The king parrots examined

The king parrots examined

Under the genre Alisterus we find all the King parrots. The australian king parrot is well known by breeders: They are regularly seen in the European aviaries and in the wild they are also common. The other two species of King parrots are more rare and there is less information about them. Through this article I would like to inform the reader what pleasure these King parrots can offer and how to breed them.


The genre Alisterus exist of  two sorts each with different species :

  • A.   Alisterus chloropterus or the green-winged king parrot. This bird has three sub species. They are:
  • Alisterus chloropterus chloropterus or the green-winged king parrot;
  • Alisterus chloropterus callopterus  or the Fly-River green-winged king   parrot;
  • Alisterus chloropterus moszkowskii or the Moszkowski green-winged king parrot.
  • B. Alisterus amboinensis or the Amboina king parrot. This  parrot has 6 species. They are:
  • Alisterus amboinensis amboinensis or the Amboina king parrot;
  • Alisterus amboinensis sulaensis or the Sula king parrot;
  • Alisterus amboinensis versicolor or the Peleng king parrot;
  • Alisterus amboinensis buruensis or the Buru king parrot;
  • Alisterus amboinensis hypophonius or the Halmahera king parrot;
  • Alisterus amboinensis dorsalis or the Salawatti king parrot.

A.1. The Green-winged King Parrot

  • Male:
  • red; variable blue band on nape and upper back; back and shoulder feathers greenish-black; pale yellowish-green band on wing-coverts (not yellow as occasionally wrongly described); remainder of wing dark green; lower back, upper tail-coverts and rump blue; under tail-coverts scarlet with dark blue base; tail upperside black strongly tinged with blue; underside greyish-black; upper mandible blackish with orange base; iris orange; feet grey.
  • Female:
  • Female has green head, breast, back, wings and under wing-coverts green; breast feathers edged with brownish-red; paler shoulder feathers absent; tail upper green with black tips; base of bill more brownish than in male.
  • Juveniles
  • Immatures as female; young females have less red on abdomen and lower breast
  • mandible: is brownish black more paler;
  • iris: brown.
  • Length:
  • ± 36 cm.
  • Distribution:
  • In the north eastern New Guinea west to Huon Peninsula and in the south to Hall Sound, Papua
  • Aviary:
  • Rarly spotted in Europian aviaries as a breeding parrot but during recent years there has been an increase in the numbers of the Moszkowski green-winged king parrot with breeders. Like all king parrots they have a not noisy call like “kri-kri”. The female lays  two or three eggs which are incubated for  20 days. The juveniles stay 50 days in the nest and after five weeks they are presumed to be able to feed themselves. During the first year the juveniles can live together with other king parrots in the same aviary. After that year is it best to put each pair in a separate aviary because the males can be very agressive during the breeding season.

A.2. The Fly-River green-winged king parrot

  • Male:
  • Like the green-winged but has a small blue band on the upper back which does NOT reach the back of the head. This king parrot has a black beak.
  • Female:
  • The same as the green-winged female (and like the australian king parrot). The band on the wing is more lighter in colour (more yellowish) than the one from the A.c. moszkowskii.
  • Juveniles:
  • Are for the first two years like the female; after 2 years the sexes can be differentiated because the juveniles have then their full color.
  • Distribution:
  • Central New Guinea from upper Fly River, Central Highlands and Sepik region west to Weyland Mountains, West Irian.

A.3. the Moszkowski Green-winged king parrot

  • Male:
  • Resemble the Fly-River but the blue on the upper back reaches to the neck and covers almost the entire upper back The band on the wing is also more greenish.
  • Female:
  • Like the male; only the blue on the upper back not (or only slightly) present. The  upper back is darkgreen. The  breastsides are green.
  • Juveniles:
  • Like the female but the wing-band is smaller and not so bright , the breast is greenisher.
  • Distribution:
  • Northern New Guinea from Geelvink Bay, West Irian east to Aitape district.

B.1. the Amboina King Parrot

  • Male:
  • Red; bend of wing, lesser wing-coverts, nape, back, rump, upper tail-coverts, under wing-coverts violet-blue; remainder of wing green; under tail-coverts black, each feather with broad red margin; tail upperside black strongly tinged with violet-blue; underside greyish-black with broad pink edging to inner webs of three outer feathers; skin to periophthalmic ring dark grey; upper mandible blackish with orange base; iris orange; feet grey.
  • Female:
  • Like the male. Male and female can not be recognized by colour .
  • Juveniles:
  • Like an adult bird but:
  • Back: green;
  • outside tailfeathers: not brightly pink/red marked;
  • upper mandible brownish-black; lower mandible reddish
  • Eyes: periophthalmic ring the skin round the eyes is grey instead of white
  • Iris: dark brown.
  • They obtain the adult plumage at 12 months
  • length:
  • ± 35 cm.
  • Distribution:
  • Amboina and Ceram Islands, Indonesia
  • With the exception of the Amboina king parrot, who is quite well represented with breeders, all the other members of the family are rare in captivity.

B.2. The Sula King Parrot

The adult birds resemble the Amboina king parrot but with a differing green band on the blue upper back. The Sula has no pink/red spots on the inside of the tail.


Sula Islands, Indonesia.

B.3. The Peleng King Parrot

The adult birds differ from the Sula by their blue upper back without any green colour. The Peleng is smaller than the Amboina.


Peleng Island, Indonesia.

B.4. The Buru King Parrot


Similar to the Sula but the inside of the tail is large pink/red outlined The bill is black. This king parrot is bigger and longer than the Amboina.

length :

± 36 cm.


Buru Island, Indonesia.

B.5. The Halmahera King Parrot

Similar to the Amboina but the wings are deep blue. The little under-wing feathers are brighter blue than the rest of the wing. The Halmahera has no pink/red outlining on the underside of the tail. This king parrot can be seen in Park Walsrode in Germany and at Loro Parque in Tenerife.



Halmahera Island, Indonesia.

B.6. The Salawatti King Parrot

This is the smallest of the king parrots, It’s colour is the same as the Amboina but has no red/pink outlining on the inside of the tail.. The red on the head and body is darker.

The juveniles have a small red/pink outlining on the inside of the tail that disappears with the first moult..


Western Papuan Islands, including Salawati, Waigeu, Gemien, Batanta, and north-west New Guinea east of Weyland Mountains, West Irian, Indonesia.


All king parrots are best kept in an at least 5 metre long x 1,5 metre wide and 2 metre high aviary. As these birds love flying – it’s just great to behold their flight – a long flight in an adjusted aviary is ideal.  A frost-free interior box isn’t a superfluous luxury at all but a must.  This box may even be lightly warmed.

The king parrots seldom bathe but like sitting in the rain.  Ideal would be a partially open flight for the bird’s enjoyment to the utmost.


The king species are ready to breed at the age of three.  The birds have one clutch a year with the exception of the green-wing that dares two rounds.  Some species check the nest box at the end of January, but mostly they only start breeding about April.  The laying consists of two or three eggs brooded by the female for twenty days.

It’s advisable that the birds can choose either a classic vertical nest box about one metre high or either a ‘Princess of Wales’ log/box hung at an angle.

During mating time the cock as well as hen are fairly aggressive towards one another.  Mostly it’s the female who bosses the male.


A mixture of bigger seeds like peeled oats, cardi and buckwheat is recommended.

Twice a week egg food and germinated seed should be supplied. Fruit is indispensable for the kings!  Apples, pears, carrots, peppers, grapes, oranges, rose hip, half ripe corn, cucumbers are very favourable.

It goes without saying that also grit, and crushed oyster shell are thankful ingredients in the process of digestion and for keeping up the calcium percentage in their body.

Every day the drinking water has to be replenished!

You may rest assured that millet sprays can be provided on a weekly basis as well as willow twigs and branches from fruit trees.

These birds spend quite some time on the floor that should therefore be cleaned at least twice a year.


Young kings are best purchased on a sunny day.  For some reason the birds themselves seem to benefit.

Be sure to let the purchaser know how long the birds have been independent and make sure they can definitely eat without any assistance.

Similar to the Neophema’s, (Grass parakeets) the Alisterus species can’t withstand damp foggy and misty days very well.  These two conditions are best avoided because they often cause the death of these young birds.

Kings who get through the without any difficulties, tend to become strong birds.


To end a few tips based on my personal experience.

  • King parrots are best kept in pairs; they can become aggressive.
  • Never house two king species in aviaries next to one another: it prevents them from fighting along the wire.
  • As soon as one partner of the pair dies, be sure to put some other species immediately with the survivor. King parrots grieve quickly and might pine away.
  • Are you interested in having a closer look at these birds? Don’t hesitate to contact Mr Jos Aertgeerts through me.  He also keeps moskowski green-winged king parrots. He’s not only the proud owner of lots of Alisterus-subspecies, but is also a yearly breeder of fifteen green-wing king parrots and a great number of other rare species