PHIL MEAD recommends the charming canary-winged parakeet and explains why it was love at first sight for him
My first encounter with the beautiful and endearing canary-winged parakeet (Brotogeris versicolurus chiriri) came when I was at school. A classmate gave a talk on his pet, and it was so tame, friendly and entertaining that I resolved to keep the species one day. When the chance came I bought a pair.
They were just as delightful as the one I’d seen in the classroom, and most striking in the long aviary where I placed them. They did have loud voices, though, and would scream (apparently with joy) every time they took flight. (This goes to show, of course, that you should always research species thoroughly before buying.) Apart from that, they were terrific aviary birds.
Canary-winged are about 22cm (9in) long, and quite stocky. They are grass green with a canary-yellow patch in the wing. The bill is a yellowish-horn colour and the legs are pinkish.
Feeding is easy, as they will eat a parakeet mixture from a petshop, or you can make a mixture up for them. The main seed part of the diet I gave them consisted of white and yellow millets and canary seed. To this I added some sunflower, safflower, hemp and buckwheat.
Some parakeet mixtures also contain paddy rice and sometimes wheat and oats, all of which these birds will eat. They also need greens such as dandelion, groundsel, spinach, broccoli, chickweed, etc, and a variety of fruit. Apple, pear, grapes (of which they were really fond), pomegranate and mango are all taken with relish. Seeding grasses are eaten, but the unripe green heads of oats and wheat were far more popular, as was corn-on-the-cob. Other vegetables such as carrot, peas and celery are also eagerly eaten.
Our pair did not show much interest in their nest-box except for hiding and sleeping in. I now think that a hollow log would have been much better. These birds were not being bred very regularly at that time, and would probably have preferred a more natural-looking site.
They can lay up to six eggs, and these take about three weeks to hatch. The young are fed on the parents’ normal diet, but it may be a good idea to add soaked and germinated seeds, grain and some sprouted mung beans plus a rearing food of the type given to budgies. The young leave the nest after seven or eight weeks and can become delightfully tame and learn to talk.
Over the years that we kept our pair they shared their aviary with various other species and were surprisingly friendly towards them. These included blue-eared glossy starlings at one time.
At another time they shared with three pairs of zebra finches (which, as is their wont, soon became 27), various weavers, white-winged whydahs, canaries, budgies and Bourke’s parakeets, and they lived a long and happy life. They are hardy birds, and although we provided some heat in the shelter, they would sleep in their box in a covered part of the outside flight.
Phil Mead has been interested in birds since the age of five.