- The Meyer’s Parrot
- The Senegal Parrot
- The Black-headed and the White-bellied Caique
- The Moustache Parakeet
- The Pionus
- The Quaker Parakeet
- The Indian Ringnecked Parakeet
- The Rock Pebbler
- Alexandrine Parrots
- Golden Crested Rosella
- The Solomon Island Eclectus
- The Peachface Lovebird
- Fischer’s and Masked Lovebirds
- The Rainbow Lory
- The Red Lory
- The Blue Crowned Hanging Parrot
- The Toco Toucan
- The Pekin Robin
- The Diamond Dove
- Ringnecked Doves
- The Neophemas Parrots
The Meyer’s Parrot
The Meyer’s Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri), a native of the African woodlands and savannahs, is like the stepchild in the popular Poicephalus family, having long taken a backseat in popularity to its more colorful family member, the Senegal Parrot. Both birds are equal in size at about eight to nine inches, and were once imported in large numbers, but the Meyer’s is fussier about breeding in captivity, which may be why it still plays second fiddle to its close cousin. However, many breeders who have focused on African parrots, and the Meyer’s in particular, have had good success with them.
Meyer’s are often overlooked in pet stores because they aren’t as flashy as the other popular birds in their family, like the Jardine’s, though Meyer’s can be quite beautiful with its bright yellow cap and shiny turquoise chest and belly contrasted against a dark brown body. The beak is black and the feet are gray. There are said to be six subspecies and breeders discern between them before setting up a pair for nesting.
This affectionate, quiet, easy-going bird has a stable temperament – if this parrot had a motto, it would be “I go with the flow.” It is not an athletic or clownish bird, but instead prefers to watch everything carefully and with a discerning eye. The Meyer’s is happy sitting quietly on a perch, chewing up a toy and watching the world go by. They are social birds and tend to bond with everyone in the family, unlike other species that may prefer one person to another. In general, this bird isn’t fickle – once it likes someone, the person is a friend for life.
This species may learn a few words, though they are not known for their talking ability. They can learn to whistle, make clicking noises, and will occasionally offer an eardrum-piercing squeak. Fortunately, they are not prone to screaming or squawking, making them good birds for apartment living. Some individuals will learn household noises, like the beeping of the microwave.
Though this species isn’t known as a cuddle-bug, these birds are affectionate and love being handled and scratched on the head and neck. A handfed baby will become a gentle adult if treated properly, and is not prone to nipping, though it can give a powerful bite if provoked.
The Meyer’s is supposed to be dimorphic, meaning that there’s a visible difference between the genders, but to an untrained eye, it’s difficult to see the small differences, and even long-time breeders are often mistaken. Male Meyer’s are said to have black barring on their chests; the female’s chest is more of a solid turquoise. The male Meyer’s is also supposed to have more yellow coloring on the head and shoulders than the female, though this point is debatable. Both genders make equally good companions, so it’s not necessary to search for one over the other. Oddly, male Meyer’s greatly outnumber females, so breeders are often on the lookout for hens.
Unlike Cockatoos and Amazon parrots, the Meyer’s isn’t going to demand affection, but it needs a lot of handling nonetheless. An owner should have the time to spend with this parrot, though it is often content to entertain itself with something chewable, like rawhide, rope knots, and soft wood.
A novice bird owner might do well with the Meyer’s or Senegal parrot. Ideally, this bird should be purchased as a well-handled hand-fed youngster. Though this bird is small, its beak is powerful. Because it can live up to 25 years or more, someone should think carefully before purchasing one.
The Senegal Parrot
The Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalus) is part of a family of birds well known for their outstanding pet quality, quietness, and remarkably calm temperament. Originating in Africa (hence the name “Senegal”), these birds are the most common of the Poicephalus, and are fairly easy to find in pet shops. They are prized for their good nature and the fact that their price is far lower than their Poicephalus cousins, making them a good choice for the person wanting a “larger” bird.
The Senegal Parrot, about nine inches long, isn’t a “flashy” bird, like some other companion parrots of the same size. They are mostly dark green and brownish-grey with an iridescent green throat, orange thighs, with a yellow chest. The beak and feet are black, and the eye is a light yellow-orange, set off by the darker grey of the face. They don’t need all the “flash”-they are beautiful as they are, with a great personality to match.
Senegal Parrots are not the chattiest of species, though some individuals can learn to talk quite well, acquiring a vocabulary of dozens of words. They are not screamers, tending more toward whistling and clucking. A Senegal will not get you in trouble with your neighbors.
These birds can be very sweet, wanting nothing more than to sit on your shoulder all day. They tend to become very attached to “their” humans, and don’t really need another Senegal to keep them entertained. Senegals will appreciate as much attention as you can give. Because this bird will come to adore you, it is best to return that affection every day, or you will risk having a dejected bird.
Toys are a must for this species. They love to chew blocks of soft wood-don’t be afraid to buy them macaw-sized toys-a Senegal will make fast work of it! They love rope toys as well, but be sure to watch out for long strands that can catch on a foot or around the neck-regular trimming of rope toys is a must. Acrylic toys with bells attached are also good, and will last longer than destructible materials.
Senegals are not generally picky eaters, and will relish all kinds of good, nourishing food, including safe table foods. Begin offering new foods early so that your bird will take to them right away. Senegals have a tendency to become a bit overweight, but are active birds by nature, and will avoid becoming fat if given enough exercise and a good diet.
With a lifespan of over 30 years, the Senegal Parrot is a good pet for the intermediate bird owner. Senegals can become nippy if they don’t get their way, so they may not make the ideal child’s pet. Because Senegals are not difficult to breed, you may want to check the local paper for breeders in your area-that way you can choose the pick of the clutch.
The Black-headed and the White-bellied Caique
Well known as the clown of companion birds, Caiques are loved by bird fanciers for their outgoing nature and ability to make people laugh with their playful antics. The proper way to pronounce caique is “kai-eke”-don’t ask for a “cake” at the bird shop, or they might point you to the nearest bakery!
If the African Grey parrot is the intellectual of the bird community, and the macaw is the show-off, then the caique is the clown. Caiques have been called clowns more often than Barnum and Bailey have had shows in three rings, and for good reason-the clown is a truly appropriate metaphor for this medium-sized mischief maker.
Two species of caiques are commonly kept as pets: the black-headed caique (Pionites melanocephala) and the white-bellied caique (Pionites leucogaster). The yellow-thighed caique, a subspecies of the white-bellied, is also kept as a pet, though it is less common in the pet trade. The black-headed and the white-bellied caique have a similar appearance, with a few obvious distinctions. They both are about nine to ten inches long, and their color composition is relatively simple, with “sections” of the bird in green, orange, yellow, and white. The black-headed has, obviously, a black head and black beak, while the white-bellied has, you guessed it, a white belly (so does the black-headed, incidentally), horn-colored beak, and a bright orange and yellow head. The caique is a stocky bird, surprisingly heavy for its size, as most new owners will point out.
Originally from South America, the caique is becoming ever more popular as a companion bird, but you may have to do your research to acquire one-most pet shops will not carry this species. You will more likely have to contact a breeder or find an all-bird shop to purchase your caique.
Aside from the caique’s striking appearance, its personality is the primary reason for its rise in popularity. Caique owners rave about this plucky, active, little comedian. Most bird owners know that they will have to accept the good, the bad, and the “ugly” part of bird ownership when they take on a feathered companion. The caique makes a wonderful pet, but it’s not perfect. They can be stubborn and beaky, and very willful. But they are so cute, it’s difficult to fault them. Keep a very watchful eye on your caique if you have other birds in the house-they are known for bird-on-bird aggression, and care should be taken that the caique does not injure another pet bird.
Caiques can’t compete in a noise contest with a cockatoo, but they are not quiet, by any means. Their noise level is moderate, and will only bother your more “sensitive” neighbors. They are not known for their talking ability, but can learn to whistle and cluck very well. A talented caique will talk, but its mimicking does not rival that of the better talking species.
Though the caique is a medium-sized bid, it needs a large environment to spend its days in-this energetic bird will suffer greatly from being confined to a small cage. Think about building a small aviary if you can, or at least providing your caique with the largest housing you can afford. Make sure that the bar-spacing is appropriate for a bird of its size and that there’s a grating on the bottom of the cage. This playful bird will discover the weaknesses in its cage in no time, so be sure that the cage is of quality construction.
Toys are a staple of the caique’s energy-diet. Caiques are always “on the go” and love to play with toys, especially toys that they can demolish. Be sure to have a steady supply of new toys on hand to replace the old ones when they become ragged or are disassembled. You’ll have to experiment with several types of toys to find your caique’s favorites. Fortunately, there are many types of toys on the market to choose from, but make sure that they are safe before you give them to your caique.
The Moustache Parakeet
The Moustache Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri), also known as the bearded parakeet, the banded parakeet, the Javan parakeet, the Java moustache parakeet, the rose-breasted parakeet, and the Indian pink or red breasted parakeet, originates in Indonesia, specifically Java and Bali. It is not as popular in the bird trade as its cousin, the Indian Ringneck, but it does have its fanciers, and definitely attracts the eye of bird novices as well.
Because this Asiatic species isn’t the most popular in aviculture, with breeders tending to focus on more common or flashier birds, the Moustache has managed to steer clear of most genetic problems and chronic illnesses, typical features of over-bred species. They are a hardy bird, considered common in their homeland. In the United States, they are still considered a fanciers bird, though they are appearing more frequently in pet shops.
They are common in most areas in the wild, and travel in noisy flocks of up to fifty individuals. They roost and nest in communal flocks, and are considered a pest to grain and rice farmers. They tend to breed well in captivity if pairs are isolated from other noisy species.
The Moustache is 13 to 15 inches in length, including the long, tapered tail, which is why it is called a “parakeet” instead of a parrot – in small to medium psittacines, the keets have tapered tails and the parrots have short, blunt tails. They are characterized by a distinct black band that crosses over the beak from eye to eye – the bird’s “mustache.” There is a thicker black band below the beak (it’s curious that they’re not called the “bearded parrot”). Juveniles are recognized by a partial black band on the face and a paler red beak. Don’t mistake the Moustache for the Derbyan – the latter bird has a lilac breast instead of a pink one, though both have the distinct black bar stretching from eye to eye. The Derbyan is also much larger at 20 inches.
This species is dimorphic, meaning that there is a difference in appearance between the genders. Most distinctively, the male has a much brighter pink breast. In some subspecies, the male’s beak is a bright red, and the female’s beak is black, making the two sexes quite distinctive.
These birds are all personality. Their energy level is high and they are voracious chewers. They are proficient, clear talkers and can be affectionate if handled daily. If not, the only quality that will “keep” is the chatter. These birds can become quite mean and aggressive if left too long without hands-on human company.
Because it can be a handful, the Moustache is recommended only for more advanced bird guardians. A novice may become intimidated by the large, powerful beak. One nip and the relationship may be over. The Moustache parakeet is reported to live over 20 years with proper care.
The Pionus isn’t the most popular of parrots – it’s often out-flashed, out-colored, out-talked, and out-numbered by many of the more commonly kept parrot species. The pionus isn’t much like its South American cousin, the feisty Amazon, though it is shaped like a smaller Amazon; the pionus is not as talkative as an African grey, though it is as quiet and devoted; the pionus is not as vivid or flashy as the many conures, though it is the same size. So what is it about this bird that so attracts fanciers?
Perhaps the reason why die-hard bird folks are fascinated with the pionus is because it’s not the most popular avian companion – it’s special. Most people who have a pionus (or a flock of them) don’t know too many other pionus people unless they meet them on the Internet.
The pionus is the best kept secret of the bird world. It’s got all of the good qualities of the popular companion species, with few of the negative aspects that often occur with parrots. Of the eight species of pionus, five are regularly available in the pet trade, and each has distinct subspecies, though many of those are not available in the United States. The Blue-headed (Pionus menstruus); Bronze-winged (Pionus chalcopterus); Dusky (Pionus fuscus); Maximilian’s or Scaly-headed (Pionus maximiliani); Coral-billed or Red-billed (Pionus sordidus); Plum-crowned (Pionus tumultuosus); White-crowned or White-capped (Pionus senilis); and White-headed(Pionus seniloides) make up the pionus family. The five most available are the Maximilian’s, Dusky, Blue-headed, White-capped, and the Bronze-winged.
The eight species of pionus are found in a wide range of South and Central America. They tend to inhabit forested areas, savannahs, and mountainous regions. They are all roughly between ten and twelve inches in length and are basically the same shape, with a short, square tail like the Amazons; they all have a bare, fleshy eye-ring circling the entire eye; and they all have red feathers at the vent (underneath the tail). Those are the only physical characteristics they share – they differ so vastly in color, it can be puzzling why the field biologists put them all in the same species. They used to be called “Red-vented” parrots before the name “pionus” came into vogue.
The Blue-headed is the most commonly kept of the pionus because it is the most visually stunning of the family, with a shocking blue head atop an emerald green body. Juveniles are mostly green, but will feather-out to their mature color after a couple of molts.
The Maximilian’s is next in popularity, dull in color compared to the Blue-headed, but the largest of the pionus at twelve inches. The White-capped is next, often confused with the White-fronted Amazon, being similarly colored. The Dusky and the Bronze-winged aren’t easy to find in the pet trade, though they are becoming more readily available as breeders begin to take note of these birds.
The pionus, in general, is known to be a quiet, easy-going, slightly-standoffish mid-size parrot. In truth, these descriptions are based on comparisons to the more commonly kept parrot species. Compared to the Amazon, conure, and macaw, the pionus is indeed quiet. Compared to lovebirds and African greys, it is very easy-going. Compared to cockatoos, it is a little standoffish. But Pionus lovers tell a different story – their birds are affectionate (though not complete love-sponges), quieter than other parrots (though not silent!), and are attentive and sweet. As with all parrots, the way a pionus is raised by its human guardians makes the difference between a shy bird and a great companion.
Pionus aren’t known as the best talkers, but some individuals can garner quite an impressive vocabulary. Their “speaking voice” isn’t always crystal clear and is often a little rasping, but a guardian can generally make out what the bird is saying.
A pionus guardian should be ready to spend a great deal of time with their bird. In a home with other louder, more demanding birds, the pionus may not get the attention it requires.
Because it is quiet in comparison to many other parrot species, it makes a great apartment bird. One caveat, however: the louder the household, the louder the bird. This goes for all species of parrots, pionus included. A houseful of screaming children, barking dogs, and blaring televisions can easily teach the sedate pionus to be noisy.
In general, the pionus makes a great family bird, and isn’t prone to being a “one person” bird, though this varies by individual. Even though the pionus bite isn’t as formidable as the Amazon’s or the Cockatoo’s, unsupervised children shouldn’t be allowed to play with the pionus, or any parrot for that matter.
When most birds are frightened they either try to flee, bite, or stand perfectly still – the pionus does these things, along with another interesting survival technique – it hisses in short little bursts, almost like it’s having trouble breathing. Cockatiels make a similar noise when frightened as well.
The pionus is a change from the “everyday” parrot, quite the novelty. The pionus can live 25-40 years if properly cared for, so it’s not a relationship best entered into on a whim.
The Quaker Parakeet
The Quaker Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) a native of South America, also commonly referred to as the Monk Parrot, is one of the most popular parrots of its size due to its availability, low cost, and outstanding mimicking ability, and it is reported to live over thirty years with the proper care. This bright, resourceful, twelve-inch bird has been able to set up large wild colonies from Southern Florida to the Northeast and Midwest, making themselves a charming addition to the landscape of those areas, though many places consider them pests and have outlawed them.
Because Quakers are so prolific and destructive when they colonize in the wild, Quakers are illegal to sell or own in some states, so check state laws before you order Quakers for resale. Also, consider the laws of states you might want to travel or move to if you already have a pet Quaker. These birds have been confiscated and euthanized in states where they are illegal to own.
Quakers primarily are a lime green in color. The underside of the wings are tinged with blue and the beak is horn-colored. The distinguishing feature of the Quaker is its storm-grey face, neck, and chest. They are considered a medium-sized bird, and are often confused with conures because of their size and coloration. There have been some recent mutations of these birds in blue and cinnamon (a lighter greenish-yellow) though they are difficult to find and are very expensive. The blue mutation is particularly stunning, and is beginning to lower in price as breeders today are concentrating on them, though you may still have to search a little harder for them.
Possibly the most distinctive behavioral feature of the Quaker parakeet comes from its namesake-the quaking and shaking. These birds bob and quake in a way that looks quite abnormal and disturbing, but it is actually a natural behavior exclusive to this bird.
Despite their name, Quakers are anything but silent! Someone with noise sensitivity might want to think twice about bringing this bird home. They will wake up the most solid sleeper, and may disturb neighbors. On the positive side, these birds are wonderful talkers, able to learn many words and phrases, especially if kept as a single bird. They are also highly trainable and can learn tricks when properly motivated by food or praise. When hand-raised, Quakers can be as affectionate and as tame as a companion bird can be. They can often be acquired untamed, and will tame down with some patience.
Quakers are voracious chewers, and will make fast work of furniture, so provide lots of chewable toys and safe branches to avoid living a bored and unhappy Quaker that can easily turn its destructive nature onto valuables.
Quakers are social animals and appreciate the company of their humans or other Quakers, and will become depressed and neurotic if left alone too often. A pair of Quakers will bond if introduced early enough, but won’t lose the bond to their owners if they are included in family life and given a lot of close interaction.
Wild Quakers are quick to nest, and build elaborate oven-shaped, many-chambered “pots” out of thousands of twigs woven into sophisticated nests. Quakers are sometimes reluctant to nest in breeding boxes, though they are often bred that way if offered twigs and other substantial nesting material. They lay six to eight eggs, though they are known to lay up to thirteen viable eggs in one clutch.
The Indian Ringnecked Parakeet
The Indian Ringnecked Parakeet (Psittacula Krameri manillensis) has been kept as a pet for centuries and remains a favorite companion bird today. As its name suggests, the Indian Ringnecked Parakeet originates from India, where it is still found wild in great quantities, even in urban areas. A devoted owner will do best with this temperamental bird that requires a great deal of attention to remain tame. However, the Indian Ringnecked will charm and delight the person who takes the time to appreciate its other qualities-a playful exuberance and a remarkable talking ability.
The Indian Ringnecked is sixteen inches long and is available in a variety of mutations stemming from the nominate green bird-blue, yellow, pied, albino, and others. This bird is dimorphic, meaning that there are visible differences between the sexes-the males of this species have a distinct ring around the neck at maturity, making them easily discernable. Dimorphism is great for breeders, as no mistake can be made as to who’s who in the couple-this makes for easy pairing. The color of these birds is the most striking-it seems almost airbrushed on, so that you can hardly distinguish individual feathers.
These are chatty birds, especially when they learn to talk. You may delight in hearing your Indian Ringnecked says its first few words, and then shortly realize that he won’t shut up! Be careful what you teach him, because you will be hearing it loudly and often for many, many years. They are great whistlers too, but try to teach words and phrases before whistling, or your bird may fancy whistling over talking and never learn many words.
Indian Ringnecked Parakeets can make sweet, tame pets, but will not remain so if neglected. If played with every single day, these birds will be loving, loyal companions. If neglected, you will have a biter on your hands. I don’t necessarily recommend these birds for children, as the birds tend to be sensitive to commotion. I had an Indian Ringnecked that had terrible night-frights, even when there was a nightlight on, and his thrashing resulting in many broken blood feathers. I eventually paired him up with a mate in a large flight cage, and he became much happier-but I lost him as a pet. Indian Ringnecked Parakeets are not shy birds, and will do best with an owner who appreciates an outgoing animal who is not afraid to demand for what it wants!
Indian Ringnecked Parakeets are sensitive birds that need lots of play time and time out of the cage to remain happy-if not, expect your bird to develop neurotic disorders that many be very difficult to reverse. As with any bird, make sure to feed a balanced, nutritious diet that includes fruit, veggies, and table foods-this way you can be sure that your bird is nourished and will not become bored with his diet. These birds are reported to live for more than 30 years.
Because of the long tail, these birds will need a larger cage than another bird of the same relative size. These birds love their toys, and will hang on them and toss them around the cage-be sure to have lots of toys on hand to replace the ones your bird destroys-this type of destruction is a normal, healthy part of being a companion bird. If you can handle a good deal of chattering, some of it ear-piercing, and you have the time and energy to spend with this beautiful bird, consider bringing an Indian Ringnecked into your family.
The Rock Pebbler
The Rock Pebbler (Polytelis anthopeplus), also known as the Regent Parrot, Black-tailed Parakeet, the Smoker, Rock Pepplar, Rockie, and Marlock Parakeet, is an Australian native and one of the loveliest and most docile of the Australian keets. There are two subspecies, one from the Eastern part of Australia (Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides), which is said to be endangered, and one from the Western part (Polytelis anthopeplus anthopeplus), which is more populous. The Eastern variety is also said to be more colorful. In the wild, the Rock Pebbler inhabits dense, woody areas and eucalyptus groves, and in some areas may inhabit developed areas where crops are grown. They nest in tree hollows and generally have four to six offspring, sometimes more, which hatch at 21 days and leave the nest for good at about 50 days.
This species is dimorphic, so there is a visible difference between the sexes in mature birds. Males are limey-yellow with a muddier yellow nape and crown, and females are darker green with a duller yellow on the head and breast. For both, the tail is blue-black, but the hen has dark-edged olive feathers beneath it. The beak is a rosy-horn color, the legs are gray, and the iris is orange in mature adults. Juveniles appear similar to females (though males may be a little brighter in color), and come into mature feather at just over a year of age. They are typically 16 inches from the head to the tip of the long, tapered tail. Because the tail is tapered to a point, this species is typically known as a “parakeet,” though that’s a minor distinction – it is still a parrot in the psittacadae family. There are a few color mutations derived from the nominate bird (the color most found in the wild), but they aren’t widely available in the U.S.
The Rock Pebbler makes a great apartment bird because it isn’t loud in comparison with other parrots of its size, though this species is happiest in a planted aviary. In the wild, the “Rockie” lives in small flocks of 20 to 100 birds, and pairs up to nest. They will get along with other species in a sizable aviary, including Ringnecks, Princess Parakeets, Crimson-winged Parrots, and Superb Parakeets. They can breed successfully with some other species, so make sure that they only nest together.
Since they do tend to get along well together, they do not require a lot of hands on time, though a single bird kept as hands-on companion will need a good deal of daily attention and time out of the cage to remain tame and happy. They are tamed with little trouble and they become loyal companions, rarely nippy or fussy. Most aren’t extreme cuddlers, but will like to hang out on a guardian’s shoulder and be scratched on the back of the neck. Some individuals can amass an impressive vocabulary and most are known to repeat household noises. Unlike some of the other keets, the tone of its speaking voice is sweet rather than raspy.
These active birds are happiest when they can fly, and they are quite agile in the sky. They can become “perch potatoes” if not allowed enough exercise, which is why aviary life suits them so well.
The Afro-Asian Alexandrine Parrot (Psittacula eupatria) is a bright, gentle, independent, medium-sized bird known to be hardy and relatively quiet compared to their ringneck cousins. This bird is a favorite among fanciers and is becoming more popular in the pet trade than in past years due to its growing popularity with breeders. The nominate Alexandrine has all green plumage and an immense beak. As with many birds in the ringneck family, color mutations are becoming more widely available to consumers, including the lutino (yellow) and the blue mutations. The Alexandrine comes in five distinct subspecies, some slightly larger or smaller.
The Alexandrine is playful and can be talkative, able to amass an impressive vocabulary. This bird is a wonderful family pet. Alexandrines are loyal birds, able to bond with multiple family members unlike a few other species. They are quick to learn tricks, and are capable acrobats.
The novice and the experienced bird keeper will enjoy the Alexandrine, but this bird may not be for the very beginner, though someone that has kept a parakeet or other small bird healthy and happy may be ready for this easy-going bird. Alexandrines are not known to be nippy, in spite of that huge beak, and are extremely affectionate when given consistent attention. Because Alexandrines are highly affectionate and love their human “flock,” they need a person that is able to give them a great deal of time out of the cage. If you’re concerned that they may not be able to provide sufficient attention to the bird, try a pair.
Alexandrines, like most parrot type birds, are chewing machines, and need lots of soft wood toys to keep them happy. Add on a few rope toys and a couple of indestructible acrylic toys, and the Alexandrine is ready to play. Puzzle toys that hide nuts or dried fruit can be especially entertaining for an Alexandrine, who is always ready for a challenge.
This species will generally live peacefully with others of its kind. The Alexandrine’s beak is powerful and large, so keep smaller birds out of your pet’s reach. If you have a “cousin” bird, like an Indian Ringnecked parakeet, you can let the birds play, but you should not let the two species breed. All in all, the Alexandrine is a lovable, intelligent parrot that can live more than 30 years if cared for properly.
Golden Crested Rosella
The Golden Crested Rosella (Platycercus eximius), often called the Eastern rosella and the white-cheeked rosella, originates in Australia and is the most colorful and popular of the rosella family. The Golden Mantle is a favorite among fanciers because of its stunning appearance and gentle nature. It is possibly the most stunning of the rosellas because of the palate of bright colors that grace its feathers. It has a crimson head and chest, white cheeks, bright yellow belly, cobalt shoulders, flight and tail feathers, a pale green underbelly and a darker green back. Its beak is white and its feet are a light grey. This bird looks like piece of art. It is about 12 inches long, about the size of a sun conure, though its tail is longer, its head is smaller, and it has a more slender appearance.
The Golden Mantled Rosella is not a consistently noisy bird, save for some chattering, which can be loud. It is not a great talker, but may pick up a few simple words. If you want a great whistler, this bird is for you—play a whistling tape or CD while you are at work, and you will be pleased to find that your rosella picks up tunes easily.
A gentle, easy-going bird, the Golden Mantled Rosella is an ideal family pet. It is not a cuddler, and will not stand for much petting, but will be content to ride around on your shoulder. A very tame rosella is a good bird for a child who is mature enough to behave properly around any bird. As with all birds, there is the possibility of biting, so be careful with a child’s tender fingers. Rosellas make great aviary birds, and will still retain their pet quality in a flighted situation if you take the time to play with them.
These birds are need space and a good diet to thrive. The largest cage you can afford is ideal, but be careful that the bars are the correct spacing for a bird with this head size. An aviary situation is great for these birds, which will live peacefully together in a large enough space. Diet should include lots of fruit and vegetables, and some healthy table foods. Your handfed, tame rosella will love to sit on your shoulder at the dinner table, and will be quite well behaved, unlike many birds that will tend to wander. This is a good way to reinforce the bond between you and your bird, and you can feed him tidbits from you plate. These birds are reported to live for more than 25 years if cared-for properly.
If you want a gorgeous bird for an aviary or habitat setting, or have the space in your home to give this bird the appropriate room, then the Golden Mantled is for you. Be sure that you have enough time to spend with your bird, as the Golden Mantled will become quite attached to you and will relish your company. He may become despondent if you do not have to time to spend with him. In this case, you may want to consider two.
The Solomon Island Eclectus
Eclectus Parrots come in a variety of sub-species, including the Grand Eclectus, the Vosmaeri, and the Solomon Island Eclectus (Eclectus roratus solomonensis), the most commonly found Eclectus in captivity. Originating in the Solomon Islands, this bird is prized for its stunning appearance and its great pet quality. A little harder to find than some of the other parrots of this size, the Solomon is easily recognizable once you do find one-you can’t miss an Eclectus! Their feathers do not have a distinct outline like the feathers of other birds-these birds look as if they are covered with a fine fur, and along with their day-glo colors, the effect is astounding.
Eclectus are dimorphic, meaning that there are visual distinctions between the sexes. The males are a bright green and have a horn-colored beak, with a splash of bright blue on the wing, as well as a bright red underwing. The female is a stunning red with a deep violet belly and a black beak. In fact, these birds were not bred successfully for many years because breeders were putting males with males and hens with hens! It wasn’t until a couple of decades ago that someone realized that the green birds were male and the red birds were female.
Solomons are not prone to excessive noisiness, but can be quite vocal, and will even develop an extensive vocabulary. They are intelligent, gentle birds that become welcome members of the family due to their tranquil nature. They are pretty good with children, though they will not tolerate frantic activity or constant disturbing noise-it will be important to teach the child how to behave around the bird, rather than the other way around.
Eclectus are very active, and will need a spacious cage and plenty of out-of-cage time to interact with you. Be sure to buy the largest cage that your home and budget can afford-these birds can become restless and unhappy when confined. Playful by nature, your Eclectus will need a multitude of toys, especially toys that they can chew and destroy, such as those made of soft wood. Be sure that your Eclectus gets plenty of attention and activity. These birds can keep themselves busy, but need you to offer the stimulating objects to give them “jobs” to do.
Solomon Island Eclectus can be found in most bird shops. Be careful that you are not buying a hybrid Eclectus-some unscrupulous breeders will breed different sub-species together, resulting in a “mutt” Eclectus. This will not in any way affect the pet quality of your bird, but should you ever want to enter your bird in a breeding program, its mixed-genes could potentially contaminate the species. Though this may seem harmless, it is important that the gene pool of these birds remain pure-someday the only Eclectus in the world may be in captivity, and breeders will be responsible for the continuation of the species.
The Peachface Lovebird
As popular as they are cute, Peachface Lovebirds (Agapornis roseicolli) owe their “animal magnetism” as much to their clown-like personalities and stunning plumage as to their tendency to breed like bunnies. They are wonderful pets, in pairs or as a single bird, brightening any home with pleasant chattering and entertaining antics.
Originally from Africa, the Peachface Lovebird is approximately six inches long, and comes in an artist’s palate array of colors. The nominate, or “normal” bird, is green with a shiny blue rump and rosy-peach face-hence the name. Other colors, or “mutations,” range from creamy white to almost black, and everything in between-all shades of green, blue, yellow, violet, and pied-with different colored faces to match!
The Peachface is not a terribly noisy bird, but is prone to bouts of chattering and whistling in the morning, evening, and when excited. Talking ability is slim, though there are reports of talking Lovebirds-perhaps one in one thousand. They will learn to whistle well, however.
Always alert and mischievous, the Peachface is a good escape artist and is always energetic and ready to play. If kept in pairs, these birds tend to love the “married life,” to the possible exclusion of the owner. If kept alone and given frequent attention, the Peachface is as loving as the family lap dog. If neglected, even for a few weeks, many Lovebirds tend to revert and become snappish.
Peachface Lovebirds live about 12 to 15 years or more if well cared for. They are prone to nutritional disorders, so be sure to offer a highly nutritious diet, including fruits and vegetables. Since the females will lay eggs, even without a male around, there is the danger of calcium deficiency or egg binding. Talk to your veterinarian if you notice any signs of lethargy or unusual behavior.
The Peachface Lovebird is perfect for the apartment dweller who wants a “big parrot in a little bird’s body.” However, Peachies love to flock, so the homeowner with space for an aviary will do well with more than one pair, though they will bicker and fight if crowded. Lovebirds are attention seekers, so be aware that you will have to spend quality time every day with your bird. Housing for these active birds should be as large as your space and your budget can afford-the smaller the cage, the more out-of-cage time your Lovebird will need.
Peachface Lovebirds are easily found in pet stores and range in price from $25.00 for a normal green, to $200.00 or more for a rarer mutation, which you will probably have to buy from a breeder. Temperament differences are minimal among the mutations, though the males and the females can often act like two separate species. The males tend to be smaller and thinner, while the females can often be noticeably stouter. Males are generally sweet and reserved while females are spunkier, tend to nip, and can be argumentative.
Breeding Peachfaced Lovebirds is fairly easy, even for the beginner. However, they breed so frequently and with such verve, there is a veritable population explosion, with many breeders unable to place the babies. If you breed your bird, realize that he or she may lose the qualities that you wanted in a pet. Pet Peachies are true companions if you have the time to share, and will quickly become an enchanting addition to your host of feathered friends.
Fischer’s and Masked Lovebirds
The Fischer’s and the Masked Lovebirds (Agapornis fischeri & Agapornis personata) are second in popularity to the Peach-faced Lovebird, but are not second in personality. Their natural habitat is central Africa, as with the Peachfaced, and they are quite prolific in captivity – domestically bred babies can be found easily in just about any pet shop. They can be a bit more pricey than the normal Peach-faced, especially the rarer mutations, which are quite popular with lovebird fanciers.
These two species come in a variety of color mutations, not quite as many as the Peach-faced, but breeders seem to develop a new mutation every few years. The main difference between these lovebirds and the Peach-faced is the prominent eye-ring, a fleshy circle around the eye, making them quite distinctive. The nominate Fischer’s is a deep grass-green with an orange face and head and a bright red beak. Yellow Fischer’s are also becoming quite common now, and there’s even a blue mutation that looks mainly white, tinged with light blue. Masked Lovebirds are widely found in two mutations: Black Masked, a mostly green and orange bird with a red beak and a black face and head, and the Blue Masked, a blue bird with a white collar, black face and head, and horn-colored beak. These two species should not be bred together.
Lovebirds are a chatty bunch, singing and whistling all day long, and are especially vocal at dawn and dusk. They are not known for their talking ability, but their song is pleasant, more so than many other companion parrots. The more lovebirds you acquire (and it’s hard to buy just one) the noisier they will become. They are flocking birds in the wild and love to talk to one another.
Though the Peach-faced lovebirds are known for their great pet quality, the eye-ringed lovebirds are known to be nippy and temperamental. They make wonderful pets when they are handled every single day-if not, they can become shy or vicious.
Like most birds, Lovebirds love to exercise, and require the largest cage that your budget and space can afford. Lovebirds that are cooped up in a small cage and never given any freedom tend to become neurotic and can develop self-mutilating habits. These lovebirds are reported to live between 12 and 15 or more years.
The Rainbow Lory
Originating from Australia, the Rainbow Lorikeet, also called the Rainbow Lory, comprises at least twenty-two subspecies and is one of the most stunning and beautiful companion birds available today. Lories, in general, need more care and attention than your more common companion birds due to their highly specific dietary and housing requirements. However, they are well worth the extra time and expense.
Just for the record (and to be a little nitpicky), the Rainbow lory is officially a “lorikeet.” Lories have a blunter, more rounded tail, and lorikeets have a longer, more tapered tail.
The Rainbow Lory, about twelve inches in length, is aptly named, its feathers graced with all shades of the rainbow, each subspecies possessing more or less of a particular plumage color, enabling experts to tell them apart, though there is no visible difference between the sexes. Rainbow Lories are hard to miss, with their bright reds and greens, vibrant blues and violets, and splotches of lemon-yellow flowing into intense oranges. Their dramatic appearance and wonderful temperament make them a popular companion among fanciers.
In the wild, these birds are found in large flocks. They roost in trees at night numbering in the hundreds and thousands. They reach sexual maturity at about two years of age, and generally rear two babies per clutch, as opposed to many other parrots this size, which may have six or more chicks at a time.
The lory personality is intense, in general. This is not a shy species. The Rainbow Lory is bubbly and enthusiastic, the “coach” of the bird world, encouraging play whenever its favorite human is around. These birds are constantly busy and lively, allowing little time for rest. Their antics are extremely entertaining for most people, but they can become a little much for someone that’s used to a more laid back companion.
The Rainbow is more than just bright on the outside. This is a highly intelligent bird, able to learn tricks and other behaviors. Because it’s so intelligent, it is also a capable escape artist, so cage door locks are crucial.
Lories can be noisy, and the Rainbow is no exception. Their voice is high-pitched, with a squeaky-squawky repetitive “bark.” They are wonderful talkers, and will learn many words and phrases, learning to speak them clearly and often, though the Rainbow in particular isn’t the best talker in the family.
Playtime is crucial for the lory, and the Rainbow will relish time out of the cage to spend with its guardian. This need should be indulged as often as possible. A Rainbow that’s left alone too often will develop behavior disorders and may begin to self-mutilate. Warn new guardians to be watchful when the bird is out of the cage, however, because this active bird tends to be mischievous and destructive, and will get into trouble quicker than someone can save it from harm. Because this bird is so excitable and intelligent, it is also often nippy, and will generally bite only out of excitement or fear (usually of being put back into the cage!).
Lories bathe exuberantly and often, so you should be prepared to invest in a shower perch, a mister, and a shallow bath for the cage. Another funny quirk is the Rainbow’s penchant for sleeping laying upside-down on its back, often rattling the nerves of its guardians.
Most lories do not get along with other bird species, and can even become vicious with birds of their own species. They are extremely territorial and should never be left unsupervised with other birds. They have been known to kill birds far larger than themselves.
Lories require a much different diet than that of other hookbills because their gizzard is not as powerful and is unable to crush seeds. Though some lories will crack a few seeds, their main diet is fruit, such as bananas, oranges, melon, and apples; they also eat flowers, such as hibiscus; but the staple diet in captivity is a nectar made from juice with specially formulated lorry-diet powder mixed into it. Lories have a specialized brush-like tongue that is used to pick up nectar and pollen. This liquid diet causes very loose droppings that tend to be sprayed, often outside the cage. Someone living with a lory will spend a lot of time cleaning. There are dry diets specifically for lories that will make the droppings less soft, but this diet should only be a supplement to the liquid and fresh food and flower diet. Lories are also partial to mealworms and grubs.
A major health concern for the Rainbow Lory, or for any lory, is food spoilage. You must change a lory’s liquid food often, especially in warm weather, when the rich food rapidly becomes infected with bacteria. Fruit will spoil too if it’s left for even a few hours in the cage. This can cause infections of the crop and even general toxicity. A Rainbow Lory can live 20 to 30 years, but it is the lucky and unusual lory that makes it that long. There is a common myth that lories don’t need water. This is untrue and should be dispelled immediately.
Lories love toys, especially jingling and rattling things. Because they have a tendency to become bored, it’s important to rotate toys at least weekly. You can never have too many toys for a Rainbow Lory, and, in fact, one bird should have a rotation of no less than twenty toys. The Rainbow can be hard on its toys, so they should be safe, with no strings to get tangled in and no small spaces to catch a toe or beak.
Because of all of these specific care requirements, the first-time bird owner may want to steer clear of Lories until he or she has a bit more experience.
The Red Lory
The Red Lory (Eos bornea) is the most commonly kept lory in captivity. This bird’s playful personality and its beautiful appearance make the Red Lory a favorite among fanciers and the more advanced novice alike. The Red Lory makes an excellent pet for the person who is willing to take time to deal with the very special needs exclusive to this family. Lories need much more attention and care than most companion birds, and need a dutiful owner that is attentive to all of their daily requirements. Originally from Indonesia, they are still commonly found there, and are often pets of people in their indigenous range.
The Red Lory is primarily a deep, pomegranate-red, with blue markings on its wings and face. They range in size from ten to twelve inches and have an orange beak. The most remarkable feature about a lory is its tongue, which looks like a little brush, and is used to remove the pollen and nectar from flowers, the lory’s favorite natural food.
Lories are “chattery” birds, always actively making noise and thrashing their toys about the cage. You will definitely know that you have a lory in the house! Red Lories have been known to be great talkers, but they’re more likely to emit high pitched squawks and shrill cries. But their entertaining antics make up for their less-than-pretty voices.
Red Lories are highly intelligent and active birds, always in trouble the second you turn your back. They love toys, and you must have an endless supply on hand. Rotating toys is a must for these active birds, but the up-side is that they are a bit less destructive to their toys than most hookbills are. Red Lories make great pets, but can be nippy at times-they are temperamental birds, always looking for the next adventure.
Red Lories, like other lories, have a very specific fruit and nectar based diet. They will crack some seed, but should not have too much-seed is not natural to their wild diet, which consists mainly of flowers, nectar, pollen, and insects. You can feed them mealworms, which are usually available at your local pet shop. Because of this specific diet, mainly commercial lory nectar and fruit, both of which spoil quickly, it is easy for a lory with an inattentive owner to fall ill from malnutrition or worse. Red Lories can live for more than 30 years if cared-for properly.
Lories are probably the messiest of the common companion birds, and the Red Lory is no exception. Because they have a mainly liquid diet they have mainly liquid poop, which they love to shoot great distances. They also need quite a large cage and a lot of freedom from the cage, which means that you will be spending a lot of time heading off mischief and cleaning your carpet. This bird is for the more advanced bird keeper, and would do well in a one-bird household.
The Blue Crowned Hanging Parrot
The Blue Crowned Hanging Parrot (Loriculus galgulus) is a colorful member of the lory family that shares similar characteristics in diet, personality, and activity level with the lory, but is smaller and far quieter than its larger cousins. The blue-crowned, measuring in at four inches long, is the most widely available of the hanging parrots, though you might have to search for a breeder-this bird is relatively free breeding as compared to the more rare hanging parrot species, but the Europeans have devoted more time and effort to this species than the Americans have, causing breeders in the U.S. to hold many of their babies back for breeding stock.
Wild hanging parrots are found in a wide geographical range, including Indonesia, India, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, Java, Bali, Sumatra, and other Asian countries. They are found primarily in woodlands and orchards, and feed on fruit, flowers, nectar, insects, and some seeds, much as lories do. They are dimorphic, meaning that there is a visible difference between the sexes, though you might have to look hard on some of the species to know which is which. In the blue-crowned, the male has a blue crown and a red spot on the throat and the female doesn’t. Juveniles look like females, so there’s no visible way to tell the sex when you sell a young bird.
Because of their endangered status in the wild, many hanging parrots, like some other companion birds, are encouraged to breed to keep the species available. The hanging parrots kept by aviculturalists worldwide may include: the Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (Loriculus galgulus), Vernal Hanging Parrot (Loriculus vernalis), Moluccan Hanging Parrot (Loriculus amabilis), Wallace’s Hanging Parrot (Loriculus flosculus), Green Hanging Parrot (Loriculus exilis), Green-fronted Hanging Parrot (Loriculus tener), Orange-fronted Hanging Parrot (Loriculus aurantifrons), Philippine Hanging Parrot (Loriculus philippensis), Sangihe Hanging Parrot (Loriculus catamene), Sulawesi Hanging Parrot(Loriculus stigmatus), Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot (Loriculus pusillus), and the subspecies of several of these.
Many of these hanging parrots are not available in the U.S., or are not sold into the pet trade because they are integral to breeding programs. But the blue-crowned is a favorite among the lory fancy in the States, and was imported in a large enough quantity prior to the ban on importing birds to allow its numbers to steadily increase here.
Hanging parrots get their name from their unusual sleeping habits-they snooze hanging upside-down. They also feed this way, stretching upside-down to dip a sharp beak into an open flower. This unusual behavior makes the hanging parrot a charming pet for someone looking for a challenge-like lories, hanging parrots are messy because their food is primarily wet, and as a result, so are their droppings.
A devoted owner willing to put in quality time with a pet will do best with a hanging parrot. This bird needs constant attention to maintain its pet quality. Someone who is not home all day or intends on leaving the bird to languor away in a cage is not going to be able to care for this bird properly. It is a lively bird when given enough attention from the beginning, but can become shy easily if not socialized properly.
These birds are not known talkers, but they will mimic whistles. Fortunately, they are less noisy than lories, and can be kept peaceably in pairs or as a colony.
The hanging parrot, like the lory, is a specialty bird, and is not the right pet for everyone. Proper nutrition is an important factor in keeping a hanging parrot healthy. It does not eat dry seeds like most other companion birds, and it is for this reason that an owner has to be diligent about preparing the proper food and making sure it doesn’t spoil. Feed a combination of all types of fruits, wet and dry lory foods, egg food, small seeds, vegetables such as greens and chickweed, and perhaps a few mealworms a day as well. This type of wet diet tends to attract bacteria, which can be deadly for the little hanging parrot. Keeping clean, fresh food available at all times is extremely important.
Covered coop cups are a good idea for this species-this way the droppings have less of a chance of fouling the dishes. Hanging parrots, like lories, need a lot of interesting toys, but these too need to be cleaned regularly. Wooden toys with bark to strip are appreciated, as are acrylic toys with moving parts and bells, and puzzle toys.
Warmth is especially important for the hanging parrot, which can succumb to cold easily. It is prone to infections due to the combination of warmth, wet food spoilage, and droppings in and around the cage. A fastidious owner who is concerned with hygiene is best for this bird.
Vertical cages are not recommended for this species because the droppings tend to land in all directions, and horizontal cages are more “flying friendly” as well. Thin sleeping perches will also help to keep the droppings inside the cage.
The hanging parrot is certainly a challenge to keep, but no more so than a lory, and it has the advantage of being smaller, quieter, and more peaceable than its larger cousins.
The Toco Toucan
The Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco) is probably the most recognizable toucan in this family. The toco, originally from South America, is the real bird that the famous cartoon character, Toucan Sam, is based on, and it has that much energy as well! These birds have a high activity level and are not a good choice for the beginning bird keeper. Their housing needs are substantial and their diet is not as easy to prepare as that of a parrot. The toco is a softbill, meaning not that its beak is soft, but that its diet consists of soft foods, such as fruits and insects.
The toco is stunning, with its long, golden striated beak and its prominent blue and yellow ringed eye. It is not difficult to see why people are fascinated with this gorgeous bird. The body and feet of this bird are black, its lower throat is white, and it has a black band that seems to separate its beak from the rest of its face. The beak is over eight inches long, and looks heavy, though in reality the beak has a combed interior with lots of open spaces that make it extremely light.
The toco is not an extremely loud bird, but it does emanate a kind of quack or bark. Though this probably won’t irritate your neighbors, the way a parrot’s screeching can, you probably won’t have this bird in an apartment anyway-the toco needs a lot of space and plenty of room to make a mess. This bird is not known to repeat words.
A handfed toco can be very sweet and tame, though it can give a nasty bite. Just because it is used to eating soft fruits doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some power in that big beak. A very tame toco will enjoy human attention. Be careful if you have other, smaller birds in the house-a finch or a canary will make a tasty snack for a hungry toco.
The health of a toucan depends largely on proper diet. These birds need fresh fruits, soft vegetables, and a protein source at least three times a day to avoid spoilage. Many toucan owners go to great pains to provide a proper diet, which can be complicated. These birds are extremely messy as a result of their diet-not only will they fling all that soft food, their droppings are watery and tend to land somewhere outside of the cage! Be prepared to do a lot of cleaning. Toucans have an iron storage problem, which an owner must take into consideration when creating a diet-too much iron will kill a toucan. Also, don’t feed your toucan Frootloops-save that cereal for your kids.
Space is the next key to keeping a toco happy. It seems that the maximum space you provide will not be enough. Unless you have the deep pockets of a zoo, it’s tough to keep a toco happy. If the toco is your bird of choice, be sure that you provide it with as much space as you possibly can. If properly cared-for, these birds can live for more than 25 years, though most do not live that long in the average household.
The Pekin Robin
A long-standing favorite companion bird in England, the beautiful little pekin robin (Leiothrix lutea) is actually in the large babbler family, not a true robin. Among its other misnomers includes the Chinese, Japanese, or pekin nightingale, because of its pretty song, and its name is often misspelled as the Peking or Peeking robin. It is sometimes referred to as the Red-billed Leiothrix as well, and fanciers tend to prefer this name over the others. Name confusion aside, the pekin robin makes a delightful companion bird.
The pekin robin is a migratory bird and can still be found in a wide region in China, stopping at various points in the mountains along its migration. Originally from the high altitudes of China and its surrounding nations, this hardy bird used to be widely available in the United States, having been brought into the country by the thousands before the CITES ban on importation of wildlife in the 1990s. Aviculturists were not quick to take up the slack, focusing instead on breeding the more costly or flashy birds. Today, there’s a shortage of these pretty birds, and breeders are paying more attention to the increasing demands for them. They are difficult to breed for the novice, and a challenge for even the most experienced of bird-keepers, so availability is still generally limited, but they are not impossible to find.
Interestingly, in Hawaii, where the pekin robin was introduced as a companion bird around 1918, the species thrived in moderately sized flocks in the wild until 1998, when bird watchers noticed that the species seemed to have vanished from some places where it formerly prospered. Biologists there suspect that the small gene pool or a disease from another introduced species may have aided in wiping out the songbird. It is still seen on Maui, Molokai, Oahu, and Hawaii, but has disappeared altogether on Kauai.
Part of the pekin’s draw is its beautiful appearance, like it just flew out of a finely woven Chinese tapestry. It is just under six inches long, a little smaller than a lovebird, and is dimorphic, meaning that there’s a visual difference between the sexes, the male being brighter in color. Adults have red bills and an oblong, whitish area around each black eye, almost like a mask. The back is grayish-green and the top of the head is olive. The throat is a bright yellow reaching downward into the chest which becomes a deep rusty color, which can also be found on the flight feathers. The tail is forked and it primarily black. Juveniles are grey with a whitish breast.
But the prettiest thing about the pekin robin is its voice, which rivals the canary. The male is prized for its singing ability, making it a welcome member of any aviary, and making it easily distinguishable from the female. The female doesn’t sing, but she will call back to the male when he sings, and the conversation is quite lovely.
The pekin robin is a softbill, a generic term for birds that eat primarily soft foods, like insects and flowers, rather than seeds, like finches. The pekin is not a finch and should not be cared for like one. The pekin robin will eat some seeds, but prefers greens, soft foods, vegetables and fruits, egg food, and live insects, such as grubs and mealworms.
In the wild, these birds like to stay together in groups, which is how they should be kept in captivity, unless breeding is attempted, in which case the pair should be separated from other birds or risk them becoming territorial and aggressive. The pekin should never be housed with hookbills, who can easily overpower and kill this little bird.
The pekin robin will not become an easily handled bird, but can become confiding and approachable if offered mealworms or another favorite treat by hand. This bird is best kept by the advanced bird keeper who wants to try to breed them, and who can provide the type of planted housing required for successful propagation.
Wild pekins are monogamous, as are captive pekins when they are allowed to be so, and lay their eggs in nests they build close to the ground. This is a species that loves to bathe, and appreciates running water if the birdkeeper is able to offer it, especially while breeding the birds. Pekin robins can live more than 12 years if cared for properly.
The Diamond Dove
The Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) is a favorite of novices and fanciers alike because of its tiny stature, beautiful appearance, and the fact that it is relatively easy to keep. Originally from Australia, Diamond Doves can be easily found in pet shops and breed fairly readily, making them a great choice for the bird hobbyist as well. They are best kept in pairs, as they will not appreciate human interaction, but much prefer the company of another bird.
The Diamond Dove is a tiny, delicate-looking bird whose body is about the size of a lovebird, but with a long, slender tail. The nominate bird, or the color of the bird most often found in nature, is a darkish-grey with white specks on the wings, though there are now mutations, including white and silver. The Diamond Dove is dimorphic, meaning that there is a visible difference between the sexes: both sexes have a red eye-ring, though the male’s ring is larger. This makes pairing easy, which is a plus for the beginning hobbyist.
Doves are not generally loud bids, though you will hear some cooing from your pair. If you are used to a louder, parrot-type bird, you will be pleased at the relative lack of noise from your doves. These birds are great for an older person or an apartment dweller that wants to own birds, but may not want the noise that accompanies them. Remember, as with all birds, the more you have, the louder they will be-this is especially important to remember with doves, as they will breed you out of house and home if you let them!
Diamond Doves will not necessarily want to interact with you, unless you purchase a handfed bird, or you handfeed your pair’s babies yourself. These birds are content to be together and breed. They are gentle, and will not bite you when handled. Diamond Doves are not ideal pets for children, who may want a bird that they can hold and pet. These birds do well in a garden aviary setting where they can fly and interact with nature and one another. Beware of adding larger or more aggressive birds, however, because your doves do not have the ability to defend themselves against them.
Doves, unlike parrots, do not crush their seed with their beak, and will need some grit in their diet. Feed a good seed mixture, and offer plenty of greens and soft fruits. A well-cooked hardboiled egg and egg food will be appreciated during breeding time. These birds will breed well in an open nest, a bit larger than a canary’s nest, with a liner and nesting material added. Make sure to rest your birds for a few months every two clutches, or risk exhausting your birds, lessening their lifespan. Keep your doves in as large a cage as you can afford; because your doves may never leave the cage, it’s important that you provide for as much exercise as possible. A hen that can’t exercise may become egg bound and die. These birds are reported to live for more than 7 to 10 years when cared-for properly.
The Ringnecked Dove (Streptopelia risoria) is the most commonly kept companion bird of the dove family, and can be found easily due to their prolific breeding. In fact, you might have a hard time keeping them from breeding.
Originating in Africa, these hardy birds can be found living happily in the wild in most of the Southern states, such as Georgia and Florida-it is not unusual to see a pair standing by the side of the road. Because they are so hardy, they make a good choice for someone who doesn’t have the time to devote to a more attention-demanding bird.
Ringnecked Doves are about twelve inches in length and are a soft fawn color with a distinctive black ring around the back of the neck. The feet are pinkish-red, and the beak and eye are brown. There are over forty mutations, such as white or pied birds, easily found from breeders, but you will likely find the fawn colored birds most easily available. These birds are quite inexpensive, retailing between $10.00 to $30.00 a pair, perhaps a bit more for the mutations.
This dove is great for someone who wants a bird but has fussy neighbors who won’t accept a parrot screeching all day. Ringnecked doves sound similar to pigeons in their cooing, and though they are not loud, they can be persistent. Some people find the noise soothing, while others will be annoyed at their cooing diligence-they rarely cease.
Doves are gentle birds, and will not bite or attack the way some parrot species will. Ringnecked doves can be easily hand-tamed, though most owners do not interact with them in this way. These birds love to be in pairs, and will breed easily. They aren’t picky about their nesting site, and will even have young in the feeding bowl or on the bottom of an aviary.
Ringnecked doves are ready to breed by twelve months of age or eariler, and lay two eggs per clutch. They make great parents, and are a good choice for beginning breeders who want some quick success in the hobby. These birds are good for children, provided the children understand the sensitive nature of birds, and are gentle and calm around the animal.
Doves, unlike parrots, need grit in their diet because they eat their seeds whole. Provide several types of grit, as well as a calcium supplement, especially during breeding. Though it is tempting to breed these birds year-round, doing so will leave the birds in an exhausted and weakened state. Advise resting them for a few months after every two or three clutches. When well cared-for, Ringnecked Doves can live for more than ten years.
The Neophemas Parrots
Neophemas are making surprising leaps in popularity in the United States-surprising only because they have been an aviary staple in Australia for many years due to their easygoing temperament and relative quietness as compared to other parrots their size, such as the lovebird or the budgie. The neophemas include the popular Bourke’s parakeet(Neopsephotus Bourkii), recently reclassified from Neophema Bourkii, the elegant parakeet (Neophema elegans), the orange bellied parakeet (Neophema crysogaster), the splendid parakeet (Neophema splendida), the turquoisine (turquoise) parakeet (Neophema pulchella), the rock parakeet (Neophema petrophila), and the less frequently kept blue-winged parakeet (Neophema chrysostoma). These birds are known collectively as the grass parakeets of Australia, each of which has a relatively small natural region in that large country. They are called grass parakeets because they feed on wild grasses and grass seeds. Because they feed on the ground, these birds are naturally skittish, always on the lookout for predators. For more information on the Bourke’s Parakeet, click here.
Neophemas make excellent aviary birds but should not be housed with larger, more aggressive birds, and care should be taken that two different species of neophemas do not successfully nest and rear young. As a group, neophemas aredimorphic, meaning that it is easy to tell the sex of the males and the females due to differences in coloring. Males are generally brighter in plumage and may have more colors than the females, though it is only easy to tell the difference in the splendid and the turquoisine-bird keepers will have to look more closely in the other species to tell the difference.
The most popular and widely available bird in the group is the Bourke’s parakeet, slightly larger than an English budgie at eight inches in length. The Bourke’s comes in a variety of stunning mutations, including the Rosy Bourke, a bright pink version of the more muted nominate race. The Bourke’s can be a shy bird, but a diligent owner can train it to be as affectionate as a budgie, though many owners keep these birds as watching-only pets. The turquoisine and the splendid are the most visually stunning of the neophemas. The turquoisine comes in a variety of spectacular mutations, most notably the yellow mutation, which is quite eye-catching. The turquoisine can be more bird-aggressive than the others in this group, so warn a new owner about keeping it with other birds.
Like the budgie and the lovebird, part of the neophemas draw is its ability to be bred into many mutations, giving the advanced owner a challenging hobby. Neophemas make excellent apartment birds because they are not loud and do not require a great deal of space, though they are happiest in a garden aviary setting. Since they do tend to get along well together, they do not require a lot of hands on time, though a single bird kept as hands-on pet will need a good deal of daily attention and time out of the cage to remain a pet-quality bird.
As a group, these birds are prone to inactivity when kept in a small space. A large cage is ideal for all of the neophemas species and an aviary setting is ideal. All hookbills need physical and mental stimulation, and a wide variety of toys helps to keep boredom to a minimum.
Most of the neophemas make good first birds, though they can be pricey for the novice owner, who may not be able to appreciate them to the fullest. The neophema owner should understand that these birds are limited in their hands-on pet quality. This bird can be quite a loving little pet when handfed and reared by a responsible breeder who takes the time to socialize a baby neophemas to humans. Skittish neophemas can be tamed to be sociable, but it might take a little longer than taming a budgie. Neophemas need a devoted owner who will take the time to reinforce the tameness of their bird with daily hands-on playtime.
The neophemas are a joy to watch, especially when kept in a pair-they are dutiful sweethearts, but are known to have dalliances if kept in a colony setting. They are easy to care for and can live for over 15 to 20 years or more with the proper care.
Parrotlets may look like little green parakeets, but they are not priced like parakeets, nor do they share the same temperament. At five inches in length, they are also a couple of inches smaller than parakeets. There are several species of parrotlet, but only two are commonly found in the pet trade, the Pacific and the Green-rumped, though most of the others are available if you inquire from breeders. In all species, the nominate color is varying shades of green, and some species, like the Pacific, come in a variety of mutations, such as blue, yellow, lutino, fallow, darker green, pastel, Isabel (cinnamon), albino, and white. The parrotlet is dimorphic, meaning that there’s a visible difference between the sexes, making it easy to choose pairs among mature birds.
The Pacific Parrotlet (Forpus coelestis) has become one of the more popular small birds in the country, and is the most common of the various parrotlet species. Originating in Mexico and Central and South America, these “pocket parrots” have caught on fast. They have the personality of a “large bird in a small bird’s body,” and are often compared to Amazon parrots, a family of parrots said to be their close cousins. Indeed, they do resemble the Amazons, with short, stout bodies and a somewhat blunt tail. The male is green with a blue streak behind the eye and blue on the rump and wing-coverts. Females lack the blue coloring, and may or may not have a faint blue streak behind the eye.
Pacific Parrotlets are not noisy birds, making them great for people living in apartments. They will repeat words and simple phrases, but are not known to be the finest talkers of the parrotlet family. Pacifics are very spirited, and can become aggressive if left for too long without handling. Even though it is tiny, do not underestimate the strong beak – its bite is much stronger than a budgie.
The next most popular species is the Green-rumped parrotlet (Forpus passerinus), which is the smallest of the group. Like the Pacific, the males have blue on the wings and the females do not. They are a little gentler than the Pacific parrotlet, but may take a longer time to acclimate to new surroundings. This species might be better for the parrotlet novice.
The Blue-winged parrotlet (Forpus xanthopterygius), the Mexian parrotlet (Forpus cyanopygius), the tiny Spectaled parotlet (Forpus Conspicillatus), and the larger Yellow-faced parrotlet (Forpus xanthops) are harder to find because they either weren’t imported in large enough numbers or breeders haven’t begun focusing on them in earnest yet. In some cases, they are difficult to breed. The Spectacled is an up-and-coming species to watch.
Parrotlets in general are feisty, affectionate, and willful. If someone wants a great companion they should keep only one bird, because a pair of parrotlets will probably bond closely to each other to the exclusion of the owner. However, parrotlets are dimorphic and easy to pair up, and they do enjoy each other’s company. They can also be kept peaceably in groups in large aviaries, but it’s best to keep them separate from other species. They will quibble and fight over object and territory, so keep that in mind.
These birds can learn to mimic, but they aren’t the best talkers of the parrot family. Some individuals can learn quite a few words, however. They aren’t noisy, so neighbors won’t be disturbed.
Males and females make equally good companions depending on the individual. Companionability has much less to do with gender than it does with handling and socialization. Handfed parrotlets are very friendly, especially if the guardian takes the time to keep handling the bird. If left alone for too long, a single parrotlet can lose some of its companionability. The Pacific, in particular, does not understand that it is a tiny bird, and has little trouble challenging other animals and humans.
The mutations are said to be more easy going than the nominate color (green), but they are also said to be less hardy. This may be a result of inbreeding. Because of the small size, the parrotlet may seem like a great companion for children, but kids would probably be better off with a budgie or something in the neophema family. The parrotlet can be temperamental and feisty, and its bite packs a wallop.