The Alexandrine parrot is a larger version of both the Indian and African Ringneck. They look so much like their smaller cousins that many parrot enthusiasts who do not study Asiatics can accidentally classify these parrots as their more popular cousins. All Alexandrine parrots exhibit the classic ringneck look– dark green bodies, long tails, red beaks, and yellow eyes. The only major difference visible from their cousins are their maroon patched wings and larger bills. These parrots are dimorphic which means males and females look different. The male will showcase a dark black ring, followed by a pink ring–hues of blue cover the face and gradually fade into the body. The female and juveniles lacks these markings. Most male Alexandrine parrots start to develop their ring around 18 months while some can take as long as three years. The only sure way to sex theses parrots before sexual maturity is through DNA sexing.
These parrots are not as popular as Indian Ringnecks in the pet trade because they do not exhibit the many mutations as their cousins. These parrots are renowned for their exotic looks, so much so, parrot collectors quickly purchase them as aviary ornaments because of their prestige and rarity.
In the Wild
Alexandrine parrots generally live in moist environments. Unlike Indian Ringnecks, they are much more cautious and inhabit regions away from humans; however, they can be seen near humans if food is abundant. These parrots enjoy spending time in lowlands and can be seen in mangroves and plantations. In the wild, these parrots are very social and live in small groups ranging between 8 and 20 birds. During the breeding season they will branch off into couples and look for a cavity to produce and raise their young. When breeding has passed, the birds will roost together at night in large numbers–sometimes ranging into the thousands.
Their shrill calls can be heard during the early morning and before the setting of the sun. At one time these birds were abundant in their native regions but due to trapping and habitat destruction these parrots are considered threatened. In fact, it is now illegal to own an Alexandrine parrot in India and Pakistan. Though laws have helped to stop the trapping and collecting of these parrots and their chicks, many can still be found in the market. These parrots are vanishing quickly in the Punjab province and will continue to decline if nothing is done to stop the illegal trade and habitat destruction.
Alexandrines as Pets
These parrots are starting to leave the aviaries of exclusive bird collectors and are now being hand fed for pets. Many owners are discovering how wonderful owning one of these parrots can be. They are gifted in the talking department, are not temperamental, and make wonderful family pets.
If the owner wishes to make the bird a family pet, handling by all members is recommended. These birds enjoy being held, set on the bed, or placed on your lap while watching television. Children who wish to interact with the bird should always be supervised and the temperament of the bird should always be considered.
Having a play stand made of power-coated metal is ideal. It’s non toxic, easily to clean, cannot be chewed apart, and is resistant to rust which can cause metal poisoning. Though wood can be used, it will most likely become damaged and chewed apart quickly. These parrots are known for their constant chewing. The play stand should be used as a great tool to allow the parrot independent freedom away from the cage and a safe refuge to hangout.
Training your parrot to not leave his stand is important. When the parrot is young, place him on his stand while you go about your business. If the bird jumps off, pick him up and place him back there. This can become rather tedious; however, you’ll mold a parrot that will never leave the stand unless you pick him up. This stand training prevents a wondering parrot who can damage furniture, injure himself, or escape.
As mentioned above, these parrots have a knack for chewing that it is quite excessive. They enjoy hand toys made of rawhide, wood, rope, and leather. Having an abundant supply of toys on hand is ideal as toys only last a few hours. Their beaks are large and demolishing a toy can take a few minutes to a few hours. All toys should be rotated and moved around the cage to prevent boredom.
The hand fed Alexandrine should never be allowed to exit the cage without your permission. Many owners will make the mistake of opening the door and allowing their parrot to exit on its own terms–this is wrong. The owner should open the door and ask the parrot to step up. If the parrot refuses, continue to ask the bird to step up until he does so. Always make the bird dependant on you to get around and this will help to reduce territorial behavior.
If you wish for your Alexandrine to talk you only need to repeat a few words daily while interacting with your parrot. It was once believed that covering the cage in a dark room and playing a tape was the answer–not true. This will quickly result in a parrot that will have a small vocabulary and will quickly become bored. Interaction with your bird is the key here. A hand fed Alexandrine can start to talk around 8 months, while most will start around 1 year of age. Before talking is mastered, the parrot will go through vocal stage and try to mumble words. Many owners will report their parrot babbling away yet not being able to make out any words–this is normal and will eventually lead to a talking.
Purchasing a parrot for its talking ability is never a good idea as each parrot is an individual and not all learn to talk. Many times, these birds are purchased simply because it is believed they will talk; this can lead to major disappointment. The end result is tragic because in most cases, the parrot is tucked away in an empty basement, garage, or empty room because it did not meet the owner’s expectations. Many became mentally ill as a result of being excluded form interaction and it take years of rehabilitation to get the bird somewhat back to normal. These are smart creatures and their talking ability should be look at as a perk rather then an expectation.
Once your parrot has mastered a word, start another one. Continue this process and before you know it you’ll have a parrot who cannot stop talking.
It should also be noted that Alexandrine parrots are noisy. Do not let their juvenile personalities fool you. Many owners find out the hard way once the bird is comfortable and mature. The uninformed owner who did not expect such noise sadly rehouses the bird.
Despite not being very popular, Alexandrines are fairly easy to breed. These birds can be prolific breeders if the right nutrition and nesting box is given. Breeding in Southern California usually begins around May and will continue through June. Most Alexandrine breeders will easily acquire two clutches of chicks if the babies are removed around 10 days after hatching for hand feeding. The female will lay between 2 – 4 white eggs. Once the eggs are laid, she’ll start to incubate the eggs for 26 days.
Most breeders know when the breeding season is approaching as the female will spend countless hours inside her nesting box scratching and chewing. The male will start to pin his eyes excessively and display for the female. During this time, the male and female will show a major interest in each other and start to feed one another–usually followed by mating. Once mating has been seen, eggs usually appear around two weeks later.
Because Alexandrines love to chew, many females will make holes in the bottom of their nesting boxes or damage them. This is a species that can defiantly benefit from a metal nesting box because it is difficult to chew apart. The bottom of the box should contain pine shavings, no higher than a few inches from the bottom of the box. Too much shaving inside the box will result in eggs that can get burred and will not hatch. Most Alexandrine females will remove a great deal of wood shaving anyway–let her work the box until she is satisfied with the bedding. If the bottom of the box becomes too bare, add more shaving until the first egg is laid.
Alexandrines enjoy deep nesting boxes. A cockatiel nesting box will not work as female Alexandrines feel more secure when the nesting cavity is deep. A deep box will have a wire ladder inside to allow the female easy access and should be installed if one is not present. Boxes without this mesh ladder can result in damaged eggs upon entering the nest.
When the baby ringnecks hatch, the female will feed them until they are weaned. Most babies start to leave the nest when they are seven weeks old and wean two to three weeks after.
Alexandrines do not come in real mutations. The current ones available in the market blue, yellow, lutino, and clear tails have been hybrid with Indian Ringnecks. They are the result of many generations of careful breeding to produce the current birds on the market. These created mutations remain a controversial subject as many breeders believe doing so taints the bloodline of the true Alexandrine. Others argue that many popular aviary birds such canaries, doves, and finches have undergone some type of hybridization. Many will take the argument a step further and insist it’s no big deal–especially because all our dogs are the result hybridization.
Whatever the outcome, or whichever side you stand, one thing is apparent, they are becoming more popular in the market and will continue to be sold–especially because the demand is increasing. With that being said, perhaps one day aviary breeders will be able to purchase Alexandrines as readily as Indian Ringnecks.