Bourke's parrot

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Bourke's parrot
Bourke's Parrot - Neopsephotus bourkii.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Family: Psittaculidae
Genus: Neopsephotus
Mathews, 1912
Species:
N. bourkii
Binomial name
Neopsephotus bourkii
(Gould, 1841)
Synonyms[2]

Neophema bourkii

The Bourke's parrot (Neopsephotus bourkii, formerly known as Neophema bourkii), also known as the blue-vented parrot, sundown parrot, pink-bellied parrot, Bourke's parakeet, Bourke, or "Bourkie", is a small parrot found in Australia and the only species in its genus, Neopsephotus. It is approximately 19 cm long and weighing around 45 grams.[3] It is named after General Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales from 1831 to 1837.

Description[edit]

Pair of wild Bourke's parrots, SW Queensland, Australia.

The Bourke's parrot is a relatively small species. They tend to vary between 18 cm and 23 cm in length with a tail length of approximately 9 cm. The females of the species tend to be slightly smaller than the males: males of the species weigh between 47 g and 49 g whilst females weigh between 41 g and 49 g. Both sexes look very similar until the age of nine months, after which they come into full plumage colour. In the wild, Bourke's parakeets display an overall brown colouration with a pink abdomen, pinkish breast and a blue rump. The legs are dark-brown, with zygodactyl toes. The bill is yellowish-brown. The adult male has a blue forehead while the adult female has a little or no blue on the forehead. The Bourke's parrot's feathers help it blend in with the reddish soil of its arid home.[4]

There are four documented mutations found in captive Bourke's parrots; yellow, Isabel, fallow and pink or rosa.[5]

The bird's call is rather frequent and sounds like a mellow ‘chu-vee’. Banding of this species requires a 4 mm band.[5]

Taxonomy and naming[edit]

In 1838, the Bourke's parrot was sighted in New South Wales by Sir Thomas L. Mitchell, who named the bird after Sir Richard Bourke, the Governor of the state at the time.

The Bourke's parrot was originally classified within the genus of Neophema which fully consists of grass parakeets. However, in the mid-90s the Bourke's was reclassified into its own genus Neopsephotus. This was done because the Bourke's parrot was unable to hybridize with any of the other Neophema species; they are different in colouration and live a nomadic lifestyle throughout the arid regions of Australia.[6] The Bourke's parrot is still however referred to as a type of grass parakeet.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The Bourke's parrot is native to Australia. As a nomadic species following water and food sources, it has a vast range and is mainly found in sparsely populated areas; however they have been known to dwell in urban areas as well. These parrots can be found from the South-western parts of Queensland deep into western New South Wales, throughout Central Australia to the far northern parts of South Australia and parts of Western Australia.[7] The Bourke's parrot's main habitat consists of areas dominated by Mulga and Acacia species in dry spinifex plains.[8] The species can also be found in native cypress and other open eucalypt woodlands.

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

In the wild the Bourke's parrot tends to live in pairs or small groups. During times of drought, they may group in large flocks ranging in the hundreds.

Breeding[edit]

Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

During the nesting season, males are highly territorial, chasing away any potential intruders or threats. Breeding season for the Bourke's parrot usually occurs between the months of August and October, but can also draw out into December, depending on the season and availability of resources.

Bourke's parrots are monogamous, staying with a single partner.[9] Their nests tend to be situated from 1 metre to 3 metres above ground level in hollow limbs of the Mulga tree or Acacia. Eggs are generally laid on a bed of decayed wood at the bottom of the tree hollow. The Bourke's parrot has a clutch of 3 to 6 eggs, which are incubated by the female for 18–19 days. During this period, she is fed by the male parrot, only leaving the nest to find water or to defecate.

Once the chicks hatch, both parents feed their young. Offspring begin fledging at about 4 weeks of age, becoming fully independent around 8 to 10 days later. [10]

Diet[edit]

Bourke's parrots forage on the ground for grasses and seeds, most active feeding at dusk and dawn.[4] Due to their diet the Bourke's parrot works as a known seed disperser.

Aviculture[edit]

The Bourke's parrot is a popular aviary bird. Due to their peaceful nature, Bourke's parrots may be kept in captivity with a number of other species including finches, doves and other small parakeet species, however it is suggested that only one pair of Bourke's parrots are kept in a single aviary due to the males being territorial during breeding season.

Captive birds can be fed a number of different foods including small parrot seed mixes, hard-boiled eggs, fresh twigs and buds, fresh fruit and greens.[5]

Threats[edit]

The Bourke's parrot is not listed as threatened by the IUCN. The main threat faced by this particular species is predation from red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) introduced from Europe and feral cats (Felis silvestris). Drought and clearing of watering holes can have significant impacts on the population. However, there have not been a noticeable decline in numbers; rather they are steadily increasing.[11] This is likely due to the reasoning that their habitat is so far spread and they have little contact with predators compared to other parakeet species.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Neopsephotus bourkii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Neopsephotus bourkii". Avibase.
  3. ^ Bourke's Parrot or Neopsephotus bourkii
  4. ^ a b "Bourke's Parrot Fact Sheet, Lincoln Park Zoo"
  5. ^ a b c "The New Australian Parakeet Handbook", Vriends, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge, NY, 1992 ISBN 0-8120-4739-7
  6. ^ [1], "7 Things You Must Know About Grass Parakeets, Harter".
  7. ^ "Bourke’s Parrot: Neopsephotus bourkii, Birdlife Australia"
  8. ^ "Birds of Australia", Simpson, Day, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2010 ISBN 0691146926
  9. ^ "Neopsephotus bourkii Bourke's parrot, Animal Diversity Web"
  10. ^ "Field Guide to Australian Birds", Morcombe, Michael, Steve Parish Publishing, Australia, 2000 ISBN 1-876282-10-X
  11. ^ "Neopsephotus bourkii, IUCN Red List"