Adult red fan (hawk-headed) parrot, Deroptyus a. accipitrinus.
(Adults of both sexes are distinguished from juveniles
by the creamy white spot on the forehead
and the orange ring around the pupil of the eye.
The skin around the eye darkens in adults if
the birds are exposed to sunlight).
Image: Dale R. Thompson.
Several people have asked me how my new bird is doing now that (s)he has been living with me for five days.
The bird is doing well: (s)he openly solicits attention from me and is eating on her (his?) own, although (s)he still wants to be handfed in the mornings and evenings. (S)he makes some of the cutest little trilling or “purring” sounds while nibbling on my fingers and while eating — my yellow-bibbed lories enjoy these sounds, too, and imitate them often.
Hawk-headed parrots have a loud shriek that they rely upon to maintain contact with their family group in the dense neotropical jungles where they originated. This loud, high-pitched call vaguely resembles the call of a glaucous-winged gull, or one of the other large gulls; KEEya KEEya KEEya! Needless to say, this call could be rather annoying to the neighbors if you happen to live in an apartment with paper-thin walls, as was typical of the apartments where I lived in Seattle. However, my NYC apartment has thick walls that do not permit sound to pass, although the upstairs and downstairs neighbors can probably hear my birds at times. Fortunately, even though my birds are frequently chatty, they almost never shriek (except when I trim their toenails), and they always quiet down at night — just when my neighbors are revving up their noise-making machinery.
As I’ve already mentioned, Elektra, my Solomon Islands Eclectus parrot, is fascinated by this new addition. But Elektra, being queen of the roost, also makes sure to claim her accustomed perch on my left shoulder, watching me write and read books and watching DVDs with me on my computer (her favorite DVD is The Parrots of Telegraph Hill, although she is fascinated by the Harry Potter DVDs .. possibly because she has seen them so many times. Ahem).
One reader wanted to know how big hawk-headed parrots are. Even though the pictures of them make them seem large, they actually are surprisingly small; they are approximately 35 centimeters long and weigh approximately 225 grams — in-hand, this bird is approximately the same length as a mourning dove or perhaps slightly larger than an American robin. Certainly, this bird is not much larger than my yellow-bibbed lories, and is noticeably smaller than Elektra (and Solomon Islands Eclectus parrots are the smallest subspecies), in fact.
Something that you may not be aware of is that, unlike mammals, which continue to grow after weaning until they reach their full size approximately when they reach sexual maturity, birds are nearly adult-sized when they fledge, so this bird will not get much larger than his current size.
Another reader wanted to know if this species are very good “talkers”. I don’t think so; I’ve never heard of any hawk-headed parrots being particularly talented human voice mimics, but I suppose there are exceptions to every rule. But talking ability is not the reason I chose this species as a pet, and in fact, even though a talking parrot is fun to be around (Elektra is quite a talented talker, for example), I love them for their personality, regardless of their talking ability.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about hawk-headed parrots is their special color of green. Unlike Amazon parrots, which have a flat, dusty green color, these little parrots have a rich, bright, electric, almost iridescent quality to their green plumage that I’ve never seen on any other species of parrot. Even male Eclectus parrots, which are primarily a lovely green color, are different from these parrots; Eclectus have a slightly more yellowish hue to their green plumage.