HAMILTON & DISTRICT BUDGERIGAR SOCIETY INC.



TURQUOISINES or TURQUOISE PARAKEET: (Neophema pulchella)
(Pictures at bottom)

BREEDING INFO:
Breeding cages for these birds should be 18 inches high by 18 inches deep and at least 30 inches long or wide. Books say they mature at 18 months which usually means they can breed at this age. Their eggs take 18 days to incubate. The nest box should be 8 inches wide by 8 inches high by 16 inches deep. The entrance hole is 2 1/2 to 3 inches. The box should have wood shavings or mulch as a base.

Distribution: Australia: central Queensland, south through New South Wales (this species has even been known to breed a few times in the vicinity of Sydney) to the border of Victoria.

Male: Sky-blue head, underside yellow-green, becoming lighter toward the tail. Neck, throat, and back are green. Some red in the wings. Blue band on wings and flight feathers. Tail-coverts are green. Outermost rail feathers are yellow; underside of tail is also yellow. Black-brown eyes; black bill; black-brown feet.

Female: No red in the wings; less blue on the head; breast green-yellow underside is a faded yellow, as is the underside of the tail. Young males quickly develop the red in the wings; after eight to ten months they have achieved adult colouring.

Length: 21-22 cm (8-8 1/2 inches); wings 10-11 cm(4-4 1/4 inches) tail 10-11 cm (4-4 1/4 inches).

Particulars: These birds, which live in pairs or small groups in grasslands and open woods, spend a lot of time on the ground searching for seeds and are typical "dusk" birds. They we first discovered in 1788 and in 1792 were extensively described by Shaw. In that time, as in the two years that John Gould travelled through Australia (1839-40), this species was often seen. During my stay in Australia, I only saw them once or twice; in eastern Australia, however, they are fairly common, so that at least we need not worry about their extinction at the present time. It is difficult to predict how the population of this species will develop, but it would certainly not surprise me if there were more in captivity than in the wild, thanks to some determination of thousands of aviculturists who realise that this beautiful species is slowly but surely becoming extinct.

Early in the spring the female will start to inspect the nesting boxes 20 x 20, 40 cm depth (8 x 8 x 16 inches); entrance hole 6 cm (2 1/2 inches) in diameter, and if we place moist turf, woodchips, and the like inside the box, she will soon start to expand her family. She usually lays four to seven white eggs, sometimes eight (23-24 x 16-18 mm). After a good twenty days the chicks hatch and the male will then become active in bringing food for his offspring. Before that, his only role in the breeding process was feeding his mate. Soon the female will help with the feeding of the young ones. During the breeding cycle, all Neophema species should be offered stale white bread soaked in milk or water, germinated seeds, a normal seed menu, and a rich variety of greens and fresh branches with buds. Only specimens that have been locally bred should be kept outdoors during the winter. Imported birds (including those from Japan) are generally not as strong and require being kept indoors in a lightly heated area for the first twelve months. Two clutches per year is not at all unusual; in the wild they usually breed three times. The aviary must be roomy and certainly not damp, because dampness is very dangerous for these small, beautiful birds.

For the sake of our birds (and who would want to take chances and experiment with expensive species?) it is wise to remove the nesting boxes after the young of the second clutch have flown out and in this way force both the fledglings and parents to spend the night in the night shelter. Since the moulting period of the young birds takes place during the winter months, it may be advisable to have them spend the first few winters indoors; once they are a little older and accustomed to climate and aviary life they should be able to get through the winter moulting period without any problem. Turquoise parakeets are not tolerant toward fellow species during the breeding season and must not be kept in the same aviary. Even when the young have flown out and become independent, the male often follows them in an aggressive manner so that it is best to separate the young from their parents. This aggressive pursuit by the father is only directed at the young males; the female chicks have nothing to worry about! The father may even start this pursuit before the young are completely independent. It is important, therefore, that we keep an eye out for this type of thing. Should this situation develop, it will become necessary for us to separate the young males and feed them by hand.

You can separate the young males and placed them in an adjacent aviary so that the father (and the mother of course) could feed them through the wire. Another possibility is to place the young in a reasonably sized cage in the aviary; the parents will then feed them through the bars, so we will not have the problem of rearing them ourselves. After two weeks the fledglings become independent, so we will then no longer need to concern ourselves with this problem. Since the young birds are quite wild and nervous, it is important that we place plants, branches, or twigs on the roof and sides of the aviary to help warn the young birds of the obstacles (especially the wire). After about a week we can remove these twigs gradually, because the young birds will have become accustomed to the layout of the aviary by then. I would certainly advise you to make nest inspections, because there is always the possibility that the female may have laid a new batch of eggs while she still has a clutch of dependent chicks in her nest. This is why we should provide our birds with more than one nesting box, so that she does not have to use the same nest in which to lay her eggs. Nevertheless, this is not necessarily the only solution, because sometimes the female prefers the old nest anyway and simply deposits her eggs between her little sprouts.

The turquoisines usually can be sexed even before leaving the nest box. The adult cock bird has a red bar of feathers on each wing and can readily be distinguished from the adult hen, as she doesn't have the red wing bar. I have heard however, about a female turquoisine that had red wing bars. I have also seen yellow red-rump hens with the circle of red on the rump, which is usually the mark of a cock bird. So remember that exceptions do occur. Turquoisine male chicks will usually---19 times out of 20---show a few small coloured feathers on the back of the wing in the area where the top of the wing bar will be. The colors will be red or orange or yellow or reddish brown or mixture of all four. The other five percent of the time, the colors of the wing bar-to-be will show up from one to three months after the chicks have left the nest box. Some turquoisine cock birds will attack the young cock chicks as soon as they leave the nest box. I have noticed this happens in about one pair out of ten.

If it does happen, you can remove the parent cock bird to a holding cage or pen, and the parent hen usually proceeds to feed the young chicks until they are fledged. I have had hens do this even while starting a second clutch of eggs that also hatched. I am not aware of the actual time it takes for a chick to be fledged, or be on its own, after leaving the nest box, because I always leave chicks with the parent birds for twenty-one days, as previously mentioned, but my guess would be about ten days. The turquoisine's nesting habits and the number of clutches laid are similar to the scarlet-chested parakeet's habits in those regards. In some aviculture books it has been stated that pairs of turquoisines must be housed far enough apart that they will not be able to hear or see one another, the idea being that if they're not the cock bird may go into a rage and kill or maim the hen---or maybe that she'll kill or maim him. This has not held true in my aviaries. I have one set of pens two feet eight inches wide by seven feet long by six feet high, and I have bred four pairs of turquoisines and four pairs of scarlet-chesteds in these eight pens for several years with no problems.

The turquoisines are in pens one, three, five, and seven and the scarlets are in pens two, four, six and eight. I also had several other pairs of turquoisines in other nearby aviaries without encountering any problems. I do make it a practice not to put two pairs of turquoisines in adjoining pens, and the same rule applies to other species of grass parakeets. The turquoisines have been crossed with other grass parakeets, and the word received from European breeders is that the young hybrid chicks are usually mules. I personally do not see any reason for this cross and therefore will not even attempt it. I now have a strain of turquoisines with red and orange-red markings, some on the chest and many on the lower abdomen This colouring is hereditary, and I am now striving to get an all-red frontal area strain developed.

Breeding/Remarks:
Turquoises live in pairs or small groups, foraging close to the ground in search of seeds, They are partly crepuscular, and appear to drink just once per day, often before the first light. The species was discovered in 1788 and first thoroughly described by Shaw in 1792. The entrance hole should be about 2 1/2 inches (6cm) in diameter. During the breeding season, unlike all Neophema species, these birds must have a supply of low-fat milk- or water-soaked stale white bread, germinated seed, the normal seed menu (millet, panicum, canary grass seed, small sunflower seed), a rich variety of green food and fresh twigs with buds. Only birds bred in captivity should be allowed to overwinter outside. Imported birds (including those from Japan and Europe) are often especially delicate and should be kept indoors for the first twelve months in lightly heated accommodations. Two broods per year are not unusual. The aviary must be roomy and preferably planted with a few low shrubs. The shelter must be well protected from dampness and drafts. During long spells of dry weather, it is wise to lightly mist-spray the nest boxes on a daily basis so that the eggs do not desiccate. After the second brood has fledged, the nest box should be removed to stop the hen from laying again. Too many broods per season are unhealthy and could result in, among other things, egg binding. Later in the year, we must see that adults and youngsters are locked into the shelter at night. Cold nights are unhealthy for the youngsters because they tend to moult in the winter and so, for the first year, should be kept in lightly heated accommodations.

Turquoises are somewhat aggressive in the breeding season and each pair requires its own aviary. On reaching independence, juveniles also must be separated from the parents as the father can attack them with dire consequences. If the father should get too aggressive towards his young before they are independent, the young can be placed in an adjoining flight and the parents can then feed them through the mesh. Typically, a cock will worry his sons but leave his daughters in peace. Young birds can be extremely nervous and panicky, making it necessary to cover the inner aviary mesh with twigs so that they don't injure themselves on the wire; after a couple of weeks, the twigs can be removed. In general, I would recommend the minimum of nest inspections, but some are essential in that the hen sometimes will lay her second clutch before the young from the first have left the nest. Captive hybrids with Neophema splendida, N. elegans, and N. chrysostoma have been produced.

Mutations:
A number of mutations are well known; yellow-pied, olive-green, yellow, and fallow, in addition there have been reports of blue, opaline and lutino mutations. The red-bellied turquoise is a special case and really is not a mutation. It also occurs in the wild. Selective breeding can intensify and increase the red color (possible through pairing together those birds with the most red coloring). As per Gloger's law, geographical subspecies from moist areas have a greater formation of melanine pigment than those from drier areas, in other words; the wetter the habitat, the redder the bird, the drier the habitat, the yellower the bird. This can mean that those from wet areas have a better chance of breeding redder birds than those from dry areas. This phenomenon applies also to other Neophema species. An important feature of the yellow-pied mutation is that the red shoulder patch of the male is not always clearly discernible. This mutation is genetically sex-Linked recessive. The olive-green mutation first appeared in Denmark in 1980, but we have no further information. The beautiful yellow mutation however, is much better known, although I am not too happy with the description "yellow," and would rather, going by the color, call it pastel or light yellow-green. It is autosomal recessive in character and we therefore can expect to find split males and split females. The fallow mutation is a somewhat pale colored bird with red eyes, the general impression is graygreen. This mutation is also autosomal recessive in character. The "real" blue mutation is (to date) not yet bred, but the pastel blue has. The underside of this bird is creamish, and the back is sea-green. It is also an autosomal recessive mutation. The opaline, first bred in Germany, has a deep yellow mantel, head, and back. It is a sex-linked recessive mutation. The lutino also originated in Germany, what was blue became white. They are still very scarce, but because they are so beautiful breeders will ensure that we will soon see more of them.

Colony Breeding:
Experiences with turquoisine parakeets have taught breeders to realise that of the four species of grass parakeets discussed in detail, turquoisines are the most temperamental, and I do not know of anyone colony breeding them. A friend who is going to try to colony-breed the elegants will also attempt colony breeding the turquoisines, and we will be observing this attempt with extreme interest. Turquoisines have been placed in a cage with a pair of different species, such as a pair of Bourke's, and another time with a pair of cockatiels, and several times with finches, etc. Although these pairings seemed to work out fine, I still maintain that the best results will always be when all the grass parakeets are housed in single pairs. Even the smaller finches can be a problem because of their continual flight from perch to perch, etc., which they never seem to tire of.

---------------Yellow Turquoise Mutation----
Yellow male

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca

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