The Eclectus parrot
The Eclectus parrot is not only the most sexually dimorphic Parrot in the world but it also has mating habits unlike any other bird in the world. Up until the early 20th century the male and female Eclectus were classified as separate species because of the great color differences they possess.
This parrots actually breaks every rule in the evolutionary rule book with their unexpected color arrangement. Males will usually have bright colors in order to attract and impress a mate while the females will remain with more dull and simple colors. The Eclectus is the other way around.
Male Eclectus have mostly green feathers with some brighter colored red and blue feathers on the underside of the wings that are barely visible. The green feathers make the male Eclectus blend in with the surrounding environment and are less noticeable.
The bright red feathers of the female stand out in the surrounding environment making the female much more noticeable.
This coloration of the sexes does not make sense for most species of birds but for the mating rituals of the Eclectus parrot this makes perfect sense.
The reproduction of the Eclectus parrot
The females try to find cavities high up in the trunk of a tree where they build their nest. Cavities like this, suitable for a nest, are not common and can be very difficult to find. Once a female finds a suitable cavity in a tree trunk she remains there for up to 9 months.
She never leaves the tree to look for food but stays put in the cavity protecting it from other competing females in search of nesting sites.
The males are in charge of bringing the female food in her nest. In return for the food that the males bring to the nest the females will mate with them.
The only polygamous parrot of the world
The Eclectus parrot is polygamous. Females have numerous partners that visit her nest and she mates with all of them, in exchange for food. The green color one parrots (males) do not just visit one nest but will visit multiple nesting females, mating with all of them. In the case of the males they have a home range of up to 40 square miles that they cover in search of food and new mates to reproduce.
With such unusual mating practices it easy to see why the Eclectus have such distinct coloration.
The male is able to blend in with surrounding flora while it travels great distances searching for food and visiting the nests of many females.
The female has bright colors that stand out so that the males can easily spot them. At the same time the vivid colors send a signal to other birds telling them that she is occupying that tree cavity and staying away.
Here at the sanctuary NATUWA we have Eclectus parrots that people can see during the visiting. However the female will spend the majority of her time in the box that is in their cage and is usually not seen. This is her instinctive intuition telling her to stay in the nest protecting it from competitors even though there are none.
The Eclectus’ diet mainly consists of ripe fruits but they also eat some seeds and nuts. The female will generally lay two eggs and the young fledge after about 11 weeks.