Neopsephotus bourkiiBourke's parrot

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Geographic Range

Bourke's parrots are found in the interior regions of central and southern Australia (Harper, 1986). They range from southwestern Queensland to the very western edge of New South Wales to the northern part of South Australia and the eastern and central parts of Western Australia. (Immelmann, 1968)

Habitat

These parrots frequent small shrubby and sandy plains (Harper, 1986) as well as savannas of Australia. They may be found in clumps of mulga (Macdonald, 1973; Simpson and Day, 1999) and acacia scrub in dry spinifex plains (Eastman and Hunt, 1966).

Bourke's parrots may be found in gardens of Australian homes, looking for a drink of water (Immelmann, 1968). (Eastman and Hunt, 1966; Harper, 1986; Immelmann, 1968; Macdonald, 1973; Simpson and Day, 1999)

Physical Description

Bourke's Parrots are 18 cm (Simpson and Day, 1999) to as much as 23 cm long (Macdonald, 1973). Tail length is approximately 9 cm. They weigh approximately 42 to 49 g (Stuckey, 2000). The male parrot has a salmon pink throat and foreneck. The center of the breast and abdomen is a rosey-pink. Pale blue coloration is present under the wing coverts and on the marginal coverts around the bend of the wing. The wing primaries are dark blue, while the central tail feathers are blue with bluish-white to white outer edges and tips. The frontal band which extends over the eyes to the neck is blue. The crown and hind neck are brown with pink-colored highlights. The back, innermost wing secondaries, rump and upper tail coverts are dark brown. Under the tail and on the flanks the coloration is blue. Overall, males and females are similar in coloration with one exception. In males, the frontal band is pronounced, and in females it is reduced or absent (Harper, 1986; Simpson and Day, 1999). Females are slightly smaller than males (Harper, 1986). (Harper, 1986; Macdonald, 1973; Simpson and Day, 1999; Stuckey, 2000)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range mass
    42 to 49 g
    1.48 to 1.73 oz
  • Range length
    18 to 23 cm
    7.09 to 9.06 in

Reproduction

Bourke's parrots are monogamous. Males will guard their territories during the nesting period. They will also feed the female with regurgitated food when she is incubating the eggs (Eastman and Hunt, 1966).

In captivity, the male will display to the female by walking around her, curtsying, and drawing himself upward in a tall posture. Sometimes, the male will raise his wings over his back to show the blue coloration underneath (Hill, 1967). (Eastman and Hunt, 1966; Hill, 1967)

The breeding season for Bourke's parrots is from August to October (Eastman and Hunt, 1966; Harper, 1986) and possibly to December (Macdonald, 1973), depending on rainfall (Macdonald, 1973; Harper, 1986).

The nest is usually in a hollow limb or hole in mulga or acacia trees (Eastman and Hunt, 1966) around one to three meters off the ground (Hill, 1976). There is no nest lining in the hole (Immelmann, 1968). The three to six eggs per clutch (Eastman and Hunt, 1966) are white and rounded (Harper, 1986). Incubation time is approximately 17 (Eastman and Hunt, 1966) to 20 days (Harper, 1986). The chicks fledge after about 4 weeks and become independent in 8 to 10 days after fledging. (Eastman and Hunt, 1966; Harper, 1986; Hill, 1967; Immelmann, 1968; Macdonald, 1973)

  • Breeding season
    August to October (sometimes to December)
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 6
  • Range time to hatching
    17 to 20 days
  • Average fledging age
    4 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    8 to 10 days

The female incubates the eggs (Eastman and Hunt, 1966). She leaves the nest only to drink water or defecate. The male feeds her with regurgitated food while she attends to the eggs. Both parents feed the altricial young (Immelmann, 1968).

The young leave the nest after approximately four weeks (Immelmann, 1968; Harper, 1986). After another eight to ten days of parental feeding, the chicks are independent (Immelmann, 1968). The chicks have smoky-colored down on blackish skin (Eastman and Hunt, 1966). Adult colored plumage is evident in four to six week old birds (Stuckey, 2000). (Eastman and Hunt, 1966; Harper, 1986; Immelmann, 1968; Stuckey, 2000)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of Bourke's parrots is probably similar to the budgerigar, around five to eight years while in captivity. Their lifespan in the wild is shorter.

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    12.6 years
    AnAge

Behavior

The flight pattern of Bourke's parrots is swift, and they usually fly low off the ground (Immelmann, 1968; Macdonald, 1973). In fact, these parrots are usually found on the ground, although they are also considered to be arboreal (Macdonald, 1973). While on the ground, they are easily camouflaged since their plumage blends in with the reddish, sandy soil in mulga steppes (Immelmann, 1968).

Usually, these parrots are found in groups of four to six (Eastman and Hunt, 1966). They may be found in flocks of approximately 100 birds (Macdonald, 1973), especially during drought conditions (Immelmann, 1968). While in these large groups they will visit watering holes at dawn or dusk (Hill, 1967). Local populations may stay in the same vicinity for many years, then move to another area. Bourke's parrots are considered to be sedentary and nomadic (Macdonald, 1973).

Bourke's parrots feed and drink at dawn and dusk. They do not mate or attend to nestlings at or before sunrise or sunset so are not considered to be truly crepuscular. On moonlit nights, these parrots may be active the entire night.

Bourke's parrots enjoy rain baths, but male and female pairs do not engage in mutual preening (Immelmann, 1968). (Eastman and Hunt, 1966; Hill, 1967; Immelmann, 1968; Macdonald, 1973)

Home Range

We do not have information on home range for this species at this time.

Communication and Perception

Bourke's parrots utter a call that has been described as a soft twitter (Simpson and Day, 1986; Simpson and Day, 1999). They may utter a "chu-wee" while in flight or a warbling whistle (Macdonald, 1973) or "chirrup chirrup" call (Stuckey, 2000). When alarmed, Bourke's parrots may utter a "kik-kik kik-kik" call (Stuckey, 2000). These birds are generally quiet and docile (Immelmann, 1968). (Immelmann, 1968; Macdonald, 1973; Simpson and Day, 1986; Simpson and Day, 1999; Stuckey, 2000)

Food Habits

Bourke's parrots feed early in the morning and at dusk. They arrive at watering holes a few hours prior to sunrise and a few hours after sunset (Harper, 1986). However, these parrots are not considered to be truly crepuscular. All of the birds in Australia's interior behave in the same way in order to avoid feeding during the hottest part of the day (Immelmann, 1968).

Bourke's parrots eat grass seeds, herbaceous plant seeds, acacia tree seeds and green shoots. (Harper, 1986; Immelmann, 1968)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts

Predation

Known predators of Bourke's parrots include foxes (Family Canidae) and feral cats (Felis silvestris).

Ecosystem Roles

Because of their food habits, Bourke's parrots may contribute to seed dispersal. They may also contribute to the prevention of the growth of unwanted grass or other types of seeds.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

These parrots are a welcome addition to aviaries because of their quiet demeanor. Also, because they are granivores they may prevent the growth of unwanted grass or other types of seeds.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

This quiet, unobtrusive bird does not cause problems for humans.

Conservation Status

Historically, there have been reports that this parrot is uncommon in Australia. However, because these birds are found in sparsely populated areas, they are not easily observed (Harper, 1986). Bourke's parrot populations fluctuate with the degree of sheep farming and grazing in their habitat (Immelmann, 1968).

Bourke's parrots are listed under Appendix II by CITES but are not listed by the IUCN. (Harper, 1986; Immelmann, 1968)

Other Comments

Throughout their taxonomic history, Bourke's parrots have been placed in the genus Neopsephotus (e.g., Immelmann, 1968; Simpson and Day, 1999) or in the genus Neophema (e.g, Barrett, 1947; Eastman and Hunt, 1966; Macdonald, 1973; Simpson and Day, 1986).

Bourke's parrots were named after Sir Richard Bourke, the governor of New South Wales, by Sir Thomas L. Mitchell, who first discovered the birds by the Bogan River, New South Wales. In 1841, John Gould first described and drew Bourke's parrots, sometimes called the Bourke's parakeet (Immelmann, 1968).

These parrots were first exhibited at the London Zoo in 1867. They were first bred in Belgium and Germany in the late 1800's (Stuckey, 2000).

These parrots are quiet and gentle. Bourke's parrots may be found in gardens of Australian homes, looking for a drink of water (Immelmann, 1968). They are very aggreeable birds, and have become popular birds for aviculturalists to breed. These birds may be housed with many other species of parrots, finches, doves, and soft-bills (Harper, 1986). (Barrett, 1947; Eastman and Hunt, 1966; Harper, 1986; Immelmann, 1968; Macdonald, 1973; Simpson and Day, 1986; Simpson and Day, 1999; Stuckey, 2000)

Contributors

Alaine Camfield (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Janice Pappas (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

urban

living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Aldred, J. 2000. "The Parrot Society of Australia, New South Wales, Inc., Bourkes Parakeet" (On-line). Accessed July 25, 2002 at http://ausbird.hypermart.net/bourkes_parakeets.htm.

Barrett, C. 1947. Australian Bird Life. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Eastman, W., A. Hunt. 1966. The Parrots of Australia: A Guide to Field Identification and Habits. Sydney: Angus and Robertson Ltd.

Harper, D. 1986. Pet Birds for Home and Garden. London: Salamander Books Ltd.

Headwaters Science Center, 2002. "Animals on Display (page 4)" (On-line). Accessed 01/22/04 at http://www.hscbemidji.org/animals4.htm.

Hill, R. 1967. Australian Birds. Melbourne: Thomas Nelson Ltd.

Immelmann, K. 1968. Australian Parakeets. Wittemberg/Belgium: A. Ziemsen Verlag/ A.O.B.

Macdonald, J. 1973. Birds of Australia: A Summary of Information. London: H.F. & G. Witherby Ltd.

Ruffled Feathers Aviary, 2002. "Ruffled Feathers Aviary" (On-line). Accessed 01/22/04 at http://www.ruffledfeathersaviary.com/.

Simpson, K., N. Day. 1999. Birds of Australia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Simpson, K., N. Day. 1986. The Birds of Australia. Wolfeboro, NH: Tanager Books.

Stuckey, P. 2000. "The Parrot Society of Australia, New South Wales, Inc., Bourkes Parakeet Review" (On-line). Accessed July 25, 2002 at http://ausbird.hypermart.net/bourkes_parakeet_review.htm.