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.
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 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 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.
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)
White Fronted Blue (Recessive)
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.
Bourke's Parrot Neopsephotus Bourkii
The Bourke's Parrot was reclassifed recently from Neophema Bourkii for 3 reasons: habitat, taxonomy & difference to other Neophemas)
Pink (Sex-linked recessive)
Elegant Parrot Neophema elegans
Cinnamon (Sex linked)
There are rumours of a Blue mutation of the in southern states, however, enquiries have failed to locate the source of this information.
Turquoise Parrot Neophema pulchella
A very popular Neophema, albeit the most aggressive. I have tried colony breeding with little success, as the hens are too aggressive.
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.
Jade and Olive (Dominant)
Blue-winged Neophema chrysostoma and Rock Parrots Neophema petrophila
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.
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.
© 1997 Parrot Society of Australia Inc