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Indian Ringneck Parakeet

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(Submitted by Tom Marshall)

I had to have an Indian Ringneck Parakeet after I first saw a photo of one in an avicultural publication (the AFA WATCHBIRD ). Their "symmetric arrangement of parts" or their conformation, makes the Ringneck, in my opinion, the most exquisitely constructed parrot of all the 300+ species in the world.

The bright apple-green plumage is perfectly enhanced by the black ring that encircles the neck and the joining rose-pink collar at the hindneck of the adult male. A suffusion of blue highlights into the nape of the male bird coupled with the red upper mandible also contributes to the stunning impression these birds give. If you have never seen Ringnecks in full adult plumage with their incredibly long tapering tails and tightly held feathers, you may fail to grasp how beautiful these birds are. The females possess more subtle beauty as they lack black markings, have no rose-pink collar, are
without any blue suffusion to the nape and have slightly shorter tails.

I purchased a hand-raised baby Indian Ringneck from a friend. Immatures are similar to females and my particular bird actually was a female, as it never developed the characteristic ring of a male. At some point, I would locate a handsome male for my bird, but I was initially more anxious to
understand the personality of Rosie and hoped to establish a friendship with her.

Do Ringnecks make good pets? They don’t have that general reputation. Ringnecks, like Eclectus and Lovebirds belong to a matriarchal society. The female rules the roost. Pairs do not maintain an affectionate nature throughout the year and even when they are breeding, their activity is very ritualized and stilted, albeit, interesting and amusing to watch. Females do seem to have a temper and males do seem to be timid in their presence at times.

From a pet perspective, this translates into a bird that does not want to be handled too much and certainly not played with in a rough and tumble fashion, and because it is built to flee quickly, it can become "flighty" if not interacted with on a regular basis.

Ringnecks, which have the widest geographic distribution of any parrot species are, however, very intelligent. They talk well and will ride round on your shoulders from which they are happy to take "reconnaissance flights" throughout the house.

Rosie and I had that kind of relationship. I kept her in a 3’ x 3’ x 9’ flight in anticipation of her raising a family at age two or so, and to be able to watch her exercise her wonderful aerial skills. Every time I came downstairs to feed her or play with her, she flew immediately to the side of the flight where I was standing with eyes blazing. If I stuck my fingers through the wire, she would try to bite, like almost all parrots. However, if I opened the flight door and stuck out my hand and said "up," she would instantly hop on my fingers.

If startled, she would fly around, invariably landing on my shoulder and then, much to my consternation, she seemed to take an inordinate interest in my ear or the collar of my shirt. I liked it much better when she was content to stay on my hand or on my knee if I were sitting down. At those times when it was just the two of us, she would doze off or spend some time grooming her beautiful tail while I contentedly admired her good looks.

Those of us who maintain pet birds have frequently heard the old avian bromide, "clip your birds’ wings or you will lose them." This was almost a case study of what happened to me.

One day I was cleaning up the aviary area and Rosie was on my shoulder. Without thinking I opened the back door to put some trash outside, and Rosie was gone instantly. She flew like a rocket, straight up into the bright clear sky before jetting away from the house towards a forested area a half a mile away. In a split second, Rosie was gone.

I combed the wooded area, but neither saw nor heard a sign of her. The next day I put a young Ringneck male I had recently purchased in an outside cage, hoping that its calls would attract my pet; and I waited and worried most of the day. The young male was apparently intimidated by being outside for the first time and never made a sound. How would Rosie know where to return if she wanted to come home?

Then, surprisingly, while I was sitting on the patio, staring bewilderingly at my silent green decoy, I heard the familiar contact call of a Ringneck. I knew it wasn’t coming from the one in the cage, so I jumped up and frantically scanned the sky for my pet bird. As quickly as she had left, Rosie appeared and landed on the roof of the house. She started to bob her head, her eyes were dilating with excitement, but she seemed determined to remain where she was. Finally, she edged her way to the rain gutter and took a few sips of water. A ha! She was thirsty! Maybe she was hungry, too? I ran into the house and brought out her bowl of seeds, placing it on the patio table. As soon as she spotted the seeds, she flew down and commenced to eat heartily. I picked up the bowl, gingerly, with her standing on the rim and carried both down the basement stairs and into the waiting flight. My wayward pet never missed a beat, and continued to eat for a good part of the day.

I have no way of knowing how Rosie spent her 24 hours of liberty, but I do know that she was smart enough not to forfeit her "meal ticket" and, I would like to think, her friendship with me for the abstract notion of freedom. Regardless, we both knew that her roving days were over.

Eventually, she was paired with the same male, a four-year-old lutino (a yellow mutation with red eyes and no black collar) male. Because he was already mature when they were introduced, she never tried to exert any dominance over him, and as a pair they both were unusually compatible. A roasted peanut could cause a brief period of disharmony between them, but that ended when one or the other ate the chosen morsel. By the next year, around November, they produced three babies, one green male split-to-lutino and two lutino hens. Rosie had settled down for good.