Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Splendid Scarlet-chested Parakeets

The lovely bird above left is a female Splendid parakeet from Australia. Her colors are more muted than her mate's. However, her many shades include light blue, bright yellow, many hues of green with iridescent turquoise on her shoulders. Although more subdued in color than a male's vividness, she's still bright and pretty.

The handsome fellows above and to the right are both male Splendids, also called Scarlet-chested parakeets for obvious reasons. Because of their vibrant colors it is no wonder they're named Splendids. Only the males develop the scarlet chest when mature. Young birds look like the hens. Photos can't capture the iridescent nature of their sheen, especially on their cobalt blue faces. The male on the right is holding a white feather. Their backs, not shown in the photo, are dark emerald green.
Splendids are spectacular to watch. They are active birds, true clowns who love toys and swings.

Unfortunately, they also love to make soup out of water cups. Like the Bourkes, they love corn or almost any vegetable. They eat them, but much of it will end up in their water. Even if you only feed seed, you'll find hulls floating in their water every day. For this reason it is imperative that their water be changed daily, at a minimum. They love clean water and you will be rewarded with their funny antics as they bathe. Since much of the water in a cup is dispersed after a bath, it's wise to also have a water bottle always present too. However, Splendids also drop things in the narrow opening of water bottles too. Of course, you can introduce a shallow bowl of water for them to bathe in as well.

Although Splendids are higher maintenance than a Bourke parakeet, they are personality plus, not to mention their vibrant colors. As far as song goes, Splendids can't match the Bourkes for song. Bourkes have a lovely floating song, and males include a soft wolf whistle in it. Splendids make cheeps and chirps at varying levels. However, as you get to know your bird, you will recognize a certain sound that he uses to call you. They crave attention.
I like to keep the bottom of my cages covered in newspaper that I can throw out when it's soiled. It makes cage cleaning easier. Splendids chew newspaper... Smile. Some Bourkes chew too, but only a few, whereas I bet every male Splendid will mince newspaper.

Next time: Hints on breeding.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not all Parakeets are Budgies! Bourkes Are Too.

When most Americans hear the work parakeet they think of a budgerigar parakeet. In fact, there are 36 different species of parakeet from Australia and others from South America and Asia. Although smaller than the larger parrots or cockatoos, some parakeets are bigger than budgerigars.

The two varieties I currently raise are approximately the size of an American budgerigar, or budgie, for short. I currently raise Bourke parakeets, both Normals and Rosies. I also raise Scarlet-chested parakeets, also known as Splendids for their vivid colors.

My birds aren't in a large aviary, although I wish they could be. It's too cold at night here for the birds to remain outside. Australia is a very warm climate, remember. On the south coast of Oregon, even in the summer, we're subject to wind and sometimes cool temps. Indoor separate cages also control who breeds with whom ... you don't want brothers and sisters getting together if avoidable. My birds are paired together in individual cages. Most of the cages are 30 inches long, 18 inches wide and 18 inches high. Occasionally, pairs will bicker, and giving them a different choice of mate helps.

I have read that Bourkes won't interbreed with other varieties, but that Splendids have been known to cross-breed. At one time I had an abundance of female Bourkes, all eager to breed. Since I had an extra male Splendid, I put him in with three female Bourkes - for company if nothing else.

This male Splendid, Merlin, was a widower. His sweet former mate had lived with an abusive husband. Merlin plucked her feathers from her back. Sad, I know. She tolerated it and still raised young before she died from a stroke. No other Splendid of mine has ever abused a hen ... not even Merlin's sons. (I bought that pair from someone else, so I don't know their history).

Willow, a lonely Normal Bourke hen in the cage with Merlin began to ask him to breed -- tail in the air, chirping her come hither song. I thought, "wow, maybe I'll be the first to prove Bourkes will interbreed." Alas, it was not to be. Yet, Merlin finally did take interest and approach her. Putting a tentative foot on her back, he reached down and plucked a feather from her back. She cheeped and moved away. She must have thought it was an accident because she began her seduction routine again. Still willing, Merline approached Willow, put his foot on her back and plucked out another feather. That did it. She turned on him and attacked, screeching as loud as she could! Merlin dove for cover. From then on he hid in a corner and cried anytime she came anywhere near. Served him right! As for her, she totally ignored him after that.

Merlin went to live with someone else and lived to an old age as a bachelor. Willow was paired up with young normal male and has produced many healthy clutches of baby birds. This is the first year that she's decided she's now too old and isn't laying any longer.

Normal Bourkes are the color they are in the wild. Brown on the back, their rumps blue and their chests rosy. Adult males get a faint band of blue above the cere (nostrils) and their chests tend to be a slightly darker pink, especially near the vent (under their tails). In the wild, they're distributed throughout the center of Australia and in Tasmania.

Rosy Bourkes, or Rosa Bourkes as known in Europe, can be varying degrees of pink or rose. Some have dark faces, some have pink or even white faces. Most have dark eyes, but pink eyes are also possible. Most have dark brown or black flight feathers and tail feathers, but this too can vary. How much color is on their back and chests also varies among individuals. More recently people have even been raising yellow Bourkes. However, since budgies are readily available in yellow, but never pink ... I prefer the Rosies by far.

Bourkes tend to be very active at daybreak and at dusk. So, if you work during the day, you'll enjoy interacting with them before and after your work day. They welcome the sunrise and love to sing at dusk. During the day they usually sit quietly. Probably too hot during the day in Australia, so early morning and dusk were the best times to be active.

Their songs are lovely and not overly loud. They are one of the most quiet varieties of birds, and hence the reason I chose them. For instance, Lovebirds are adorable, but loud! Cockatiels and Budgies are both louder than a Bourke parakeet. Also, you don't have to teach a Bourke to wolf whistle. The males do it naturally ... it's soft and pretty, not obnoxious.

These birds make sweet, loving pets and young birds tame easily. As breeders they become accustomed to their owners and don't mind letting you see their offspring. If I need to enter their room after dark, I chant, "It's only me, no reason to flee ..." It's silly, but it works. Actually, anything to let them know who's there, works. They know us and aren't afraid of our nightly wanderings. Let a stranger enter, however, and all havic would break loose in the middle of the night. So, warn your overnight guests not to frighten your birds.

Next time: Splendids.