this magnificent parrot.

Appearance: A Symphony of Colors

Australian King Parrots exhibit striking sexual dimorphism in their coloration:

  • Adult males have a brilliant red head, breast, and lower underparts contrasting with emerald green wings, back, and tail. A blue band separates the red and green on the back of the neck. They have a reddish-orange upper beak with black tip, black lower beak with orange base, and piercing yellow eyes.
  • Females have a green head and breast, grey beak, and reduced or absent pale shoulder bands.
  • Juveniles of both sexes resemble females with brown eyes and yellow beaks. Young males gradually develop their signature red/blue colors as they mature.

Two subspecies exist – the smaller A. s. minor in the north, and the nominate A. s. scapularis. Rare yellow/orange individuals missing melanin pigment are strikingly different from typical red/green adults.

Female and Male King Parrots
Female and Male King Parrots eating sunflower seeds on a backyard bird feeder

Habitat: Lush Forests of the East

King Parrots inhabit humid, densely forested uplands in eastern Australia, favoring eucalyptus woods near subtropical and temperate rainforests. Their range extends from Cooktown, QLD to Port Campbell, VIC.

Outside their typical habitat, they visit Canberra in winter, Sydney’s outer suburbs, and central QLD’s Carnarvon Gorge. King Parrots often form small multi-species flocks with Rosellas.

Australian King Parrot Distribution CC BY-SA 4.0
Australian King Parrot Distribution CC BY-SA 4.0

Diet: Forest Fruits and Seeds

In the wild, King Parrots eat a variety of native fruits, berries, and seeds gathered from trees or the ground. They particularly relish eucalyptus, acacia and casuarina seeds.

In suburban gardens and birdfeeders, they prefer sunflower seeds and may avoid smaller commercial seed mixes. Providing suitable native food plants can attract them.

King parrots typically rank low in the feeding hierarchy. When it comes to accessing a seed source, the pecking order generally starts with the cockatoo, followed by the rainbow lorikeet, magpie, corella, galah, king parrot, and finally the crimson rosella.

Behavior: Melodic Calls and Social Bonds

King Parrots are known for their distinct melodic calls that resonate through the forest, facilitating communication and territory establishment. They tend to be social, typically observed in pairs or family groups that forage, preen, and roost together.

During breeding season (Sept-Jan), pairs become more solitary while nesting and raising chicks. Within bird social hierarchies, King Parrots rank relatively low – they yield to larger birds like cockatoos and magpies at feeders, but may dominate smaller species like Rosellas.

Aviculture: Royal Companions

In Australia, King Parrots are sometimes kept as calm, relatively quiet pet birds when hand-raised and socialized. They can form devoted bonds with caregivers but usually prefer not to be physically handled.

Although they have limited “talking” ability, King Parrots are prized for their gentle demeanor and stunning colors. In captivity, they can live up to 25 years with proper diet and care (lifespan in the wild is undocumented). Providing a spacious aviary, suitable perches, and enrichment is recommended.

King Parrots can be picky eaters, favoring black sunflower seeds and ignoring smaller commercial seed mixes. Offering a balanced, nutritionally complete diet is imperative for good health.

Note that permits are required to keep native Australian birds like King Parrots. Prospective owners should carefully research regulations and captive care requirements before obtaining one as a pet.

FAQs

Q: Are Australian King Parrots rare? A: Australian King Parrots are not considered rare but their numbers are in decline. They are relatively common within their range in eastern Australia, from Cooktown in Queensland to Port Campbell in Victoria. However, their population is affected by habitat loss due to deforestation and land clearing.

Q: Can Australian King Parrots talk? A: Australian King Parrots have limited talking ability compared to some other parrot species. While they can learn to mimic a few words or phrases, they are not known for being highly proficient talkers. They are more valued for their beautiful appearance, pleasant demeanor and melodic calls.

Q: Can you have an Australian King Parrot as a pet? A: Yes, Australian King Parrots can be kept as pets in Australia, but it is important to check local regulations and obtain necessary permits. In many areas, it is illegal to capture wild birds, so pet King Parrots should be captive-bred. They can make good companions when hand-raised and properly socialized, but they require a spacious aviary, a balanced diet, and regular veterinary care.

Q: Do Australian King Parrots mate for life? A: Australian King Parrots are believed to form monogamous pair bonds during the breeding season. However, it is not well documented whether these bonds extend beyond a single breeding season or if they mate for life. More research is needed to fully understand their long-term mating habits in the wild.

The Australian King Parrot is a spectacular avian gem, beloved for its vibrant colors, endearing personality, and melodic calls. From lush eastern forests to suburban gardens and aviaries, these regal birds bring joy to those lucky enough to encounter them.

By understanding their needs and protecting their natural habitats, we can ensure King Parrots continue to grace Australia’s landscapes for generations to come. Whether admired in the wild or cherished as companions, these majestic parrots will always hold a special place in the hearts of bird lovers everywhere.

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