Bourke’s parrot

bourkes parakeet on branch

Although Bourke’s parrots are more inconspicuous and not as popular as budgies or cockatiels, these birds still make an impression with their calming and loving nature and thanks to being easy to own. Their pleasant singing isn’t too loud, so Bourke’s parrots can make suitable pets without complaints from your neighbours. If you’re considering buying a Bourke’s parrot and keeping it as a pet or are looking for special information on this bird species, you can find out here everything you need to know about Bourke’s parrots.

General: what are Bourke’s parrots?

Like all parakeets, the Bourke’s parrot (Neopsephotus bourkii) belongs to the parrot family. Bourke is pronounced as ‘bork’ and these birds are also affectionately called ‘Bourkies’ in normal speech.

Where do Bourke’s parrots come from?

They were first discovered in 1835 in Australia and named after an Irish general called Richard Bourke, who was governor of an Australian colony at this time. Their natural habitat resembles that of the cockatiel and in Australia is found in dry, bush-covered steppes in the country’s interior. It broods there in tree cavities that aren’t too high up, preferably in acacia trees. Bourke’s parrots by nature live in pairs or groups of around 20 to 30 birds. In the wild, Bourke’s parrots solely look for their food on the ground. They feed off low-fat grass seeds, other plants and insects. You should definitely take this type of diet into account when keeping a Bourke’s parrot as a pet.

What do Bourke’s parrots look like?

A characteristic feature of Bourke’s parrots is their pink-brown colouring on their stomach and blue rump. The rest of the plumage is normally grey-brown. The colours are quite pale and appear pastel – this acts as better camouflage in their natural environment.

As with many other bird species, however, there are also other different colours of Bourke’s parrots as well the ruddy-coloured version. These are known as mutations: cinnamon, yellow (fallow), pink (opaline) and Lutino. With Lutinos, the head, neck and stomach are a delicate pink, although the wing covers and back are yellow and the eyes red.

What type of character do Bourke’s parrots have?

You will find Bourke’s parrots to be very friendly, gentle and calm in terms of character. This is also reflected in their singing, which is very tranquil. As crepuscular parakeets, they merely become slightly more active at sunrise and at dusk.

Overall, this type of parakeet is less active and frantic than other bird species and less twitchy than budgies. Since they can occupy themselves very well, they don’t need a great deal of entertainment. They are as easy to own as budgies and cockatiels, although are less playful, don’t learn any tricks and may only approach your hand to accept food with plenty  of trust and patience.

Difference between Bourke’s parrots and budgies?

Bourke’s parrots are also called pink-bellied parrots, since males in particular are often pink-brown in colour from the chest to the stomach, therefore they are often confused with red budgies.

But what are the differences between Bourke’s parrots and budgies?

Bourke’s parrots and budgies are different categories of the same subfamily. Although Bourke’s parrots have long been counted amongst neophema, they later received their own category: neopsephotus. The Bourke’s parrot – Neopsephotus bourkii – is a subspecies.
As well, Bourke’s parrots are generally calmer and less playful than budgies and their singing is pleasant and not noisy. In contrast to budgies, Bourke’s parrots are particularly active at dusk, full moon and even at night and then stay on the ground more often.

Male or female Bourke’s parrots?

Female Bourke’s parrots have a smaller head and beak and their colouring is slightly more matte. As well, females don’t have a blue forehead and feathers on the wings, unlike males.

Housing: how do you keep Bourke’s parrots in a species-appropriate way?

If you wish to own a Bourke’s parrot, fundamentally the same conditions need to be in place as for budgies or cockatiels. Like all other parakeets, never keep Bourke’s parrots alone but at least in a pair. Two females don’t get on particularly well within a cage or aviary. Hence, primarily focus on the right choice of partner:

  • Male and female
  • Two males

If you have enough space, you can even keep several Bourke’s parrots or socialise them with other birds. In general, Bourke’s parrots tolerate other species well. If you keep Bourke’s parrots as pets, make sure the dimensions of the cage and conditions are right. An indoor aviary is more suitable than a cage.

  • Cage size for two Bourke’s parrots: min. 120 x 100 x 60cm (W x H x D)
  • Aviary for free flight: surface area of the aviary at least 2m²

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  • Optimal temperature range: approx. 18 to 25°C
  • Quiet location: no noise or additional stimuli
  • With artificial lighting: pay attention to the twilight phase
  • Daily cleaning: clean bowls and remove fresh food
  • Weekly cleaning: deep cleaning of the cage and change substrate material
  • Attention: daily free flight – at least an hour
  • Avoid: significant fluctuations in temperature and draughts

It is better for the cage to be long than high. Make sure that the cage is at least 1 metre in length for a pair of Bourke’s parrots. You should set up one or two sides of the cage so that they are opaque, which will make the birds feel protected.

A Bourkes Parrot

What equipment for the cage?

You should equip the cage or aviary with as many natural wood branches as possible. You can use bird sand and beech wood pellets as litter. Bourkies like to hop from perch to perch, so equip the cage with wooden perches. Bourke’s parrots also love ladders and toys. However, mirrors, plastic birds or easy-to-swallow small parts aren’t suitable pastimes. These birds tend to gain weight and absolutely need free flight. Hence, make sure they get several hours of free flight per day, ideally in their own bird room or an aviary for free flight. Since Bourke’s parrots aren’t really chewers, you don’t need to fear major damage to your home during free flight.

Bourke’s parrots have an innate love of bathing, so you should always offer them a water bath. It will be a real joy for you to watch your parakeets splashing around. The water must of course always be fresh, cool and clean. Also try to refresh your birds with a shower in the drizzle. You just need a spray bottle to spray water finely. However, focus on your birds’ reaction: some love it, but others don’t. Never spray water directly in their eyes.

Can Bourke’s parrots be kept in an outdoor aviary?

An outdoor aviary is practical, especially if you don’t have enough space in your apartment or house. Unlike other bird species, Bourke’s parrots can be kept in an outdoor aviary all year round, although they do need an extra shelter that protects them from the frost and offers heating in winter. The temperature in the shelter should never be below 10°C.

Keeping Bourke’s parrots with budgies?

Bourke’s parrots can generally be socialised with other parakeet species like budgies. Since cockatiels and budgies are active during the day, unlike Bourke’s parrots, they only make suitable companions for Bourke’s parrots to a limited extent.

How much does a Bourke’s parrot cost?

The cost of a Bourke’s parrot varies, but you can buy one from a price of €20. However, prices vary depending on the breeder. You can look in animal shelters though before taking up contact with a scrupulous Bourke’s parrot breeder. If you contact a breeder, always focus on the state of the birds and breeding conditions so that you can take joy in your pets for a long time.

Diet: what food for Bourke’s parrots?

Bourke’s parrots eat mainly lean grass seeds outdoors, therefore you should make absolutely sure that they get a low-fat diet. Overall, it can be said that the diet of Bourke’s parrots is identical with that of budgies. As seedeaters, grain feed forms the basis of the Bourke’s parrot’s diet.

A good food for Bourke’s parrots should consist of:

  • At least 50% of the grain from different millet seeds
  • 25% canary or phalaris
  • 5% groats
  • Ready-made food: ready-made agapornis food mixes are suitable
  • Additional vitamin concentrated feed
  • Occasionally: fresh food in the form of fruit, vegetables (caution: avocado is toxic for birds) and green fodder (herbs like chickweed and dandelion)
  • Mineral blend/mineral picking stone: different minerals like chalk or cuttlefish
  • Fresh water every day

In principle, you can mix bird food yourself or buy pre-prepared low-fat food mixes in specialist stores, like agapornis food mixes. Always feed your pink-bellied parrots on the floor of the aviary. Two moderately heaped teaspoons per bird are sufficient as a daily portion.

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Although Bourke's parrots are more inconspicuous and not as popular as budgies or cockatiels, these birds still make an impression with their calming and loving nature and thanks to being easy to own. Their pleasant singing isn't too loud, so Bourke's parrots can make suitable pets without complaints from your neighbours. If you're considering buying a Bourke's parrot and keeping it as a pet or are looking for special information on this bird species, you can find out here everything you need to know about Bourke's parrots.