The Behavior of Parakeets

Courtship: Picture below
Courtship comprises a whole complex of behavior patterns that ultimately lead to the mating of two birds.
(see also Courtship and Mating). The parakeet male has to do a lot of wooing before he wins his mate. In a flock of birds both the males and the females are free to choose partners on the basis of individual preference. If a bird is kept singly and the owner introduces a new bird of the opposite sex, the course toward pair bonding progresses from mutual tolerance to gradual acquaintance to overtures of greater closeness on the part of the male to a generally positive response of the female and, with some luck, finally to actual mating.

But not all couples who were arbitrarily introduced to each other oblige by mating. Many bird couples exist in harmony for years and go through many phases of courtship behavior but never reach the natural goal of producing young because they fail to get into breeding condition. Maybe the problem is the absence of nest boxes or the lack of stimulation through other birds that are going through the mating cycle. Whether living in a flock or with his mate only, a male parakeet tries to rouse the female's mating instinct. He moves as close to the chosen female as he can and tries to draw her attention to him with a soft chirping, his courtship song. The feathers on his head and throat are slightly puffed up, and he keeps moving a couple of inches away from the female and then back again, tapping her repeatedly with his bill.

His excitement is evident in his rapid bowing before the female. The pupils of his eyes are contracted so much that the white irises become clearly visible. He also tries to feed her. Mutual grooming of the head feathers is also part of courtship behavior. But here it is usually the male who offers the service. If the female is not interested in the male's overtures she keeps edging away from him, displays her threatening gesture, and--if he is too forward--hacks at him until he finally gives up. But quite often a female changes her mind and gives in if he courts her persistently. If not, both birds try to find different partners.

Courtship displays are repeated over and over. The male feeds the female more and more frequently to put her in a peaceful and agreeable mood. When his wooing is finally successful the female adopts the typical mating position. The head is thrown back, the feathers on the head are somewhat puffed up, and the tail feathers point upward. The male approaches her from the side and briefly puts one foot on the female's back. Finally he mounts her and lowers his tail end on top of the female's vent. During copulation, which lasts only a few seconds, he spreads one wing over the female (see color photo below).

Budgies Mating

Sometimes the male also grabs hold of the female's bill with his own to help him stay balanced. I have said repeatedly that a singly-kept parakeet is deprived of the life parakeets are meant to live. Only someone who has witnessed the tender billing and cooing of a parakeet pair, the persistent efforts that precede mutual affection, and the rituals of courtship and mating can truly appreciate how desperately a single bird seeks ways that allow expression of its unfulfilled instinctual life. Birds either lose their liveliness, seek consolation in eating, and become uninterested, turning into living ornaments, or they form an attachment to a human, trying to find some form of expression for their natural need to reproduce.

Thousands of male parakeets desperately turn to courting shiny objects. Mirrors have thus become the prime accessory bird fanciers buy for their parakeets, because they believe that these objects satisfy the male bird's innate need for executing courtship displays. But a mirror provides no real relief, because in natural courtship behavior the action shifts back and forth between the two partners and normally leads to the act of mating.

Obviously not every courtship display leads to copulation, but the male always evokes responses characteristic of the species, and quite frequently his efforts in fact lead to success. The mirror offers no such rewards, and the misguided courtship behavior the mirror evokes can result in abnormalities in reproductive behavior after even a few months. Therefore anyone who wants at some point to relieve a parakeet's loneliness by introducing a female bird and who would enjoy watching a family of birds should not risk disturbing the bird's natural mating behavior and should therefore refrain from buying a mirror.

Other behaviour & social apsects.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.