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Splendid Parrot

Also known as the 'Scarlet Chested Parrot' this bird belongs to a group of small parrots known as 'Neophemas'. It is about 20cm in length and while the males show the brilliant cobalt blue all over their head and facial area, as well as the scarlet that runs from the throat,down the breast to the stomach,the hen is much paler with the blue less extensive on the head and face and she also lacks the red on the breast.

The magnificent Splendid cockbird.
The magnificent Splendid cockbird.

This beautiful parrot has long been described as "one of the most exquisite small parrots in the world" and I personally would have to agree. I have long admired these birds as very desirable aviary inhabitants, but was hesitant in keeping them because of their reputation for being "soft". Probably the real reason for this view is because some breeders try to house them in inadequate accommodation. These birds come from very dry, desert conditions in the interior of Australia.

So if birdkeepers make the mistake of housing them in open and possibly damp aviary conditions, this will only lead to problems and quite lilely dead birds. Unfortunately these weather conditions are experienced in many locations of New Zealand. This means some may struggle to get them established in their aviaries and in some cases may be better to try species that are either hardier or better suited to that environment.

Splendid pair.
Splendid pair.

I know this was the case of some breeders in Southland, N.Z. For a number of years a friend struggled to keep alive Splendid pairs and to enjoy breeding success. The hen being particularly susceptible to the damp and cooler climate. This does not mean it is impossible to keep them there however and another nearby breeder I know, has gone on to establish them in his aviaries with very good breeding results being acheived. Joseph Forshaw in his book "Australian Parrots" (2002) talks of this being the case in Australia. He was surprised to find breeders having success in an area that had a humid climate with high summer rainfall in Australia, that he suspected would be unsuitable for these birds.

In Europe many newly imported birds were lost because of not tolerating the colder, winter conditions, but now after generations of breeding, they are less affected by such weather. It would be advisable for you then, to buy your birds from a local breeder who has already successfully established them in your area. This way you can be sure the birds are already used to your particular weather conditions, and hopefully you will experience less trouble at getting them established in your aviaries.

They are now considered a well established species in captivity the world over, with many new mutations established in the U.K. and Europe. In Australia a survey revealed that there were approximately some 20,000 birds held in aviaries there. Mutations there have done so well it seems finding a normal pair of Splendids is becoming increasingly difficult which is a cause for concern to many.

Blue Mutation
Blue Mutation

This species to an inexperienced birdkeeper, is sometimes confused with the Turquoisine Parrot. There are some similarities, but upon closer observation they are easily distinguished apart. Beside the obvious colour difference in the cockbirds of both species, the Splendid is a little dumpier in appearance to the Turquoisine. It's been my experience that Splendids in temperament, are not quite as active a bird as Turquoisines, spending a lot of time just sitting on the ground. I have though, found them very confiding and usually waiting for you to offer them their favourite tidbit, as they cling to the front of the aviary. The cockbird in particular being quite bold in coming forward to greet you. This of course will no doubt vary from bird to bird.

Housing
They do well in aviaries that are about 3m in length 900mm to 1m wide and 2m high and a set of aviaries with these dimensions would serve well for specialising in all of the Neophema species. They are equally at home in a mixed aviary situation and Forshaw describes a pair he has housed in with a pair of Black Cockatoos and Rock Pebblers. They can also be housed safely in with small finch species. One pair of mine are housed with a finch collection comprising of Orange Breasts, Star Finches, Gouldians, Fires, Cubans and Parrot Finches. This aviary is larger than described for single pairs being 4.2m long x 1.8m wide and 2m high.
Remember these aviaries need to be well protected and although it may not be necessary to have them totally enclosed, you will find less problems if they are totally roofed over and designed in such a way so as to allow them a roosting area away from any cold winds or draughts in winter. I think N.Z.Finch aviaries suit them admirably, especially if you live south of Christchurch or in another location where you have high rainfall and damp winter days. Its not the frost that will cause a birds demise but exposure to damp or draughty conditions.

Feeding
Their diet does not require anything special and a good seed mix comprising white french millet, pannicum, japanese millet and a little red millet is enjoyed along with perhaps a separate container of canary seed. They enjoy soaked seed and love a variety of greens, including various grass seeds, chickweed, dandelion (heads & leaves), milk thistle (puha) and various tree berries in season. I have not noticed mine eating mealworms but some may apparently enjoy these particularly if they have young in the nest.

Breeding
This is usually from August through to December. Some pairs will have as many as three nests in a season and a good pair may raise as many as 12 young although probably 6 - 10 young from one pair in a season would be more likely. Some years are better than others. The hens are usually good tight sitters and while the male comes to the nest to feed, this is usually confined to the henbird initially and she in turn feeds the young. Incubation takes about 18 days and young fledge at about 4weeks.

Nestboxes 400mm to 450mm in length x 200mm square will suffice for them to breed in. Don't forget to add a base of either decayed wood or wood chips inside the box to a depth of approximately 50mm

Fledglings are not unlike the henbird when they leave the nest and I have found them to be pretty quiet if approached cautiously, however if given a sudden fright they can be eratic and could hurt themselves by banging into an aviary wall. Caution at this time around the aviary then, is advisable.

Hybrids and Mutations
The most common hybrid you will see in N.Z. is a cross with the Turquoisine Parrot. It seems many breeders will, because of loosing a Splendid hen, cross a Turquiosine hen with a cockbird Splendid. The hybrids I have seen from this cross, (mostly cockbirds) are quite attractive birds, with red running all the way down the breast but my understanding is that they are sterile.

They appear not unlike a full Red-Fronted Turquoisine and I have seen them sold as such, so inexperienced birdkeepers beware. They may be pretty for a display aviary or as a pet but are useless to the serious birdkeeper.

In N.Z. the only true mutation I have seen is the Blue. this is a striking bird. The green on the back is replaced by a dull blue colour, although the cobalt blue is retained on the head and face as well as the front of the wings The red and yellow on the breast is replaced by white. This mutation is still in very low numbers here and therefore still commands a high price.

Overseas there are a number of other mutations established including: Olive, Cinnamon, Pied and Lutino. There is even a full Red-Fronted variant that has been established through selective breeding of birds showing more red on the breast, the same as was done to establish full Red-Fronted Turquoisines.

Price and Availability
The best time to buy a pair is shortly after breeding season from January to May and a pair can sell anywhere from $200 to $250 at present.

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