The Bourke Parakeet is a small bird that is known for its sweet and gentle disposition. It is also a relatively quiet bird that can produce a pleasing whistling sound. These qualities, combined with the fact that Bourke Parakeets are very hardy birds, make them an excellent choice as a pet for both new and experienced bird owners.
Overview of the Bourke Parakeet
The Bourke Parakeet is a companion parrot native to central and southern Australia, according to parrots.org. They live in nomadic flocks of up to a thousand birds and favor areas near watering holes. Its scientific name is Neopsephotus bourkii and there are no sub-species. It is also commonly called the Bourke’s Grass-Parakeet, Pink-bellied Parakeet, Blue-vented Parakeet, Sundown Parrot, and Night Parrot.
In the wild, they are primarily olive-brown and are the one species of Australian parakeet that does not have any green in its plumage. Wild birds are easily sexed by the blue forehead line above the eyes that is only present in males. Selective breeding has introduced many variations and most captive birds are rosy pink in color and need to be DNA tested to be accurately sexed. They are 7.5 inches (19 cm) long and weigh between 1.4 and 1.75 ounces (40-50 g).
Appearance and Vocalization of the Bourke Parakeet
The Bourke has physical characteristics very similar to its distant cousin, the more commonly known budgie. The forehead band may or may not be present in mutations, but the adult males are relatively larger than the females. They have quiet voices and do not generally try to mimic human voices. Below is a video of a female Bourke walking around and calling her mate:
What Type of Personality Can I Expect From a Bourke Parakeet?
Bourke parakeets do not have as much energy as many other birds. When caged, they tend not to fly or climb much, but do still move around by hopping from perch to perch. They are extremely peaceful and social birds that do well when kept in groups. Mixed aviaries are fine as long as the other occupants are of similar size and temperament such as Society Finches. Their quiet, docile demeanor makes them a good choice for new bird owners and families with small children.
They are intelligent birds but have a limited ability to be trained. Younger birds are easier to work with than older birds, and a hand-raised baby will make the best student. Stepping up and accepting food from your hand is about the extent of what you can expect from your Bourke Parakeet, and can be accomplished with patience, persistence, and millet according to The Splendid Bourke Bird Blog. They do not have the ability to talk.
Bourke Parakeets are most active at dawn and dusk, and that is when you are most likely to hear their vocalizations. The fact that these birds are less active when caged means you should try to let them out for several hours a day to fly and exercise. It is best to socialize them with people starting an early age to alleviate some of their natural shyness.
How Do I Take Care of a Bourke Parakeet?
You should keep your Bourkie at temperatures between 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5-29.5 C). They do very well in planted aviaries, and their peaceful nature makes them suitable to be kept in mixed flocks. If kept in cages, the minimum size should be 36Lx24Wx24H inches (91.4x61x61 cm) with a bar spacing no more than 3/8 inch (.95 cm). The length is more important than the height for these birds. See our full guide to choosing the best parakeet cage here.
The cage should be furnished with plenty of wooden perches, placed so your birds can hop from perch to perch, as this is their preferred method of moving inside a cage. These quiet parakeets will amuse themselves if given some toys, ladders, and the companionship of other birds. Include bells and preening toys to keep up their interest.
Exercise is key to maintaining their health, as they are liable to lounge around the cage most of the day. If in an aviary they will get plenty of flying time, but caged birds need to be let out for several hours a day to exercise their bodies and minds.
The diet you supply your Bourke Parakeet should consist of small parrot pellets and a parakeet seed mix, supplemented with fruits like apples and leafy green vegetables and our full guide to parakeet food can be seen here. Breeding birds may take mealworms as a source of protein.
You may need to clip their nails occasionally to control excessive growth, but this can be minimized by the strategic location of some rough perches among the many that should be in their cage or aviary. They enjoy bathing in cool, clean water and will readily use a shallow dish placed in their cage for this purpose. Bourkies molt several times a year and baths are helpful during those times to prevent itchy skin. Below is a video of a cage full of Rosy Bourke Parakeets sharing a bath.
According to birdcare.com.au, they are one of the easiest parrots to breed, with the breeding season beginning in July. Hens lay 4-6 eggs with up to 3 clutches per year. They are generally good parents and are not aggressive to their young.
How Healthy Are Bourke Parakeets?
These hardy birds do not often suffer from disease, though obesity and liver disease can be a result of insufficient exercise. Kept properly, a Bourke lives around 13 years.
Are Bourke Parakeets Expensive?
Expect to pay at least $150 for a Bourke Parakeet, and depending on the breeder and coloration it could be as high as $500. Once you have obtained your bird, they are not expensive to keep. A roomy cage is a must, but they are not destructive toward their toys and their small size means minimal food bills.
Is A Bourke Parakeet Right for Me?
If you are looking for a quiet and peaceful bird that only requires some daily flight time, then the Bourke Parakeet is a great choice. While it is not as energetic or active as some other pet bird species, its pleasant personality and quiet voice make it a great bird for apartment dwellers and others who would like a parrot that has limited care requirements.