Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bourke & Splendid Relationships

The following question came from a gentleman in Delaware:

"I was wondering if you could post some thoughts on your BLOG about Bourkes and Splendids getting along together. One friend of mine warned me that Bourkes could be mean to Splendids ... but other people have told me they get along fine, even caged together. I have no problem keeping mine is separate cages but I was hoping they would be friends when out of their cages. I also heard that, though related, Bourkes and Splendids will not try to interbreed – hopefully that’s true because I wouldn’t want to cross them."

Male parakeets of any variety can be aggressive with one another if confined together. They may want to chase competitors away from their breeding area, even if there's no hen present, and certainly if there is. Housing hens together, however, shouldn't be a problem, nor should housing a male with a hen or hens. Bourkes and Splendids are very compatible and I often keep them together. During breeding season, however, my birds are separated as pairs in a cage of their own.

The only drawback for housing Splendids and Bourkes together is that Splendids love to destroy their drinking water. Bourkes are a lot less likely to do this, but if they share a cage with Splendids, they may be forced to drink yucky water. All my Bourkes get fresh water every morning. However, cages with Splendids in them get their water changed even more often. As a Splendid owner, you'll see why.

Years ago I had a budgerigar hen destroy the nest of another hen, killing her babies. They were in an outside aviary with extra nest boxes, but she wanted that specific one. That budgie hen didn't remain with the flock once I discovered who'd done the dastardly deed. I can't imagine a Bourke doing anything like that. I've even had normal Bourke hens share a box together with no problem. In that instance their eggs weren't fertile, so there weren't babies to share. Don't know how that might have turned out, but I suspect the two would both have fed them.  

Bourkes are very gentle birds and easy keepers. At times I’ve had more hens than males and could house hens together without a problem. The same thing when I’ve had extra males and not enough hens for them. As long as a hen wasn’t present to argue over, the males got along fine in the same cage.

Splendids have interbred with other neophema grass parakeets. Everything I’ve read about Bourkes says that they won’t interbreed with any other species. Yet, at one time I had a widowed Splendid male that I put in a cage of extra Bourke hens so that he wouldn’t be alone. One normal Bourke hen, Willow, was very eager to breed and invited him to mount her.

Now, this particular male Splendid, Merlin, had been an abusive husband to his sweet little mate. He had a habit of pulling out her feathers when breeding, leaving her back bare. (No others have done this to their mates, not his sons or his grandsons).

Merlin decided to accommodate Willow, put a foot up on her back, and plucked out a feather. She screeched and moved away, turning back to look at him. An accident? She decided it must be, and invited him back. He moved to her, put one foot on her back, leaned forward and yanked out a feather. She screeched again, turned and leaped at him, chasing him all over the cage as he cried in fear. (Bourkes are slightly larger than Splendids). Willow went into a nest box and laid infertile eggs, but every time she came out to eat, Merlin dashed into a corner and cried. She ignored him ever after.

Eventually Willow got a young male Bourke as a mate and has raised countless, healthy baby Bourkes. This last summer she decided to “retire” and isn’t laying any longer, although she still enjoys allowing her mate to feed her.

This is a very young pair of Bourkes ... a rosy and a pink Bourke. They are from the same clutch.

There's more on breeding Bourkes in my Blog from October, 2009.

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