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What is a Parrotlet?

By Mandi Rogier
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A parrotlet is a type of small parrot. These belong to the parrotlet group, which is further divided into three genera. These diminutive parrots exist both in the wild and as pets.

In the wild, parrotlets live primarily in Central and South America. They are very social birds as they travel in flocks and bond with their mates for life. The Touit genus and Nannopsittaca genus exist only in the wild. Attempts to domesticate any of the species in these genera have been unsuccessful.

The species belonging to the genus Forpus are the most common type of this bird to be kept in captivity. Several species and subspecies exist in this genera. Parrotlets can no longer be imported into the United States, so many of the subspecies have been breed with one another to prevent inbreeding within the species. The result of this type of breeding is a plethora of subspecies that are now referred to as generic.

The Pacific Parrotlet, also known as the Celestial Parrotlet, is the most common domesticated species of parrotlet. This small bird measures only about five and a half inches (14 cm) in length. It is primarily green with blue markings on the face, rump, and, in the case of the male, wings. Pacific Parrotlets can also be found in a variety of color mutations including blue, yellow, and white.

Other parrotlet species that are commonly kept as pets include the green-rumped parrotlet, Mexican parrotlet, spectacled parrotlet, and yellow-faced parrotlet. Most of these birds are primarily green or yellow green. The smaller markings on their wings, rumps, and faces are what distinguish them from one another. Sexual dimorphism is present in all parrotlet species with the exception of some color mutations in which this aspect has been bred out.

In general, all these species of parrotlets are very friendly, intelligent, and active. They typically live about 20 years. These birds need lots of perches and toys to keep them occupied. Their strong beaks can wreak havoc on any items placed in their cage, so only strong toys designed for birds should be used. Many prefer to sleep on a swinging perch.

Despite their tendency to live in flocks in the wild, parrotlets kept as pets often do better alone. If obtained at different times, two parrotlets may bicker. Owners who want to keep more than on of this type of bird should be prepared to house them separately should these problems occur. Individuals who are prepared for a long-term feathered friend may find a parrotlet to be an excellent pet.

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