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ELEGANT PARAKEET: (Neophema elegans)
(Pictures at bottom)

Distribution: Southern portion of New South Wales, western Victoria, South Australia (north to Flinders Ranges) and south-western Australia (north to Moora and east to Esperance).

Size: 9 inches (23 cm) including the 4-inch (11 cm) long tail.

Leg band:11/64 inch (4 mm).

Voice: A sharp "tseet-tseet-tseet...tseet-tseet-tseet" uttered mainly in flight. During feeding, the birds chatter in a sharp tone interspersed with shrill shreaks.

Nest: In a tree hollow (in captivity they require a nest box 6 by 6 by 12 inches (15 x 15 x 30 cm) with an entrance hole 5 cm in diameter). The hen lays four to five white, round eggs 53/64 by 23/32 inch (21 x 18 mm) eggs on a layer of mulch or earth. The hen incubates alone for 18 days, and after a further four weeks the young leave the nest. The young remain in close contact with the parents until they themselves are ready to reproduce.

Male: Golden yellow; lighter on the underside of the tail. Yellow triangle between bill and eyes. Small blue eyebrow. Blue edges on the wing feathers. Some orange feathers on the lower belly. Olive green back. Black flight feathers.

Female: Less vivid yellow; no orange feathers on the belly (although some females may have these; they usually disappear, however, after one or two moults). Blue flight feathers. Young males are a brighter yellow than the females at the time they leave the nest, but do not yet have the band on the forehead. After six months the juvenile moulting is finished.

Remarks: Research has shown that this species is increasing in the wild and occurs in most kinds of open country. Groups of 20 to 100 birds are not at all uncommon, and only in the breeding season do they disperse into pairs or small groups. Sometimes they may be seen in the company of blue-winged grass parakeets, which are similar in appearance and life-style. The elegant can be distinguished by its yellow-green breast, the light-blue forehead band that stretches above and behind the eyes, and less blue on the wings than the blue-wing. Foraging mainly on the ground, they eat much seed (especially from Paspalum grass), and fruit, berries, and other vegetable food. When alarmed, the birds first sit stock-still on a twig and do not fly off until the last moment in search of a safer tree or clump of bushes near the ground. Their flight is fast and (especially in open situations) they will fly high in the air to avoid predatory birds. Captive care is similar to that described for Bourke's parakeet. Crossings with N. pulchella, N. splendida, and N. chrysostoma are not uncommon in aviaries.

Mutations: Among others, the yellow pied, the pastel green, the cinnamon, and the lutino mutations occur. The yellow pied is dominant in character, so that pied young can arise from a pairing with a normal bird. There are no "split" birds. It is an uncommon mutation. The pastel green and the cinnamon are also rare, and the genetic makeups are respectively autosomal recessive and sex-linked recessive. The lutino has been known for much longer than the other mutations; it is silver-yellow with red eyes and white feathers where they are blue in the normal. Contrary to most lutinos, this form of the elegant is not sex-linked but autosomal recessive in character. Both sexes can thus be split for lutino.

Particulars: This species, which lives in pairs or in small groups, is considered one of the most common of the Neophema representatives. They can often be found not too far away from civilisation and have even been found on the northern border of Western Australia, in the Pilbara District, which is in the tropics! They live near woods, though not in them, on open grass terrain and new plantations; it would almost seem as if they avoid trees. Many of them live along the coast, where we saw them several times early in the morning, flying high up in the sky. The southern areas of Australia are home to the subspecies Neo-phema elegans carteri, which is less vivid in colouring, though only professional ornithologists encumber themselves with the slight differences. In Australia this bird is also referred to as the elegant grass parakeet because it lives mainly on the seeds of grass and other plants. He is a migratory bird and can be found in cultivated areas where clover is grown, such as in south-western Australia. The female lays four to five white eggs(l7 x 20 mm) in the wild a couple only rears one clutch per season, generally in August to October. The care required by these birds parallels that of the prior species. The first specimens were brought to Europe--the London zoo to be precise--in 1862 and rapidly became popular because of their easy care and breeding. Various cross-breeding results have been achieved, mainly with the turquoise, scarlet-chested, and blue-winged parrots. To ensure good breeding results it is wise to provide them with deep nesting boxes about 40 cm(16 inches) and to cover the bottom with moist leaves and turf.

The elegant is probably not as temperamental as the turquoisine, at least in my opinion. However, this is also a controversial statement, and many breeders do not agree that this is so. I am sure, however, that all will agree that this species is not as docile or non-temperamental as the scarlet-chested and Bourke's parakeet. The elegants, both cock and hen have a blue frontal band across the forehead, just above the eyes, that distinguishes them readily from other grass parakeets. There are three ways I distinguish between a cock bird and a hen, but none is fool-proof. Many breeders have had a so-called pair in their aviaries, only to find out later that they have two cock birds or two hens.

If both birds are in good feather and health, the male is usually of a brighter or glossier feather sheen. The front band on a cock bird usually extends around and past the eyes for about one-eighth or one-quarter of an inch, while the hen has a brownish white or yellow ring around the eye. The cock bird has a trace of orange or reddish orange around the vent, while the female doesn't. This colouring; around the vent can be seen slightly even when the cock chick is still in the nest. However, as I've already pointed out, none of these three distinguishing methods is a positive means of determining the birds sex. These are very good educated guesses, and not positive identifications. The elegant grass parakeet's nesting habits are comparable to those of the other grass parakeets: usually five eggs, usually two clutches and sometimes a third clutch after moulting. Its eating habits also are similar.

Habitat: Open landscapes, but particularly grass terrain where shrubs grow. This species also penetrates into eucalyptus woods, although avoiding really dense forest regions. A marked increase in numbers in Western Australia, which is connected not only with deforestation but also with the increased cultivation of clover.

Habits: Among the shrubs well camouflaged by the color of their plumage. Hence in the event of disturbances they usually only fly off at the last moment and soon come back down again. Only when disturbed a second time do they actually fly off at a great height. The diet consists mainly of the seeds of grasses and weeds, in the areas where clover is being grown predominantly of clover seeds. Breeding season August to November. Nesting inside hollow branches and inside rotten tree stumps.

Keeping: Imported into England in 1859. Provided a frost-proof indoor shelter is at their disposal, Grass Parakeets will be all right in the winter without there being any need for additional precautions.

Diet: Mainly millet and grass seeds. At least during the breeding season the seeds should be offered in a germinated or half-ripened condition. Read the document for care & feeding from the main Grass Parakeet page.

Breeding: First bred in captivity in 1859 at London Zoo. In 1972 lutinos were cultivated in Belgium. Hybridization with Turquoise Grass Parakeet, Scarlet-chested Grass Parakeet, Blue-winged Grass Parakeet.

Colony Breeding: These birds are more of a temperamental nature than Bourke's parakeet and the scarlet-chested parakeet, and I know of only two breeders who have bred two pairs together in one pen. A breeder friend is going to make an attempt at Colony breeding elegants, and though it of course will take many such attempts before the facts can be established, we will nevertheless get some important data from his effort.

2 Elegant Parakeet pictures

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E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca

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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc. 1996