Plum-headed Parakeet

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Is the Plum-headed Parakeet right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: N/A

Scientific name: Psittacula cyanocephala

The basics:
The Plum-headed Parakeet is one of the little jewels of the Psittacula genus, an elegant beauty with a musical voice that has been kept as a pet for many centuries. They are considered better for multi-pet or multi-bird families than the other Psittacula, since they don't seem to get as aggressive or possessive.

The Plum-headed Parakeet, a widespread small Psittacula of the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka, may be viewed as the subcontinent's answer to the Blossom-headed Parakeets. If you are choosing a pet, you will want a youngster, and distinguishing small juvenile Psittacula may not be a job for the beginner, so take a look at the parents to make sure your bird is properly identified. Like the Blossom-head, the Plum-heads enjoys a rather open yet wooded habitat, making it vulnerable to clear-cut logging, but they seem to be holding their own most places. There are reports of declining populations in Sri Lanka and Nepal.

The so-called Intermediate Parakeet is not a true species but appears to be a natural hybrid that occurs in northern India, where Plum-headed Parakeets and Blossom-headed Parakeets overlap. To preserve both of these species as separate entities in aviculture, anyone who decides to breed their birds should consult with a more experienced breeder to make sure you aren't creating more hybrids by accident.

Plum-headed Parakeets are sometimes confused with their equally beautiful relative, the Blossom-headed Parakeet. An adult female Blossom-headed Parakeet has a small (sometimes very small) red shoulder patch but an adult female Plum-head never does. An adult male Blossom-headed Parakeet has a lovely rosy-pink face, whereas the adult male Plum-head's face is more of a deep reddish. If you don't trust yourself to judge shades of reds and pinks with unfamiliar birds, look at the tail. The central feathers of the Plum-head's tail will be tipped white, while the central feathers of the Blossom-head's tail will be tipped in yellow.

66 - 80 grams (2.3 - 2.8 oz.)

Average size:
33 centimeters (13 in.)

15 - 25 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Plum-headed Parakeets are often much more social and much less aggressive than some of the other Psittacula species. If you are seeking a single pet Plum-head, you should select a domestic hand-fed baby, and make sure to spend some time socializing with the bird every day. You should also allow the young bird a chance to hear recorded voice lessons several times a day, to give your pet its best chance of learning to speak. The males have a natural song to build on, so it might be worth teaching them to whistle.

Although the wild birds gathering in their colonies are noisy and social, an individual Plum-headed Parakeet is actually rather independent and could be aloof. Some birds could even revert to wildness, becoming phobic or anxious if you neglect them. You need to provide a good balance of time for the bird to interact with you, perhaps sharing dinner with you or practicing tricks and voice lessons. Don't assume that this cool customer is fine playing on its own, hour after hour, day after day. They do need to engage with you, or they could lose the ability to be social.

Because of the long, elegant tail, the Plum-headed Parakeet will be happiest and show off best in the largest cage you can afford. A small macaw cage, provided the bar spacing wasn't too wide, might be the answer. A minimum size could be 36”w by 24' by 36” tall. A single pet should never be asked to share the cage territory with another bird. Females are particularly dominant, but you should maintain the sweetness of your pet by having a separate play gym stocked with foraging toys and other fun things to do. Teach your bird to step up on command onto a perch, so that you can easily move it from cage to gym and back again.

Even though they're not terribly large, they can be somewhat nervous, and a breeding pair should be kept in an even larger flight. A walk-in aviary would not be excessive. Some breeders have even reported success in keeping the Plum-headed Parakeet in a very large, spacious aviary with non-competing birds such as finches or soft-bills, but you should only try this experiment if you are starting with young, adaptable birds and you have time to observe the interactions between the various species.

The Plum-headed Parakeet is a tough, adaptable bird, but that's no reason to short-change your pet when it comes to diet. One expert suggests a diet based on 50% high quality pellets, 25% high quality seeds, and 25% fresh fruits and vegetables. The seed should include millet sprays, and the seed mix and sprays should be fresh enough to sprout.

To bring out the best color and to head off vitamin A deficiencies, be sure to offer plenty of high carotene vegetables like carrots, cooked yam and sweet potato, and pumpkin. Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, mustard greens, Swiss chard, dandelion greens, and parsley should also be added to the daily chopped salad.

The elegant Plum-headed Parakeet may enjoy holding holding food to eat, so don't chop the salad pieces too fine. Let them pick up green peas in the pod or quartered fig for a nutritious snack. However, you must never offer avocado or chocolate, as these foods are toxic to parrots.

Written by Elaine Radford

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