HAMILTON & DISTRICT BUDGERIGAR SOCIETY INC.



The Choice of a Mate:
Like 90 percent of all birds, parakeets are monogamous. How permanent the bond to one mate is varies from species to species, it can last for one or several mating cycles or be for life. In the case of parakeets the bond lasts for life. If you have several pairs of birds in an aviary you can see this for yourself. Once two birds have mated they are usually "faithful" to each other. Fritz Trillmich, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Animal Behaviour in Seewiesen, has studied this "marital fidelity" and was able to show that even after a seventy-day separation parakeets will resume their relationship with the old partner if they have been kept in the meantime with birds of` the same sex. Even after a twenty-day separation during which a bird is kept together with other potential sexual partners, the original bond is maintained. These observations are of practical interest to aviculturists. If, after raising a brood, two birds that have formed a bond have to be separated to keep them from going through the mating cycle too often the keeper can fairly assume that they will accept each other again unproblematically later.

On the other hand, parakeets usually adjust with relative ease to a new partner if a bird has to be replaced or if the breeder wishes to mate a specific pair. If you have several parakeets in an aviary it is of course important to know according to what criteria mates are chosen. "Love at first sight" apparently does not exist among parakeets, instead they choose a partner who seems to offer the best prospects for reproduction. This is the conclusion---rather prosaic from the human perspective----that the biologist Urs Engesser reached. His observations of parakeets showed that young females quite early favour older males for mates rather than males of their own age, even though the young females had close social bonds to the males they grew up with. Young males, on the other hand, prefer females that have already claimed a nesting box, something females do even before being committed to a partner. Females remain passive in the early stages of partner choice. The males court them, and if a female does not care for a particular admirer she hacks at him or threatens him. If she does like him, she rubs beaks with him or the two preen each other's feathers. The two sexes are ready to mate at different ages: males about 130 days after leaving the nesting box, and females after 112 days.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca

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