The Alexandrine Parakeet (also known as the Alexandrian parrot) has the scientific name of Psittacula eupatria. The species gets its name from Alexander the Great. It is believed he exported a number of the birds from the Punjab in India to Europe. At the time these colourful parrots were highly prized by royalty and the nobility.
The Alexandrine parakeet is classed as a large species. There are five sub-species with the main differences being geographical distribution, size and plumage details.
- Psittacula eupatria eupatria (nominate Alexandrine parakeet)
- P.e. nipalensis ssp (Nepalese Alexandrine parakeet) – the largest of the species. Mature males display large pink nape bands.
- P.e.magnirostris ssp (Andaman Island's Alexandrine parakeet)
- P.e.avensis ssp (Indo-Burmese Alexandrine parakeet)
- P.e.siamensis ssp (Laos or Siamese Alexandrine parakeet) – the smallest of the species.
The length of the nominate species is about 58cm with a wingspan of between 18.9 and 21.5cm. It is mainly green with a yellowish-green abdomen and a blue-grey sheen on its cheeks and nape. There is a distinctive 'shoulder patch' of maroon at the top of the wing coverts. The outer tail feathers are green on the upper surfaces and the middle tail feathers blue-green. The underside of all tail feathers is yellow. The large, powerful beak is red with a yellow tip.
Once the birds are three years old the colouring is dimorphic ie different between the sexes. Males have pitch-black neck rings and large pink bands on the nape. Hens do not have true black feathers in their neck rings but often show light to dark grey shadows. Young birds have shorter middle tail feathers than adults. The colouring is similar to hen colouring but duller.
The Alexandrine parakeet is gregarious and noisy. Its call is a loud scream. They congregate in huge numbers before roosting during the evening. In flight it is swift and direct.
Pressure from trapping for the pet bird trade has seen a huge decline in the numbers of Alexandrine parakeets in the wild. Like the Indian ringneck parakeet, the Alexandrine parakeet has established itself in many European countries and lives with and among naturalised groups of the ringneck.
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As A Pet
The Alexandrine parakeet is popular as a cage bird and breeds quite easily in captivity. It is a great mimic and is also eminently suited to outdoor aviaries although it cannot cope with temperatures under 5oC. It is one of the oldest captive parakeet species.
It is an active bird that enjoys the water, whether it be bathing, misting with a hose, showering or raining. It is generally happy to try various and even unfamiliar foods. It is a vigorous chewer and care should be taken to keep perches and chewable items chemical free. Because of its long tapering tail, it needs a large cage.
The Alexandrine parakeet may live 35 to 40 years in captivity.
In its natural habitat the breeding season is from November to April. When courting a hen, the cock perches beside the female. He will turn his head from side to side and chatter to her. A clutch of 2 to 4 eggs is laid and incubation usually starts with the laying of the second egg. Incubation takes 28 days with the chicks fledging at about 7 weeks. At 12 to 16 weeks they are weaned.
This species is intelligent and needs stimulation and training if it is to be kept as a pet. If neglected they develop behavioural problems such as feather picking. Because of their strong bite, they are not recommended for children.
In their native Pakistan the Alexandrine parakeet is critically endangered. Factors contributing to this include loss of habitat and poaching of young chicks.