A familiar sight in Australia, the Australian king parrot is a somewhat rare pet in the United States and other parts of the world. They make relatively calm and quiet pets if hand-raised. Their striking colors make them ideal for a bird enthusiast looking for an unusual specimen. These parrots are not cuddlers or fans of petting, but with consistent training, they can learn to say a few words.
Common Names: Australian king parrot, green-winged king parrot, eastern king parrot, Queensland king parrot, king lorie, and scarlet parrot
Scientific Name: Alisterus scapularis with two recognized subspecies: Alisterus scaplaris minor and A.scapcularis scapularis
Adult Size: 16 and 18 inches in length
Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years with proper care
Origin and History
Australian king parrots are native to coastal eastern Australia and New Guinea, where they are a common sight in parks, farmlands, and suburbs. German naturalist Martin Lichtenstein first described the species in 1818. The genus Alisterus includes three species, all of which are known as king parrots. The other species include the Papuan king parrot and the Moluccan king parrot.
Australian king parrots are not overly affectionate birds, and most do not like handling. While there is the occasional exception, it is rare for a king parrot—even one that was hand-fed as a baby—to bond as strongly with their owners in the same way that cockatoos and some other parrot species do.
It is not that these birds are anti-social. On the contrary, many Australian king parrots do enjoy interacting with their owners and even learn to say a few words. But if you are looking for a cuddly parrot, then this is not the best species for you.
Speech and Vocalizations
Although these are large parrots, Australian king parrots are known to be among the more quiet parrot species, and they tend not to scream in the same manner as the other large hookbills such as macaws.
Instead, they tend to vocalize at an audible but very agreeable level pleasantly and will entertain their owners with their whistles and chatter. When properly socialized and motivated, Australian king parrots can learn to talk but are not known for having a remarkable speaking ability.
Australian King Parrot Colors and Markings
Australian king parrots are a dimorphic bird species—meaning the sexes look different—and dramatically so. Males have bright red plumage on their heads and chests, vivid green feathers on their backs and tails, and blue feathers under their wings. They are the only parrot with an entirely red head.
Females of the species have green feathers on their heads, backs, and chests, red on their bellies, and a patch of blue on their rumps. Both sexes have dark gray skin on their feet and legs.
Caring for an Australian King Parrot
Although the vast majority of Australian king parrots prefer minimal handling, they can be hand-tamed by patient owners and are among the most gentle large parrots in the world. Do not get fooled into thinking that an Australian king parrot will never bite—all parrots will bite if provoked. However, these birds generally prefer more peaceful methods of interacting with their human caretakers.
The Australian king parrot is an acrobatic bird that requires a large cage or aviary. An ideal environment is an enclosure 3 to 6 feet wide and 12 to 15 feet long. If kept in a smaller enclosure, this bird will require several hours of out-of-cage exercise each day.
Common Health Problems
Australian king parrots are susceptible to Bacillus, which is a bacterial infection that is nearly always fatal and difficult or impossible to treat. Make sure to quarantine your bird for six weeks before introducing it to any other birds you may have.
If kept in a traditional outdoor aviary with earthen floors, Australian king parrots can be prone to intestinal worms, which will require attention from a veterinarian. Intestinal worms or parasites are rarely a problem with aviaries or cages raised above the ground.
Diet and Nutrition
In the wild, Australian king parrots feast on a diet of fruits, nuts, berries, seeds, and flowers. In captivity, as with all pet birds, proper nutrition with a well-balanced parrot food is essential to good health.
Most owners offer their birds a high-quality commercial pellet and seed mix, supplemented with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables such as corn, carrots, mango, bananas, and leafy greens like spinach. These birds enjoy whole grains like oats, millet, and quinoa. Although high in fat, nuts such as almonds and peanuts are also a favorite treat. Feed these treats sparingly.
As a medium-to-larger-sized bird, the amount of food you give depends on the bird's size. A full-grown Australian king parrot can eat about 1/2 cup of parrot mix and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fruit and vegetables per day. You can split that up between two feedings, once upon waking, and a couple of hours before bed. Provide fresh drinking water every day.
Australian king parrots, being large birds, need plenty of room to exercise. These birds love to climb, swing, and chew, so a huge cage with plenty of safe toys is the optimum environment for them.
Although they generally don't crave human interaction as much as some other parrot species, they still require a minimum of 3 to 4 hours of supervised out-of-cage playtime per day. This activity should take place in a sizeable bird-proof area of your home, as Australian king parrots are very curious and intelligent and can get themselves into trouble if you do not take precautions to ensure their safety. To safeguard the room, turn off ceiling fans, close doors and windows, and remove toxic plants and other pets.
Gentle species, less likely to bite
Acrobatic and can learn to say a few words
Does not like cuddling, petting, or handling
Requires at three to four hours of exercise, mental stimulation
Where to Adopt or Buy an Australian King Parrot
While highly sought after for their quiet nature and beautiful colors, it can be hard to find an Australian king parrot. If you are looking to adopt one as a pet, try contacting your local exotic bird club or parrot society and ask about breeders in your area.
In Australia, breeders sell Australian king parrots in the range of $100 to $500. Since this bird is scarce in the U.S., you can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 for one. Rescues, adoption organizations, and breeders where you might find Australian king parrots or find a good lead on them in the U.S. include:
Once you are in contact with a breeder, ask plenty of questions and try to make an appointment to visit with them and their birds. It is important to understand exactly what it is like to live with an Australian king parrot before bringing one home. Make sure that the bird you want to take home is alert, active, and exhibits all the signs of a healthy bird, such as bright eyes, clean feathers, and full crops.
More Pet Bird Species and Further Research
If the Australian king parrot strikes you as an interesting species, also consider one of these other species:
Otherwise, check out all of our other larger pet bird species.