The Dracula parrot, or Psittrichas fulgidus, is a rare bird known for its gothic appearance.
They have red and black plumage, with a curved beak similar to a vulture. Due to their striking looks, many people ask whether you can keep Dracula parrots as pets.
Unfortunately, you can’t keep a Dracula parrot as a pet in the U.S. because they’re a threatened species, which means it’s illegal to import, breed, sell or own one.
Dracula parrots eat a specialized diet of figs, so it would be hard to provide them with the correct nourishment. Also, because they aren’t domesticated, Dracula parrots aren’t friendly birds.
A pet Dracula parrot would be temperamental or aggressive toward its owner.
What Is a Dracula Parrot?
If you’ve never heard of one, you may have wondered: is the Dracula parrot real?
It is, but despite its name, it doesn’t drink blood. Also known as Pesquet’s parrot, the Dracula parrot earned its nickname because of its looks.
Dracula parrots are black with black beaks and eyes. They have bright red feathers on their wings, ventral (belly) area, and upper tail. Males also have a red spot behind the eye. Their plumage resembles Dracula’s famous black and red cape when viewed straight on.
These birds also have few feathers on their small heads and sport scaly black facial skin. They have long, sharp, curved beaks, which make them look vulture-like and quite intimidating.
For this reason, an alternative nickname for the Dracula parrot is the vulturine parrot. However, they shouldn’t be confused with Pyrilia vulturina, a bird with the same nickname. These Brazilian parrots have similarly hooked beaks but are bright green.
It’s thought that Dracula parrots lost their facial feathers due to their special diet of figs. Having no feathers around their beak would prevent them from matting with sticky fig juice.
Where Do Dracula Parrots Live?
Dracula parrots come from New Guinea, an Indonesian island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. New Guinea is the second largest non-continental island in the world, after Greenland. They’re endemic to New Guinea, meaning they can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
You won’t find Dracula parrots all over the island, as they can only be found in dense rainforest areas, on the sides and foothills of mountains. This rainforest is called a cloud forest because it has a near-constant coverage of low-lying clouds.
If you were to explore a New Guinean rainforest, you’d be unlikely to come across a Dracula parrot. This is because there aren’t many of them left in the wild. New Guinea is over 300,000 square miles, yet there are less than 50,000 Dracula parrots.
Dracula parrots haven’t been introduced to any other country as an immigrant species. Although they can fly, they haven’t migrated to any surrounding Melanesian islands.
If you want to see a Dracula parrot in person, visiting a zoo would be the easiest option. According to the Avicultural Society, the Bronx Zoo and Los Angeles Zoo have successfully bred Dracula parrots.
Are Dracula Parrots Endangered?
Dracula parrots aren’t yet considered an endangered species, but their numbers are threatened.
On the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Dracula parrots have had a vulnerable status since 1994. In other words, they face a high risk of becoming endangered.
There are three main reasons why Dracula parrots are vulnerable:
- Hunting. In their native New Guinea, poachers hunt Dracula parrots to sell their feathers for a high price. Dracula parrot feathers are highly prized and used for ceremonial headdresses.
- Habitat loss. Dracula parrots are only found in hill and montane rainforests, and their homes are under threat due to deforestation.
- Selling to the pet trade. Though Dracula parrots are wild animals, they are highly sought after as pets. Dracula parrot chicks are taken from the wild to sell to bird enthusiasts worldwide.
Researchers estimate that there are somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 adult Dracula parrots left living in the wild. Unfortunately, these numbers are decreasing, so Dracula parrots may become extinct unless conservation efforts are implemented.
Can You Have a Dracula Parrot As a Pet?
Because they’re such beautiful and exotic birds, many people wonder: can Dracula parrots be pets?
There’s no doubt that a Dracula parrot would make for an interesting and exotic companion animal. If you’re into the gothic look, you might feel that a Dracula parrot would suit you perfectly.
In theory, you could keep any parrot as a pet, especially if it’s captive-bred. Unfortunately, Dracula parrots are an exception. You won’t find them for sale as pets anywhere because it’s against the law to own them.
It would also be challenging to care for them in captivity because they’re wild animals.
Is It Legal to Own a Dracula Parrot?
Possessing (owning) any endangered or threatened species is illegal. It’s also illegal to import, export, breed, or sell them. This is a federal law that applies to the whole U.S.
Because the Dracula parrot is classified as vulnerable, this law applies to them. You can’t legally keep a Dracula parrot as a pet in 50 states.
You could apply for a special government permit that would allow you to import or keep a Dracula parrot. However, permits are usually only granted for the following:
- Scientific research
- Zoological exhibition
- Enhancement of survival (conservation work)
You wouldn’t be granted a permit if you just wanted to keep a threatened animal as a pet.
Though Dracula parrots haven’t yet reached the ‘endangered’ category, they’re still extremely vulnerable. So, this law is in place to protect their wild numbers.
Where Can I Buy a Dracula Parrot?
Because it’s illegal to breed, import, or sell Dracula parrots, you won’t find one for sale anywhere.
Pet stores don’t stock them, and private parrot breeders aren’t allowed to breed them. The Endangered Species Act (1973) prohibits the sale of any threatened species as a pet.
If you were to see someone selling a Dracula parrot, buying it wouldn’t be a good idea because the bird would be up for sale illegally. You don’t know whether it’s been bred in captivity or stolen from the wild and imported into the U.S. Either way, it’s against the law.
You could face prosecution if you’re discovered keeping a Dracula parrot as a pet in the U.S. The minimum penalty is $3,500 for the first offense, which increases to $13,000 for the third violation.
The only places you’ll see Dracula parrots for sale are overseas. In some countries, such as the U.K., owning a Dracula parrot is perfectly legal. However, if you buy a Dracula parrot from abroad and import it into the U.S., you’re breaking the law.
How Much Do Dracula Parrots Cost?
It’s almost impossible to say how much a Dracula parrot would cost because they aren’t often put up for sale due to the laws against selling them.
If you were to find a Dracula parrot for sale, it would be very expensive.
Even in countries where it’s legal to sell Dracula parrots, they’re not cheap. Because their numbers are so low in the wild, it isn’t easy to get hold of them.
Few breeders work with Dracula parrots, which are notoriously difficult to feed and care for. The minimum you’d pay for a pet Dracula parrot would be $2,500, but it would likely be much more.
Are Dracula Parrots Good Pets?
Although it’s illegal, you may still wonder what it would be like to keep Dracula parrots as pets. After all, Dracula parrots might not always be on the threatened list.
If their wild numbers increase, there’s a chance that it might be legal to own one. To decide if a Dracula parrot would make a good pet, you’d have to consider its:
- Diet, and how easy it would be to feed it and keep it healthy.
- Temperament and personality – would the bird be friendly or aggressive?
- Size and energy levels, and how much space you’d have to provide for it.
- Longevity (lifespan), and whether you could care for it for its entire life.
Are Dracula Parrots Friendly?
Dracula parrots are wild animals that have never been socialized or trained to live near humans and would make unpredictable pets. Nobody knows whether they would be friendly or aggressive in captivity.
A wild-caught Dracula parrot wouldn’t cope well with being cooped up. It would probably be wary of humans and difficult to tame. Frightened birds tend to act aggressively and may even bite their owners.
What Does A Dracula Parrot Eat?
Most parrot species thrive on a varied herbivorous diet consisting of:
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Leafy greens
- Beans, legumes, and sprouts
- Parrot pellets, which may contain a mixture of the above foods, plus vitamin supplements and grains such as barley
This diet suits the majority of pet parrots because it closely mimics their natural diets. For example, African grey parrots eat various seeds, berries, and vegetation in the wild.
Dracula parrots have highly specialized diets. According to The Auk, Dracula parrots are obligate frugivores, meaning they only eat fruit.
Specifically, Dracula parrots feed almost entirely on a few species of figs native to New Guinea.
As you can imagine, it would be difficult to replicate this particular diet for a pet Dracula parrot. You couldn’t just feed it regular parrot pellets that you might find at a pet store. If you fed a Dracula parrot the wrong kind of food, it could become sick due to malnutrition.
Avian Diseases describes two captive Dracula parrots who died from a bacterial disease at six weeks old. The researchers posited that both birds had been predisposed to infection due to nutritional deficiencies.
How Big Are Dracula Parrots?
Dracula parrots are medium to large parrots, so they’d require a sizeable enclosure. A cage suitable for a lorikeet or budgerigar wouldn’t be big enough to house a Dracula parrot.
The average adult Dracula parrot has a total length of 18 inches from head to tail, which is about the same size as a large cockatoo or conure. Dracula parrots aren’t as big as macaws, which reach up to 39 inches in length.
You’d need a cage measuring at least 36″ x 48″ x 48″ to house a single Dracula parrot. They’re social birds that live in groups of up to 20 in the wild. You’d need at least a pair of Dracula parrots in captivity and an even bigger cage.
Because they’re wild animals, they aren’t used to being kept in captivity, so they’d need to stretch their wings for several hours outside the cage each day. Being intelligent birds, you’d also need to provide a lot of mental stimulation and play opportunities.
How Long Do Dracula Parrots Live?
Researchers estimate that Dracula parrots have an average lifespan of between 20 and 40 years in the wild, which is on par with macaws, which live between 30 and 35 years in the wild.
Most parrots live longer in captivity than in the wild because wild birds’ lives are cut short by predators, disease, injury, or malnourishment.
A pet parrot doesn’t have to face these environmental hazards because they have access to constant shelter, veterinary care, high-quality food, and clean water 24/7. Because of this, pet macaws can live for up to 70 years, for instance.
Likely, Dracula parrots would live longer in captivity if given exemplary care. The problem is that it would be impossible to give a pet Dracula parrot everything it needs.
This is largely due to their specialized diet, which would be almost impossible to provide. Because they’re such rare creatures, you’d also struggle to find a veterinarian that knows how to treat them.
Birds Similar to Dracula Parrots
Even if it wasn’t illegal to own a Dracula parrot, it’s clear that they wouldn’t make the best pets. However, there are alternatives to keeping a pet Dracula parrot.
There are dozens of parrot species that aren’t endangered and legal to own. Some popular pet parrots include macaws, parakeets, cockatoos, and lovebirds.
Though many are brightly colored, some species look similar to Dracula parrots, with black plumage. Here are some examples of gothic-looking parrots that you can legally keep as pets:
- Black Lory. These parrots are black all over, except for some red and gold under-tail feathers. They are around 13 inches in length and extremely friendly and playful.
- Red-tailed black cockatoo. This is an all-black cockatoo species with bright scarlet feathers under the tail. These birds are renowned for being calm and quiet pets.
- Vasa parrot. These long-necked parrots can be black, dark gray, or brown. They are around the same size as African greys and are naturally curious and intelligent.
Never adopt a new pet parrot based on its looks alone. Always ensure that its size, personality, care, and space requirements suit you and your home.