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NEOPHEMAS
Care & Management

by Troy Anderson

Notes in relation to an address presented to the Parrot Society of Australia Inc's general meeting October 1996. This articles covers the following areas:

Neophemas are one of the most popular groups of parrots available to Aviculturists, not only in Australia but all over the globe. Their beauty is not only confined to their physical attributes, but also their temperament makes their suitability to a wide variety of collections more appealing. Being quiet by nature they are ideal in a suburban environment where larger or noisier species would be prohibitive.

Bourke's Parrot
Bourke's Parrot,
Neopsephotus Bourkii

Photograph by & courtesy of
Jacquie Dale, Bellbird Park, Queensland.

The Scarlet- chested, Turquoise, Bourke's and Elegant parrots are very common in avicultural collections. The Blue-winged is a little less common. Perhaps this is due to preference for the Elegant parrot or their sometime annoying habit of nocturnal activities disrupting other occupants in the vicinity. The Rock parrot is uncommon in aviaries, particularly in Queensland, many criticise their rather sombre colouration. Dietary requirements should be taken into consideration as they can be prone to obesity.

I believe Rock parrots would do a lot better in a planted aviary with their own kind, judging by their sluggish behaviour in a suspended enclosure.

Green Neophemas should definitely not be housed together due to the risk of hybridising. Bourke's can be housed with ‘green’ species however a watch should be maintained as I have had, on occasions, an over friendly Bourke's parrot.

HOUSING

Housing of Neophemas presents no major problems. I prefer to house and breed them in suspended flights varying from 2 metres to 2.5 metres in length and 90cm wide by 90cm in height. Conventional flights are also utilised, being 3m in length 90cm wide by 2metres in height. Although I have seen Neophemas housed in smaller suspendeds, I find that this size enables plenty of exercise, too long causes younger ones to crash into the end, often with fatal results. Suspendeds are time saving and of great assistance to management or elimination of problems eg. worm infestations.

I have found about 70% reproduce successfully in suspendeds, non performing pairs are placed in the conventionals where they normally start reproducing. At the end of that season I will return them to suspendeds where success normally follows - change your variables if pairs are not performing.

Draughts are a major problem in housing Neophemas. I prefer the base of the suspendeds to be enclosed with either wire or cladding of some sort, this also prevents predators raising chaos underneath.

FEEDING

Feeding of the species again is no major problem. Our basic seed mix includes a Finch mix with extra Canary seed. Sunflower and Hulled Oats are added particularly when there is young. I am to the stage where I ration Sunflower to prevent obesity in certain pairs. I advise not to feed Sunflower to Rock parrots due to this reason, although I feed sprouted Sunflower to this species with no major problems. Cuttle bone and grit is the norm. In a suspended type situation I provide a dish of grit and washed river sand which the Neophemas take great delight in picking through.

Greens, in the form of green Panic seed and cultivated green seed are taken with great relish, particularly when young are in the nest. Sprouted Sunflower, Mung beans and White French Millet is fed. This has been treated with Aviclens or similar to hinder bacterial and fungal growth. To this, I add pellets (Vetafarm™) and egg & biscuit mix to form a crumbly mixture. Also added is diced apple, corn, carrot and peas (thawed out). I feed this about 4.30pm in warmer weather, as experience has shown that it does not go off overnight, and is removed early the following morning. Each pair receives one tablespoon of mixture and this increases proportionally when they have young. With the exception of large clutches (5+) I feed only once a day. Dandelion, Thistle heads and Chickweed are also fed when available.

SPECIES

  • Scarlet-chested Neophema splendida
  • Bourke's Neopsephotus Bourkii *
    (* The Bourke's Parrot was reclassifed recently from Neophema Bourkii for 3 reasons: Habitat, Taxonomy & difference to other Neophemas)
  • Elegant Neophema elegans
  • Turquoise Neophema pulchella
  • Bluewing Neophema chrysostoma & Rock Parrot Neophema petrophila

Scarlet-chested Parrot (Neophema splendida)

This is definitely my favourite bird, with many mutations available, including Red-fronted. I am not entirely convinced that this bird is a recessive mutation, reason being, I have crossed a Red-Fronted over a pure normal bird with some quality Red-fronteds being produced therefore discounting the normal recessive mode of inheritance.

Sea Green (Sydney Blue)
A green series mutation which when combined with Blue mutations, Green split to the mutations are the resultant progeny (recessive).

White Fronted Blue (Recessive)
This has to be one of the most beautiful mutations available in Neophemas and its popularity will only increase. Par Blue, is in my opinion, the first step to the White-fronted. My breeding results indicate Par Blue over White-Fronted, results in Par Blue split to White-fronted progeny. There the two Blue series are related somewhat.

Cinnamon (sex-linked)
Still far from being common, but will be valuable to introduce into the Blue series to produce secondary mutations.

Pied (Recessive?)
Results to date with this mutation have been disappointing with mainly hens being produced (some with red eyes which get darker with age). The Pied markings increase with each moult and beaks are an off white colour. Has not been introduced into the Blue series as yet - still far from being established.

Other mutations which pop up here and there are Lutino and Fallow which are also far from being established.

I have found the odd hen can be aggressive to her mate around August/September, however I like to retain these individuals as they usually make good mothers.

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Bourke's Parrot Neopsephotus Bourkii

The Bourke's Parrot was reclassifed recently from Neophema Bourkii for 3 reasons: habitat, taxonomy & difference to other Neophemas)

Mutation Bourke's
Mutation Bourke's,
Neopsephotus Bourkii
Photograph by & courtesy of Garry & Shirley Walsh, Westbrook Queensland.

Rosa (Sex-linked)
A very popular mutation with some stunning examples around.

Cream (Recessive)
Gaining popularity as more birds are bred, however some difficulty exists in getting Cream hens to reproduce successfully. Wide variance in quality. I have found these birds do better in a somewhat darker aviary no doubt due to their red eyes.

Pink (Sex-linked recessive)
A secondary mutation as a result of Cream and Rosa. I believe there are two examples of this mutation. A Pastel Cream type and a deep Rose colour, which I find the most desirable. There are a number of Bourke mutations which are being developed such as Pied, Silver and Lutino, however, I have no other information on these rarities.

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Elegant Parrot Neophema elegans

Cinnamon (Sex linked)
A relatively common mutation and will be valuable in combining with other mutations.

Pied (Recessive)
Has been established over the years and being advertised regularly and is quite a nice bird. Pied markings vary greatly in respective birds.

Lutino (Recessive)
What a bird! A stunning mutation with a rich buttercup yellow and white replacing the blue. The advent of importation has aided the establishment of this colour which will only gain popularity as the years go by.

There are rumours of a Blue mutation of the in southern states, however, enquiries have failed to locate the source of this information.

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Turquoise Parrot Neophema pulchella

Turquoise Parrot
Turquoise Parrot, Neophema pulchella
Cock bird with young in nest
Photograph by & courtesy of
Len Robinson,
Melbourne Vic, Australia

A very popular Neophema, albeit the most aggressive. I have tried colony breeding with little success, as the hens are too aggressive.

Red-fronted (Recessive)
Quite a pretty variant, in good examples a very eye catching bird.

My breeding results indicate a true recessive mutation when compared to the Red-fronted Scarlet. This mutation combines well with the yellow Turquoise producing some spectacular Red-Fronted Yellow individuals which always draw positive comments from visitors.

 

 

 

Yellow Turquoise Parrot
Yellow Turquoise Parrot,
Neophema pulchella
Photograph by & courtesy of
Jacquie Dale, Bellbird Park, Qld

Yellow (Recessive)
Again, a well established mutation, although it took a bit of a downward slide in the mid-'80s in type and colour from indiscriminate breeding due to the power of the dollar. As stated previously combines well with Red-fronted. Two variants exist, I believe, that is, the Red-bellied Yellow with red confined to the belly region on cocks and the full Red-fronted Yellow which extends up to the chest region. Hens are confined to the red belly in both types, however, with selective breeding this should improve over the years.

Pied (Recessive)
I personally have not kept this mutation, however am impressed with the colour in some individuals which will mix well with other mutations in forthcoming years.

Jade and Olive (Dominant)
The Jade is a single factor whilst the Olive is a double factor bird, very useful in combining with the Yellow mutation with the Jade Yellow being quite a pretty bird. Other mutations are in the pipeline including Cinnamon, Fallow and Blue, however I have no experience or knowledge of these types, except that they do exist.

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Blue-winged Neophema chrysostoma and Rock Parrots Neophema petrophila

Blue-winged Parrot
Blue-winged Parrot,
Neophema chrysostoma chrysostoma
Photograph by & courtesy of
Len Robinson,
Melbourne Vic, Australia

No established mutations are evident at this stage, although Sindal’s text on Neophemas does show some interesting variants that are being developed.

Both these species are suited to colony breeding, but are the least popular of the Neophemas.

In relation to mutations we must always be diligent in the management of our breeding; and not sacrifice colour and type. Sure it is nice to recoup our costs, but at what price? I still have many mutation over split pairings to retain the type of bird I like to breed. If I feel that two mutation birds are good type and colour I will pair them up, however if young are of a sub-standard I will break up the pair.

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I have no major problems in breaking up pairs to alter combinations as after a week or two they settle down well. Trio breeding has been used with success by some aviculturists. I have tried this method however I reverted to single pairs which I find the most successful.

As mutations become more available, we must retain the genetic integrity of the "normal" pure species. Often aviculturists state that we are saving species which could be lost due to habitat destruction etc. I agree to a certain extent.

However, if the true bird is impregnated with mutant blood, how can we justify our arguments. This not only applies to Neophemas but all species - look at the situation in Europe etc.

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