THE BEAUTY QUEENS OF THE ASIAN PARAKEETS
by Linda Greeson
Of all the many species in the Psittacula genus, the Indian Ringnecks to me seem the most elegant. Their plumage is unbelievably beautiful. The buttercup yellow of the Lutinos, the lovely shades from powder to dusky in the blues, even the clear, crisp green of the normals, the rare turquoise and grays - all are equally exquisite. In addition to their striking colors the plumage is so fine, soft, and smooth it is difficult to be near one without reaching out to touch and stroke.
HISTORY AND ORIGINS
The Indian Ringneck is one of the sub - species of the Ringneck Parakeet, Genus Psittacula krameri, or the Asian Parakeet family. For those of us whose tongues twist over these Latin classifications they are also called Rose Ringed Parakeets.
There are two sub-species of the Indian Ringneck : Psittacula krameri borealis and the P.K. manillensis. Both these species are very similar in color with only slight differences. The borealis is known to be the more aggressive bird, and is also a little larger of the two. My love affair is with the P.K. manillensis which is the best known and most widely available.
The Indian Ringnecks have been around for many centuries. Their places of origin are primarily India, Burma, and parts of Central and North Eastern Africa. They were introduced into Europe hundreds of years ago; even the ancient Greeks were familiar with them. They were mentioned by Archimedes two hundred years B.C., and known in Great Britain for at least two hundred years. Alfred Ezra imported several specimens there in the 1920's, and produced the first Lutino in 1934. He found that the wealthy Indian Princes were willing to pay large sums for mutations.
The first blue Ringnecks mentioned in the literature were those kept in gold cages in Calcutta, India, in the 1920's. The blue mutation is still more scarce than the lutino and consequently more expensive. It is now being bred in increasing numbers and can no longer be considered a rare mutation.
There is a distinct possibility of cobalt blue, mauve, and violet being produced and added to the increasingly long list of mutations. Turquoise, Cinnamon, Pied, Gray, Albino, and Cream have already appeared. A whole new generation of Indian Ringnecks is upon us. The possibility of coming up with one of these rare mutations in our own aviaries is an exciting thought.
The Ringneck is still one of the most common and familiar wild birds in India and Africa. They are to be seen every where in open country, cultivated lands, and even in towns and villages where they perch on the roofs of temples and houses. They feed on seeds, fruits, and berries. Small flocks will often descend on grain fields or orchards, causing havoc to the crops. They nest in holes in trees or buildings. Nesting colonies may sometimes be seen circling round and round a temple or house, flying in and out of the eaves like swallows.
The Indian Ringneck is fifteen inches in length, slightly larger than a Cockatiel. The two central tail feathers give the bird its extra length. They have graceful and slender proportions which seem in perfect harmony with their pastel colors.
The normal male is a soft shade of green, brightest on the cheeks and more yellowish below. It's ring of color starts at the throat and flares outward and downward around the neck. A black ring is widest where it meets the lower mandible. After the black ring are two partial rings, one pale rose and the other powder blue. These colors add just the right accents to the other wise all over green. There is a black line from the cere to the eye, and a slight bluish cast to the central tail feathers. The upper mandible is dark red; the lower is black with dark red markings. The iris is yellowish white or yellowish orange and the feet dark gray. Males usually assume adult plumage at two and one half years but some have been recorded as doing this as early as eighteen months.
The normal female is slightly smaller and not quite as bright in color, although still a lovely shade of green. She has only a faint black line from cere to eye. The colorful collar that distinguishes the male is lacking, although a rather indistinct green collar may be noted on close observation.
The Lutino male is a pure, bright, buttercup yellow. His eyes are pink, his feet flesh colored, and his bill red. The ring around his neck is a rose pink to a peach, a truly striking bird. The female Lutino is similar except for lacking the colorful ring at maturity.
The blue mutation males are shades of powder blue with the color most vivid on the crown and forehead. Their neck ring is a dull white or gray, edged with pure white. This combination blends beautifully with their coloring. The bill is deep red, the feet gray. The female is entirely blue with no collar.
The Albino Ringneck is snow white with a pink beak and pink eyes. In this mutation both sexes lack the ring collar entirely. The Cream Albino is a bone white with red eyes. There also has been produced a light buff with yellow lacing on the wings and a yellow forehead.
The Turquoise mutation is really a green bird with a blue overlay which changes color depending on the angle of light striking the bird. The even more rare Gray is an unusual development of nearly black, resulting in a silvery gray color. There is also a gray-green which is almost a khaki color, not as attractive as the others but useful in breeding.
RINGNECKS AS PETS
In addition to their striking beauty which adds a distinctive touch to any home, the Ringnecks make excellent pets. They do not require as large a cage as many of our exotic birds. An area 18 inches x 18 inches by 24 inches will be adequate for them. They are the ideal choice for a "step up" from either Cockatiels or Budgies for either the pet owner or the breeder. They enjoy long lives, averaging twenty to thirty years. Claims of several having lived to be fifty years old have been authenticated.
For many centuries the Ringnecks have been known for their talking ability. Ancient Indian law protected them from being killed because their clear and convincing imitation of human speech was regarded by the Brahmins as evidence of their being sacred. Back in Roman times they are reported to have been taught to greet the Emperor with "Hail Caesar!", much to his delight.
Even in the hand feeding stage our baby Ringnecks are often clearly saying "Yum! Yum! Good!" Their typical clarity of speech is very impressive and a delight to the owner. Vocabularies of these birds have been reported as high as 250 words. Not every bird has the capability of reaching this level, and not every owner the time and patience required to achieve it.
It seems to be generally believed that the males make better pets and are better talkers than the females. My own experience, and that reported to me, is quite different. As with many birds, the personality of the individual bird and the amount of attention it receives are of far more importance than its sex. Since young birds are slow to show their final colors, sex cannot be positively established by plumage until the bird reaches maturity. A hand fed baby, purchased shortly after it has been weaned, who is given daily attention by the owner, will be a devoted and satisfactory pet regardless of its sex.
The Ringnecks, more than most birds, do not tolerate extended periods of neglect. Given only essential services for even periods as short as a week, they rapidly become nippy and unfriendly. They insist on being out of the cage, talked to, and played with on a daily basis to maintain the bond with the owner,
This species is capable of very strong and rapid flight. With full flight feathers they can shoot past one with a rushing sound and scarcely be seen before they are gone. It is therefore particularly necessary to pay close attention to keeping the primary flight feathers, at least the first six, regularly clipped to prevent loss of or permanent injury to our pets.
The feeding procedure for Ringnecks is relatively simple. They are not primarily seed eaters in the wild, but seek out fruit and vegetables in season. We use a standard cockatiel seed mix, supplemented daily with vegetables and fruit. In our aviaries we cook up a variety of beans and cracked corn in a crock pot, adding various vegetables such as peas and carrots, and any cut up fruits in season. This rather messy looking mix is relished by the birds. For the owner of a single pet, small cans of similar food, or leftovers from your own meals, can be combined with available fresh fruits with equally good results. Corn on the cob, fresh or thawed frozen, is a great favorite and can be fed on a regular basis.
Tidbits from the table are fine for your pet if you are very selective in what you offer. Avoid fatty or sugary foods, candy, coffee, and alcoholic or carbonated beverages. Very small amounts of cheese, or lean meats such as white meat of chicken or turkey, are healthful treats. For your Ringneck, a "small amount" means only about one half of a teaspoon of such foods each day. Fruits and vegetables are unlimited and should be substituted for sweets.
Whether pet owner or breeder - or as both as so often becomes the case - may your experience with these lovely birds be a most rewarding one.
Last Updated: April 26, 2013
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