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5 Things You Need to Know About Parrotlets

These pint-sized parrots are perfect for people looking for a quiet pet bird. Don't let their size fool you though; these little birds are as smart and clever as big parrots.

Amanda Lafond

Pacific parrotlets
Parrotlets are sexually dimorphic, meaning you can tell males and females apart. In Pacific parrotlets, males typically have markings on their eyes, backs and wing feathers.

Parrotlets may be tiny, but they have huge personalities. Their name literally means "little parrot.” Most are found in South America, and they are the smallest parrot you can bring home. However, their small size doesn’t mean they are a small commitment. Considering being a parrotlet parent? Here are five things you should know:

1) There are many species of parrotlet, but the most commonly kept is the Pacific parrotlet, also called the Celestial parrotlet. Sandee Molenda, owner of the Parrotlet Ranch, a co-founder of The International Parrotlet Society, and author of The Parrotlet Handbook said, "Using the term 'parrotlet' is a generic term and would be as incorrect as using the term ‘Amazon’ to describe the numerous species of Amazon parrots.” The Pacific parrotlet has yet to become a common bird kept in pet stores, but there are many breeders who specialize in parrotlets. Other species are rare, but there are different mutations of the Pacific parrotlet.

2) Though they are small, parrotlets have some "big bird” traits. It is true that these parrots are pint-sized, but they are not as easy to care for as other similar sized birds. "Many people feel that because they are so tiny, they are birds very much like budgies or cockatiels,” Molenda said. "They are not. They are very much a large parrot in a little parrot body.” Parrotlets lack the domestication of popular pet birds like cockatiels, and this can lead to some troubles training the birds, especially for those inexperienced with parrots. "Pacific parrotlets are smart and have no problems taking advantage of people who are intimidated by birds.”

3) Parrotlets are a great choice for those looking for a quieter parrot. While they are certainly not silent, parrotlets tend to have less noticeable vocalizations. "They chirp and chatter but they do not scream or shriek. Their voices are quieter than a canary as far as volume is concerned so they are perfect birds for people who live in apartments or condominiums.” Parrotlet lovers note that female parrotlets are often quieter than males.

4) Parrotlets can be territorial and are best kept as single birds in their own cage. "Parrotlets, particularly Pacifics, are aggressive and territorial and when two are kept together as pets one will often become dominate over the other,” Molenda said. This is a wild instinct that, while no longer needed in our homes, is still intact. Because of the birds’ inclination to defend their nests from all other species of birds, they may not take kindly to another bird in their cage, even another parrotlet.

5) Due to their fast metabolisms, you must provide a parrotlet with plenty of food. "Gram for gram, they eat more than a macaw so there is no way you can 'overfeed them,'” Molenda added. So despite their small size, be prepared to offer up nutritious meals often. "They need a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, greens, cooked legumes, sprouts and grains.” Molenda did not recommend pellets for parrotlets, but said that seed mix intended for birds like cockatiels make for a good supplement to fresh foods.

Want to know more about parrotlets?

Parrotlets: Pint-Sized Parrots
Meet The Parrotlet

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Posted: March 12, 2014, 12:45 p.m. PDT

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5 Things You Need to Know About Parrotlets

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Reader Comments
Our little fellow talks...had no idea
Judy, Flint, TX
Posted: 2/8/2015 5:48:32 PM
A quiet parrot? Would that be an oxymoron?
Carol, Annapolis, MD
Posted: 3/23/2014 4:13:29 PM
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