The Red-capped Parrot

Purpureicephalus spurious

Other Names: King Parrot, Western King Parrot, Pileated Parakeet.
Distribution and Habitat

The Red-capped Parrot inhabits the south-western corner of Australia, in close association with the marri tree Eucalyptus calophylla, which provides both nesting hollows and food. The bird’s peculiarly shaped slender, hooked bill is adapted to extracting seeds from the large hard seed capsules of the marri tree. The Red-capped Parrot also inhabits trees surrounding cultivated farmlands, parklands, orchards and alongside roads and watercourses, even into the suburbs of Perth. Unfortunately its frequenting of orchards has led to conflict with local fruit-growers.

Length: 360mm

Male: The brightly coloured male has a red forehead, crown and nape, bright yellow cheeks and throat, a purplish-blue chest and light-green back. The rump and upper tail covets are also bright yellow, with red on the flanks, vent and under-tail. The long tail is bight green edged with blue and tipped white. The long slender bill is a bluish-horn colour and the legs and eyes are brown.

Female: A duller bird, the female has more green on the flanks and under-tail. In addition her red-cap may be tinged with green and her chest colour less vivid.

Immatures: Young birds have dull green heads and upper parts, a rust coloured frontal band and are generally duller in colour. The under parts are a dull red-brown, washed with violet blue lower down. Adult plumage is attained in males by the first complete moult when the birds are 12 to 15 months old. Young females may not acquire full plumage, especially the re-cap, until the second moult. Immatures also have an under-wing stripe, which persists in females but disappears in males after the first moult.
Avicultural Notes

Status: The Red-capped Parrot has not enjoyed great popularity in aviculture and has the reputation of being a flighty and timid bird. This reputation may have been earned from stock in the past being obtained mainly from legally taken wild birds. More recently, several aviculturists seem to be enjoying more success breeding this species and with more captive-bred birds, hopefully their reputation will improve.

Housing: A large aviary, 2-5m in length is recommended for this species. As they tend to be aggressive, they should not be housed next to other aggressive species such as rosellas or ringneck parrots. Red-capped Parrots enjoy bathing, so facilities for this activity should be provided.

Diet: In addition to a basic seed diet, the parrots should be provided with a selection of fruit, greens and vegetables, eucalypt and cotoneaster branches. The Red-capped Parrot used its feet to hold food.

Sexing: in addition to the above, females have a thin band of green feathers between the red cap and the eyelids. The red feathers of the vent are not as bright and have a broken outline, barred with pale green. This later is most obvious between 6 and 12 months of age and may be used to identify young females.

Breeding: Generally begins around October and birds have been known to breed in their first year. The courtship behaviour of the male is quite unique. He alights near the female, erects his red crown feathers, droops his wings to display his yellow rump and slowly raises his fanned-out tail feathers. During the display a harsh rattling “kurr-ak” is uttered.

Nesting: Logs or boxes may be used. Four to five eggs are laid and incubated by the hen for 20 days. The male feeds the hen during incubation and for a further 2 weeks. After this he feeds the chicks directly in the nest until they fledge at 5 weeks. Hand-raised Red-capped Parrots are reported to be very responsive and exhibit a high degree of intelligence.
Final Note

While not a beginner’s bird, the Red-capped Parrot would make an attractive addition to the more experienced aviculturist’s collection. To safeguard it’s avicultural future, It is important that this species becomes more established and available in aviaries.


1. Lendon, A. Australian Parrots in Field and Aviary. Angus & Robertson Publishers, North Ryde, 1989.

2. Shephard, M. Aviculture in Australia. Black Cockatoo Press, Prahran, 1989.