Parrot / Bird Information & Care
Fast becoming the most widely
distributed of all the parakeet species, Ringneck parakeets are
well on their way to becoming as popular an avian pet as the budgie.
These two different birds share many of the same traits that make
either of them desirable as pets --- they are both hardy birds,
easily tamed, learn speech with ease and come in a variety of stunningly
beautiful jeweled colors.
These large, graceful
parakeets are clothed in pastel shades ranging from buttercup yellow
and lime green to numerous shades of blue, with distinguishing rings
adorning both their throats and necks. They boast long tapered tails,
and the males almost always sport a red beak. They have a natural,
perfect feather condition, and their delightful demeanor is one
of elegance and poise that cannot be ignored.
Psittacula is the genus
name for Ringneck parakeets, and there are four subspecies noted:
P. k. borealis, P. k. manillensis, P. k. parvirostris, and P. k.
krameri. All of these species are very similar in color, with the
Indian Ringneck being the best known and most generally available.
Originally from parts
of Africa, Malaysia, India and Indonesia, these long-tailed parakeets
are in reality parrots; and when raised in a loving, caring environment,
can easily grow to be gentle lovable pets. In fact, raising them
as newborn babies from the nest is not necessary to produce a tame
gentle bird; as it is the actual art of handling, abundance weaning
and socialization that produces the tameness, and continued daily
handling is necessary to retain their friendly, gentle nature. If
subjected to the amount of attention required only by daily necessary
chores of watering, feeding and cage maintenance, they will undoubtedly
become nippy and unfriendly quite quickly. To maintain a bond with
the owner these social creatures must be given adequate quality
attention and play time on a daily basis.
As breeders, they are
a fascinating specimen that enhances any aviary. Breeding the Ringneck
can be a very enjoyable experience due to the wide variety of color
mutations that are possible. Some courtship rituals performed by
the male become quite elaborate, and quite interesting in an educational
aspect as well as entertaining to watch. The male's brighter plumage
demands an observer's attention, and his intense courtship display
are delightful to watch considering the female is normally only
receptive to the male during breeding season.
Ringneck parakeets are
sexually dimorphic, usually at two to three years of age--meaning
that the sex of a Ringneck can be determined by its coloring. Sometimes
sex cannot be identified until the bird reaches this age due to
the time it takes for younger birds to show their final coloring.
In appearance, they are exceptionally striking birds, with the males
having a more dominant neck ring than that sported by the female.
Second only to
the budgie, the potential for various color mutations in the Ringneck
is astounding. While impossible to list all of the color mutations
possible with this species, the following covers the most widely
recognized and available mutations.
One of the most common
mutations is the beautiful lutino Ringneck. These birds are a pure
beautiful yellow, with a red beak and pink eyes. Their feet and
legs are flesh-colored, and the characteristic neck ring of the
male is a beautiful rose color. Once considered a rare mutation,
the lutinos have become well established in the avicultural world,
making them easily obtainable in the United States at a reasonable
Quickly becoming quite
popular and thus more readily available through increased
breeding, (though considerably more expensive) the blue Ringneck
is also no longer considered a rare mutation, and now comes in two
varieties. It is thought that most of the blue mutations now available
descend from the wild-caught pair owned by the Duke of Bedford in
the 1950's. The appearance of the original blue mutation in the
male reveals soft muted shades of a powdery Wedgewood blue, which
is a recessive trait. The distinctive neck ring is a soft grayish-white,
edged with black at the sides and front of the throat. The feet
and legs are gray, and the bill is red.
The second variety is
the turquoise, which includes green in the body color. Differences
between the male and the female of this mutation include a green
face with mostly blue body for the male, while the female shows
only a small amount of blue on the abdomen and tail. Some of the
lighter mutations have wing and tail feathers that shade into green
at the outer edges, while the darker mutations sport beautiful violets
Pairing of a lutino with
a blue results in the breath-taking albino mutation Ringneck. Albinism
is caused by the blocking of both melanin deposits and carotenoid
conversion of lipochromes, resulting in this particular mutation
lacking any colour pigment. Thus, they have no neck collar, making
both sexes appear identical. They have red beaks and eyes, and their
feather colouring is a pure, stark white. Their total lack of pigmentation
actually makes these birds quite visually attractive.
Other notable mutations
include the cinnamon, a lime yellow with cinnamon colored flight
and tail feathers; the gray, with plumage consisting of shades of
black, silver and gray; a cream albino with red eyes and white coloring;
as well as the rarer recessive yellow head, sex-linked cinnamon
yellow head, and the white-headed blue. A rare pied mutation is
currently being developed in California, and other mutations being
attempted include mauves, cobalt blues, and violets. In theory,
all color mutations that are currently found in budgies are possible
to produce in Ringnecks. Most mutations are quite beautiful, and
the sheer number of possible color combinations is an exciting inspiration
to breeders. I am convinced that this will continue to make breeding
these beautiful birds a challenge for many years to come, and will
undoubtedly result in color mutations that are presently only dreamed
of by Ringneck breeders.
A word of caution is
needed here: one of the biggest mistakes made by novice bird breeders
is finding a new mutation in the nestbox and the inexperienced breeder
attempts to keep it a secret. By not reaching out to the avicultural
community and experienced breeders to establish the best route to
follow, the inexperienced breeder usually ends up inbreeding, producing
very weak, often blind, or otherwise deformed chicks.
A new mutation is created
by a defective gene which changes the color and/or pattern of any
bird. Establishing a mutation and its method of inheritance can
take years. To be officially recognized as a mutation, any new color
and/or pattern must be thoroughly test bred to find out if it will
reproduce, and the method of inheritance. Until such proof has been
established and can be duplicated by other breeders, it is not considered
a mutation. Thus every bird we find that is not exactly like the
nominate cannot be and should not be claimed as a mutation until
it has undergone test breeding. It can take several years to firmly
set or establish a mutation and have it duplicated by others. What
is thought to be a new mutation may be a defect in feathering, alterations
in nutrition, stress, illness, or a variety of other reasons. Some
color changes and patterns develop from nutritional deficiencies,
and can be maintained as long as the birds are kept on the same
diet. Other deviations can appear due to type of formula fed to
chicks, and the method of feeding.
As pets, a generally
accepted myth is that male ringnecks make better pets than females.
It has been our experience that the personality of the bird as well
as the amount of attention it receives on a regular basis play a
much greater part in determining their pet potential than whether
they are male or female.
When taught to speak
properly, these beautiful parrots can easily acquire an extended
vocabulary. Their speaking ability can outrank that of the cockatiel
or similar smaller birds, although their speech may not be quite
as clear as the larger parrot species. Ringnecks usually begin talking
at around one year of age, and many start even earlier than that.
They are highly intelligent birds, and have been reported to master
vocabularies of up to 250 words. While not every Ringneck has the
capability of reaching this astounding level of speech, much of
their vocal and educational development depends on the amount and
quality of time the owner spends teaching and training them. (Please
keep in mind that these are generalizations, and each bird is an
individual, just like human children. No two Ringnecks will begin
to speak at exactly the same time, nor master the same words or
number of words.)
Ringencks, as with most
other pet birds, can be destructive chewers. Rather than constantly
saying "No!" when your bird attempts to demolish something, keep
a supply of challenging toys on hand. This precaution will go far
in preventing the dismantling of your favourites pieces of furniture.
With their slender, streamlined
build, these birds are capable of great speed, and educated Ringneck
owners know to keep their birds wings clipped to prevent inadvertent
escapes, as well as to assist in maintaining their tame nature.
Slightly larger cages than normal may be needed to accommodate their
long tails and prevent broken tail feathers.
While the majority of
pet bird owners depend to some degree on pellets to provide adequate
nutritional requirements, it is worthwhile to note the eating habits
of any birds in the wild. Most wild Ringnecks appear to have a preference
for nuts (naturally), seeds, grains, fruits and berries. Consequently,
providing these food items as well as fresh fruits and vegetables
in addition to your choice of pellets should be a completely adequate
diet for your Ringneck.
When provided with adequate
attention and quality time, Ringneck parakeets are very friendly
and playful, and one of the most beautiful birds I have ever encountered.
They depend on us for their good health and happiness, and we rely
on them for comfort and enjoyment. Having a Ringneck for a pet is
unlike any experience you have ever imagined. A relationship with
one of these beautifully elegant birds is truly exceptional, and
one you will treasure forever.