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Australian King Parrot Fact File

Alisterus scapularis

Weight

400-600g

(14-21oz)

Length

38-44cm

(15-17.3in)

Lifespan

Wild 25 years

Captive 25 years

Diet

Herbivore

Seeds and Fruit

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The Australian king parrot is a species of bird found along the east coast of Australia from Cooktown, Queensland in the north to southwestern Victoria.

Males and females are markedly different in their appearance. The male has a vivid red head while the females is green. They have a bright golden eye with a black pupil.

These birds build a nest within a tree cavity which reaches deep down within the tree. Here they deposit their eggs from September to January. Males and females work together to raise their young.

Humans have provided additional food to these birds within our cities and they can often be seen living alongside us.

Learn more about these beautiful birds here.

Appearance

Male and female king parrots exhibit a marked form of sexual dimorphism. The male is covered by striking red feathers across the head and breast with a bluish color on the low back and green across the wings and tail getting darker as it moves down the body. A pale green stripe runs along the wing of males.

Females by comparison are colored red on the lower breast with a green head and chest. The rest of their coloration is similar to the male.

They have a short, curved beak which is colored reddish-orange with black at the tip in males and brownish in females. This strong beak is able to break in to fruits and seeds.

Their legs and feet are colored gray.

An adult king parrot has an average length of 38 to 44cm (15 to 17.3in) long with a wingspan of 48 to 65cm (19 to 26.5in) across. An average weight for this species is between 400 and 600g (14 and 21oz).

The tail may account for half of the body length in this bird.

They are the largest species of king parrot. Other varieties found across the globe are the Moluccan king parrot and the Papuan king parrot. These three species make up the genus Alisterus.

Diet


King parrots are herbivores which feed on seeds, berries, nuts, nectar, blossoms and fruits. Most of their feeding takes place in the treetops. They will come to the ground to drink.

King Parrot

Range

Australia is the native home of the king parrot. Here they can be found along the east coast through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

In parts of Sydney and Canberra, two major cities in Australia, they can be found living within urban areas.

Habitat

They make their home in rainforest, wet sclerophyll forest, savanna and shrubland along with urban areas.

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Reproduction

Breeding takes place from September to January. Males will perform displays where they stretch their body, ruffle the head feathers and flick the wings while uttering the harsh call. Females will respond by bobbing their head and offering food.


The nest is built high in a tree. They will line a hollow with a bed of decayed wood-dust. While the entrance is high off the ground their nest hollow may be so deep that the bottom is near the ground.


Pairs will raise a single brood each year. This includes between 3 and 6 eggs which are incubated for 20 days. The eggs are colored white.


The chicks fledge after 15 days in the nest.

Both genders will resemble a female until they are 6 months old. At this point the male begins his transition which takes a further 16 months to reach adult plumage.

Males achieve sexual maturity at 3 years old compared to females which reach this at 1 year old.

Behavior

King parrots have short, broad wings which carry them through the trees slowly but can quickly change direction to weave side to side if aiming to avoid a predator. Most of their flight occurs under the tree canopy.

While in flight they will produce a harsh screech including when disturbed. They also make a high pitched whistle. Males tend to be the more vocal member of the pair.

These birds live in pairs of a small family group.

King Parrot

Predators and Threats

Habitat alterations as a result of climate change is the main threat posed to the king parrot.

Numbers may be increasing due to their ability to survive in urban areas where they feed at artificial feeding stations or fruiting trees in backyards.

Quick facts

The bright colors of the king parrot have made them popular in the pet trade.

When viewed under an ultraviolet light some of the wing feathers of a king parrot appear with a yellow glow. Some birds are able to see ultraviolet wavelengths due to having a fourth cone in their retina (humans only have three).

These birds were first described by a German naturalist during 1818.

The name king parrot is believed to have been suggested by George Caley as a way to honor Governor Philip Gidley King (Governor of New South Wales from 1800-1806).

King Parrot

Photo Credits

Top, Middle One and Two

Under License

Bottom

David Edwards, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Christiansen, P., 2019. Birds. London: Amber Books Ltd.

BirdLife International. 2016. Alisterus scapularis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22685046A93056658. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22685046A93056658.en. Downloaded on 10 June 2021.

Birdlife.org.au. 2021. Australian King-Parrot | BirdLife Australia. [online] Available at: <https://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/australian-king-parrot> [Accessed 10 June 2021].

Birdsinbackyards.net. 2021. Australian King-Parrot | BIRDS in BACKYARDS. [online] Available at: <https://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Alisterus-scapularis> [Accessed 10 June 2021].

The Australian Museum. 2021. Australian King-Parrot. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/australian-king-parrot/> [Accessed 10 June 2021].

Oiseaux-birds.com. 2021. Australian King Parrot. [online] Available at: <http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-australian-king-parrot.html> [Accessed 10 June 2021].

Australian Reptile Park. 2021. King Parrot – Australian Reptile Park. [online] Available at: <https://www.reptilepark.com.au/king-parrot/> [Accessed 10 June 2021].

Australianwildlifejourneys.com. 2021. Species Feature: King Parrot | Australian Wildlife Journeys. [online] Available at: <https://australianwildlifejourneys.com/blog/2018/06/22/31/species-feature-king-parrot> [Accessed 10 June 2021].

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