Alisterus scapularis Click to enlarge image
A King Parrot is pictured on a brown tree branch with food in its beak and its claw pointed outwards. Its face, neck and underbelly are a bright red, whilst its back and wings are a dark green with some bluish shades. Its tail feathers are a deep blue. Its beak is a notable red with a black tip Image: Glen Threlfo
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    scapularis
    Genus
    Alisterus
    Family
    Psittacidae
    Order
    Psittaciformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    41 cm to 43 cm

Although King-Parrots appear distinctly red and green to humans, when viewed under ultraviolet light, some feathers on the wings appear with a prominent yellow glow. Many birds have four types of cone in their retina, (compared to only three in humans) and see into the ultraviolet wavelengths.

Identification

Male Australian King-Parrots are the only Australian parrots with a completely red head. Females are similar to males except that they have a completely green head and breast. Both sexes have a red belly and a green back, with green wings and a long green tail. King parrots are normally encountered in pairs or family groups.


Alisterus scapularis
A female (or young male) Australian King Parrot is pictured clinging to thin tree branches and turning its head so its eye is facing the camera. Its head, neck, chest and back are green, whilst its undertail feathers and lower belly are red. The undertail also has black markings while the upper rump is blue. Image: Ralph and Daphne Keller
© Australian Museum

Habitat

King-Parrots are usually found in rainforests or wet sclerophyll forests.

Distribution

King-Parrots are found along the east coast and ranges of Australia, ranging from Cooktown in Queensland through to Port Campbell in Victoria.



Seasonality

Largely sedentary.

Feeding and diet

The King-Parrot mostly forages in trees for seeds and fruit.

Communication

Loud, high-pitched whistle, with a rolling 'carr-ack' call in flight.

Breeding behaviours

King-Parrots lay their eggs on a bed of decayed wood-dust at the bottom of a deep hollow in the trunk of a tree. Often the entrance is high in the tree (10 m) but the eggs are near the ground (0.5 m).

  • Breeding Season: September to January.
  • Clutch size: 5
  • Incubation: 20 days
  • Time in nest: 35 days

Conservation status

The King-Parrot appears to be increasing in abundance in well-treed suburbs. In urban areas it feeds at artificial feeding stations and fruiting trees.

References

  • Higgins, P.J. (ed) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 4 (Parrots to Dollarbird). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
  • Morcombe, M. 2000. Field guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing.