During the breeding season and often over a number of years, large parakeets live in pairs. They need a breeding territory that is invariably more extensive than the space they can be allotted in an aviary. Consequently, the cocks in particular fight each other until one of them is killed. Of necessity, the fancier and aviculturist will therefore prefer to keep them in pairs rather than in communal accommodation. This applies mostly to birds of the same species. Birds of different species, provided certain conditions are met, may tolerate one another, particularly when the other species is not regarded as a rival and there is adequate space available. For instance, the Cockatiel gets on exceedingly well with the Budgerigar in a large cage. The Budgerigar's behaviour represents an exception since, being a colonial breeder, this species is suitable for communal housing in any case. It is, however, not possible to keep different species of the genus Platycercus (Rosellas) together. P.e. ceciliae and the Pale-headed Rosella are so closely related that their hybridisation presents no difficulty whatsoever. Consequently there is direct competition between the two and absolute intolerance. This can go so far as to make it impossible even to keep them in separate compartments that are next to each other. Although this cannot result in fatal injuries, damage to the toes and bleeding heads are not unusual, and general harmony of the aviary is often upset. During the breeding season the squabbling never ends, and this makes the successful raising of young birds very difficult. Therefore, communal housing for these birds should, not be contemplated if one intends to propagate them successfully. Matters are different where immature birds are concerned. A large flight of young parakeets of the same and of different species can be associated without any great risk. The prerequisite is plenty of space, which allows weaker specimens to hide when necessary. It is, however, essential to keep such a mixed population under constant observation. There is always the possibility of a "scapegoat" being chosen from among them, which will get attacked by everyone if it is not rescued and rehoused. One breeding pair per aviary is the safest choice Suitable neighbours would be birds of the Neophema group (Grass Parakeets such as the Turquoise Grass Parakeet, Scarlet-chested Grass Parakeet, etc.). Birds of the Polytelis group (Regent Parakeet, Princess Parakeet), being peaceable species, can always be used as buffers and put between the aggressive species. The same applies, for example, to the South American Araini. Here, too, just as with the Asian Psittacula species, immediate housing in the same neighbourhood should be avoided.
Agapornis species behave differently. Provided the aviaries are of sufficient size, one can even breed birds of the same species in communal conditions since these charming little Africans usually live gregariously in the wild. Although not colonial breeders in the strict sense of the word, they live and breed together in fairly close association. When keeping these birds in communal accommodation, one should, wherever possible, stock the aviary with pairs only and put them all in at the same time. Animals that are added later are not always accepted. Single birds. particularly cocks, can disturb the community and the breeding process. Young birds which have become independent should be removed from the community before they attain sexual maturity. As not to lose track, it is advisable to ring the young birds when they are still in the nest. Later it will become impossible to distinguish them. If you still wish, despite the restricted space, to set up a mixed aviary simply to enjoy a colourful assortment of birds, you must adhere to certain fundamental rules. Initially combine just one pair of parakeets, a few waxbills, and perhaps one pair of small pigeons. The ground can be livened up with a pair of small quails. Never associate parakeets and starlings with one another, since both are cavity breeders and will, start squabbling when claiming their nesting hollow, if not before. The starlings, regardless of what species they belong to, usually emerge as the winners. It goes without saying that large parakeets such as the Australian King Parakeet or Derbyan Parakeet are not always suited for this type of mixed community. Grass Parakeets (Neophema species) adapt very well to mixed aviaries, and, since they do not do any excessive gnawing, the aviary can even be planted with conifers. Cockatiels are very peaceable, as is the Plum-headed Parakeet. If the keeper is not concerned about breeding, there is no reason not to stock the mixed aviary with different parakeets, cocks only if possible. These should not belong to the same group of species, different Rosellas, for instance, should not be kept together. Again, it is important to put all the birds into the aviary at the same time, if possible, so that none of the birds will have had a chance to establish a territory. Furthermore, the birds should not be put in at night but in the morning, this gives them sufficient time to become acclimatised. On the first and second days, it is particularly important to keep an extra eye on the birds so you can intervene if any serious fighting breaks out. A well-assorted collection is delightful to observe, and if some feathered singers are added as well, a small exotic world has been created.
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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.