Courtesy J. Matt Lea, Tennessee
Psittacula are sometimes known as the Asiatic parrots, because they are native to parts of Asia, as well as Africa and India.
Courtesy Mimi Grzymala, Florida
Indian ring-necked parakeets have a wide variety of mutations, including this Lutino Indian ringneck.
Courtesy Margie Gear
The mustached parakeet male and female look similar, but often the female will be duller in color.
The Psittacula genus of parrots include the Alexandrine, the Indian ring-necked parakeet, the derbyan parakeet, the moustached parakeet, the plum-headed parakeet and a few other species. Known as Asiatic parrots, Psittacula parakeets are native to Asia, India, Africa and other regions. It was one of the first parrot species recorded in history; the Alexandrine parakeet was named after Alexander the Great, and Aristotle mentioned the Psittacula in his writings.
Considered one of the best speakers, ranking with Amazons, quaker parrots and African greys, the Psittacula are also popular aviary birds. Breeders and aviculturists have bred Psittacula for a number of years, creating a number of mutations in every color aura.
Mean Or Misunderstood?
Despite their popularity, literature regarding pet Psittacula is few and far between, and most references are for keeping the species in aviaries. The common misconception about Psittacula is that they are "mean” birds, even when hand-raised. This is mostly likely due to their non-cuddly nature and independent streaks. According to Psittacula owners, most of who have Indian ringnecks (Psittacula krameri) that isn’t the case.
J. Matt Lea, a board member and legislative liaison for the Southeast Tennessee Aviculture Society, who owns an Indian ringneck named Casper, said, "There are a lot of false rumors in the bird world about ringnecks. People say ringnecks have a very mean personality, but nothing could be further from the truth. They make excellent pets and like all birds, personal attention and one-on-one time is important to build strong relationships between parrot and owner.”
"I believe that the Indian ringneck could be the perfect first bird for a new parent or for a family,” said Mimi Grzymala, who owns ringnecks Louie and Libby. "Indian ringnecks are not too big or too small for a new [owner] to be nervous to handle. They are very clean, easy to feed and don’t require too large or expensive of a cage ... They come in extraordinary colors and are one of the best talkers; behind the African grey.”
In comparison to other birds, Psittacula live up to their independent nature. Margie Gear, who owns a mustached parakeet (Psittacula alexandri alexandri) named Paco said, "I have four other birds: two sun conures, a nanday conure, and a Goffin's cockatoo. Paco is very different from the others. The conures (Poe, Salsa and Winchester) are very feisty and fiery. They are wonderful, but pretty raucous. Artie, the cockatoo, is … well, a cockatoo. She wants to be very involved with me. Paco, on the other hand, is more introspective. I call him my 'zen bird.’”
Owners, breeders and pet stores seem to agree that a Psittacula is not the bird for someone who wants a cuddly companion. But where they lack in cuddly companionship, they make up for in their calm, independent spirits and love for their owner’s company.
"Best of all, they love and need daily attention and take to more than one family member,” said Grzymala. "So the whole family can enjoy them (not like some birds that only attach to one person and then the others are disappointed). I think they are the much overlooked parrot, and I tell everyone I meet about them, so more families get to enjoy what our family has.”
"Respect the fact that he may be a bit more reserved than other species,” said Gear, "But remember that [a Psittacula parrot] needs as much attention as more outgoing species.”
Food & Housing
Psittacula are hearty eaters, but have their preferences to what they will and will not eat.
"Louie is a picky eater,” said Grzymala, "I worked at buying every type of fruit weekly to get him to like more but he only likes green grapes. I cut them in half and add a few to his water or put some in a separate plastic hanging bowl in his cage. He also eats with us at night getting bites of pasta with tomatoes, corn, peas, potatoes, pizza, cheese, grain breads or I make him special bird pasta and veggie mixes I have purchased. He also gets to taste anything we are having that is not on the 'do-not-feed-birds' list. He does love his French fries. He scoops all the potato out and leaves the shell!”
Because of their long tails, Psittacula need cages that are tall as well as wide to accommodate it. "Their long tails are beautiful,” said Lea, "but require cages much larger than what a bird the same size would normally need in order to keep the feathers from getting messed up or broken. A good rule to remember is to purchase a cage that is at least three times the length of your bird from beak to tail feather. This allows them the ability to move and climb freely for needed exercise.”
"When we picked him up and purchased his cage, I had read that Indian ringnecks don’t like their tails to touch, so we got him a taller and wider cage to make sure he had lots of tail room,” Grzymala said. "Later, when Louie’s Christmas gift was a custom-made pexi-glass bird window seat, they made it to accommodate his long tail, too. Also, his carrier was custom made with the perch high enough so his tail won’t touch.”
Psittacula parakeets are active birds, and literature is often written on how much they love to fly. Owners, who can’t allow their Psittacula parakeets to be fully flighted, make up with playgyms and interactive exercises.
"Paco gets a lot of exercise both in and out of his cage," said Gear. "I keep him going with lots of toys and the Manzanita branches on the playstand.”
"We constantly put in a variety of perches for Casper to play on including rope and ladders, and perches of different diameters,” said Lea. "All of his toys have long leather hangers so he can swing and climb from corner to corner. "
"Louie and now Libby come out of their cages to play many times during the day on their play gyms,” said Grzymala, "and they play in the bathroom in the morning while we get ready for work. Then they play in the family room at night, climbing on the couch, on the table and on us. They are very busy birds.”
As more and more people get introduced to Psittacula, it is possible the perception of the species will change to a more positive light. It starts with their owners, who have plenty to rave about with their Psittacula.