The representatives of the genus Psittaculirostris
are medium sized (18-20 cm (approx. 7in-71/4in long),
stocky parrots, with colourful plumage. Their most prominent
features are the extremely short, rounded tail, the
elongated ear-coverts and proportionally large bill
with a prominent notch in the upper mandible.
Fig Parrots are distributed throughout different
regions of New Guinea, where they can be found primarily
in fruit-bearing trees, especially fig trees.
Here, we do not attempt to give full descriptions
of the three Psittaculirostris species, as they can
easily be distinguished by referring to the relevant
literature. We believe that the following short notes
should be sufficient:
Distributed throughout lowland and hill
forest, also partly cleared land, in north-eastern
New Guinea. This species was in the past thought
to be a race of Salvadori's Fig Parrot. The most
striking features of Edwards' Fig Parrot are the
broad blue-black band on the upper breast, the red
belly and lower breast (females lack this red on
the breast) and the broad black line through the
eyes to the hind crown and nape.
Their fascinating behaviour and vivacious nature
make fig parrots among the most attractive of the
parrots. They are gregarious, very active and playful
birds, which become tame easily. While acclimatising
and keeping the Psittaculirostris species is no
longer a problem, breeding successes still need
to be improved in order to establish viable populations.
In the mid 1970s a good number of fig parrots were
imported into Europe and theUSA. At that time there
was no detailed information available about these
species, we knew only that keeping fig parrots seemed
to be difficult, and therefore only a few enthusiasts
purchased these birds.
Vogelpark Walsrode was one of the first institutions
to take up the challenge to keep these three species
of fig parrots and to improve the breeding results
with them. During the early years the loss of some
birds had to be accepted, but this led to even more
intensive efforts to achieve satisfying breeding
results. Up until that time and still today sometimes
there are those who believe that a deficiency of
Vitamin K, which delays blood dotting, causes the
death of these birds. Therefore even the slightest
injuries such as those caused by flying against
the wire of the enclosure, are supposed to be the
reason for birds bleeding to death. As an additional
supply of Vitamin K did not result in any improvement
in the keeping of the adults or in the hatching
of chicks, we decided to try other ways.
The first improvements came when we added an
amino-acid supplement to the food. We noticed increased
breeding activity and did not lose any of the adults.
During this 'time of experimentation' chicks hatched,
but died within the first 18 days. At that time,
about the end of the 1980s and the beginning of
the 1990s, the results of investigations by keepers
in the USA were published which dealt with the causes
of death in Psittaculirostris chicks. The surprising
result of these investigations was the fact that
young fig parrots are obviously unable to digest
the seeds of figs and apples, etc., as adult birds
do. Even soft and spouting seeds are a potential
danger to young birds. These results caused us to
reconsider the diet we fed to the fig parrots and,
together with other breeders; we worked on a new
combination of ingredients. After a short period
of re-adaptation to this new diet, the birds very
well accepted it
Today, the Psittaculirostris species' diet consists
of the following, which is fed to them twice a day
in clean bowls. It is sufficient for approximately
3 tablespoons of cooked rice.
cooked potato (cut into pieces).
1 large, peeled
and steamed apple (with the core removed).
1 banana .
Humana Special (powdered special diet for babies,
which is free of lactose, fructose and refined sugar)
2 tablespoons of soft oat flakes
Korvimin (powdered vitamin/mineral supplement for
10 ml honey
1/2 teaspoon of oil
(olive or wheatgerm oil)
1/8 lettuce or Chinese
Approx. lOOml water
All of the ingredients are mixed in a blender
until they form a paste-like substance.
We also offer a variety of sprouted seeds and
pulses, including sunflower seeds, mung beans and
a seed mixture intended for pigeons. These are soaked
in 5 litres (just over 1 gallon) of water to which
we add two Chinosol tablets to prevent them from
becoming mouldy. They are soaked for approximately
eight hours, after which they are thoroughly rinsed
with clean running water and then kept in a sieve
and allowed to sprout for about 24 hours. In addition
to the above, we also offer maize and rice, which
has been boiled for ten minutes. Every other day
5ml of one of the following supplements is added
to the food: powdered yeast, Muschelkalk (ground
shells which provide calcium), powdered soya-malt,
Nekton Tonik K (vitamin/mineral supplement for seed
The food for the adult birds consists of the
above mentioned paste (fed twice a day) and, once
a day, one tablespoon of sprouted seeds and pulses
and half of a dried fig (which has been soaked)
per pair. The seeds, pulses and figs are provided
up until two days before the chicks are expected
to hatch. From then until the chicks are 14 days
old, the only food we offer the birds is the paste.
Then from 15 days old onwards, we add ten blanched
meal worms per day. When the young birds have fledged,
we again feed our basic fig parrot diet (the paste,
seeds, pulses and figs) and stop offering mealworms.
About two weeks after fledging the offspring can
be separated from their parents. They should though
be kept in a quiet area, as at the beginning they
are very timid.
As fig parrots like to use branches on which
to clean their bills, they should always have access
to branches which have not been treated with pesticides.
The birds also peel the bark off the branches, and
so get additional minerals, roughage and tannin
acids, which have a dietetic effect.
It should be borne in mind that fig parrots are
very active birds, which enjoy bathing. They are
also very curious. During the breeding season, however,
they can become very stressed, which can result
in them abandoning or even killing their chicks.
This does not necessarily take place at the time
of the disturbance, but often occurs some days later.
Aggressive behaviour between males and females
is seen only rarely, and it is more or less easy
to set up pairs. Keeping the birds in a flock of
two or more pairs, however, makes a big difference
and, at breeding time, the pairs should be kept
separately. When keeping Psittaculirostris species
in a group of three pairs in a large enclosure,
we found that all may hatch chicks, but only those
of one of the pairs survive to the age of fledging.
We assume that one of the pairs is dominant and
suppress the others, also the females sometimes
become very aggressive towards each other and bad
injuries can result.
Pairs do not in most cases seem to be difficult
to please with regard to next-boxes, but there are
some pairs, which start breeding only after the
nest-boxes, have been changed several times. The
type of nest-box, which is preferred, differs from
pair to pair. Some tend to breed in small boxes
which have just a single entrance hole, others use
boxes which have an extra opening on the opposite
side to the entrance hole, and some pairs prefer
to gnaw a second hole in the nest-box while incubating
the eggs. When the chicks reach about 14 days old
the parents use the extra opening through which
to remove the chick's droppings, which is a great
help in keeping the nest-box clean and dry.
With the Psittaculirostris species incubation
takes about 22 days and the chicks fledge at about
45-50 days old. After a further 14 days the young
are independent of their parents and can be separated.
They are sexually mature at 18 months to two years
old, when the plumage is in full colour. With Salvadori's
Fig Parrots there is a difference between the sexes
at the age of 14-18 months and with Edwards' Fig
Parrots the males start to show typical male colouration
at about ten months at the earliest.
By exchanging our experiences and newly-gained
knowledge about the husbandry and breeding of fig
parrots, these beautiful birds, which are unique
in appearance and behaviour, will more and more
find their way into the hearts and aviaries of 'parrot
people'. Today, keeping fig parrots is one of the
most wonderful experiences those interested in keeping
parrots can have, especially as they no longer have
to face the problems experienced with them in the
Article from www.parrotsocietyuk.org
Del af / Part of www.lorihaven.dk 2007