For many nonbird people "small bird” typically conjures up the image of a budgie, lovebird or cockatiel, no matter if the bird is a good bit smaller with a short, blunted tail such as a parrotlet, a stockier, contoured body with thick-barred feathering for the lineolated parakeet or a splendid pink bird such as the Bourke’s parakeet. Make no mistake, these colorful birds are redefining "small bird.”
Often mistaken for: A lovebird
What sets them apart: A frequent word used to sum up parrotlets is attitude. According to BIRD TALK’s assistant editor Jessica Pineda, who shares her home with both lovebirds and a parrotlet, "They’re feisty. They’ll be the first to tell you what’s theirs, and they’ll give you nip to remind you.”
"Parrotlets are miniature Amazons, or an Amazon on steroids,” said Morton. "The green rumps I think tend to make a better pet. They don’t seem to have quite the attitude that the Pacific parrotlets have.”
Parrotlets aren’t as finicky when it comes to food. However, in Morton’s experience, parrotlets tend not to eat the veggies as much as linnies, "They’re going to go for the seeds first.” She pointed out that they like birdie bread.
"If you get them at an age where they’ve already been exposed to a lot of foods, they’re more willing to try new things,” said Pineda. "I would give them treat sticks in moderation because a determined parrotlet can go through it in less than a day.”
Most likely not to get along: Parrotlets generally don’t have a "let’s all get along”demeanor. Kari Morton, owner of Indian Hills Windsong Aviary in Colorado said they need to be housed with their own kind and cautioned against housing two male parrotlets together. "You cannot house them with a cockatiel; they will go after them, and any other bird. A Meyer’s was afraid to come out of its cage because of the parrotlet.”
Pineda would never put a parrotlet with anything other than another parrotlet. "I would only house them in a single pair, never in multiple pairs because they tend to fight.”
What makes them happy: Parrotlets like toys similar to those offered to cockatiels; soft wood, things to take apart, such as beads from a knotted strip of leather. "They love their swings, boings and absolutely love slinkies,” said Morton.
"They like tunneling in and out of slinkies,” said Pineda. "The Yucca Kabob toys are like construction projects for them. Give them one and they will be happily chewing for hours. And when they’re done with them, you can hide toys and treats inside the kabob.”
Green-rumped parrotlet (Forpus passerinus)
Pacific parrotlet (Forpus coelestis)
Spectacled parrotlet (Forpus conspicillatus)
Length: 4 1/2 to 51/2 inches
Weight: Between 18 to 28 grams
Native range: Green rump: Trinidad and the Guianas west through northern and central Venezuela to northern Columbia; northern Brazil; Pacific: along the Pacific side of the Andes from the Chone River region, western Ecuador, northwestern Peru; Spectacled: Eastern Panama, Columbia, western Venezuela
Cage considerations: A 24- to 30-inch wide cage with 1/2-inch bar spacing. "Bigger is always better. I had one that reminded me of a hummingbird; it would come to the front of the cage and hover,” said Morton.
According to Morton, "assuming that the parrotlet is not flighted, it probably is going to stay on the playgym.”
Want to learn more about parrotlets?
8 Common Parrotlet Questions
Parrotlets: Pint-Sized Parrots