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Feature Articles

Indian Ringnecks

This beautiful elegant parrot in the wild, inhabits a number of countries beside India. They are also found in Afganistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Burma, Sri Lanka and across a wide area of central and northeastern Africa as well as Southeastern China. It is kept as a pet and aviary bird worldwide and is very popular here in New Zealand.

Its hard to write anything new about this very popular and widely kept Asiatic species of parrot but I'm sure many, now experienced birdkeepers started out by keeping this bird. Why ? It is very hardy, a good breeder, therefore readily available and also inexpensive. It is also a gradual step up from keeping budgerigars and cockatiels, to keeping a larger parrot species without a huge investment, at least with the normal green ringneck and the yellow mutation.

Many that may have started out with them, have gained experience and moved onto more expensive parrot species and now they have no room for the old ringnecks they once kept. I am surprised in fact how few normal green ringnecks you now see in aviaries. Still the ringneck itself as a species remains popular because of the many coloured mutations that either exist, or are still being developed in aviculture, by some of even the most experienced birdkeepers. New mutations at first demand a very high price and some breeders see their involvement in this development as a very good investment. Indeed many in some countries are making good money from these birds. The first time the Blue mutation was brought over from Australia, breeders paid $10,000 per bird. This was in the mid 1980's. Now they sell for $3-400 ea.

Some of these newer mutations are demanding still, as much as $8000 or more a pair in Australia and in America a Cobalt mutation sells for $16,000 per bird. Breeders that specialise in this species have maybe hundred's of aviaries housing nothing but various ringneck mutations. This I think, will ensure their popularity for many years to come. Here in N.Z. there are some, quietly working away at this with breeding programmes, but I can see a further resurgence in mutation ringnecks popularity in the near future.

Cinnamon Mutation
Cinnamon Mutation

If you are an experienced birdkeeper the thing we will discuss in this article will be very familiar to you but if you are a novice, just starting out then these things will be helpful to you in understanding this parrot and hopefully will also help you achieve some breeding success.

HOUSING
Ringnecks are very obliging as regards their housing. They are however, good strong flyers and to see a bird in full flight landing with its wings outstretched and tail flared is a sight to behold. I would suggest a minimum aviary length of 3.6m with minimum width of 900mm and 1.8m to 2m high. I am sure many are kept and bred in smaller aviaries but if the length is too short they will not get the opportunity to spread their wings and get the exercise they deserve. Many are now breeding them in suspended aviaries. This is a personal choice and maybe a good option for many who see advantages in managing a species better. If properly done they can still be made attractive and in many instances are more economical. The greatest consideration however should be the long term welfare of the species you are keeping and breeding. I know some that are concerned with the long term effects of housing species in suspended aviaries, in this instance the Indian Ringneck, I guess time will tell if they are proved correct. Whatever your setup, all agree that a reasonable length must be achieved so that the birds get good exercise.

One other thing we could mention is the Ringnecks love of taking a bath in the rain. If you keep these birds you know what I'm talking about. You will see them out in the rain, often clinging to the overhead wire, wings outstretched, enjoying every minute of it. Ringnecks will not get down and bathe in a water dish, so giving them access to rain or even an overhead sprinkling system is important in helping them keep in good feather condition.

Blue Mutation
Blue Mutation

FEEDING
Their diet requirements are not demanding and again this is back onto us, as to the extent we wish to go to care for our birds, although it is true with all birds that the more we put into them as regards care, normally the more we get out of them, as regards health and good breeding results. A properly balanced basic seed mixture should consist of canary seed, white millet, hulled oats and sunflower seed. Clean drinking water should also be available at all times.

Also included in their basic diet should be fresh greens such as chickweed, broccoli heads, milk thistles, seeding heads of dock, wild oats, rowan berries, dandelions, in fact any wild seed heads can be tried in season. Fresh fruit can also be given, apple and pear being favoured but other fruits like orange, bananas, grapes and figs can be given. Wholemeal or kibbled bread is enjoyed by the birds particularly when they have young in the nest, and at this time corn on the cob and madeira cake are enjoyed making great rearing food for parent birds to feed their young.

SEXING
Mature birds are easy to sex, as only the cockbird shows the distinctive ring around its neck. With young birds its a different story. It can take up to 2yrs for a male to develop this ring and if you want to sell guaranteed young pairs then DNA sexing is really your only option. Their are other things that we may observe however that will help in identifying a young male. Some are seen at an early age performing the typical courtship behaviour to another bird before the ring even begins to show. Another thing we could do is catch up birds that have matured a little and carefully check for any signs of pink feathers starting to appear around their neck. This may be difficult with some mutations however and if you are breeding good numbers of birds and want to sell them on before the next breeding season, again DNA sexing is your only sure way of identifying hens and cocks.

COURTSHIP BEHAVIOUR
We have alluded to the courtship ritual that takes place between a ringneck pair at commencement of breeding. The male will bow and raise his head with eyes dilating as he faces the hen, wings slightly outstretched from his body. The hen at first appears to be totally bored with the whole performance but after a while shows interest eventually allowing the male to feed her and this continues through the courtship period into the brooding time. The male will enter the nest and feed the hen while she incubates the eggs. In this species the hen is definitely the boss unlike Australian Parrots where the male dominates. This whole performance is very entertaining but also a very enjoyable experience for you, as their keeper to watch and learn more about their breeding behaviour.

Grey Mutation
Grey Mutation

BREEDING
They are early breeders, usually long before the Australian Parrots start. The hen can be seen working the nestbox in Late July or at the latest August - September and not long after we see the cockbird feeding and mating with the hen, the first egg is laid. A total of 4-6 eggs are usually laid and these on alternative days. It's unusual for them to double brood and unless you intervene and either foster eggs out to other birds, or take then away and incubate them yourself, it's unlikely you will get more than one clutch of young. Sometimes if you take away young at an early age, say under two weeks and finish handrearing them, the hen may lay another clutch of eggs and sit on these again, but there is no surety that this will happen.

What size nestbox is needed ? Again ringnecks are very adaptable and will usually use whatever they are given provided it is not too small. I would suggest a good size is 200mm x 200mm x 600mm. Incubation lasts for about 23 days and young will fledge about 6 weeks later. They are fed for another 2-3 weeks. We should also mention at this point that ringnecks need time to mature before good breeding results can be expected. Some have reported hens breeding at 1yr of age although 2nd and 3rd year breeding is more likely and cockbirds will not be fertile until at least 2yrs of age and most, especially mutations, not until their 3rd or even 4th season. So be patient and remember that most parrot species are a long term project that requires some years in most cases to get consistent breeding results.

MUTATIONS
This is one of the most appealing aspects of the ringneck and as stated earlier provides a challenge to even the most experienced breeder. Up to about 100 different mutations are possible, through selective breeding. Some of these mutations are now very common here in N.Z. A few are in smaller numbers and the majority have not yet been developed here.

The most common mutations we see are : Lutino, Blue, Grey, and White.

Pair of White Mutations
Pair of White Mutations

Less common are : Turquoise, Cinnamon and Grey-Green, Cremino, Silver.

Some newer mutations that are not here yet, or if they are here, they're in very small numbers are: Lacewings, Whiteheaded, Yellow Headed, Cobalt and Pied. These mutations are quite spectacular as we see from photos.

Split birds are also important to any breeding programme. These are birds that carry certain colours in their genes but do not show these colours visually. Birds can also be split to several different colours, which in some cases can be difficult to determine unless time is taken to breed from them.

New Zealand is well behind places such as Australia, America, the U.K. and Europe when it comes to breeding the different mutations available.

There are also 4 types of genetic inheritance that must be taken into account when breeding and they are :
* Recessive
* Sex-linked
* Dominant
* Intermediate
By understanding how these different aspects of genetics work, you can project ahead and work out the various colours you can expect from certain selected matings.

We hope in this brief article we have helped you appreciate further, a little about the keeping and breeding of this beautiful parrot. We may have whet your appetite and now perhaps you are contemplating taking on a breeding programme in developing some of these mutations further in your own aviaries. The book we have advertised entitled 'The Indian Ringneck Breeders Handbook' (See shop page to order) discusses in much more detail facts about their management and also gives the expectant results from many of the pairings of particular mutations that we should see appearing more in New Zealand.

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Indian Ringnecks

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