Photo: Les Rance. Don’t rush: Les quarantines new stock away from the rest of his collection for three weeks, and then introduces one of his current birds to the new stock for a further two weeks.

LES RANCE concludes his short series on Bourke’s parakeets (see September 13 and 27 issues) with his advice on babies leaving the nest-box, quarantine and deterring birds of prey.

One tip that’s worth considering with Bourke’s parakeets (Neopsephotus bourkii) is to prepare for the day when the babies leave the nest-box and take their first flight.

Most of us use aviaries that are long, but only 90cm (3ft) wide, and the youngsters have a habit of flying from the nest-box to the far end of the flight and then crashing head first into the end weld mesh.

To prevent any serious head injuries, I hang some leafy branches inside the end of the aviary a few days before they are going to come out. I find that nut hazel is ideal because it has a fan-shaped structure, but any leafy branch will work.

If the water bowls are large and deep, place a brick in them so that the top of the water only just covers the brick. This will stop chicks getting into difficulties if they fall into the water bowl, because they can climb on to the brick and dry off. Losing a baby bird to drowning in the water bowl is a sad sight.

Never bring a new Bourke’s into your collection without keeping it away from your current stock for three weeks first, in case it is carrying a virus that could transfer to your birds.

Even after this period I like to introduce just one of my Bourke’s to the new bird and keep them in the separate quarantine facility well away from others for a further two weeks.

If everything seems satisfactory after these five weeks, I feel confident enough to allow the newcomer into the collection. You can never be too careful when you introduce new birds.  

Hawks pose a serious threat to the birds in our aviaries, because they think that our colourful stock will make a tasty snack. I think that it is mainly young hawks that are the culprits, because it seems that this problem is worse in the autumn when they are looking for their own territory and food.

They appear to frighten stock first, causing them to crash into the wire and then attack them as they hold on to the wire mesh. A hawk’s talons are quite long and when extended they stab the parakeet in the chest. Its body is usually found on the floor of the aviary with one or sometimes two stab wounds.

In recent years, I have had considerable success using two European eagle owl plastic models fixed to the tops of my aviaries. They have a joint between the body and the head and a clear plastic “weather vane”, which moves the head when the wind blows, making the model look very lifelike. These are certainly worth considering if hawks are causing you problems.   

Bourke’s parakeets are a great addition to any collection because they are quiet, eager to breed, gentle and beautifully coloured. They will mix and live well with finches, and do not require heat during winter provided they are well sheltered from the wind.

Feeding requirements are straightforward and these are steady birds that are quite happy to come towards you when you visit their home. I thoroughly recommend them.

Les Rance is the secretary of the Parrot Society UK and has been involved in breeding and caring for birds since he was eight years old.

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