Breeding

Barraband's Parakeet (Polytelis swainsoni)

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Barrabandsby Jim Hayward

ORIGINAL HOMELAND:
Two limited ranges in New South Wales and Victoria.

NATURAL HABITAT:
They mostly prefer to live where trees line the banks of waterways, though forested areas are acceptable. Though they take food from the ground, their liking for blossom and nectar causes them to wander in search of flowering Eucalypts.

STATUS IN THE WILD:
Thought at one time to be on the decrease, the spread of agriculture, and the increase in irrigation which this requires, seems to have been of benefit to this species.

STATUS IN AVICULTURE:
A deservedly ever popular and long established species in British aviculture.

LEVEL OF KEEPER'S EXPERIENCE:
The keeping and breeding of any of the commonest Australian Parrakeets should provide sufficient experience for the general management of the Barraband.

HARDINESS:
Sufficiently hardy to withstand wintering out with just an open fronted shelter in all but the most exposed areas and northerly parts of the British Isles.

TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION:
Though they will thrive and breed in aviaries measuring only 9ft in length, these swift flying birds are at their best in an enclosure of 18ft or longer. They are not destructive to wood or wire mesh.

TYPE OF DIET:
All they need is a standard parrakeet mixture (sunflower, safflower, canary mixture, millet, and millet sprays), greenfood (the usual seeding grasses and plants) and some chopped fruit and vegetable mixture. Bread and milk and/or canary rearing food can be offered and is especially useful when the birds have young; germinated seed can be given but care must be taken to see that it is perfectly fresh or serious infections can result. As always, water must be kept fresh and cuttlefish bone available at all times.

SEXING:
In most strains of Barraband's the grey cast over hens' faces has a bluish or slate tinge, but in some breeding stocks young hens have a faint wash of brown. By autumn the eyes become lighter in both sexes, but the irides of young cocks are paler and - by this time - tending towards yellow, and their upper mandibles are becoming more pink. Red flecks and yellow dabs begin to appear on the faces of young immature cocks as early as the winter following the spring in which they were hatched, though may not show in some specimens until they are almost a year old. Fledgling Barraband's can be sexed by their appearance as long as there is a sufficient number of nest-mates to compare. Some of the young may have a trace of red across the throat and these can be quickly regarded as cocks; others may have a greyish cast to the face, forehead and throat and these are most likely to be hens. Youngsters with a brownish tinge across the throat and a yellowish cast over the green of the face and forehead can be reasonably assumed to be cocks.

SEXUAL MATURITY:
They do not usually show serious inclination towards nesting until in their third year.

NESTING SEASON IN BRITAIN:
Nesting usually commences between April and early June.

TYPE OF NEST:
A hanging box measuring 8-9 inches square inside by 18 inches deep, fixed from waist to head height is generally accepted.

USUAL NUMBER OF EGGS:
The usual clutch of eggs varies between four and six.

INCUBATION PERIOD:
Incubation is around 18 days.

USUAL NUMBER OF YOUNG:
Two to four is usual.

FLEDGING AGE:
Just over five weeks.

USUAL NUMBER OF CLUTCHES:
Though in my experience these parrakeets are not double brooded, a good breeding pair is likely to be the most dependable rearers in a parrakeet specialist's collection, producing a yearly brood of young well into their second decade. They can also be persuaded to act as foster parents for other similar sized parrakeets and even for species larger than themselves.

NESTING HABITS:
Though it is recommended that they be kept one breeding pair to a flight, it is possible to keep a group together as the cocks are quite amenable to each other. However, successful nesting is far less likely as all the cocks will chase around after any hen which leaves the nest - and this means that successful mating is less likely. As a general rule, they are the most placid of neighbours and for this reason are ideal to place alongside pairs of more quarrelsome Australians such as Rosellas or Red-rumps.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS:
On average, birds of this genus are more susceptible to partial paralysis of the legs and eye infection as a legacy of serious illness than - for example - Rosellas (Platycercus). But if the management is correct and the initial stock is strong, illnesses should be rare.

NOISE FACTOR:
They have cheerful chirruping calls, but this should not worry any reasonable neighbours.

AVAILABILITY:
Some can usually be seen advertised for sale at most times of the year.

COLOUR VARIETIES:
As far as is known, none so far - but both a Blue and a Lutino variety would be exceptionally beautiful.

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