The double-eyed fig parrot is Australia’s tiniest parrot
Becky Crew is a Sydney-based science communicator with a love for weird and wonderful animals. From strange behaviours and special adaptations to newly discovered species and the researchers who find them, her topics celebrate how alien yet relatable so many of the creatures that live amongst us can be.
SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE forests of New Guinea and its tiny islands, the double-eyed fig parrot has also made its way to the east coast of Australia. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot one up in Far North Queensland, including the Daintree Rainforest, or in northern New South Wales, around the Richmond River area.
There are eight known subspecies of double-eyed fig parrot; some restricted to New Guinea, such as the Astrolabe Mountain fig parrot (C. d. coccineifrons) and Hartert’s double-eyed fig parrot (C. d. virago), others are found exclusively in Australia.
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Australia’s subspecies include Marshall’s fig parrot (C. d. marshalli) and the red-browed parrot (C. d. macleayana), which keep to the rainforests of the Cape York Peninsula, and Coxen’s fig parrot (C. d. coxeni), an elusive presence in the southeast corner of Queensland and the northeast tip of NSW.
While double-eyed fig parrot species as a whole is classified as of least concern by conservation groups, Coxen’s fig parrot is now endangered, with between 50 and 249 mature adults left in the wild. In NSW it’s considered critically endangered.
With a short tail and a small “dumpy” body, the double-eyed fig parrot is built kind of like a lovebird. It looks more like something you’d see in an aviary than out in the wild fending for itself, but its compact size and rich, emerald green colouring helps obscure it from predators as it seeks out figs, berries, seeds, nectar, and grubs to feed on.
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Its bright patches of colour on its cheeks and around its eyes are a great example of sexual dimorphism – the males and females of a species have one or more physical features that distinguish them from each other.
The male double-eyed fig parrot has a turquoise ring around its eye, with red and blue bands on its cheek:
The female has more subdued colouring on her face. She still has the turquoise eye ring, but instead of the red on the cheeks, she has silver plumage:
You can see a male double-eyed fig parrot feeding in the Catana Wetlands in Cairns here:
And here’s another one in Karunda, Queensland:
For one of Australia’s little-known parrots, it’s surely one of the most adorable.