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.


Anonymous said...

Hello :)

I live in South Australia and I currently have a Rosa Bourke called Icarus. However, I am not 100% sure whether Icky is in fact a boy or a girl? When I bought him I was initially told it was a girl, and then on closer examination the seller told me it was a boy.
I'm just wondering if there is a reasonably clear way to sex them? I've heard all different ideas regarding sexing them (colour of faces, the way they respond to your low whistling, etc.) - but the main thing people say is that they are hard to sex.
So i was just wondering if you could offer me any further advice or information regarding this issue.


The Splendid Bourke Bird Blog said...

Hi Kirstie, Your search brought you to my first post. If you go to some newer posts and click the label on "sexing" you will get a lot more information. I'll add a note on my blog with a link to "sexing" to make it easier. Search for:
"The Splendid Bourke Bird Blog" and it should help you find the most recent post. Or, go to the archive on the lower left and click June 2010. I'm eager to answer...just need more space than this comment section.