Care Sheet: Indian Ringneck

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Personality: Playful, inquisitive, intelligent, independent

Experience level required: Moderate

Approximate Lifespan: 30 years

Puberty: 12-18mo

Sexing: Dimorphic. Males develop a ring anywhere from 18mo-3 years. If you want to know before that you must DNA sex your bird. Some colors, like albino, never get a ring.

Vocalizations: They can be loud (see video below).

That said, they usually do not make noise all day every day. Vocalizations are typical in the early morning/late afternoon, if the bird feels separated from the flock, or if it is frightened.

Talking ability: Good. Both sexes talk.

Diet: Standard

Minimum recommended cage size: Ringnecks have long tails that are easily damaged in cages that are too small or cluttered. They need large cages with plenty of clearance for their tails.

Cautions: Ringnecks do not form the same strong pair bonds seen in other species. Most parrots will pair off with a buddy or mate. Ringnecks generally don’t do this outside of the mating season. This can make them seem standoffish. Do not buy a ringneck expecting a cuddly, sociable bird!

After weaning, ringnecks go through a bluffing phase in which they bite and show aggression. It is critical that the owner NOT react to the bites. The first year is critical to ringneck development. They go wild very easily if not consistently and amicably handled during the first year.

Don’t get me wrong, ringnecks make wonderful pets, they just aren’t for everyone. I’ve had to steer many potential clients over to conures because they had unrealistic expectations of what ringnecks are like. They are playful, highly intelligent, and curious. They enjoy spending time with people but can also play well by themselves. The best ambassador bird I ever had- the one I could trust to be pet by children and adults alike- was an Indian ringneck. They require an owner who understands their behavior and is willing to give them a lot of time that first year. With ringnecks, you get out what you put in.

Egg Laying in Pets

Ah, spring…sunshine, showers, flowers, and egg laying in pet birds.

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Not all female pets will lay eggs. My Goffin is 14 and has yet to lay a single egg. Others, often cockatiels, will habitually lay every year. So what do you do?

Step One: Remove anything that could be interpreted as a nest site- Happy Huts, boxes, enclosed toys/dishes, tents, etc. Also, do NOT pet your bird on the back or under the tail. head scratches are fine, but touching her back is going to simulate a male mounting her.

Step Two: Provide lots of calcium and protein. Excess laying will deplete a hen’s calcium reserves, which can lead to soft shelled eggs (more likely to fracture internally) and brittle bones. Offer cuttlebone and/or mineral block, and cooked scrambled eggs with the shell. If this has been going on a long time, you may need to see a veterinarian for a quicker form of supplementation.

Step Three: STOP REMOVING EGGS. Birds can count and usually have a specific clutch size that they are trying to reach. Removing eggs means that they never finish their clutch so they just keep laying more. Removing broken eggs is fine. Once her clutch is complete she may try to incubate the eggs. Incubation lasts three to four weeks for most species. Eventually she should realize that her eggs are duds and abandon them. At this point they can be safely removed. Some hens will lay again, others will not. If she does lay again you can try leaving the eggs in longer. At the very least, leaving eggs in will space out the time in between clutches.

Step Four: Decrease daylight hours. Most species are springtime breeders. Even birds that can lay year-round usually become more hormonal during the spring. You can try to shorten their breeding season by fudging their daylight hours. Covering the cage early at night may help, though cockatiels are prone to night frights when covered. For cockatiels I would move them to a room with limited sunlight and get blackout curtains. Close the curtains well before sunset every day.

Do I need to swap out the eggs with fakes? No. You certainly can, but I don’t really see a reason to do so.

For more information: Discouraging Breeding Behavior in Pet Birds

©2016 by Karen Trinkaus May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission. Image submitted by reader.

O Budgie, Where Art Thou?

Preventing and Recovering Lost Birds

“who can shed light on what happens to a cockatiel loose in minnesota”
– post on Toolady.com
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Few things have ever made me feel quite so helpless as watching an escaped budgie fly off and vanish from sight. Hopefully nothing like this has happened to you and you’re reading this as a precautionary measure only. However, it’s much more likely that your bird is currently lost. Perhaps you’ve found a bird and are wondering what to do next. Whatever your reason for reading this article, I hope it helps enlighten you on how best to deal with this heartbreaking experience.

Prevention

There is one very simple way to prevent birds from escaping. Unfortunately, most people are lax about it and consequently I receive numerous questions about lost and found birds. Smaller, lightweight species can fly well with only one or two primary feathers. Add a gust of wind and you may never see your bird again. Clipping the wings regularly is very important if you want to prevent escapes. However, one clip per molt just doesn’t cut it (no pun intended). Birds do not shed all their feathers at once- they grow new ones a few at a time. This means that it takes a while for the primaries to grow back. It only takes one feather to lose your bird. Waiting until all of them have grown in before clipping can be disastrous, but few people are willing to bring their birds in to be groomed for each individual feather.

I highly recommend learning to clip your own birds. Grooming can then be done at home, per feather. If you have a good relationship with your bird this should not be a problem. Clipping is a painless procedure that takes mere seconds when done correctly. Your bird may be slightly stressed the first few times, but will not hate you for it. After a while clipping becomes routine- your bird won’t like it but will at least know what to expect. Even Fry, the conure that hated hands, did fine during clipping. He would try to run if he saw hands coming and wriggle away once I had him, but he trusted me not to hurt him and would never attempt to bite. If you have a large or squirmy bird like Fry, you can hold it while someone else does the clipping. Birds that are very tame and used to handling may not need to be restrained at all- yet another area where proper socialization helps.

Another way to prevent escapes is to limit outdoor time. Let the bird sit by the window for part of the day or build a sunroom both you and your birds can enjoy. If you must take your bird outdoors, don’t take any chances. Even if your bird can’t fly there are still dangers. What if a hawk or cat gets it? What if the bird is startled and manages to get into a tree, climbing up out of your reach? Or worse yet, manages to get into a neighbor’s yard? What if someone steals it? Murphy’s Law always applies to birds, so plan accordingly. Take you bird outside in a cage or on a harness. If brought out in a cage make sure you secure sliding doors. If you have a young bird, start training it to wear a harness while it is still open to the idea. Older birds are going to be much slower to adapt.

Here’s another tip that won’t prevent escapes, but will make your life easier if your bird does get loose: teach it to sing/whistle a tune. This works best with birds like male cockatiels, who love to whistle along. A unique tune will help you keep track of your bird should it get out of sight. Where did it go? Which tree is it in? If your bird sings you can better pinpoint its location.

Can they survive?

I’m often asked about survival odds. Some people hear about wild flocks of parrots in California and Florida and think that their birds have a pretty good chance. Unfortunately, they don’t.

True, budgies and cockatiels are very hardy. However, all our pet birds are currently bred in captivity. Australia has had laws against exporting wildlife for some time now, meaning that Aussie species are even farther removed from their wild ancestors. Captive bred birds are not very well equipped to survive in the wild. They are not used to the weather. They are not used to avoiding predators. They are not familiar with the native sources of food or where to locate them. Many cannot even fly very well so even if they wish to return they can’t (again proper socialization is important, as is proper clipping!).

The wild flocks of introduced parrots that you hear about were established back when parrots were still imported in large numbers. They were most likely wild birds, caught and imported, which then escaped or were released. Most of these parrots are also larger South American species like amazons and conures. Larger parrots would have fewer predators and be able to access better food sources. It’s not hard to see how larger, wild caught species, introduced as groups into fairly mild environments (Florida and California) could learn to adapt and survive. However, it is unrealistic to expect a single smaller bird, captive bred but native to the Australian outback, to survive a Minnesota winter. Your bird’s best chance at survival is to be found.

Finding Your Bird

There are two scenarios when a bird escapes:

  1. The bird remains in sight, but is somewhere inaccessible, like a tree.
  2. You have no idea where it is.

Scenario #1 is bad; #2 is virtually hopeless. YOU HAVE A MUCH BETTER CHANCE OF GETTING YOUR BIRD IF YOU KEEP IT IN SIGHT. Unfortunately, many birds take off flying in one direction and continue to do so until they run out of energy. Parrots are not homing pigeons and will not find their way back on their own.

Scenario #1- KEEP THE BIRD IN YOUR VIEW. If you can’t see it, keep track of it by sound. Having someone nearby really helps here, as you risk your bird flying out of sight should you choose to go indoors and get something to help you catch it. Aside from keeping track of where it is, it is also important not to startle it into flying again. If your bird doesn’t trust you much, this will be difficult. If within reach, I find that using a long perch helps. Get the bird to step up and then slowly move it to a better location. Attempting to grab an untame bird will only result in it flying further away.

Getting a bird down from a tree is tough. Even tame, loving birds will be reluctant to see what the fuss is and climb down on their own. Amazons are notorious for climbing higher into a tree, or flying to another one as soon as you are about to catch them. In a case like this a hose helps- spray ABOVE the bird so that it rains DOWN onto them. Really soak them. It will make it more difficult for them to fly. Then have someone climb the tree (if possible, ask around the neighborhood) and get the soggy psittacine. Lures can also be used to get a bird down. Leave out a cage with food in it and the door open. Bring out another bird (preferably a friend of the loose one) in a cage and place it next to the first cage. Play a tape of recorded bird noises.

Scenario #2- This is BAD. Your only hope here is to a) locate your bird or b) hope someone else does. First search the neighborhood. Call out to your bird and pray you can find it through sound. If that fails, put up signs around the neighborhood and post on social media lost/found groups. Also contact every local person who owns birds (especially if they keep them outdoors) and let them know to keep their eyes peeled. Birds are attracted to other birds, and yours may very well be attracted by the sound of theirs. I’ve inadvertently adopted several stray budgies this way.

Found a bird?

People are often devastated when they lose their pets, and it is unfair to assume ownership of a lost bird without at least attempting to find the owner. Check the local pet stores, vets, social media, and newspapers for ads about lost birds. If you can’t find the owner you can keep the bird yourself, providing you can properly take care of it, or give it to someone who can.

Case Study: Birds of a Feather…

I keep all my breeders outdoors and they do attract escaped birds. My cat is the first one to notice. He never gives my aviary birds a second glance since he knows he can’t get to them. If I see him staring at something by the aviary I know there’s a loose bird.

I’ve had three escaped budgies hanging around my aviary this year, two of which I managed to catch. The first was easy- I just walked over and grabbed him. The poor thing was starving, emaciated and trying desperately to find a way into the budgie cages. I placed him in quarantine and a day later notice that he seemed to have bulked up, an impossibility. I examined him and found that his skin was stretched taut, especially around the thighs. He had a punctured air sac and the area under his skin was filling with air. I called my vet and made an appointment, then made several pin pricks to his swollen thighs to release the air. Luckily this solved the problem. After a vet visit and 30 day quarantine, he was ready to join my flock.

The second budgie I caught was just last month (December 13th or so). She was much better off, hanging out in the neighbor’s yard up in a tree all day. It was cold out and she didn’t seem to be enjoying herself. After about a week I found her eating seed spilled from my aviaries. There’s about a one foot gap between my second aviary and the roof and I managed to scare her from on top of the cages into this space. Once in the gap she was reluctant to leave, though she’d run/fly all over the place trying to avoid my net. It took about 20 minutes and a second person, but we managed to net her. She too went through quarantine and joined my flock.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Bands

There seems to be a lot of misinformation online about bands. Pet owners are attempting to use band information to find out more about their birds, which is a good thing. However, the reality is a lot more complicated. First I’m going to discuss the basics of bands and then I’ll address some of the common misconceptions.

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What are bands?

Bands are like little ID bracelets. They can be metal or plastic and are located just above your bird’s ankle. There are several types of bands.

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Plastic bands on canaries. Photo by steve pj2009.

Plastic Bands

Plastic bands are most commonly used to identify softbills. They allow aviculturists to quickly distinguish between different birds at a glance- particularly important if you don’t want to catch your birds every time you need to tell who is who. Sometimes birds will be banded several times on multiple legs. Breeders may put one band on each leg and then clip off a specific band when they discover the sex of a bird.

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Open band removed from my mitred conure postmortem.

Quarantine Bands

Until 1992, the United States imported large quantities of wild caught birds. These birds were held at quarantine stations before being offered for public sale. All birds that went through quarantine were banded with open bands. If your bird does have a quarantine band you can look up where it was imported. All quarantine bands were open bands, as they were applied to adult birds.

Open Bands

Open bands are metal and usually round (not flat). The only benefit of open bands is that they can be applied to adult birds.

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African grey chick wearing closed band. Photo by Papooga.

Closed Bands

Domestic-bred birds wear closed bands. These bands are flat and can be made of metal or plastic. They can only be applied during a brief window of time when the chicks are young. If banded too early, the bands will fall off. Too late and you won’t be able to fit them on the feet.

What information do bands carry?

Bands can tell you many things. The information given varies, but often the state, year, ID number and breeder are given. For instance, my cockatiel Melonie’s band says “CA LS 92 52.” This means she was bred in California (the state is often written sideways), her breeder’s initials or business abbreviation is L.S., she was hatched in 1992 and her ID # is 52. Breeders can pick and choose what they want on the bands. Some will not contain a year since the breeder may not use up all of his or her bands in one year.

Why is banding important?

Bands provide positive ID of a bird. If a bird is purchased and then later returned, the seller can verify that the returned bird is in fact the same one sold. They can be used as identification in case of theft (unless removed- microchipping is better). Closed bands are also fairly good proof that a bird was captive breed.

Are bands harmful?

Open bands can be dangerous because the small slit in them may catch on things, like the cage wire, especially if not closed enough. Most of the time bands are very safe. Hens usually do not attack babies with bands nor do birds mind them at all. Injuries can occur when a band catches on something, but most of the time this is the result of an unsafe cage. If your bird is banded be extra careful that no toys could catch your bird’s band.

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Feisty Feathers® Bands

Not all my chicks are banded; sometimes I run out or just don’t get to the chicks in time. However, I try to band all the chicks I can. My species are each color-coded: redfronted kakarikis are blue bands, cockatiels are purple, budgies are gold. My bands contain the state (CA), my initials (KKT) and an ID number, but no year. I’ve recently started banding my adult kaks with colored plastic open bands, so that I can see at a glance who is paired with who. Many of the adult kaks look alike.

Can I look up where my bird came from? Its age? Breeder?

Yes and no. Aside from specific clubs, which have their own bands and registries, there is no comprehensive banding system or database. Aviculturists who breed show animals like English budgies are far more likely to participate in such a system than someone who sells to the pet trade. Many breeders are going to want their own system in place, and may not use a club since their bands are often not very customizable.

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Don’t assume the year is accurate.

The first year I started banding my own birds I got the year printed on my bands. Big mistake. Bands came in lots of 25 and I didn’t come close to using half of my bands that year. So I could either throw them away the following year or keep using them with the incorrect year. This is why most breeders don’t even bother with a year.

Don’t assume the state is accurate. Or the breeder. Or anything, really.

I recently acquired a pair of African greys from someone who was moving to China. This breeder was trying to unload all their stuff in prep for their move, and since I’d bought their last available pair they came with a lot of extra stuff: net, handfeeding formula, perches, and unused bands. Even though this was a California breeder, the state stamped on the bands was PA.

This brings me to another point- breeders can totally swap bands. I think the first time I bred ringnecks I ended up borrowing bands from a friend because I only needed a couple. When my grandfather died I got all of his old bands. I didn’t use them, but I certainly could have.

My point is that nothing about bands is certain. Pet owners have a tendency to give bands the same sort of authority as dog licenses or microchipping, when it’s really more like your neighbor borrowing a label maker so they can organize their closet. All you can know for certain is that closed bands were applied to babies before leaving the nest.

Banding is a way for breeders to distinguish between individual birds, not for people to be able to track down a breeder, know the age of their bird, etc. Some breeders make their banding system public, but most don’t because it’s an internal ID system. Many breeders don’t really care if their bands are “accurate” because again- it’s just to be able to tell the difference between similar birds. A few will have nice records and a formal system but many will not. It really depends on the breeder. So while you can use the information on a band to make a guess, there is no guarantee your guess is going to be accurate.

Here are some links if you do want to look up more information on bands:

Kakariki Network

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The Kakariki Network is my personal attempt to create a database of kakariki breeders and other resources. Breeders are listed free of charge. If you breed kakarikis but are not on the list please send me your information so it can be posted. Keep in mind that this is simply a database of breeders- I cannot vouch for the quality of birds. Please use the same caution you normally would when shopping for new birds.

Please note that many breeders operate out of their homes, and may withhold certain information for security and privacy reasons.

USA Breeders

Non USA Breeders

Kak Information

Should I buy a Second Bird?

The last time I was at a bird club meeting the speaker was the editor of Bird Talk magazine. She brought up some of the frequently asked questions they receive. As bird club members, we all kind of chuckled at these because they were common knowledge to us. One of the questions they routinely get is “Should I buy a second bird?” She said the fact that the person was even asking the question indicated that the answer was “no.” Most people nodded in agreement at this statement. I beg to differ.

I receive this question a lot too, but most people don’t ask it out of some nagging doubt it won’t work or they shouldn’t do it. In many cases, they want another bird, but are unsure how their first will react. Will the two get along? Will their first bird lose its pet qualities? How soon can they be introduced? What species would be most compatible? To me their question shows that they know enough about birds not to jump into something blindly. They want to educate themselves first. Most people obtain their first bird without doing any research. They learn through trial and error, not really the best way for the pet or the owner, but if they’re trying to rectify the situation the second time around I can’t fault them. There’s nothing wrong with making an informed decision.

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Benefits of Keeping a Flock

I have a personal philosophy regarding this issue – I never keep birds singly. A bird that has its own cage is still kept near others and allowed play time with them. The only time I completely isolate a bird is if it must be kept in a hospital cage due to health problems. This does not mean that I think every owner should run out and buy more birds. Many people are happy with just a single pet. This article is for those of you who are contemplating buying another bird, but haven’t quite made up your mind yet.

I believe it is psychologically beneficial for birds to be kept in a flock. My adopted mitred conure responded extremely well when kept around my flock. He no longer tries to assault other birds. Many people don’t properly socialize their birds. One of my requirements of socialization is that bird know how to be a bird. A handfed reared in isolation with no avian contact may have identity problems later, particularly if its owner expects it to act like a little human. Birds are not humans and never will be. We both share many behaviors but have different motivations. Understanding your bird’s behavior is the key to getting along with it. I think new owners tend to attribute human motivations to their bird’s behavior or simply treat them as if they have no emotions at all. Both views will lead to problems.

When you allow birds to interact with one another you give them a chance to communicate in their own language and to be themselves. As an aside: One of my pet peeves is when people ask me about teaching their birds to talk or want to know if my birds talk. Yes they talk- they speak bird! You’ll get along much better with your animals if you learn to communicate with them. I’ll have you know I’m fluent in “duck” and “chicken.” I’ve made friends with wild ducks using this skill. Don’t ask me how to teach your birds to talk, ask me how you can learn to speak “bird.”

Not everyone can give their bird the attention it requires. Many people will buy their pet a mirror, thinking this will help keep it company. This is worse than keeping a bird isolated. If you can’t give your bird the attention it needs, give it up or buy a second.

I also believe that owners learn more about bird behavior when observing more than one interacting. Owners of one bird only see that single bird’s behavior. They have no point of reference and mistakenly judge their behavior as “odd.” When you see birds interact with one another it makes more sense.

I also cannot overstate how beneficial it is for birds to have another bird, even a different species, around during the day when you’re not home. Parrots are not meant to be kept in isolation.

Will my first bird lose its pet qualities?

No. If your bird is tame and lovable it should stay that way. I have never seen a bird become unfriendly just because it had a new friend. I think this myth has been propagated by owners whose birds hit puberty the same time as a new bird is purchased. Behavior changes associated with puberty have nothing to do with the introduction of a new bird.

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This guy was handfed and socialized by me. He’s an aviary bird and I haven’t handled him on a regular basis for ten years. Still tame.

Let’s say you buy a new cockatiel. You have it for a few months. It’s so sweet and wonderful you just have to get another one. Your first bird is probably around six months to a year old when you decide to introduce another. Guess what time puberty hits? That’s right, around 6-12 months. The new bird is unjustly blamed for problems that would have occurred anyway.

What species are the most compatible?

This is more of a concern if they are to be sharing a cage. Given a large enough cage, you can probably keep any birds of similar size together. I keep conures, budgies, kakarikis, tiels and ringnecks together, but then I have walk-in aviaries. Territorial issues are less of a problem when you are not breeding.

If the cage is smaller you’ll need the species to be more alike. Tiels and budgies have similar care requirements but they don’t get along well in confined spaces, especially if there are only one of each (or one tiel and numerous budgies). Tiels are mellow birds; budgies are pesky and very active. The constant movement alone can drive a tiel nuts in a small cage. Even if it doesn’t, the budgies are likely to harass the tiel endlessly.

When species are very different (in size or behavior) you need to give each their own cage. I would not keep any of the medium or large parrots together in a standard pet cage. You’d need a large flight to do that.

Supervised play is fine with most similar-sized birds, as long as you know how to read body language and prevent problems.

How soon can they be introduced?

Quarantine all new birds for at least 30 days. By quarantine I mean keep them in another room with NO contact with your current birds. You don’t want to risk bringing in any diseases. Feed the new bird last and change clothes/wash hands before handling your other birds again. I also recommend a vet check and bloodwork if you can afford it. You can see a veterinarian for disease testing or submit it yourself.

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How do I introduce them?

Some species can be thrown in together with few problems. Budgies and tiels usually fall into this category. Heck, budgies typically welcome new birds! However, birds that have established territory- especially perceived breeding territory- may have a problem with a new bird suddenly sharing it. In this case it is best to start out with separate cages, in view of each other, and supervised play time outside of the cages. How soon the two get along will vary. If you see any fighting take things back a step.

How do I keep them from breeding?

Don’t buy the same species or the opposite sex, and don’t give them a nestbox.

© 1997-2002 by Karen Trinkaus and may not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Budgie Growth Guide

Please note that this guide is for standard budgies, not English.

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Banding is done on day 7.

Here is a nice video on budgie growth:

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Bathing

It is important to allow your birds the opportunity to bathe, though it’s not something you need to force (unless it’s super hot). During those hot summer months it is very important to keep your birds cool. Each species usually has its own preferences when it comes to bathing, and birds from humid climates may do things differently than those from arid regions. Keep in mind that the rainy season signals breeding in some species, and excessive bathing may trigger hormonal behaviors.

Spray Misting

Some birds will run away from the spray in terror while others will flip upside-down and spread their wings in joy. Cockatiels are mist bathers, even if some of them don’t know it. During the summer I mist my flight tiels and most of them enjoy it. One of the ways to get a bird interested in spray baths is not to directly hit them with the spray. Try aiming off to the side, perhaps at another bird. Many tiels get into bathing mode when just a little bit of the mist from the spray next to them floats over. Amazons and other South American species also enjoy this type of bathing. When misting try not to hit the bird in the face or directly unless they are really getting into the pleasure of the bath. Instead spray just above them so that the mist falls down on their back.

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Cockatiels enjoy spray misting.

Share a Shower

You can put your bird up on the shower curtain rod (just make sure a towel or something is up there so they don’t slip), or buy a shower perch. Many birds really enjoy showering with their owners.

Dish Bathing

Offering a wide, flat dish with water is a great way to encourage bathing, especially if you don’t have time to mist your bird or let them share a shower. Many pets will try to squeeze into their water dish. This is one of the reasons why I dislike water bottles (always provide a bowl of water in addition to a bottle). If your bird is already trying to bath in its water dish it’s just one easy step for you to provide a larger bathing bowl. Some birds are hesitant about bathing in a bowl. I found that playing in the water with your hand or letting a constant stream of water from the sink trickle in helps. I got my greencheek conure to bath in a bowl I’d hold over the sink or in the sink itself. She always wanted the water running.

One thing you’ll notice is that dish bathers tend to be a bit more nervous about their baths. In the wild this type of bathing is dangerous because pools are great area for predators to catch their prey off-guard. Wet birds also can’t fly as well. Cages are considered by most birds to be “safe” areas so this nervousness usually only occurs when a bird is asked to bath somewhere away from the cage. Reassure your bird by talking to it, playing some soft music in the background or playing in the water yourself. Never leave a dish bather alone during a bath- you are their lookout for predators. Leaving can give them a fright and shatter their willingness to take baths in the future.

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A budgie bathing in wet parsley.

Leaf Bathing

This type of bathing is unique to some Australian parakeets, like budgies. Budgies will actually take wet leaves and roll around on them and wrap themselves up in them. You can sometimes mist them while they are doing this or get them to leaf bath by misting first. Provide large, wet lettuce leaves.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Budgie (aka Parakeet)

Melopsittacus undultatus

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First a word on definitions: Budgie is the correct term to use when referring to (M. undultatus). Though they are parakeets, a parakeet is any small parrot with a long tail. This includes cockatiels, kakarikis, all the birds in the genus Psittcula, most of the parrots in Australia, and many more. But there is only one budgie.

Two more terms you’ll often hear in reference to budgies are “American” and “English.” These are not separate species, just different breeds (Like dogs are all one species but there are many different breeds. The same goes for cats, chickens, and canaries.). Budgies are have the distinction of being the only psittacine with different breeds. English budgies are bred for show. They are large- about three times the size of an American. Americans are your typical pet shop budgie. All mine are American. I breed for color.

In the Wild
Budgies are native to the deserts of Australia. This means two things:

  1. They are hardy.
  2. They breed like rabbits.

In the desert rain is scarce. Birds who live there have to be able to nest and raise young very quickly whenever food becomes available. This ability to breed constantly has made budgies the most common pet bird in America and led to the establishment of hundreds of designer colors.

 

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A male (left) trying to attract a female (right).

Noise
Male budgies chatter almost constantly and this is a good indication of a happy bird. Females don’t make much noise. Budgies are one of the top ten talking birds but none of mine have ever said a word.

Lifespan
They can live 10-15 years, sometimes more. Unfortunately, many don’t make it past age five due to tumors.

Sexing
Budgies are very easy to sex, both visually and by behavior. As I stated above, males chatter more than hens. Males will often show off and chatter endlessly when presented with a mirror, but so will some females kept singly. To sex visually you have to look at the cere- the fleshy area surrounding the nostrils. Adult males have a bright blue cere (unless they are a color that contains no black pigment, such as albino or lutino) and females have a crusty brown cere when in breeding condition (all colors). Hens may also have tan or white ceres.

 

budgie10.jpg

A male budgie has a blue cere.

 

budgie04

A female (bottom) has a brown cere.

 

budgie16

Female (left) watching a male feed chicks.

Weaknesses
Budgies are tumor factories. If you take good care of your budgie and suddenly something is wrong with it (paralysis, blindness, etc.) a tumor is a good assumption (of course that doesn’t mean you don’t have to go to the vet). Tumors are usually seen in birds over 3 years of age. I’ve had three cases myself: Moonbeam, age 4, tumor pinched optic nerve and caused blindness; Arnold, age 5, tumor the size of my thumb on his abdomen caused him to stop breeding; Sweatpea, age 4-5, tumor on kidney pressed against spinal cord causing sudden paralysis, looked similar to egg-binding. Psittacosis is also seen frequently in budgies, but this maybe just because they are the most common pet birds.

Husbandry
Budgies are very active and deserve as big a cage as possible. Also, if you plan on owning a single budgie make sure you pay a lot of attention to it. If you can’t please get a second bird to keep it company. Budgies are very social and need other budgies to talk to.

Breeding
Just add a nestbox. Actually you should be more worried about getting them to stop breeding. Usually removing the box after 2-3 clutches will get them to stop, though some hens will continue to lay in their feed dish. Budgies are also prone to all kinds of nitpicky problems when bred communally. Baby budgies usually have stripes all the way down to their cere and a bit of black on their beak.

Diet
Regular psittacine diet. Budgies particularly love leafy green foods like parsely, carrot tops and lettuce.

Personality/Behavior
Budgies aren’t very cuddly, but they make great pets. I started out with one budgie and she’s what got me hooked on birds in the first place. They’re very active and sociable which makes them fun to watch, especially if you have an aviary full of them.

maggie&pepper2

Pepper and Maggie hang out on my brother.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Which Bird is Right for You?

Not sure what bird is right for you? Check these genus profiles. If a ? is noted it means I don’t have enough experience with the species to say.

tiel03_wfcinpearl_cin

Genus/Common Name Nymphicus
Includes Cockatiels
Size Small.
Talking Ability Limited. Good whistler.
Lifespan 20-25
Noise Quiet, but their contact call may be annoying.
Dimorphic Yes. See my Guide to Sexing Tiels Visually.
Comments See species profile for more information. The cockatiel is a good beginner bird that enjoys being pet more than a budgie.

parrots-in-love-1351846-640x480

Genus/Common Name Lories
Includes Lories and lorikeets.
Size Tiny to medium.
Talking Ability ?
Lifespan ?
Noise Varies.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Very colorful and playful. Specialized diet (expensive and causes squirts).

loki17 Goffin cockatoo

Genus/Common Name Cockatoos
Includes Cockatoos
Size Medium to large.
Talking Ability Varies.
Lifespan 50-80
Noise Quiet to loud. Large species are typically very loud. My Goffin is very quiet.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Very demanding pets, but playful and highly intelligent. They are the cuddliest birds you can find. Difficult to breed. Males known for killing, maiming, and trapping hens during breeding.

male-eclectus-parrot-1350890-639x852

Genus/Common Name Eclectus
Includes Eclectus
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Varies.
Lifespan ?
Noise ?
Dimorphic Very. Males are green and females are red.
Comments Matriarcal. Stunning colors and odd feather texture.

 

scarletchested04

A female scarletchested parakeet.

Genus/Common Name Aussie Keets
Includes Polytelis (suberb, regent, princess), king, Platycerus (rosellas), Psephotus (red-rump, mulga), Neophema (bourke, scarlet-chest, turquoise).
Size Small to medium.
Talking Ability Varies.
Lifespan 10-30
Noise Pleasant.
Dimorphic Some species are.
Comments Good aviary birds but not commonly kept as pets. Rosellas are curious as pets and love to whistle.

 budgies06Budgies come in a variety of colors.

Genus/Common Name Melopsittacus
Includes Budgie.
Size Small.
Talking Ability Very good.
Lifespan 5-15
Noise Constant chattering. Usually not offensive.
Dimorphic Yes.
Comments See species profile for more information. Great beginner pets, but they usually do not come tame.

 

tovi1

 

Genus/Common Name Cyanoramphus
Includes Kakarikis
Size Small.
Talking Ability Good.
Lifespan 10-?
Noise Pleasant.
Dimorphic Yes, but it takes experience.
Comments See species profile for more information. Kakarikis are high energy pets that require a lot of space and supervision. They rarely sit still for long and make very entertaining pets.

lovebird-1-1379868-640x480

Genus/Common Name Agapornis
Includes Lovebirds.
Size Small.
Talking Ability Limited.
Lifespan 10-20
Noise Like budgie only higher pitched.
Dimorphic Some.
Comments Make feisty and curious handfed pets.

colorful-parrot-1381014-639x957

Genus/Common Name Psittacula
Includes Indian ringneck, African ringneck, Alexandrine, plum-head, blossom-head, Derbyan, Moustached.
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Excellent.
Lifespan 20-30
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic Yes.
Comments See species profile for more information. This genus is unfairly labeled “standoffish.” Ringnecks make excellent pets if well socialized. They are highly intelligent, curious and playful. They do tend to be strong willed and require a more experienced or assertive owner.

 

tovi7

Genus/Common Name Poicephalus
Includes Senegal, meyers, cape, jardine’s, brown-head.
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Moderate.
Lifespan 30-40
Noise Quiet.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Good apartment birds. Senegals are the most popular.

 

parrots-1380029-640x480

 

Genus/Common Name Ara
Includes Macaws (extinct/endangered ones in other genus).
Size Medium to large.
Talking Ability Moderate.
Lifespan 80-100
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Not as popular as once were, perhaps due to size, expense and noise level. They are the larger relatives of conures. Intelligent and playful.

 

jayjay3Sun conures are very popular due to their color.

Genus/Common Name Aratinga.
Includes Most conures. Nanday in another genus but the profile still applies.
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Limited.
Lifespan 30
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Very loud for size. Playful, curious pets. Very outgoing and fun-loving. Tend to become one-person birds if you let them.

 

gc conureGreencheek conure

Genus/Common Name Pyrrhura
Includes Green-cheek, maroon-belly, pearl, paint and most other small conures.
Size Small.
Talking Ability Limited.
Lifespan 30
Noise Usually quiet.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Good for someone who likes conures but hates noise. These guys are smaller and generally much quieter.

 

 parrot-5-1250337-639x852

 

Genus/Common Name Brotogeris
Includes White-wing, canary-wing, grey-cheek, and other “pocket parakeets.”
Size Small.
Talking Ability Moderate.
Lifespan 30
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Used to be available in large numbers. Very limited supply since importation stopped and these birds are difficult to breed. Known to be outstanding pets. Most of these birds should probably be in breeding programs though.

 

exotic-parrot-singing-1354249-639x425

Genus/Common Name Poinites
Includes Caique
Size Medium.
Talking Ability ?
Lifespan ?
Noise ?
Dimorphic No.
Comments South American species. Curious and feisty.

 

parrotlet-1366819-639x553

Genus/Common Name Parrotlet
Includes Parrotlet
Size Tiny to small.
Talking Ability ?
Lifespan ?
Noise ?
Dimorphic I think some species are.
Comments These guys are known as “mini amazons.” They have a large attitude for such small birds. They cannot be bred in colonies.

 

south-american-parrots-1362496-640x480

Genus/Common Name Amazona
Includes Amazons
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Excellent.
Lifespan 50-80
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Outgoing and boisterous. Some species more mellow (mealy, lilac-crown, orange-wing). Can be very aggressive during breeding displays. Get hyper easily. Some, like double yellow heads and yellow napes, love opera and will make up their own songs.

 

pionus4

Genus/Common Name Pionus
Includes Pionus
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Moderate.
Lifespan 50-80
Noise Quiet.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Good apartment birds. Appealing to people who like South Americans but dislike noise.

 

african grey1

Genus/Common Name Psittacus
Includes African grey
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Excellent.
Lifespan 50-80
Noise Quiet but like to pick up household noises to repeat constantly (much to the annoyance of some owners).
Dimorphic No.
Comments Highly intelligent and excellent mimics, but shy and sensitive. Can be badly affected by change if normally kept on a strict schedule. Plucking very common if stressed.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.