Why do Eclectus parrot moms peck their sons to death?

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Feathered factoid: Eclectus parrots represent about 20% of parrots that are sexually dimorphic meaning you can tell the sex of the bird by it’s color. Eclectus boys are green, girls are red. Only male Indian Ringnecks – have the ring.

 

It’s like headlines ripped from supermarket check out tabloids – “Mommy Eclectus found guilty of manslaughter for killing her own son to save her daughter’s” “The girls are ‘easier to raise I tell ya” she said while being led away in leg bands from the low lying tree stump by Australian aviculture authorities.
Here we are once again we see a sinister commonality between humans & parrots. Recently research confirmed Eclectus parrots are the only animal species other than humans that kill its own offspring because of the offspring’s sex. For the mom bird it’s simple math. Girls grow faster than the boys and have a much better chance of living through the miserable torrential rains found in parts of Australia.

 

female Eclectus parrot chick
In case you’re wondering, the execution is committed by pecking the young males to death. And you think “your” bird has some bad habits?
A lot of people don’t stop to think about it but there’s only one parrot that builds a nest. The Quaker parrot or monk parakeet. For the other 350 (or so) parrot species, they make their homes in hollow trees or under rocks.

 

granite countertops included
Eclectus parrots build nests about 90 feet (27 m) above the ground but as with any real estate market supply and demand dictates price & availability. For Eclectus Parrots there’s never enough hollow trees when you need them. While we have seen TV housewives cat fighting over real estate in their neighborhood, soft spoken Eclectus parrot moms will literally try to kill another Eclectus parrot mom who is trying to take over her new family home.
While male Eclectus parrots are doing what guys normally do which is waste a lot of time watching sports on tv and occasionally bring something good home to eat, females are always thinking about the family survival thing.
If they get stuck in low (rent-height) housing – as in close to the ground, the new condo may be easily flooded making raising a family very difficult, even more so during relentless thunderstorms for an entire season.
Because these moms somehow know that they don’t have flood insurance and the hollow tree could easily take in enough water to displace the entire family, their biological stopwatch is triggered on day one of move in.

 

Eclectus mom feeding maturing female chick
The reality is that girl Eclectus chicks fledge about a week sooner than boys. In the mom birds mind, by limiting boys the odds exponentially increase on the successfully raising of girls.
Another remarkable fact about Eclectus parrots is that they can actually produce all females or all males at will. Mommy Eclectus parrots somehow have developed the ability to turn out less boys than girls while surviving in their low height condos. By doing so they commit fewer murders.
I love seeing the “law of unintended consequences” in action at any level. Eclectus male infanticide means there will be many more girls than boys which means regardless of how many dance cards the girls have to punch, there’s not enough boy mates to go around should the rainy season be really long and torrential.
Whether you believe Al Gore and his climate change philosophies or not, should rainy seasons last longer than expected (by the birds), you can expect to see more flooding in the tree hollows. Eclectus parrots are trying to breed in which means boy Eclectus parrots (that survived) are going to find it much easier to “get lucky” based upon the new boy to girl ratio. 

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