Plum Head and Slatey Head Parrots

 

by Terry Atkinson

(The following notes were supplied by Terry Atkinson, President, Avicultural Society of NSW, who was our Interstate guest speaker for the August 1992 General Meeting of the Parrot Society of Australia Inc.)

My experience is in breeding Plumhead Parrots (Psittacula cyanocephala) and Slatyhead Parrots (Psittacula himalayana). As well as their description and distribution, this article also covers the following information in relation to these parrots:

  • Plumheads
  • Slatyheads
  • Aviaries
  • Nestbox
  • Breeding Season
  • Diet
  • Water
  • Vita Blocks
  • Worming
  • Hand Rearing Mix
  • Mutations
  • Pets

Plumheads (Psittacula cyanocephala)

Description

Plumhead Parrots - Psittacula cyanocephala. Photo by & courtesy of Robyn Schmidt, Brisbane, Qld

Plumheads are 325 mm long, the hen being slightly smaller. The body shape is the same as a Red Rump's. Colour is in three shades of green, saddle between wings olive greenish colour. The wings themselves are dark grass green, and the belly part of the body is a yellowish green colour. The cocks have red wing flashes, most hens don't have these. The tail is about 150 mm to 175 mm long, blue in colour on the top, but mature cock tail tips are yellow in colour whereas the hens are white. Their feet are dark grey. The mandible of a mature cock is orange yellow on the top, both black on the bottom.

They have a piercing eye with a yellow ring which dilates when excited. The most striking thing about this parrot is its head. Being part of the Ringneck family, these birds do have rings, which are black and emerald green, around the throat. From the neck up to the lower mandible it is all black which gives the appearance of a beard. The emerald part of the ring is on the body side of the neck, the rest of the head is a deep maroon or plum colour, but on the head side of the black ring is deep violet which blends in with the plum, thus giving them the name Plumhead.

Distribution

India and Pakistan. They like high altitude and they can handle the cold.

 

Slatyheads

(Psittacula himalayana)

Description

Slatyheads are bigger than Plumheads. The hens are slightly smaller than the cock, the body approximately the same size as that of an Eastern Rosella.

Slatyhead Parrot - Psittacula himalayana. © Muller-Verlag, Vogelpark Walsrode, Germany

The body colour is yellowish green, the main wing flight feathers are a dark grass green. On the shoulder of the cock's wing is a red flash about 25 mm to 35 mm long and this is not usually found on the hen, however, it is sometimes evident. The tail is about 190 mm to 230 mm long, a nice blue on top with the under parts yellow. This consists of two feathers only and is a lovely feature of this parrot. Both cock and hen are the same in colour. Their feet are a dark grey. The top mandible of the mature cock is bright red, the bottom is yellow.

The hen is the same only much duller. This is a good way to tell hen Plumheads from Slatyheads. Plumheads have black bottom mandibles, Slatyheads yellow. They have the same sharp eyes as Plumheads except the eye ring is white. The eye dilates when excited. This parrot is also part of the Ringneck family so it carries a black ring around the neck. The emerald green ring is on the body side of the bird. The whole of the head is a slate grey, the hen's the same only slightly smaller. Hens don't normally carry red wing flashes. The bill is an orange colour. They are sexually dimorphic. Immatures look like parents, only much smaller and duller.

Distribution

Afghanistan, China, South East Asia.

 

Aviaries

My aviaries are 3000 mm long, 900 mm wide, 2100 mm high, with concrete floors sloping to the front into a rubble drain. The metal frames are on top of two courses of bricks. The shelter on the south is made out of flat iron. The predominant bad weather is from this direction. The wire is 12 mm by 12 mm welded mesh, 17 gauge painted black. There is a perch in the shelter and one at the front. The sides of each block of aviaries are covered in. I use metal seed hoppers, clay water dishes and have wooden trays for soaked seed, fruit and greens. I house one pair of birds per cage.

Nestbox

I do not use logs because of vermin. My nestboxes are about 500 mm long by 225 mm square, with a hole about 75 mm diameter. They are made of marine ply with the lid screwed down. There are wooden slats down the inside. The nesting material is peat moss, rotten wood and soil. I fill the box with water, let it drain and then hang it inside the shelter. This keeps the humidity higher in the box.

Breeding Season

The hen starts to work the box about the end of July, early August. The hen could be in the nest for one to two weeks before she lays, usually about four eggs with high fertility. Incubation last 23 to 24 days. Only the hen incubates. The young leave the nest about 6 weeks later. You might not see the hen for 8 weeks as the cock feeds her in the nest. I have seen the hen out of the box at daybreak some mornings. Some Plumheads are poor feeders so fostering may be necessary. I have used normal Peachfaces to incubate two eggs per pair. They will rear the young until fledging.

Slatyheads go to nest about the end of August or early September. The hen's behaviour is the same as Plumheads. They lay 4 - 6 eggs, normally all fertile. Incubation lasts about 24 - 25 days, only the hens incubates. The cock feeds her on the nest and the young fledge at about six weeks. They are excellent parents. There is no need to foster. I have taken young away from parents about five weeks after leaving nest.

Diet

I use a small parrot mix which consists of plain canary, white millet and a small amount of sunflower. I give soaked seed consisting of mung beans, milo, wheat and sunflower. For green food I would like to feed thistles and dandelions, but these are unavailable. So I use endive and chicory (high in vitamins and minerals) apple, orange, pears, whole grain bread and plain cake. They also like cotoneaster berries and flowering gums when in season. Once a week I give them Avi drops.

Water

I give fresh water every day as I don't have an automatic watering system. I scrub the bowls once a week.

Vita Blocks

These are available all the times and are a hard block, with fine shell grit charcoal.

Worming

I worm twice a year using Nilvern Pig & Poultry or Panacur.

Hand Rearing Mixture

I use Wombaroo Granivore mix, egg and biscuit, Hinze Hi Pro cereal with greens and apples blended and heated in the microwave oven to kill bacteria.

Mutations

Known mutations include Blue, Olive, Lutino & Albino.

Pets

They make excellent pets, but don't talk.

Footnote

[Vogelpark Walsrode]Our sincere thanks to Vogelpark Walsrode (Germany) for their kind permission to use some of their slides. A number of our members have visited the Bird Park in Germany and rate it as one of the best. They claim to be the largest bird zoo in the world! We have provided a link to their site. (In addition to the normal copyright notice on photographs appearing on this site, we ask you to note the express permission obtained from Vogelpark Walsrode to use some of their slides).

 

 


 

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