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.

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.