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The Bourke’s Parakeet

by Orlando Bonnici

The Bourke's Parakeet is an extremely gentle bird, they can be kept in most aviaries without any problems being caused by them with other birds. The are most commonly kept in aviary situations, although if handfed they make a very quiet and affectionate pet. Bourke's are very quiet, handfed pets are a great apartment bird, being inoffensive to everyone and wouldn't wake anyone from napping in their daybeds.

The Bourke Parakeet is the ideal bird for the novice aviculturist. They are hardy, easy to care for and willing breeders. These peaceful birds have calm dispositions that make them ideal companions for mixed flights that also house finches and cockatiels. Bourkes have a soft, pleasant voice, and are not nervous or excitable birds. Due to their non-destructive nature, it is unlikely that they will nibble on the vegetation in a planted aviary.

Some people consider Bourkes dull, because of their sedentary nature; however they perk up at dawn and dusk . At these times, Bourke's fly actively around the aviary, making endearing twittering sounds. In the wild, it is not unusual for these birds to still be out and about past sunset.

Bourkes are the only members of the Neophema family that lack the green feathering. They also have a slightly different body and tail shape, indicating that they might not be as closely related to the other Neophemas as we think. Although Bourke's make superb foster parents, they will not inbreed with the other grass parakeets such as the Red Rump. The male Bourke has a blue band of feathers above his nostrils. Hens are generally smaller in size.

The Bourke has several colour mutations that are more popular than the normal colour phase. One of these is the rosy Bourke. Rosies are relatively inexpensive and readily available. After all, who would not like a bright pink bird in their aviary? This sex-linked mutation ranges in colour from pale pink to the more desirable dark pink. Males and females are virtually identical in appearance, though hens have darker faces and more grey scattered throughout their body.

Provided with a parakeet nest box the hen can lay up to 6 eggs. Incubation is about 18 days. Bourke's should be fed a diet of parakeet mix, black oil sunflower, sprouted seeds and a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Apples, bananas, and carrots have proved to be these birds’ favourite foods. And given a choice, they'd eat nothing but Spray Millet, so this food must be given only sparingly. Cuttlebone should always be available and other mineral blocks to help keep their beaks ground down, though these may be used only sparingly, depending on the bird.

The male can breed as young at 8 months old, the hen at 10-12 months... but just because they can does not mean we should allow this. Once a male and female are assured, watch for true pairing activity such as being loving and gentle around each other. Squabbling can indicate a mis-match, leading to poor breeding performance and lowered chick success. The cock feeding the hen, indicates of course a nicely partnered couple who are happy with each other.

When setting up for breeding Bourke as a single pair in a cage... try to have 2 boxes per pair as they like having a choice about it. A box is usually recommended and a 'deep Budgie' or an 'English Budgie' box is appropriate and some have even used Cockatiel boxes, as well. Each box must then have an inch or so of wood shavings in the bottom so the new owners can throw it all out again.

The Bourke can go to nest anytime throughout the year, no matter the season. Mr. Bourke likes his hens 'barefoot and pregnant' as the saying goes, so don't let him over-work her with more than 3 clutches per year. He will start things going by flying to the nest box entrance where after checking everything out, he calls and coaxes to his hen. Once he gets her over there, he both bob up and down and spreads his wings, as he faces her and then he sidles up closer to her until he is right next to her side... and still bobbing and showing off his wings. Eggs are laid every other day, with an average of 4-6 being laid. Incubation goes on for 18-21 days. And chicks fledge at around 5th or 6th week of age, give or take a week. And remember to limit your hen to only 2 clutches per year or you risk her health. Also take note that the first clutch is often completely infertile, as with many bird species. When the chicks do hatch, the male actually does the main work of caring for them while his hen starts her next brood. This is why bourkes should not be allowed to breed more than 3 times per year. If well cared after and given the appropriate flight space, bourkes can prove to be one of the tamest birds in our aviculture. They are also relatively inexpensive with pairs selling at around Lm20. I suggest these birds to any breeder since they are a beautiful addition to any aviary.

Donated by Orlando Bonnici

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