A matched pair?

Cute kids at the Happy Hollow park and zoo in San Jose, California on our last day in this lovely, sunny climate.

grandkids at Happy Hollow park and zoo

grandkids at Happy Hollow park and zoo

The grandkids are the reason that I am here this week, while younger daughter is at a conference in Bhutan — half way across the world.  Among the many things we saw today were a mated pair (really!) of Eclectus Parrots.

Eclectus Parrots, Eclectus roratus

Eclectus Parrots

Naturally since they look so different, they were first described as two species, instead of the male (green and red) and female (red and blue) of one species.  The birds are native to South Pacific islands, especially New Guinea, and are the most distinctly dimorphic of all parrot species.  In this case, it’s not just the male that advertises with bright colors.

Female Eclectus Parrot

Female Eclectus Parrot

Male Eclectus Parrot

Male Eclectus Parrot

Eclectus parrots have evolved some peculiar mating habits which may explain the bold coloration of the two sexes.  Females may mate with multiple males, and advertise themselves by showing off their brilliant colors at their nest hole to attract potential mates.  Males make the rounds of all the local nest holes and mate with as many of the females as will have them.  Thus, they too need to be especially colorful to be sexy.  The word for this unusual breeding strategy is…..polygynandrous (throw that one around at the holiday dinner table!)

Eclectus parrots are a popular house pet, most likely because they are extremely easy to breed in captivity, are great talkers, and live as long as 30 years.  They can mimic not only human speech, but random sounds like running water or door bells.  One male was reported to be able to sing “You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Houndog” in its entirety.  Apparently, they can also dance! and prefer “eclectic” tunes.

6 thoughts on “A matched pair?

  1. They are really interesting parrots. What advantage does the polygynandrous strategy bestow on them? I suppose the females are still capable of dismissing the males that do not live up to their expectations and have more chance of rearing healthy offspring if they rear a selection of eggs from different fathers? Is there other reasons?
    Cute grandchildren too!

    • I had never heard of polygynandry before I read about these birds. There are only a few bird species and the Bonobo chimps that engage in this behavior. I think the advantage is the two-way selection of mates. It’s not about who is the most fit male to mate with (the typical female choice model) but about which is the most fit female as well. In this case “fit” is determined by brilliance of color–generally, only the most healthy and vigorous birds have such bright color and energetic displays.

  2. Thanks for the post! Fun to see your Cali grandkids and discussion of parrots. My son has been telling us he wants a parrot as a pet so this was very timely and informative. Have a safe trip back to snowy MN.

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