I wonder why miniature things are so endearing. Describing something as ‘the smallest’ immediately attracts attention, so here is the smallest parrot in Australia – with one of the longest and strangest names – the Double-eyed Fig-Parrot. Strictly speaking the Cape York race of this species (marshalli) is the smallest with a length of 13cm/5in – shorter than a house sparrow. More accessible and nearly as small (14cm) is the race found in northeastern Queensland (macleayana), quite common around Cairns and on the Atherton Tableland, where the first photo was taken.
The races and genders are distinguishable by different facial patterns. This is a male macleayana and has a red forehead and cheek separated by a sky-blue patch and an indigo fringe to the red cheek patch. The second photo is also a male macleayana but nearly hidden in the foliage; this is typical and these birds can be hard to see as they creep around mouse-like through fruiting trees in rainforest.
The female and juvenile macleayana are similar to the male but lacks the red cheek patch, as in the two birds in the third photo.
The fourth photo shows a female of the Cape York race, marshalli, with no red at all. I lack a photo of the male marshalli but it is rather similar to the male macleayana except that the red forehead and cheek patches are contiguous.
The third and remaining Australian race, coxeni, is the largest (16cm) and rarest – classified as endangered – and occurs in a few river valleys between Maryborough in southeast Queensland and the Macleay River in northern New South Wales. Both sexes apparently have mainly blue foreheads and small reddish cheek patches.
These three races were originally treated as separate species and known as Macleay’s or Red-browed, Coxen’s or Blue-browed and Marshall’s Fig-Parrots. Later they and five races in Papua New Guinea were lumped into a single species and acquired the common name of the nominate Double-eyed Fig-Parrot of PNG (Cyclopsitta diophthalma diophthalma). This has a dark spot near each eye, giving it its double-eyed appearance, but the name is not descriptive of the races that lack the dark spot, i.e. the three Australian races. Oh well, they got the fig bit right.
Those cute little Fig Parrots are in the Parrots – Psittacidae Family of the Psittaciformes Order which not only includes Parrot family, but also the New Zealand Parrots and Cockatoos.
He will bless those who fear the LORD, Both small and great. (Psalms 115:13 NKJV)