Parakeet Care

Parakeet Information for All Types of Parakeets

Parakeets - Bird Care and Bird Information for all types of ParakeetsPennants ParakeetPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Cheryl Galloway

   All types of parakeets, from budgies to ringnecks, will make lively, cheerful, companions if they are well taken care of!

Parakeet Care and Parakeet Information:

   Exotic parakeets have been enjoyed all over the world since ancient times. There are a huge number of parakeets in the wild, and many different types of parakeets have been kept as pets. Exotic parakeets are appreciated for their colorful plumage and elegant look. They are highly intelligent and have friendly, outgoing personalities.

   When many people think of a parakeet as a pet, the small budgie parakeet (Budgerigar) is often the kind that comes to mind. The budgie is one of the most popular parakeet species. Besides being very friendly and playful, it is hardy and easy to care for, and one of the least expensive types of parakeets.

   A great experience with a budgie parakeet often leads to becoming a bird enthusiast, and a desire to explore other exotic parakeets from the Psittacidae family.

   No matter what kind of parakeet you get though, they all have some characteristics in common. All types of parakeets will stay very busy. They will be on the go, climbing and flying from perch to perch, chewing on toys and chewing on anything else they can reach.

   Parakeets are intelligent little birds and they are generally easy to tame. They are relatively good at learning to talk and adept at learning tricks. Most exotic parakeets are also fairly easy to breed, and many can be sexed by sight. Once a pair is harmonious, many types of parakeet will bond with their mate for life.

See different types of parakeets in Parakeet Families


Distribution:

   Parakeets in the wild live in many diverse habitats. They are found throughout Australia, Asia, tropical and subtropic regions of Africa, Central and South America. Though all parakeets belong to the family the Psittacidae, the parakeet genera are found in various parrot sub-families.
  In the pet industry, some of the Central and South American parakeets are more commonly known as conures. In the scientific world birds may be included as parakeets, or they may be included in with conures. This varies between different avian experts so it can get confusing. Many of the types of conures belong in the genus Aratinga. But even in this genus, there is some disagreement among ornithologists as to the number of species and subspecies. It ranges between 15 to 21 species and 55 to 57 subspecies!

Types of Parakeets:

  • Australian Parakeets:
      Australia has over 30 species of parakeet.
    Exotic parakeets from Australia include:
    • Budgerigar - also commonly called the Budgie Parakeet
    • Cockatiel - (also see Cockatiel Care)
    • Bourke's Parakeet
    • Princess of Wales
    • Red-rumped Parakeet
    • Stanley Parakeet
    • Mulga Parakeet
    • Scarlet-chested Parakeet
    • Red-winged Parakeet
    • Turquoise Parakeet
    • Blue-winged Parakeet
    • Red-capped Parakeet
    • Elegant Parakeet
    • Superb Parakeet
    • Regent Parakeet
    • Mallee Ringneck Parakeet
    • Port Lincoln Parakeet
    • Australian King Parakeet,
    Also, five of the six species of the Rosellas are from Australia. Some of the Australian Rosella's include:
  • Asian Parakeets:
       There are a number of parakeets from Asia. These exotic parakeets have some of their own unique characteristics, The pet quality can be very diverse from one bird to the next. Some will demonstrate affectionate and may learn to talk, but others may not. Some will be handleable while others may not. They are generally said to not be as playful as other small parrots, however many owners have incredibly wonderful pet experiences with these birds.
    Some of the Asian Parakeets include:
    • Derbyan Parakeet
    • Ringneck Parakeet or Indian Ringneck Parakeet also called the Indian Rose-ringed Parakeet
    • Mustached Parakeet
    • Long-tailed Parakeet, also known as Malayan Red-cheeked Parakeet and Pink-cheeked Parakeet
    • Plum-headed Parakeet.
    • Alexandrine Parakeet
    • Newton Parakeet
    • Slaty-headed Parakeet
    • Intermediate Parakeet or Rothschild's Parakeet
    • Blossom-headed Parakeet
    • Seychelles Parakeet
    • Emerald-collared Parakeet
    • Mauritius Parakeet
    • Blyth's Parakeet
    • Malabar Parakeet
  • New Zealand Parakeets:
      New Zealand has three species of exotic parakeets, with a few subspecies. Its neighboring islands are also home to several parakeet species.
    The New Zealand parakeets include:
    • Red-fronted Parakeet - Kakariki Parakeet
    • Yellow-fronted Parakeet or Yellow-crowned Parakeet
    • Forbe's Yellow-fronted Parakeet
    • Malherbe's Parakeet or Orange-fronted Parakeet (critically endangeres species
  • Central and South American Parakeets:
      The exotic parakeets from Central and South America have colorings that are not quite as intense as the Australian parakeets, but they still can make exceptional pets.
    Some familiar parakeet species are: Some familiar 'conure' species are: (See more about their bird care under Conure Care)

Description:

   There is a very wide variety of parakeets. The types of parakeets consist of about 120 species with many sub-species.

  • Parakeet Sizes:
      Parakeets are small to medium sized parrots. They vary in size from about 7" up to 18" (18-45 cm) in length.
  • Parakeet Colors:
       Parakeets are very colorful birds. The exact color range is dependent on the types of parakeets but their feathers can be brilliant. Colors range from lush greens to brilliant yellow, reds and oranges, blues and more.
  • Parakeet Shapes:
      The word "Parakeet" means long tail, these birds generally have slender bodies and long, tapered tail feathers. They have a hooked upper bill that they use to climb, hold things, or to dig. They also use their beak to chew, break seeds, and peel fruit.
       Most parakeets have an unfeathered cere at the top of their beak that surrounds their nostrils. The coloration of the cere on some parakeets, such as the Budgerigar, is different for the male and the female making it easy to sex them.
  • Parakeet Songs:
      Parakeets are fairly intelligent birds. Each species has its own set of calls with some birds being quite adept at mimicking sounds they hear. Some will repeat words, phrases and even whistle.
  • How Long Do Parakeets Live :
      Pet parakeets are known to live longer than parakeets in the wild. The average life span of parakeets is unknown on most species. But the question, how long do parakeets live, can be answered with some generalities.
    • Small Parakeets
      It is known that some of the smaller parakeets such as the Budgie Parakeet or Budgerigar, the Bourke's Parakeet, and the Elegant Parakeet may reach about 10 years.
    • Larger Parakeets
      The larger parakeets such as the Ringneck Parakeet and the Regent Parakeet may reach up to 25 years.

Care and feeding:

   Parakeet food consisting of a good seed mixture supplemented with sprouted seed, various fruits, green foods, commercial pellets, millet spray (for small parakeets), and for some, occasional mealworms are generally regarded suitable. Different seed mixes for parakeets are available, depending on its size and the strength of its bill.

 

  • Bird Food:
       Foods available for Parakeets include formulated diets, either pelleted or extruded, seed mixes, and Parakeet mixes which offer a mixture of both pelleted food and seeds. There are pros and cons to feeding only a formulated diet as well as feeding only a seed diet.
    • Formulated Diet:
      A formulated diet provides a good nutritional base so does not require the addition of vitamins, however it does not contain the phytonutrients (antioxidant pigments) that are found in vegetables, fruits, grains, and seeds.
      Phytonutrients are believed to boost the immune system, help a body to heal itself, and to prevent some diseases. Also parakeets can become bored with it due to the lack of variety.
    • Seed Diet:
      A seed only diet offers much more variety but requires additional vitamin and calcium supplements. Parakeets need not only nutritional requirements met but also variety for psychological enrichment.
    • Seed Mixes:
      Small Parakeets
      There are parakeet seed mixes for birds the size of a budgerigar. A single small parakeet will eat about two tablespoons of seed a day and a half a cup of fruits and vegetables.
      Medium Parakeets
      Cockatiel mixes are for birds that are a bit bigger than the small budgie parakeet size. A medium sized parakeet will eat about three tablespoons of seed a day and 3/4 cup of fruits and vegetables.
      Large Parakeets
      Conure and small parrot mixes work well for the larger parakeets. A larger parakeet will eat about four tablespoons of seed a day and a cup of fruits and vegetables
  • Supplements:
        Supplements are very important and can be put in an extra dish and rotated for variety.
    • Fruits and Veggetables:
      Some of the supplemental fruits include apples, grapes, bananas, pears, cherries, mangos, oranges, papaya, melons, peaches, and berries. Many garden vegetables that are good include spinach, watercress, field lettuce, poppy, chickweed, dandelions, carrots, corn on the cob, peas, zucchini, green peppers, endive, and sweet potatoes.
    • Proteins:
      Additional proteins can be offered on rare occasions and definitely when your parakeets are brooding. Some proteins are cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, peanuts, monkey chow, and even dog food.
      Foods to Avoid: Do not feed avocado as it can be toxic to birds. Other foods that are indigestible to birds are raw and green potatoes, all the cabbage family, grapefruit, lemons, plumbs, rhubarb, and dried fruits that have been treated with sulphur dioxide.
    • Vitamins:
      Vitamins can be added to the drinking water or the food about 2 or 3 times a week, offer sparingly or not at all if they are being offered a wide range of other supplements.
    • Minerals:
      A cuttlebone or mineral block is important for their beak. Bird sand or gravel and oyster shell provides important minerals and can be offered in a separate dish.
  • Water:
       Give your parakeet fresh drinking water every day. You can also add soluble vitamins and minerals to the water.
  • Bird Baths:
      Different species prefer different kinds of baths and some do not want a bath at all. The personal hygiene of your parakeet - for those species that like it - can include a bath or shower two or three times a week to help keep it's plumage in good shape. Bathing can be accomplished with either a flat earthenware dish that your bird can step into and use it's beak to throw water on itself, or by spraying your bird with a light mist of lukewarm water. Use either a hand held shower sprayer or a hose with a fine spray head.
  • Bird Grooming:
    • Wings:
      The wings should be kept trim if you want to discourage flight and to prevent the loss of your pet through an open window or door.
    • Beak:
      The beak needs to be trimmed if it becomes overgrown or deformed. There are many mineral blocks, lava blocks, and other beak grooming items available at your pet store to help your bird keep it's beak in shape.
    • Nails:
      A variety of concrete type perches are also available to help keep the nails trim, but they should be trimmed if they become overgrown. Bird nail trimmers and styptic powder to stop the bleeding are also available at pet shops and online.

   You can find parakeet food, parakeet cages, everything you need for your pet: Bird Supplies

Housing:

   Parakeets in the wild are fast, long distance flyers and need a home that provides them with room to fly and exercise. As a general rule, the larger the cage, the happier your parakeet. Parakeets kept in a cage need to be let out for exercise daily.

  • Bird Cages:
       As a minimum, parakeet cages should be large enough so that the bird's head does not touch the top, its tail does not touch the bottom, and it has enough room for unrestricted movements.
    • Small Parakeet Cages:
      A cage for a pair of small parakeets should be at least 39"x20"x32" (100x50x80 cm).
    • Medium and Large Parakeet Cages:
      A cage for a pair of medium parakeets should be at least 59"x32"x59" (150x80x150 cm) and bigger still for the larger species.
    These sizes will provide room for lots of movement as well as horizontal exercise and vertical climbing. This also provides space for perches, food dishes and a variety of playthings. You will need dishes for food, water, treats, and grit.
  • Bird Perch:
      Provide two perches starting at 1/2" (12 mm) for the smallest parakeets, with larger diameters for larger birds. Perches can be round or square as well as various sized fruit tree branches. Natural perches from willow, poplar and fruit trees are good for the bird's feet and for it's beak. The gnawing it will do on the perches will also alleviate your pet's boredom. Place one perch up high for roosting and one low by the food, water, and grit dishes.
  • Where to Place Cockatiel Cages:
       Place the cage where it will be away from harmful fumes and drafts. Keep the cage well ventilated and have good lighting. Most parakeets need a humidity level of 60 to 70% and 12 hours of daylight. To provide you pet with a sense of security, you can cover the cage at night.
  • Aviary:
       An aviary is ideal for parakeets as they need to fly. The longer and wider space is, the happier the parakeet. Be sure there are horizontal bars for climbing as well. Spacing of the bars for the smaller species starts at 1/2" (12 mm) with up to 3/4" (20 mm) for the larger parakeets.
    • Indoor Aviaries:
      An indoor aviary is a cage set up in a room. A good size for two small pairs is 47"x32"x67" (120x80x170 cm). When estimating the amount of room they need to fly figure about 21 square feet per bird, with more space for larger birds or flocks.
      A bird room is an inside aviary with sand or corn cob covering a tiled floor.
    • Outdoor Aviaries:
      An outdoor or breeding aviary needs to have a protected shelter that can be heated and cooled where necessary. The aviary will need plenty of perches or branches.
    • Plants:
      Plants are both attractive and functional, but beware of poisonous plants as well as plants with spines or thorns. Some poisonous plants and woods include: laburnum, acacia, rhododendron, boxwood, buckthorn, cherry, horse chestnut, privet and oleander.

Maintenance:

   The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Weekly you should wash all the perches and dirty toys, and the floor should be washed about every other week. A total hosing down and disinfecting of an aviary should be done yearly, replacing anything that needs to be freshened, such as old dishes, toys and perches.

Social Behaviors:

   Parakeets are very social with good personalities. They are friendly to people and like lots of attention and handling. Both males and females make equally good pets.
   Parakeets are flock oriented birds, which contributes to their needing a full-time companion. It is best if you can keep them in pairs or in small flocks. Pairs of breeders should be housed separately, however, as many species become aggressive during this time.

Handling/Training:

      Taming and training parakeets is pretty easy. Parakeets become accustom to their new environment fairly rapidly. Consequently very little time is required for parakeet training, they can quickly become easy to handle. Repetition, patience and time are the keys to successful parakeet training!

  • Taming Basics:
       Even though parakeets quickly adapt to their enviroment, you should give a new arrival a few days to get use to you, your voice and its cage before trying to handle it. A hand fed baby will not need much taming and can often be handled right away, as it is use to human attention. To be able to handle and train your parakeet depends first on trust, so go slowly and be consistent.
       Parakeets are generally most receptive to training in the evening and each session is best if limited to under 20 minutes with about an hours rest in between. Remember that taming and training a bird takes patience, never 'punish' your parakeet! This only serves to destroy the trust you've spent so much time building.
  •  Initial Training: 
       Your first goal is to get the parakeet to accept a treat from you, which will lead to it allowing you to gently scratch its head. Then you can begin to work on getting your parakeet to step up on your hand.
      Speak softly to the bird to calm it and always move slowly. Start from the floor and approach the bird from the side rather than head on. With a treat held between two fingers, coax it onto your hand. It may try to fly and you may have to repeat this several times. Once your parakeet steps on your hand, you then start having it step up from one hand to the other.
       If necessary, you can repeat the hand-taming lessons several times a day but for short periods of time, about 20 minutes a session. Depending on the tameness of the bird, these two steps can be instantaneous as in a hand fed baby. Or it can take several weeks or longer for an untamed bird.
  • Advanced Training:
       Once your parakeet has gotten over it's shyness, then you can work on speech training. Repetition and frequency are the keys here. Almost every parakeet can learn at least a few words, although they are not generally as vocal as African Greys or the Amazons.  

   For help with tricks and training, try Chet Womachs Parakeet/Cockatiel Training Course or for speech training try Teach Your Parrot to Talk.

Activities:

   Exercise and play are important activities for the physical well being and psychological health of your parakeet. Being designed for long distance flying, parakeets need to fly! If you keep your parakeet in a cage, you should let it out to fly a couple of hours each day.
   They also love to climb and chew! Natural perches and fresh twigs from willow, elder, poplar, chestnut, linden, hawthorn, and fruit trees work well for this, as does knotted hemp rope. Provide your parakeet with lots of activities! Parakeet toys and other playthings they will enjoy include climbing ropes, wooden ladders, chains, bells, parrot swings, and wooden or other bird safe toys.

 

CITES Status - Parakeets:
  • What is CITES?
    Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES)
  • Parrots on CITES
    All Parrot Species are listed on CITES
    All parrots are placed in conservation protection Category I and Category II
    Parakeets are types of Parrots, so are included on CITES
  • Species of Parrots in Category I
    These are parrots that are threatened with extinction
    These parrots
    may not be bought or sold.
    There is no trade allowed in these species.
  • Species of Parrots in Category II
    Includes all parrots not in Category I
    EXCEPTIONS: Cockatiel, Budgerigar, Ringneck Parakeet
    (These exceptions do have legal restrictions on their trade.)
    Legal restrictions:
    - Must be banded as prescribed by law
    - Owner must obtain the necessary CITES certification
    Authorities sometimes exempt captive-bred parakeets from trade restrictions

Breeding/Reproduction:

   Parakeet breeding of many species is relatively easily. The sexing of parakeets is easily done by sight for some species, but not for all. An example of this is the Budgie Parakeet. The color of the cere on the Budgerigar male is different than that of the female. Many parakeets will mate for life and are monogamous. Pairs of parakeet breeders should be housed separately from other parakeets as many species can become aggressive during breeding time.
   Parakeets, depending on the species, become sexually mature between 5 and 36 months. Most species will lay in a nesting box. Offer two nest boxes per pair of birds. When breeding parakeets (and when they are molting), you need to increase their vitamin supplements. Also during breeding, increase fatty seeds to about 20% and provide additional proteins such as hard boiled eggs and soaked white bread. Keep the temperature between 55°- 65°F. Humidity needs to be raised to 80% just before the eggs are hatched
   Most female parakeets will lay one egg every two days, and start sitting after the second egg has been layed. Generally the female sits on the eggs and is fed by the male. It takes approximately 20 days for the eggs to hatch, and about 4 or 5 weeks for the young to leave the nest. The young parakeets will be independent a few weeks after that.

 

Note: Some parakeets are subject to trade prohibitions, which involve banding the birds and having a certification for each bird. See the CITES information in the chart.

Potential Problems:

   Most parakeets are healthy, hardy birds. Kept under optimal conditions and fed a balanced diet, they are remarkably resistant to disease. An ailing parakeet should be taken to a avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Parakeet Illness Symptoms:
    Parakeet illness symptoms to be aware of are ruffled plumage, resting often with their head tucked under their wing or rump, not eating, discharge from the nostrils or mouth, cloudy eyes, loose watery droppings, weight loss (chest bone starts sticking out), large water intake, labored breathing, opening and closing it's mouth, listlessness, perhaps sitting on the bottom of the cage, stops talking, and growths around the beak.
  • Parakeet Health Problems:
    Some of the common parakeet health problems your pet could contract are Aspergillosis - respiratory infection, Candidiasis, cold and sinus inflammations, diarrhea, egg binding, egg pecking, eye infections, feather plucking, frostbite, goiter or thyroid gland enlargement, mites, Pacheco's Disease, parrot fever also known as psittacosis, Salmonella, worms.
    Parakeet Behavior Problems:
  • Problems in parakeet behavior usually stem from something missing in the bird's environment. Boredom, lack of trust, lack of interaction with other birds or people can lead to problems like biting, feather plucking, and screaming. Try to develop a bond of trust and spend time with your bird to help avoid these problems.

   We have also had good success with Chet Womach's Parrot Training Course. He offers a free 3-day introductory course so you can try it out before you buy anything.

Availability:

   Many parakeets are now bred in captivity and are readily available. Some are fairly inexpensive, such as the Budgerigars, the Ringneck Parakeets, and the Monk or Quaker Parakeets. Other types of parakeets will vary in availability and price based on the kind.

Author: Clarice Brough, CAS

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