Every year is different with LES RANCE’s beautiful collection of Australian parakeets, but 2020 was particularly instructive in terms of the breeding results. In the first of three articles, Les discusses two of his favourite species: the Port Lincolns and Australian kings

FOR the first time in many years, 2020 brought us a warm, almost hot spring and most of my birds responded well to this warmer weather. Port Lincolns, Australian kings, blue ring-necks, Barraband’s, Bourke’s parakeets and cockatiels all did very well and soon entered the “breeding zone”. Other species were later but we will come to that in a separate article. 

My Port Lincolns (Barnardius z. zonarius) are particularly good both in their overall quality and their breeding prowess. They are now eight years old which is still not quite their best breeding age: that is around the 10-12 year mark and they are quite capable of breeding for 20 years. Thus I have a great chance to breed many more of these superb Australian parakeets. 

In their native country their distribution is the interior of central and south-central Australia, west to central and southeast areas of Western Australia. 

During 2020, my pair had one clutch of five beautiful babies. They fed the young well; the babies’ feathers were not plucked and they left the nest in very good condition. I ringed them with closed dated aluminium rings. When they first left the nest-box they had pinkish beaks, but these soon turned to the light grey colour of their parents. 

Rapid growth

By the time they were three months old I was pleased they had their own rings on their legs so that I knew which were the parents and which was a baby. This might seem a small point but it is not unknown for breeders to sell their breeding hen by mistake!  

In addition to their normal quality parakeet mixture, the parents were fed both eggfood and germinated seed – this year wheat, oats, sunflower and mung beans plus orange or sweet apple in the morning before I left for work. They are housed in their own aviary with kings on one side and Bourke’s parakeets in the other side. It is best to ensure that they are not housed alongside other Barnardius or Platycercus species, as the cocks would attempt to fight those neighbours through the wire, injuring both themselves and their neighbours. Even with kings and Bourke’s next to them, the aviaries are double wired with a 2in cavity between each piece of wire. 

These aviaries have been constructed using 1in x ½in 16-gauge weldmesh. It costs quite a bit to buy but it lasts for many years and because no birds can reach each other it has proved a sensible investment.  

My kings

Moving now to the Australian kings (Alisterus s. scapularis), of which I have two adult pairs: these are not so easy to breed, which I think is in part down to the compatibility of the pairs. The cocks can be a little scared of the hens and tend not to drive them to nest. 

In 2020, one of my pairs hatched one baby but failed to feed it, which was rather frustrating because that made three breeding seasons in which they had “messed about”. I am determined to breed with them because they are nice large birds, so I am now waiting for the 2021 results. Will I be lucky? The second pair laid their first clutch of eggs during the warm spring and she sat well and hatched two eggs but, like the first pair, failed to feed the youngsters. I thought this was starting to be hard work. Fortunately, they had learned from their earlier failings and laid four eggs in the second round, three of which hatched. I have never seen young so well fed. In fact the parents overdid it and one of the babies died from what I think was simply overfeeding. They were supplied with the same daily diet as the Port Lincolns. 

The other two youngsters grew rapidly and left the nest quickly. They are now sharing the aviary with their parents and are looking like they are going to be fine examples of the species. They quickly learned to fly and soon became remarkably steady, just like their parents. Looking at them, I think they are a pair. Kings are not that easy to visually sex but I will be surprised if I am wrong. Obviously, I will need to split them up and pair them with unrelated stock since it is not sensible to pair brother to sister. 

In the wild they occur from southern Victoria to northern Queensland, generally close to the coast. Kings are good birds to keep in captivity because, as you will see from the picture, they are well coloured but also quiet and rarely aggressive – both valuable qualities. I just wish they were a bit easier to breed! 

● In his next article, Les analyses the 2020 breeding season for his blue ring-necks, Barrabands and Bourke’s.

Les Rance is the secretary of the Parrot Society UK. His email is les.rance@theparrotsocietyuk.org