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Australian King Parrot – the King of the Parrots

Bird Photography with marysejansenart

A Stealthy Bird with a Royal Costume

Australian King Parrot by Maryse Jansen
Australian King Parrot

Bright red plumage stands out in the dark forest

The very bright red feathers of the Australian King Parrot surely stand out in the dark rainforest, which is its preferred habitat. Its range is along the east coast of Australia, from Cooktown in north Queensland, through New South Wales and into Victoria. If it wasn’t for the red colour I would have trouble spotting it here for it doesn’t behave like a typical noisy parrot. It quietly flies through the forest, weaving through the vegetation, rarely leaving that dark place. Wouldn’t it be nice to see those beautiful colours lit up by the sun?!

On another occasion I am on a bush walk with a friend. We’re in dry sclerophyll forest, that typical Australian bush land with lots of Eucalyptus trees. My friend talks about how beautiful he finds the King Parrots and asks me if I have a photo of one on my website. I do not at this point in time. I also tell him that these birds prefer to live in rainforests and adjacent wet sclerophyll forests, so the chance of seeing one today is very slim.

To our surprise, a little while later, we do see a King Parrot during this walk! What a treat! That same day a photo of the bird appears on my website, and not much later a print hangs on my friend’s wall!

King Parrots feed on seeds and fruits that they find while foraging through the trees. So when certain foods are in season, they will venture out of their preferred range in search of these goodies. They particularly like the seeds of Wattles and Eucalyptus. This is why occasionally I do see them in dry sclerophyll forest, like the bush land we walked in. And one time a couple of the parrots even paid a brief visit to my suburbian garden!

Family Life of the Australian King Parrot

The King Parrots live in family groups or in pairs. Generally they are very quiet for a parrot, feeding silently. When disturbed by a person they will utter a loud screech and fly off until you can see them no more. Another time when the parrots call more loudly is when performing mating rituals. The birds are monogamous and mate for life.

The parrots build their nest in a deep hollow in a tree trunk. The nest is lined with decayed wood dust. These hollows can be so deep that the entrance is 10m above the ground but the eggs are only 0.5m above ground level!

The female lays a clutch of about 5 eggs and incubates them by herself for 20 days and then it takes another 35 days for the chicks to leave the nest. The chicks remain with their parents in a family group until they are fully matured, which takes about 3 years. The birds can live up to 25 years!

The Royal Looks of the King Parrot

The male and female Australian King Parrot are easy to tell apart by the difference in their looks. The male has a most royal costume with a striking red head, breast and underparts. His back is green with a pale green band along his shoulder. His wings are also green. The red head and green back are separated by a dark blue band and his long tail is also dark blue. The upper mandible of his beak is orange with a black tip, and the lower mandible is black. His eyes are yellow.

The female is a lot more inconspicuous and has a green head and breast, although the breast may have an orange tinge. Only her underparts are red and betray her royal status. She does not have the pale patch on her shoulder. Her beak is grey and her eye is yellow.

Juveniles of both sexes look very similar to the females but have brown eyes and a light coloured beak.

King Parrot Juvenile by Maryse Jansen
Australian King Parrot Juvenile

Photographing the King of the Parrots

A high-pitched whistle attracts my attention as I am walking through another beautiful Eucalyptus forest. It is distinctly different from the chatter of the numerous Lorikeets that are feeding high in the tree tops. It doesn’t take long to find the bright red bird!

It’s not making it easy, however, to get the photo I would like. It keeps changing position, disappearing behind a thick branch or in the shade. And it flies off a number of times and I have to try and find it again. He keeps calling out though. I assume he is not calling for me, but for his prospective mate, but it does help me to locate him again! I get a few glimpses of the female, but she is even stealthier then he is! I hang in there and finally I get my shot in full sun, as shown in the featured image. Isn’t he glorious? Absolutely the King of the Parrots!

Join me on this last walk and listen to the whistle of the King Parrot, get a glimpse of his wife and of course enjoy the sightings of other amazing birds during this walk as well. Watch the latest episode of ‘Come for a walk in the Australian Bush’ below:

If you are interested in purchasing the featured image ‘Australian King Parrot’ or would like to see what the image looks like on the various products, please head to my shop.

For more stories about the beautiful parrots of Australia, click here.

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