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Elegant Parrot

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Is the Elegant Parrot right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Elegant Grass Parakeet; Elegant Parakeet; Grass Parakeet

Scientific name: Neophema elegans

The basics:
The Elegant Parrot is a gentle, relatively easy to care for, Australian seed-eater that doesn't offer many behavior challenges. Its undemanding care and its calm personality can make it the perfect parrot for the novice bird owner or the busy apartment dweller. They also tend to be a hassle-free addition to the planted or mixed species aviary. However, their great personality is often overlooked, because some of their close relatives offer the same features in a more colorful package.

The Elegant Parrot is endemic to southern and western Australia, where it may be found in rather open or lightly wooded areas below 500 meters. Outside of breeding season, they may join mixed-species foraging flocks, creating some confusion because of their resemblance to more unusual species like the Blue-winged Parakeet, N. chrysostoma and even the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parakeet, N. chrysogaster..

You will not encounter Orange-bellied Parakeets in the United States, and the captive birds are being monitored in Australia for a species recovery plan. Most people will not encounter the Blue-winged Parakeet either, but if you are in any doubt as to whether you are looking at a Blue-wing or an Elegant Parakeet, keep in mind two points: 1) The blue forehand band does not extend behind the eye in the Blue-wing, as it does with the Elegant, and 2) The blue “edging” on the closed wings is much more extensive with the Blue-wing. Blue-wings and Elegants have been observed together in the wild, so the lucky birder may get the opportunity to compare the two species on their native ground.

Appearance:
The natural wild male Elegant Parakeet is a bright grass green with blue edging on the closed wings and a bright two-toned blue “headband” on the forehead, with a line of light blue above the line of darker blue. Some males may also show a hint of red or orange on the belly, creating much confusion when they are mixed up with the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parakeet, N. chrysogaster.. The females are duller. Today, there are also some mutations available, including lutino, pied, and cinnamon, which may serve to draw more attention to these easy-going birds.

Weight:
40 - 51 grams (1.4 - 1.8 oz.)

Average size:
22 centimeters (8.7 in.)

Lifespan:
10 - 15 years

Behavior / temperament:
The sweet, gentle, non-aggressive Elegant Parrot is a calm bird that may demand some patience. For a single pet, you should get a hand-fed baby, and work lovingly with the bird every day to encourage its confidence. Your pet will probably never talk or perform any tricks, but it will probably never get involved in destructive chewing, and it would be very rare for an Elegant Parakeet to bite. They can learn to whistle back and forth with you, so focus on whistling lessons.

They are sometimes criticized for being low energy, but they can be a very practical pet for someone who has to work. Some people report that Elegant Parakeets become lazy or depressed if they don't have enough room, so do provide the largest flight you can afford.

The Elegant Parrot's usual gentle nature makes them good choices for the mixed species flight, but there have been a few reports of pairs harassing other birds, so always keep an eye on how the birds are interacting with each other, especially during breeding season.

Housing:
A single pet Elegant Parrot may be housed in a powder-coated metal cage at least 24”w by 18”d by 24” tall. They are not particularly chewy or destructive, so they can also be safely housed in a larger, mixed-species or planted flight. Be sure that all of the plants are bird-safe, and watch to make certain that the other birds are not harassing the rather gentle, passive Elegant Parrot. Do not house them with other Neophema parakeets, since they will hybridize. Instead, let them share the mixed aviary with non-competing species such as ornamental quail or doves, finches, canaries, or even cockatiels.

It may be difficult to get the Elegant Parrot to accept toys, but have perches or play areas out where you can bring your pet along with you to keep it sweet. That said, if you have a hand-fed baby, you are likely to be your pet's favorite perch, and the bird may simply enjoy riding along on your shoulder to accompany you around the house.

Diet:
Like many of the other classic favorites of Australian aviculture, the Elegant Parrot is a tough little grass-eating bird from a relatively arid habitat, so it doesn't require a finicky or difficult diet. A high quality small seed mix is usually the backbone of the diet, but be sure to provide plenty of soaked and sprouted seeds, seeding heads, and millet sprays as well. You should provide access to chopped fruits and vegetables, with plenty of chopped greens. Do not offer avocado or chocolate, as these items are toxic to all parrots.

Like cockatiels, the Elegant Parrot may refuse to recognize pellets as food, requiring you to bake a good birdie bread or to mix up a good eggfood once in awhile to encourage them to enjoy some protein. They are ground feeders in the wild, and some breeders advise offering food bowls on the ground to encourage your picky eaters. Breeders who keep them in mixed species aviaries with quail or finches report that sometimes the Elegant Parrot may learn to accept live food or other healthy food by watching their companions eat it first.

Written by Elaine Radford

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