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 Grass Parakeet

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PostSubject: Grass Parakeet   Sat Mar 14, 2009 1:19 pm

RED-RUMPED PARAKEET (Psephotus haematonotus (Gould)

The Red Rump Parakeet as a pet:
These birds can make a very good pet for beginners and the experienced person. They are slightly larger than an English Budgie so the cage size can be the same for them, or try a Cockatiel cage.

Characteristics: 28 cm long, Bluish Green. Nape, breast, upper tail coverts light green. Rump red, abdomen yellow, under tail coverts grey-white. Greenish yellow patch on the anterior wing coverts. Primary coverts and shoulder blue. Beak black, iris brown, legs grey. The hens are a greyish olive green and have a grey beak. The red patch on the rump is absent. Immature birds resemble the female, young males often already have red feathers on the rump. The species owes its name to the melodious call note. Blue and yellow mutations. The cock is mainly green with a yellow underside (with orange undertones). The back is light red with yellow undertones. The under tail coverts are white, sometimes with a little green. The wings are mainly blue and the shoulder yellow. The upper tail coverts are green and the central tail feathers are green with blue undertones. Outer tail feathers are blue with lighter edges. The eyes are brown, the beak is black, and the feet are grey. The hen is mainly olive-greenish-brown a little orange in the neck and belly. It has a blue shoulder patch and a grey beak. The young are at first, similar to the hen, but the young females already have a pale beak.

Size: 10 3/4 inches (27 cm) including the 5 1/2-inch (14-cm) long tail.
Weight: Cock, 2 1/8 to 2 1/2 ounces (68-70 g); hen, 2 to 2 1/2 ounces (54-65 g).
Leg band: 13/64 inch (5 mm).
Voice: A two noted whistle. A soft, not unpleasant chattering and a louder chatter when tussling.
Range: South-western Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, south-eastern South Australia.

Habitat: Loosely wooded grassy plains, agricultural land. Deforestation has led to an expansion of the range of distribution. At altitudes of up to 1250 m., usually in the vicinity of water. In drier regions this species is replaced by the Mulga and Blue-bonnet Parakeet.

Habits: Common, has learned to exploit civilisation. Red-rumped Parakeets frequently nest in the roof constructions of farmhouses and feed in the yard along with the domestic hens. Very often encountered by the roadside. Feeds and flies in association with Eastern Rosellas. Even in the wild the two species may interbreed. In some areas Starlings and Sparrows turned out to compete for nesting sites. Since these parakeets do not do any damage to wheat fields and are therefore popular with the farmers as well, people hang up nest boxes for them. The parakeets feed on grass seeds, the seeds of various oraches, millet, various flaxes, the seeds of weeds, poppies, and chickweed. Charcoal and grains of sand are ingested routinely. Outside the breeding season the animals gather in large flocks which split up into small groups at night, going off to roost in the trees. Breeding season from August (early spring) to December, sometimes already in May (depending on rainfall). Nesting not only in hollow trees but also in old sparrow's nests or inside the breeding chambers of Bee Eaters. Whether a nest is accepted depends on the hen, however. Four to seven eggs. Incubation period 17-20 days, from the second egg onwards. The eggs are laid at 48-hour intervals at onset, later at intervals of up to a week. During the early stages of incubating the male stays in close proximity to the nest. In the event of a disturbance the male utters a warning call and both animals fly off. A few days later the male once again attaches himself to a flock but returns to the nest every hour to feed the female in a nearby tree. Only the immediate vicinity of the nest is defended against members of the same species. Nesting period 30 days. The hen roosts inside the nest until the last of the young has fledged. First complete moult at the age of 3 months. The young birds pair off the following June.

Keeping: Probably in 1857 at London Zoo. A pleasant voice, persistent. Outside the breeding season it gets along well with members of its own species and with other parakeets. If an animal becomes ill, it may get attacked by its healthy partner. Red- rumped Parakeets can be left in the outdoor aviary even in the winter, but they must have access to a dry shelter free from drafts. An aviary length of at least 2 m. As the birds like to move about on the ground, germinating seeds should be provided for them there. Necessary measures must be taken to prevent worm infestation. Bathing facilities should be made available. Red-rumped Parakeets have also been successfully kept in free flight conditions.

Nest: In a tree hollow, preferably close to water. The hen lays four to seven but usually five, white, roundish eggs, about 15/64 by 3/4 inch (24 x 19 mm). These are brooded by the hen alone for about 20 days. The hen broods very closely (also in the wild) and will sit even in the face of real danger. I have personally tried to push a hen from her clutch several times, but she will sit tightly and not even panic! At about thirty days of age, the young leave the nest but are dependent on their parents for some time thereafter. The young are sexually mature at twelve months of age. Two, sometimes three, broods may be reared in a season.

Distribution: Found in south-eastern Australia. The bird is quite common but scarcer in Victoria. It inhabits mainly grassland and agricultural areas. The subspecies P. h. haematonotus is replaced by P. h. caeruleus in South Australia (around Innamincka) in the Flinders Ranges, but it is not known if the races interbreed in the wild.

Diet: Sunflower seeds, millet, canary seed, groats, grass seeds, woodland bird mix, greenstuff (chickweed, plantain, milk thistle, dandelion, lettuce, spinach), corn on the cob, apples, carrots, white bread soaked in milk.

Breeding in captivity: These well-known and loved aviary birds like to forage on the ground both in the wild and in the aviary. For successful breeding a roomy nest box, 13-1/4 inches (35 cm) high by 4 3/4 by 9.8 inches (12 x 25 cm), entrance hole 2 1/3 inches (6 cm) in diameter--is necessary. As soon as they are feeding independently, the young should be separated from the parents as the cock can behave aggressively towards them, sometimes with dire results. Although this species behaves peaceably towards most other bird species, a pair should be kept away from others of their own kind or even other psittacines. I personally prefer to give each pair of red rumps a large aviary (at least 13 feet (4 m) long) to themselves. General care is similar to that required by the Rosellas. Red-rumped parakeets are ideal birds for beginners to aviculture. They may be used as foster parents, sometimes even for non-Australian parakeets! The foster youngsters must not, however, grow too large, but with smaller or similar sized species one usually can expect a successful outcome. First bred in captivity in 1857 in London. Matching of pairs virtually always successful. One-year-old birds are already able to breed. Cool temperatures often result in egg binding, hence the nest boxes should not be offered until April.

Incubation from the second egg onwards. The brooding hen is fed by her partner outside the nest. Examinations of the nest are tolerated, often the sitting hen even allows herself to be pushed off her eggs. During rearing, half-ripe seeds and ample greenstuff must be supplied to the birds or the parents may desert the brood. The birds remain with their parents, in loose association, for a long time. Where a second brood has been started, however, the cock attacks his male offspring. Newly fledged young birds are very shy. They become independent after one week but get fed for another 3 weeks or so, Good foster parents. Hybridisation with all the other members of the genus, with Eastern Rosella, Pale-headed Rosella, Western Rosella, Yellow Rosella, Mallee Ringneck Parakeet, Red-capped Parakeet.

Behaviour: The pairs stay together all year round. Social preening, feeding of the female by the male outside the breeding season as well. More frequent feeding when the birds start breeding. Courting males call loudly, nod the head, show a trembling of the slightly dropping wings, and fan the tail feathers. The defence of the breeding territory commences with singing and repeated tail shaking. This leads to close combat with the beaks.

Mutations: In Australia several mutations are known, including Lutino, cinnamon, fallow, blue, and pastel-blue. Unfortunately many of these are still not available in the United States or Europe. The best-known mutation, which is generally available, is the yellow red-rumped parakeet. I am not too impressed with the chosen name as we are really talking about a cinnamon-mutation! Another not uncommon mutation is the olive (pied) red-rumped parakeet in which the red rump of the male is lost. The "white" red-rumped parakeet, a product of yellow (cinnamon) x (pastel) blue is also gaining popularity. The white is really more silver, but in time, this will be improved. The mutation can only be produced via split-offspring. In addition, there is the yellow mutation with red eyes. This is not silver-yellow as in the Lutino, but more pastel coloured. Fallow, Lutino and Cinammon are genetically sex-linked recessive, whereas the (pastel) blue and the olive (pied) are autosomal recessive.

Lastly platinum mutation is sex-linked but if placed with lutino it reacts differently than expected. For example:

platinum cock x normal hen = 50% platinum hens, 50% normal/platinum cocks

platinum cock x lutino hen = 50% platinum hens, 50% platinum-lutino cocks (plat-ino).


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PostSubject: Re: Grass Parakeet   Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:34 pm

TURQUOISINES or TURQUOISE PARAKEET: (Neophema pulchella)

BREEDING INFO:
Breeding cages for these birds should be 18 inches high by 18 inches deep and at least 30 inches long or wide. Books say they mature at 18 months which usually means they can breed at this age. Their eggs take 18 days to incubate. The nest box should be 8 inches wide by 8 inches high by 16 inches deep. The entrance hole is 2 1/2 to 3 inches. The box should have wood shavings or mulch as a base.

Distribution: Australia: central Queensland, south through New South Wales (this species has even been known to breed a few times in the vicinity of Sydney) to the border of Victoria.

Male: Sky-blue head, underside yellow-green, becoming lighter toward the tail. Neck, throat, and back are green. Some red in the wings. Blue band on wings and flight feathers. Tail-coverts are green. Outermost rail feathers are yellow; underside of tail is also yellow. Black-brown eyes; black bill; black-brown feet.

Female: No red in the wings; less blue on the head; breast green-yellow underside is a faded yellow, as is the underside of the tail. Young males quickly develop the red in the wings; after eight to ten months they have achieved adult colouring.

Length: 21-22 cm (8-8 1/2 inches); wings 10-11 cm(4-4 1/4 inches) tail 10-11 cm (4-4 1/4 inches).

Particulars: These birds, which live in pairs or small groups in grasslands and open woods, spend a lot of time on the ground searching for seeds and are typical "dusk" birds. They we first discovered in 1788 and in 1792 were extensively described by Shaw. In that time, as in the two years that John Gould travelled through Australia (1839-40), this species was often seen. During my stay in Australia, I only saw them once or twice; in eastern Australia, however, they are fairly common, so that at least we need not worry about their extinction at the present time. It is difficult to predict how the population of this species will develop, but it would certainly not surprise me if there were more in captivity than in the wild, thanks to some determination of thousands of aviculturists who realise that this beautiful species is slowly but surely becoming extinct.

Early in the spring the female will start to inspect the nesting boxes 20 x 20, 40 cm depth (8 x 8 x 16 inches); entrance hole 6 cm (2 1/2 inches) in diameter, and if we place moist turf, woodchips, and the like inside the box, she will soon start to expand her family. She usually lays four to seven white eggs, sometimes eight (23-24 x 16-18 mm). After a good twenty days the chicks hatch and the male will then become active in bringing food for his offspring. Before that, his only role in the breeding process was feeding his mate. Soon the female will help with the feeding of the young ones. During the breeding cycle, all Neophema species should be offered stale white bread soaked in milk or water, germinated seeds, a normal seed menu, and a rich variety of greens and fresh branches with buds. Only specimens that have been locally bred should be kept outdoors during the winter. Imported birds (including those from Japan) are generally not as strong and require being kept indoors in a lightly heated area for the first twelve months. Two clutches per year is not at all unusual; in the wild they usually breed three times. The aviary must be roomy and certainly not damp, because dampness is very dangerous for these small, beautiful birds.

For the sake of our birds (and who would want to take chances and experiment with expensive species?) it is wise to remove the nesting boxes after the young of the second clutch have flown out and in this way force both the fledglings and parents to spend the night in the night shelter. Since the moulting period of the young birds takes place during the winter months, it may be advisable to have them spend the first few winters indoors; once they are a little older and accustomed to climate and aviary life they should be able to get through the winter moulting period without any problem. Turquoise parakeets are not tolerant toward fellow species during the breeding season and must not be kept in the same aviary. Even when the young have flown out and become independent, the male often follows them in an aggressive manner so that it is best to separate the young from their parents. This aggressive pursuit by the father is only directed at the young males; the female chicks have nothing to worry about! The father may even start this pursuit before the young are completely independent. It is important, therefore, that we keep an eye out for this type of thing. Should this situation develop, it will become necessary for us to separate the young males and feed them by hand.

You can separate the young males and placed them in an adjacent aviary so that the father (and the mother of course) could feed them through the wire. Another possibility is to place the young in a reasonably sized cage in the aviary; the parents will then feed them through the bars, so we will not have the problem of rearing them ourselves. After two weeks the fledglings become independent, so we will then no longer need to concern ourselves with this problem. Since the young birds are quite wild and nervous, it is important that we place plants, branches, or twigs on the roof and sides of the aviary to help warn the young birds of the obstacles (especially the wire). After about a week we can remove these twigs gradually, because the young birds will have become accustomed to the layout of the aviary by then. I would certainly advise you to make nest inspections, because there is always the possibility that the female may have laid a new batch of eggs while she still has a clutch of dependent chicks in her nest. This is why we should provide our birds with more than one nesting box, so that she does not have to use the same nest in which to lay her eggs. Nevertheless, this is not necessarily the only solution, because sometimes the female prefers the old nest anyway and simply deposits her eggs between her little sprouts.

The turquoisines usually can be sexed even before leaving the nest box. The adult cock bird has a red bar of feathers on each wing and can readily be distinguished from the adult hen, as she doesn't have the red wing bar. I have heard however, about a female turquoisine that had red wing bars. I have also seen yellow red-rump hens with the circle of red on the rump, which is usually the mark of a cock bird. So remember that exceptions do occur. Turquoisine male chicks will usually---19 times out of 20---show a few small coloured feathers on the back of the wing in the area where the top of the wing bar will be. The colors will be red or orange or yellow or reddish brown or mixture of all four. The other five percent of the time, the colors of the wing bar-to-be will show up from one to three months after the chicks have left the nest box. Some turquoisine cock birds will attack the young cock chicks as soon as they leave the nest box. I have noticed this happens in about one pair out of ten.

If it does happen, you can remove the parent cock bird to a holding cage or pen, and the parent hen usually proceeds to feed the young chicks until they are fledged. I have had hens do this even while starting a second clutch of eggs that also hatched. I am not aware of the actual time it takes for a chick to be fledged, or be on its own, after leaving the nest box, because I always leave chicks with the parent birds for twenty-one days, as previously mentioned, but my guess would be about ten days. The turquoisine's nesting habits and the number of clutches laid are similar to the scarlet-chested parakeet's habits in those regards. In some aviculture books it has been stated that pairs of turquoisines must be housed far enough apart that they will not be able to hear or see one another, the idea being that if they're not the cock bird may go into a rage and kill or maim the hen---or maybe that she'll kill or maim him. This has not held true in my aviaries. I have one set of pens two feet eight inches wide by seven feet long by six feet high, and I have bred four pairs of turquoisines and four pairs of scarlet-chesteds in these eight pens for several years with no problems.

Breeding/Remarks:
Turquoises live in pairs or small groups, foraging close to the ground in search of seeds, They are partly crepuscular, and appear to drink just once per day, often before the first light. The species was discovered in 1788 and first thoroughly described by Shaw in 1792. The entrance hole should be about 2 1/2 inches (6cm) in diameter. During the breeding season, unlike all Neophema species, these birds must have a supply of low-fat milk- or water-soaked stale white bread, germinated seed, the normal seed menu (millet, panicum, canary grass seed, small sunflower seed), a rich variety of green food and fresh twigs with buds. Only birds bred in captivity should be allowed to overwinter outside. Imported birds (including those from Japan and Europe) are often especially delicate and should be kept indoors for the first twelve months in lightly heated accommodations. Two broods per year are not unusual. The aviary must be roomy and preferably planted with a few low shrubs. The shelter must be well protected from dampness and drafts. During long spells of dry weather, it is wise to lightly mist-spray the nest boxes on a daily basis so that the eggs do not desiccate. After the second brood has fledged, the nest box should be removed to stop the hen from laying again. Too many broods per season are unhealthy and could result in, among other things, egg binding. Later in the year, we must see that adults and youngsters are locked into the shelter at night. Cold nights are unhealthy for the youngsters because they tend to moult in the winter and so, for the first year, should be kept in lightly heated accommodations.

Turquoises are somewhat aggressive in the breeding season and each pair requires its own aviary. On reaching independence, juveniles also must be separated from the parents as the father can attack them with dire consequences. If the father should get too aggressive towards his young before they are independent, the young can be placed in an adjoining flight and the parents can then feed them through the mesh. Typically, a cock will worry his sons but leave his daughters in peace. Young birds can be extremely nervous and panicky, making it necessary to cover the inner aviary mesh with twigs so that they don't injure themselves on the wire; after a couple of weeks, the twigs can be removed. In general, I would recommend the minimum of nest inspections, but some are essential in that the hen sometimes will lay her second clutch before the young from the first have left the nest. Captive hybrids with Neophema splendida, N. elegans, and N. chrysostoma have been produced.

Mutations:
A number of mutations are well known; yellow-pied, olive-green, yellow, and fallow, in addition there have been reports of blue, opaline and lutino mutations. The red-bellied turquoise is a special case and really is not a mutation. It also occurs in the wild. Selective breeding can intensify and increase the red color (possible through pairing together those birds with the most red coloring). As per Gloger's law, geographical subspecies from moist areas have a greater formation of melanine pigment than those from drier areas, in other words; the wetter the habitat, the redder the bird, the drier the habitat, the yellower the bird. This can mean that those from wet areas have a better chance of breeding redder birds than those from dry areas. This phenomenon applies also to other Neophema species. An important feature of the yellow-pied mutation is that the red shoulder patch of the male is not always clearly discernible. This mutation is genetically sex-Linked recessive. The olive-green mutation first appeared in Denmark in 1980, but we have no further information. The beautiful yellow mutation however, is much better known, although I am not too happy with the description "yellow," and would rather, going by the color, call it pastel or light yellow-green. It is autosomal recessive in character and we therefore can expect to find split males and split females. The fallow mutation is a somewhat pale colored bird with red eyes, the general impression is graygreen. This mutation is also autosomal recessive in character. The "real" blue mutation is (to date) not yet bred, but the pastel blue has. The underside of this bird is creamish, and the back is sea-green. It is also an autosomal recessive mutation. The opaline, first bred in Germany, has a deep yellow mantel, head, and back. It is a sex-linked recessive mutation. The lutino also originated in Germany, what was blue became white. They are still very scarce, but because they are so beautiful breeders will ensure that we will soon see more of them.

Colony Breeding:
Experiences with turquoisine parakeets have taught breeders to realise that of the four species of grass parakeets discussed in detail, turquoisines are the most temperamental, and I do not know of anyone colony breeding them. A friend who is going to try to colony-breed the elegants will also attempt colony breeding the turquoisines, and we will be observing this attempt with extreme interest. Turquoisines have been placed in a cage with a pair of different species, such as a pair of Bourke's, and another time with a pair of cockatiels, and several times with finches, etc. Although these pairings seemed to work out fine, I still maintain that the best results will always be when all the grass parakeets are housed in single pairs. Even the smaller finches can be a problem because of their continual flight from perch to perch, etc., which they never seem to tire of.


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PostSubject: Re: Grass Parakeet   Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:35 pm

ELEGANT PARAKEET: (Neophema elegans)

Distribution: Southern portion of New South Wales, western Victoria, South Australia (north to Flinders Ranges) and south-western Australia (north to Moora and east to Esperance).

Size: 9 inches (23 cm) including the 4¼-inch (11 cm) long tail.

Leg band:11/64 inch (4 mm).

Voice: A sharp "tseet-tseet-tseet...tseet-tseet-tseet" uttered mainly in flight. During feeding, the birds chatter in a sharp tone interspersed with shrill shreaks.

Nest: In a tree hollow (in captivity they require a nest box 6 by 6 by 12 inches (15 x 15 x 30 cm) with an entrance hole 5 cm in diameter). The hen lays four to five white, round eggs 53/64 by 23/32 inch (21 x 18 mm) eggs on a layer of mulch or earth. The hen incubates alone for 18 days, and after a further four weeks the young leave the nest. The young remain in close contact with the parents until they themselves are ready to reproduce.

Male: Golden yellow; lighter on the underside of the tail. Yellow triangle between bill and eyes. Small blue eyebrow. Blue edges on the wing feathers. Some orange feathers on the lower belly. Olive green back. Black flight feathers.

Female: Less vivid yellow; no orange feathers on the belly (although some females may have these; they usually disappear, however, after one or two moults). Blue flight feathers. Young males are a brighter yellow than the females at the time they leave the nest, but do not yet have the band on the forehead. After six months the juvenile moulting is finished.

Remarks: Research has shown that this species is increasing in the wild and occurs in most kinds of open country. Groups of 20 to 100 birds are not at all uncommon, and only in the breeding season do they disperse into pairs or small groups. Sometimes they may be seen in the company of blue-winged grass parakeets, which are similar in appearance and life-style. The elegant can be distinguished by its yellow-green breast, the light-blue forehead band that stretches above and behind the eyes, and less blue on the wings than the blue-wing. Foraging mainly on the ground, they eat much seed (especially from Paspalum grass), and fruit, berries, and other vegetable food. When alarmed, the birds first sit stock-still on a twig and do not fly off until the last moment in search of a safer tree or clump of bushes near the ground. Their flight is fast and (especially in open situations) they will fly high in the air to avoid predatory birds. Captive care is similar to that described for Bourke's parakeet. Crossings with N. pulchella, N. splendida, and N. chrysostoma are not uncommon in aviaries.

Mutations: Among others, the yellow pied, the pastel green, the cinnamon, and the lutino mutations occur. The yellow pied is dominant in character, so that pied young can arise from a pairing with a normal bird. There are no "split" birds. It is an uncommon mutation. The pastel green and the cinnamon are also rare, and the genetic makeups are respectively autosomal recessive and sex-linked recessive. The lutino has been known for much longer than the other mutations; it is silver-yellow with red eyes and white feathers where they are blue in the normal. Contrary to most lutinos, this form of the elegant is not sex-linked but autosomal recessive in character. Both sexes can thus be split for lutino.

Particulars: This species, which lives in pairs or in small groups, is considered one of the most common of the Neophema representatives. They can often be found not too far away from civilisation and have even been found on the northern border of Western Australia, in the Pilbara District, which is in the tropics! They live near woods, though not in them, on open grass terrain and new plantations; it would almost seem as if they avoid trees. Many of them live along the coast, where we saw them several times early in the morning, flying high up in the sky. The southern areas of Australia are home to the subspecies Neo-phema elegans carteri, which is less vivid in colouring, though only professional ornithologists encumber themselves with the slight differences. In Australia this bird is also referred to as the elegant grass parakeet because it lives mainly on the seeds of grass and other plants. He is a migratory bird and can be found in cultivated areas where clover is grown, such as in south-western Australia. The female lays four to five white eggs(l7 x 20 mm) in the wild a couple only rears one clutch per season, generally in August to October. The care required by these birds parallels that of the prior species. The first specimens were brought to Europe--the London zoo to be precise--in 1862 and rapidly became popular because of their easy care and breeding. Various cross-breeding results have been achieved, mainly with the turquoise, scarlet-chested, and blue-winged parrots. To ensure good breeding results it is wise to provide them with deep nesting boxes about 40 cm(16 inches) and to cover the bottom with moist leaves and turf.

The elegant is probably not as temperamental as the turquoisine, at least in my opinion. However, this is also a controversial statement, and many breeders do not agree that this is so. I am sure, however, that all will agree that this species is not as docile or non-temperamental as the scarlet-chested and Bourke's parakeet. The elegants, both cock and hen have a blue frontal band across the forehead, just above the eyes, that distinguishes them readily from other grass parakeets. There are three ways I distinguish between a cock bird and a hen, but none is fool-proof. Many breeders have had a so-called pair in their aviaries, only to find out later that they have two cock birds or two hens.

If both birds are in good feather and health, the male is usually of a brighter or glossier feather sheen. The front band on a cock bird usually extends around and past the eyes for about one-eighth or one-quarter of an inch, while the hen has a brownish white or yellow ring around the eye. The cock bird has a trace of orange or reddish orange around the vent, while the female doesn't. This colouring; around the vent can be seen slightly even when the cock chick is still in the nest. However, as I've already pointed out, none of these three distinguishing methods is a positive means of determining the birds sex. These are very good educated guesses, and not positive identifications. The elegant grass parakeet's nesting habits are comparable to those of the other grass parakeets: usually five eggs, usually two clutches and sometimes a third clutch after moulting. Its eating habits also are similar.

Habitat: Open landscapes, but particularly grass terrain where shrubs grow. This species also penetrates into eucalyptus woods, although avoiding really dense forest regions. A marked increase in numbers in Western Australia, which is connected not only with deforestation but also with the increased cultivation of clover.

Habits: Among the shrubs well camouflaged by the color of their plumage. Hence in the event of disturbances they usually only fly off at the last moment and soon come back down again. Only when disturbed a second time do they actually fly off at a great height. The diet consists mainly of the seeds of grasses and weeds, in the areas where clover is being grown predominantly of clover seeds. Breeding season August to November. Nesting inside hollow branches and inside rotten tree stumps.

Keeping: Imported into England in 1859. Provided a frost-proof indoor shelter is at their disposal, Grass Parakeets will be all right in the winter without there being any need for additional precautions.

Diet: Mainly millet and grass seeds. At least during the breeding season the seeds should be offered in a germinated or half-ripened condition. Read the document for care & feeding from the main Grass Parakeet page.

Breeding: First bred in captivity in 1859 at London Zoo. In 1972 lutinos were cultivated in Belgium. Hybridization with Turquoise Grass Parakeet, Scarlet-chested Grass Parakeet, Blue-winged Grass Parakeet.

Colony Breeding: These birds are more of a temperamental nature than Bourke's parakeet and the scarlet-chested parakeet, and I know of only two breeders who have bred two pairs together in one pen. A breeder friend is going to make an attempt at Colony breeding elegants, and though it of course will take many such attempts before the facts can be established, we will nevertheless get some important data from his effort.

SCARLET CHESTED or SPLENDID PARAKEETS: (Neophema splendida)

BREEDING INFO:
Breeding cages for these birds should be 18 inches high by 18 inches deep and at least 30 inches long or wide. Books say they mature at 18 months which usually means they can breed at this age. Their eggs take 18 days to incubate. The nest box should be 8 inches wide by 8 inches high by 16 inches deep. The entrance hole is 2 to 3 inches. The box should have wood shavings or mulch as a base.

APPEARANCE:
Male: Head & neck are sea-blue, topside is green, underside is yellow with red crop area. Wings are blue-green with bright blue and black. The tail is green with yellow and black. Brown eyes, black bill, gray-brown black feet.
Female: Underside is yellow, breast has olive-green shine, darker on back than the male. Sides of head considerably less blue, no red on the crop and chest area.
Size: Length is 8 to 8 1/2 inches. Wings are 4 to 4 1/2 inches. Tail is 4 to 4 1/2 inches.

MUTATIONS:
These are a few of the mutations for the splendid parakeet. The Yellow Pied, Sea-Green, Pastel Blue, Blue, Cinnamon, Isabel, Fallow and Red-Bellied. Each of these can be bred to a pied where if a normal scarlet chested is bred to a pied its male babies will have a blotched red chest instead of a basically solid red color.

The male of this species is truly a beautiful bird, with colors of red, sky blue, deep ocean blue and green. There is no problem in identifying the male bird once he molts into full color. The young males are a little more difficult to sex from the hens until the red feathers show up on the chest. A pretty good guess can be made if there are two or more chicks: the male is the one with the most (and brightest) blue near and on the head. Some breeders try to sex these young birds by the white markings under the wings. Their theory is that if the white markings are really prominent, it is a hen. So far, so good. (This is a good high percentage guess, and nothing else.) They also assume that if the white markings are very faint, or missing completely, then it is a male bird. This is where the error is made, because in this case the young bird may turn out to be of either sex. In one instance I banded six young birds, none of which had any white markings under the wings; four turned out to be hens.

The young or adult hens are a little difficult to tell apart from turquoisine hens, but if both birds are observed side by side, the color along the lower portion of the wings is one easy way to tell the two species apart. The scarlet-chested female has a lot of real light powder blue and less (but some) deep ocean blue on the lower edge of the wings. The turquoisine female has very little or sometimes none of the powder blue (which is sometimes called sky blue) and lots of deep blue on the lower portion of the wings. By placing two birds, one of each species, side by side, you will readily see the difference. The scarlet-chested is a very quiet little bird even by grass parakeet standards. They all have a very soft voice, so breeders need never worry about disturbing their neighbours. The grass parakeets are about the same size as a budgerigar, but surely a lot quieter.

The scarlet-chested has the reputation of being very delicate to raise, but this is certainly not so for birds housed and fed properly. They may be more susceptible to colds or head injuries, but with proper care and housing they will not get colds or head injuries. They are double-clutched and sometimes even triple-clutched, laying from four to seven eggs. In extreme cases three eggs or maybe nine or ten eggs may be laid, but usually it will be either five or six eggs. Usually the hen incubates the eggs by herself; but not always. As mentioned before, she lays one egg every other day and generally starts setting tight (incubating) the eggs about the time the third egg is laid. The incubation period is approximately nineteen days. The young chicks remain in the nest for a period of twenty-four to twenty-eight days, usually, with the hen remaining in the nest box every night after the last chick is hatched for a period of eight to ten days. After the young chicks leave the nest box, the male bird usually takes over the feeding chores. I leave the young chicks in the pen for a period of twenty-one days after they leave the nest box; I then remove them to a holding cage.

This way, I know they are capable of feeding themselves when removed. On very rare occasions, the male bird has attacked some the chicks (probably males) when they leave the nest. In these rare cases I remove the male bird until the chicks are fledged and put into the holding pen, and then I put the male back with the hen. (More on this under turquoisines.) The male bird will usually come into full color after the second moult; sometimes he comes into color after the first moult. The moulting period in my area is usually in August September.

The hen sometimes will return to the nest box and lay another clutch of eggs after going through the moulting process. Usually about one pair out of four pairs will do so. I had one scarlet-chested male bird that had red on the frontal area all the way down to the knee area, the red below the chest area being orange-red. It was truly a beautiful bird. It died recently, and I am having the skin preserved by a tax-idermist. I do have some young birds that were hatched from this colourful bird, and they, males and hens both, also have some of the orange-red color on the lower abdomen, so I am sure this rare colouring is the result of heredity, not environment, and will therefore reproduce. I hope to develop an all-red frontal area strain, which I understand has already been accomplished in Europe.

COLONY BREEDING
These birds are of a very gentle nature, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone were to come along and state that he had been successfully colony breeding them. But I am not aware of anyone at this time who is doing so, at least not in any great number of pairs. I do know several breeders who are breeding two pairs together, some with better results than others.


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