The Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapulars)


Under the #BeakoftheWeek microscope today is the beautiful Australian King Parrot.

King parrot feeding

King parrot feeding

One of three species in the Alisterus genus, along with the Papuan and Moluccan king parrots, the Australian king-parrot is a popular pet species.  However, if you are after a companion to while away the hours with intellectual conversation, this species is not the one for you with its limited talking abilities.  This fellow could keep you entertained however…

This species is sexually dimorphic, with the males being the only Australian parrot with an entirely red head, and the females having green heads.  A picture (or in this case a video) says a thousand words, and you can see the clear differences between the sexes in this one.  They grow to around 43cm in length and weigh between 210 and 275g.  They are usually found in pairs or groups.

Male and female Australian king parrots

Male and female Australian king parrots

Like many parrot species the Australian king parrot is particularly partial to fruit and seeds (they love eucalypts and acacias), although they are known to feed on nectar, flower buds and insects.  They are primarily found in rain forests and wet sclerophyll forests.  Here is a nice video of one feeding on a common hop bush.

One of the things that makes studying species like this hard is that they have a fondness for making their nests in tree hollows that have entrances up to 10m above the ground.  This makes it rather difficult for intrepid researchers to gather breeding information.  Luckily for us there are some brave zoologists out there and we know that they breed from September to January, usually lay 5 eggs and that the female takes on the responsibility of incubating the eggs which take about 20 days to hatch.

These parrots are found along the east coast and ranges of Australia from Cooktown in Queensland to Port Campbell in Victoria (see Xeno Canto link below for distribution map).  Their longevity in the wild is not known, however they can live up to 25 years in captivity, which is rather longer than your average pet dog!  Their numbers are decreasing, although they are listed as of least concern on the IUCN redlist.

Now for one of my favourite parts of the blogs, our little adventure over to Xeno Canto where we can close our eyes and imagine we are sitting in the rainforest listening to these guys singing away.



BirdLife International 2012. Alisterus scapularis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 29 June 2015.

Collar, N. (1997). Australian King-parrot (Alisterus scapularis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 June 2015).

Images and videos

Alisterus scapularis -North Lyneham -pair-8” by mfunnell, is licensed under CC 3.0.

BIBY TV. 2014. Australian King-Parrot feeding on Common Hop Bush fruit. [Online]. [Accessed 29th June 2015]. Available from: