Brown-backed Parrotlet (Touit melanonotus)

Brown-backed Parrotlet

[order] PSITTACIFORMES | [family] Psittacidae | [latin] Touit melanonotus | [authority] Wied, 1820 | [UK] Brown-backed Parrotlet | [FR] Toui a dos noir | [DE] Braunruckenpapagei | [ES] Cotorrita Dorsinegra | [NL] Bruinrugpapegaai | [copyright picture] Birdlife


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Touit melanonotus SA se Brazil


Genus Touit or parrotlets are small, stocky birds with short, square tails. The tail feathers are broad and have slightly pointed tips. The bill is proportionately large, though rather narrow. This genus is distinguished chiefly by the long upper and under tail-coverts, which reach to the tip of the tail. Parrotlets of the genus Touit are found in Central and South America and seem generally to occur at very low densities, and their inconspicuous habits make it even harder to find.

Physical charateristics

Well patterned parrot. Green on head, nape and underparts, bluish-grey flanks. Large, dark brown patch on back. Green rump. Red tail, tipped black with green central rectrices. Wings have extensive dusky brown on primary coverts, tips of primaries and secondaries. Similar spp. Golden-tailed Parrotlet T. surda has extensive yellow on tail and green back.

Listen to the sound of Brown-backed Parrotlet

[audio: Parrotlet.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Jeremy Minns

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size min.: 15 cm size max.: 16 cm
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South America : Southeast Brazil. It is confined to south-east Brazil (Bahia, Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo). It is sporadically, but widely, reported in Rio de Janeiro, while in Sao Paulo, there are records from six sites south to Ilha do Cardoso. Recent records from three sites in Bahia6, are the first since the 19th century. It has generally been considered rare throughout its range, but inconspicuous habits result in their often being overlooked. Recent records have stemmed from knowledge of the species’s calls, after previously fruitless fieldwork in the areas involved.


Records are principally from lower montane evergreen forest at 500-1,200 m, but up to 1,400 m in Itatiaia National Park, and near sea-level in Bahia and Sao Paulo. Social; seen in small groups of 3-20 individuals. Some seasonal and local movements are seen, mainly from lowland to higher areas over short distances. Stays in the upper canopy where it is difficult to spot as it quietly goes about its daily activites.


Breeding presumably occurs in September-October, but this remains unconfirmed.

Feeding habits

On this area they feed, from January until at least March, exclusively on the fruit of Clusia criuva. The fruit of this tree is small and spherical, about 1 cm in diameter. It occurs in small clusters at the ends of often flimsy branches. The fruit is smooth but tacky to the touch. The parrotlets are unable to hold the fruit in their bill because of its size; parrotlets pluck the fruit from the tree and then carry it to a firmer part of a branch by the stalk. Here they place the fruit on its side and exert downward pressure with the bill, making use of the slightly sticky nature of the fruit to secure it in place. They then open the fruit with their bill and use their tongue to extract the seeds. This is frequently a messy job, as the seeds are covered with a sticky red pulp that often gets stuck to the birds bill, head and even body. Some birds have been observed feeding with the fruit in situ, and not plucking the fruit. These individuals all appear to be juveniles. Unlike other psittacids they never use their feet in the feeding process, but, more typically, they use their bill to support themselves when moving through the branches.

Video Brown-backed Parrotlet


copyright: Ciro Albano


The fragmentation of this species’s range by extensive deforestation has been and remains a significant threat. The overall population is likely to be very small and declining, with tiny subpopulations. For these reasons the species is classified as Endangered.
Widespread habitat loss and fragmentation. Agricultural conversion and deforestation for mining and plantations have historically threatened its habitats. Current key threats are urbanisation, agricultural expansion, colonisation and associated road-building. Not known as a cage bird.
Brown-backed Parrotlet status Endangered


It may undertake seasonal migration or dispersal, in some areas possibly only over quite short altitudinal distances.

Distribution map

Brown-backed Parrotlet distribution range map

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