Friday, January 27, 2012

Grasskeet Questions and Answers

All Grasskeets typically get along well with one another.
© Gail Lewis

David in the UK asks:

“I have a pair of Rosie Bourkes and one of them has just started to crouch down and spread its wings a little. It still moves around when doing it. WHY?”

Answer: Probably to entice the other bird ... Hens will crouch down, spread their wings slightly and raise their tail when ready to mate. They usually stand still, however. Males stand up straight and flair the shoulders of their wings ... this is done to challenge other males and to show off in front of hens.

Both will sometimes flair their wings out low to the ground, although hens seem to do it more than males do. Even young birds not ready to mate will show these male or female behaviors. If you have a male and female over a year old, "she" might be looking for a place to lay eggs and it could be time to add a nest box. Birds will rarely lay without a nest box, but it has happened. One of mine laid in egg in her seed cup ... I quickly added a nest box and put the egg in it. She went on to lay and raise a clutch. It was February and not when I'd have wanted her to raise young, but it was about 9 months since her last batch and she decided she was ready in spite of everything.

The behavior you describe is not unusual. Best of luck. Aren't Bourkes wonderful? They're my favorite birds.


Karen asked: 
Male & female Splendid pair.
© Gail Lewis

“Just had a quick question about Splendids. Mine has a tendancy to make loud screeching noises in the morning and not sure why. He gets very excited then and just starts making very loud short screeches. He was raised in the same place as Sun Conures and was wondering if he has picked that sound up or is it a normal for them. He does have a very pretty little song during the day off and on, but the other noise is entirely different. I don't know whether to cover the cage at night or not. The bourkes are in there with him and they don't seem to mind, but it is very loud and I hope he is happy in there. Maybe he needs more space. Not sure. Any input would be greatly appreciated.”

Answer:  I've not had as many Splendids as Bourkes, but mine didn't/don't screech. I've not seen anything that says they mimic the way budgies do, but maybe the Sun Conures had some effect...? Not sure about that.

Could he be trying to get your attention? You're busy in the kitchen, but not paying him any attention? Another thought might be that he hopes if he's loud enough it might reach the ears of a female Splendid. My guess is that if he had a female present, he'd quit screeching and do more chirping/singing. ;-)

As for covering the cage, that's your call. I don't ever cover mine, but if the noise was excessive, I might. Not fair to your Bourkes though, is it? Yet, Bourkes rise early and can annoy some people when close to a bedroom. We keep our bedroom door closed so their morning songs before sunrise are muted and pleasant. As a retiree, I seldom rise while it's still dark any longer. ;-)

About space ... all birds like as much space as possible ... again, your call. Most of my pairs are housed in a cage that is 18" high, 18" wide and 30" long. They like width so they can fly in circles to exercise. Wide cages are more important than tall cages. My tame birds get to come outside and fly around, but those that aren't tame have to fly in circles in their cages.


Ron in Delaware asks:
Mixed grasskeets. 
© Gail Lewis

“I have 2 female Rosy Bourkes and 1 male Splendid. I got them at different times to make taming easier, I keep them in 3 separate cages next to each other. When I let them out, they all come out together so they can interact like a little flock. They don’t fight but none seems to like it when another bird goes in their cage. I was wondering if I could get them to all live together in one large cage or do you think it’s too late for that? I was thinking if I got a new larger cage and put them all in it at the same time, it might work out. What do you think?”

Answer: I think your idea of adding them all to a larger cage at the same time is excellent. Bourkes and Splendids normally get along just fine together.   

As for taming them, being in separate cages probably won't help any. In fact, if one is "tamer" than the others, it might help reassure the others that you are no threat. I have hand fed Bourkes in cages with young parent fed Bourkes and the very tame birds help tame down the others.

Bourkes can be territorial about their own cages when of breeding age ... especially male Bourkes with other male Bourkes and/or Bourke hens being protective of their territory against other hens (or even their adult children). Since your Bourkes are both female, they should get along fine in the new cage as long as there's no nest box and no male Bourke.

If, however, one is actually male, he might chase the Splendid ... Or not. The younger they are, the better your chances at perfect harmony.

I once had a Normal Bourke hen ask a male Splendid to mate with her (there were no male Bourkes available at the time). When he pulled a feather out, she attacked him and they no longer had any interest in each other. He was an unusual Splendid in that he pulled feathers from his Splendid mate too (who had died a few months earlier)... None of my other Splendids have ever pulled feathers.

All the material about Bourkes indicates they are a species unto themselves and won't interbreed with other varieties of birds. Splendids, however, will. They've successfully mated with Turks.

Good luck with your birds. Talking sweetly to them and offering treats by hand might help tame them. Also, keeping them near you while you're working at a desk, or near the kitchen table while you eat ... things like that help too.


More from Ron:
Young Splendids, a sister and two brothers. 
© Gail Lewis

“…this male Splendid is fully-flighted and fairly tame but is afraid of my hands and will not perch. I let him out with my two female Bourkes for free flight time. They are both tame and will fly to me on their own – especially my original Bourke. Also, both Bourkes were initially wing-clipped by their breeders so they are not afraid to perch on my finger. My male splendid seems like he wants to be friends. He lands on me sometimes when they are with me but is skittish and flies off if I try to get him to perch on my finger. I am currently trying to bribe him with food – millet spray. The two Bourkes like to eat that if I hold it or drape a millet spray over my shoulder. The splendid will sometimes come over and land on me for a few bites. Is this how I should train him? i.e. be very patient and let him gradually come to me?

A friend has suggested that I wing-clip him once to sort of force hand-taming but I am reluctant to do that because he loves flying and is very good at it (doesn’t crash into anything) – and he is manageable right now – he’s not super tame but he knows how to fly back to his cage by himself, is not terrified of me, and is no “problem” – he’s just not super tame yet. What do you think? Should I just keep going like I am with the millet spray or should I wing-clip him once to tame him down? He is about 8 months old now.”

Answer:  I don't know what to suggest about the wing clipping. I don't like clipping my birds ... seems kind of mean, yet I've nothing against it either. It might help, or might be resented...? I've no recommendation on that score. Although, if you have cats or dogs ... clipping wouldn't be wise. And, I have both.

I have found that my male Bourkes (who aren't hand fed) will get on my arm, but not on my hand. There seems to be something safer about an arm, especially if there are other birds on it. Those same males will put themselves away even before I put the tame birds back in their cage. So, like your Splendid, they aren't any problem.

I find Bourkes easier to tame than Splendids. One of my hand fed Splendid males didn't get handled regularly and quit being finger tame. He didn't bite if picked up, but quit "kissing" and climbing up on my hand. The affection was gone. My fault, I think, because I just got too busy to let him out of his cage often enough ... that, and he was busy with his exciting new hen.

His hen has since died and someone begged to buy him from me. She now has him and is giving him lots of attention, along with a tame Bourke hen. He's maybe not as tame as he once was as a youngster, but he's been tamer with her recently than he'd been with me in a long time. I believe the key is "lots of attention."

My two favorite hand fed Bourke hens don't like each other when they come out together any longer. They used to be great pals, but they've since had clutches and are more feisty. I tend to let them out to fly on different days or at different times. Of course, they each have a male who comes out with them, so they are protective of their mates too. The males might pick at one another, but one is not hand fed and he keeps his distance from the other three. He's one of those who puts himself back in the cage.

Best of luck taming your Splendid.

Jay in Oregon writes:

Young Rosy Bourkes. Parents in cage in back.
© Gail Lewis

“I've been admiring your blog pages and your parakeets. I am in the process of building two large aviaries to start breeding grass parakeets.

Could you please share with me the size of your breeding cages for splendids and bourkes? Also, do you or any other breeders you know sell grass keets; I am mostly interested in turks and splendids. I've had a hard time finding breeders of these species in Oregon.

Thank you kindly!”

Answer:   I'm glad you like my blog. Most of my breeding cages are 30 inches long, 18 inches high and 18 inches deep.

My favorite grass keets are Bourkes, so that's primarily what I have ... mostly Rosies of different shades of pink, rose and pink & white. I'm trying for lutino as some of mine carry yellow. This year I had three pairs produce some babies with pink eyes and am eager to see what sort of youngsters they will produce next spring or summer when paired together.

Don't know anyone with Turks, sorry. As for the Splendids ... I've raised them, but never more than a few at a time and have none for sale just now. I do have some young Rosies and can put pairs together.

All my birds are inside. However, I recently visited someone with many outside aviaries and did a blog about them   HERE. 

If you are interested in Rosy Bourkes, I'm your gal. Sorry I can't help with the others. If I hear of anyone I'll be sure to let you know. I would like to introduce more Splendids to my flock too. ;-)


Sarah in Oregon asked:

Opaline Fallow Rosy Bourke siblings. 
© Gail Lewis

“I recently purchased a pair of Rosy Bourkes, but I don't know much about them. I do raise cockatiels, and have budgies, so I'm not new to birds. I'm looking for something that might be able to give me some more information on this particular breed of bird.

I was told this is a pair of Boukes, but the *male* has no blue over his cere or on his forehead. He's pretty much all pink with some dark violet on the ends of his wings. The *female* is brown with a pink belly and violet on her wings. Can you help me figure out if these are really male and female? I'm beginning to wonder if they are both females, with one being a rosey, and the other a normal.

Also, I've got them inside right now in a fairly large cage, but I'd like to move them into my heated 8 foot aviary in our garden. I've got 2 pairs of cockatiels in there now. Have you mixed the two breeds before? These birds seem so timid, but maybe it's just because they are so quiet. Anyway, I'd really like them to have as much space as possible. Our cockatiels have babies right now, so I thought I'd wait until they were weaned and out of the aviary before I introduced any new birds. (If they will get along).

Any advice would be much appreciated, and I am definitely interested in possibly purchasing a couple more on down the road from a different bloodline.”

Answer:  I wouldn't move your Bourkes outside until winter is past and it is warmer. If your aviary is heated, is it free of drafts? Parakeets are susceptible to drafts.

Let them get accustomed to being outside when the weather is warm and then move gradually toward cooler weather. Also, Bourkes get along fine with cockatiels as long as they aren't crowded. If your cockatiels have young, however, they might be protective ... another reason to wait until Spring to move the Bourkes outside with them. Bourkes tend to get along with all other birds. They are protective during mating season (when there are nest boxes available). Males will chase other males away and hens will chase hens. To prevent this, make sure the aviary is roomy, or put them in individual cages.

If your Rosy doesn't have blue over his cere, that's nothing to worry about. None of my male Rosy's have blue there either. It's only reliable on mature Normal Bourkes.

I have posted about identifying the sex of Bourkes by their behavior. If you enter "sexing" into the search box at The Splendid Bourke Bird Blog, you'll get more information than you ever wanted. It's been a on-going discussion. Here's one post:

Males sing more and "wolf whistle." When a hen is present, they throw their shoulders back and flair the top of their wings a bit. Males want to feed hens. Hens wanting to mate will squat down and raise their tails in the air, while cheeping. Sometimes hens will squat and spread their wings outward as if to cover something touching the tips to the floor or perch.

Male Splendid brothers.          © Gail Lewis

Peace & Blessings.

Enjoy Your Birds


fliss said...

Hi there
We have a beautiful little Bourke girl we call her Marbles :) I am in the process of growing her some grass for the bottom of her cage, as these are Australian grasskeets I thought it might be fun for her to have it in there for a bit.

She is a fun little bird and I quite like reading your blog

G.A. Lewis said...

Thank you.

Elsa said...

I want a Bourke and a Budgie but I know they need company and I was wondering if they could cohabitate.

G.A. Lewis said...

Hi Elsa, Budgies are more aggressive than Bourkes. But, if you get them both young, you shouldn’t have a problem. They will enjoy having the other as a companion. However, if the Budgie is older and set in his ways, he is likely to bully the poor Bourke. You’d be better off getting two Bourkes of the same sex if you don’t want to breed. If you have a Budgie of one sex and a Bourke of the other, they may become aggressive out of frustration. Still wise to have two of the same sex even if mixed as a Budgie & a Bourke.

Budgies are more active during the day when your Bourke may wish for a siesta. Budgies do a lot of climbing and Bourkes do not. Bourkes need to fly. The two personalities are very different. Budgies are better mimics, but also noisier. That’s why Bourkes are our favorite small exotic bird. Best of luck with your choices.