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Slaty-Headed Parakeet

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Is the Slaty-Headed Parakeet right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Himalayan Slaty-headed Parakeet; Hodgson's Parakeet

Scientific name: Psittacula himalayana

The basics:
The Slaty-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 as some of the larger species.

The Slaty-head is a highland species found from about 460 to 2,400 meters in the Himalayas. They are social birds that may form mixed flocks with Rose-Ringed Parakeets, Blossom-headed Parakeets, and Plum-headed Parakeets. Rather than wandering at random to forage, they are altitudinal migrants who descend to the valleys to avoid the Himalayan winter and then return to the uplands for the breeding season.

Appearance:
A graceful long-tailed Asian parakeet. Some people may not realize that the Slaty-head, the Plum-head, and the Blossom-head are three different species, and you may hear someone refer to any of these three as a Plum-head. However, the Slaty-headed Parakeet has a long yellow tip to the tail, as opposed to the Blossom-head's very short yellow tip and the Plum-head's crisp white tip.

Weight:
125 grams (4.4 oz.)

Average size:
40 centimeters (16 in.)

Lifespan:
15 - 20 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Slaty-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 Slaty-head, you should select a domestic hand-fed baby, and make sure to spend some time socializing with the bird every day. They are not particularly admired for their talking ability, but the males do have something of 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 Slaty-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. 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.

Housing:
Because of the long, elegant tail, the Slaty-headed Parakeet will be happiest and show off best in the largest cage you can afford. A small macaw cage, provided the bar spacing isn'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 Slaty-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 specie

Diet:
The Slaty-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 Slaty-headed Parakeet may enjoy 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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