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Choosing a Ringneck Parakeet

By: Virginia Wells

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The ringneck parakeet (Psittacula krameri) is fast becoming the most popular of all parakeet species. Like the budgie, the ringneck is hardy, easily tamed, learns speech easily and has a vast array of beautiful colors. These elegant birds have been adored pets since early Roman times when they were considered status symbols, and professional teachers were employed to teach them to speak and perform.

The Indian ringneck is best known and most generally available. Elegant ringneck parakeets come in a variety of pastel shades ranging from buttercup yellow to lime green to numerous shades of blue. They have distinguishing rings adorning their necks and long tapered tails. They have a natural, perfect feather condition and always look groomed. Males generally have a red beak. The Indian ringneck is about 16 inches in length, while the African is slightly smaller.

Subspecies

  • P. k. manillensis, the Indian ringneck, is found in south India and Ceylon.
  • P. k. krameri, the African ringneck, is found in western and central Africa in Guinea and Senegal.
  • P. k. borealis, Neumann's ringneck, is found in West Pakistan, Northern India and Nepal.
  • P. k. parvirostris, the Abyssinian ringneck, is found in Ethiopia and Sudan

    Behavior and Personality

    These friendly birds make excellent pets, provided they are handled frequently when young and then throughout their lives. They like being stroked in the direction of their feather growth, and they can learn to do tricks.

    When taught carefully, ringnecks are able to learn to talk and their speaking ability can outrank that of the cockatiel or similar smaller birds. They begin talking at around one year of age and can sometimes learn up to 250 words, although their speech may not be as clear as the larger parrots. Most speaking success depends on the amount and quality of time spend with their owner.

    Ringnecks are highly intelligent and able to observe and learn behavior very easily. Curiosity is always peaked when something new is introduced into the environment, and they love to explore. Ringnecks can become territorial in regards to their cages or other play areas. Their vocalization can be very grating if they are frightened, or something doesn't seem right in their environment.

    Ringnecks live 15 to 30 years.

    Housing

    Because of their long tails, ringnecks need tall cages, and the cage should be as large as possible. A minimum size for a single pet would be 36 inches by 18 inches by 24 inches. Place their cage where they can enjoy an outside view or where they can watch television, especially when they are alone for long periods of time.

    When housing 2 or more together for breeding or display it is strongly suggested that a minimum size would be 6 feet by 12 feet by 4 feet. The females can become very aggressive towards the males, especially out of the breeding season, the added space allows the male to escape if needed.

    The ringneck is a very swift and strong flyer and allowing them to fly will keep them strong and healthy. If you have a small cage make sure you have a perch or other play area where the bird can come out to exercise and play daily. Perches of different diameters and shapes will keep their feet in good condition.

    Ringnecks are very playful and need to have a variety of toys. Rotate them often to keep them from getting bored. They especially enjoy wood shapes, wood beads, strips of rawhide, cardboard tubes, plastic rings in bright colors, small balls with holes, any of the numerous hand held toys, pieces of wood with nuts, and pieces of rope tied in knots. They love to chew and should have a constant supply of wooden chew toys. A piece of 2 by 4 will allow them the enjoyment of chewing the soft wood thus keeping the beak in good condition as well.

    Ringnecks use their feet to manipulate foods and other items in the environment. They will sit and hold a toy and chew on it for long periods of time. They are very intelligent animals and need the stimulation of intricate things to take apart. Be very aware that the toys you buy are "bird safe" because the ringneck will attempt to take almost anything apart.

    Grooming

    Bathing keeps the feathers glossy and beautiful. Although ringnecks are not usually fond of water, you can spray your pet with warm water from a misting bottle. Ringnecks are capable of great speed, and it is wise to keep their wings clipped to prevent injury and escape and to assist in maintaining their tame nature.

    Diet

    In the wild, ringneck parakeets eat grain, fruit, berries, nectar, blossoms and some seed. Pet ringnecks enjoy a pelleted diet or standard cockatiel seed mixtures supplemented with pellets. You should also offer fresh fruit and vegetables, cooked beans and bits of table food. They especially like corn on the cob and occasional unsalted pistachios.

    Provide an adequate supply of fresh water daily.

    Breeding

    Breeding seasons vary, but usually starts from December to June. It's best to isolate pairs as they can be aggressive before and during breeding. You should provide a nest box measuring 10 inches by 10 inches by 20 inches or more deep. In nature, they usually take over the empty nesting sites of other birds and chew the opening to enlarge it to their individual liking and, once inside, they chew or mulch the wood to make a soft lining for their nest cavity.

    The clutch is normally 2 to 6 eggs. Incubation is 21 to 24 days, and both partners brood. Hatchlings typically fledge in 6 to 7 weeks.

    Mutations

    The potential for various color mutations is astounding. A new mutation is caused by a defective gene that changes the color and/or pattern of any bird. Establishing a mutation can take years.

    One of the most popular in the ringneck is the lutino ringneck, a pure yellow with a red beak and pink eyes. Their feet and legs are flesh-colored and the characteristic neck ring is a rose. The blue ringneck is also becoming readily available; these offer soft muted shades of powdery blue with a soft grayish-white neck ring edged with black. The feet and legs are gray and the bill is red. Pairing the lutino with a blue results in a breath-taking albino. These birds have no neck collar and male and female are identical.

    Other notable mutations include the cinnamon, a lime yellow with cinnamon flight and tail feathers; the gray with plumage consisting of shades of black, silver and gray; a cream albino with red eyes and white coloring; and the white-headed blue.

    Common Diseases and Disorders

    Ringneck parakeets are relatively healthy birds. The following diseases have been reported in this species:

  • Aspergillosis (fungal disease)
  • Bacterial infections (pneumonia)
  • Hypovitaminosis A
  • Psittacosis

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