There is no difficulty in telling which are males and which are females in this species of parrot. The male Blue-rumped or Little Malay Parrot, Psittinus cyanurus, has a blue head; the female has a brown head. It is a small parrot, only around 18 cm in length, from south-east Asia. It ranges from the extreme south of Burma and peninsular Thailand through Malaysia to Borneo and Sumatra where it is a bird of lowland forest.
We saw the pair shown here in a bird shop in Li Yuen Street in Hong Kong in 1966. They were the only ones we ever saw. They were housed in a cage on their own and cowered at the sight and sound of large and squawking birds like the Moluccan Cockatoos living next to them. They seemed, unlike many parrots, to be gentle creatures. Half an hour later they were living in our flat.
|Female Blue-rumped Parrot photographed in 1967
|Male Blue-rumped Parrot, 1967
The male ‘Blue-head’ remained timorous. Although he ate well he seemed, for a parrot, rather dim and a little ponderous. Just before we were due to leave Hong Kong we found him dead one morning. We already had a specially constructed metal carrying box constructed to fly them and the two cockatoos to UK, and so it was ‘Brown-head’ who made the journey. She seemed to have a far more robust constitution and lived in the house for nearly three years. Then when Pru Hopkins who owned and started Linton Zoo called in one Saturday afternoon she was greatly taken by ‘Brown-head’ and so we gave the parrot to her in the hope that its appearance in the zoo might stimulate somebody to say, ‘I know where there is a male’. Disaster then struck Pru. Her son was killed and she immediately sold the zoo and house. She did not though include ‘Brown-head’; she took the parrot with her when she moved out. I was only in contact with Pru a couple of times after that since I did not wish to have to remind her of the events at Linton. Pru died in 2004 and I do not know, therefore, how ‘Brown-head’ had fared.
I have only ever seen one other pair of Blue-rumped Parrots—in San Diego Zoo in 1992. A Dutch breeder wrote in 200 that there were only a few people in Europe and two in the USA who kept and bred this species.
Over 55 years after seeing the little parrots in the shop in Hong Kong, the world has moved on. The species is now classified by IUCN as ‘Near Vulnerable’ but now, as then, relatively few have found their way into the pet trade or the serious avicultural circles in the west, although the bird markets of Indonesia remain the most likely places they are still traded. They are, I read, more common in the remnants of forest in Singapore than once though, so I suppose we can but hope to see this splendid small parrot in the wild if we are again in the right part of the world.