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Dear Parrots magazine,

Turquoisine life span

As a NSW Australia licensed breeder of Turquoisine Grass Parakeets (Neophema Pulchella), I read your April 2010 (Issue 147) with interest. In the article by Pauline James, I found the disturbing statement (bottom of page 19) that “... it is unusual for Turquoisines to survive for much longer than 6-7 years.” With a lifespan about twice that of budgies, if you are not getting 15 years or more out of most of your Turquoisine Parakeets, you are doing something wrong!

Possible reasons for short life spans include Chlamydiosis (Psittacosis) infection, toxicity effects of worming agents, and other management issues.

In my experience, it takes at least 45 consecutive days of treatment with Chlortetracyclines (as prescribed by your avian veterinarian) to clear an apparently healthy flock or new birds in quarantine of Chlamydiosis. Worming agents are generally toxic and tricky to administer so I prefer to leave that to an experienced avian veterinarian. The minimum necessary dosing of worming agents is advisable, which is one reason I use suspended aviaries.

Housing ground frequenting parakeets in suspended aviaries sounds counterintuitive but it works, so long as they are totally roofed and in a well protected area with access to direct sunlight. In winter, a heat lamp on a protected section of the aviary, at night and in bad weather, also helps keep the birds healthy.

Turquoisine Grass Parakeets hybridise readily with, at least, Elegant Grass Parakeets and also cross with Scarlet-crested Parakeets and Rock Parakeets. Australian psittacine desert species, such as the Neophema genus, have the ability to withhold fertilized eggs within the body for several months and wait till conditions are suitable for breeding before laying. As a consequence, Turquoisine Grass Parakeets should not be housed with other Neophemas unless hybridisation is desired. Hybrid offspring usually are beautiful and can easily be mistaken for ‘new mutations’. Of course, uncontrolled hybridisation results in birds that may be Neophemas but are no longer what can be called Neophema Pulchellas.

Although young Turquoisine Parakeets are a bit ‘flighty’ or ‘nervous’, old birds tend to tame and become ‘steady’. Indeed, some eventually want to become pets. I have taken in as household pet companion birds, old Turquoisine Parakeets after they had spent almost a decade in the aviary as breeders. These birds quickly became as tame and affectionate as any hand-raised budgie.

The Turquoisine Grass Parakeet is a threatened species and is fully protected by law in all Australian states. A license is required to keep, breed, exhibit, sell, or transfer the species. Trapping, except in the case of state or federal wildlife authorities, is definitely illegal. Chief present threats to the species are habitat destruction and predation by feral cats.

Richard A. Marschall, Ph.D., NSW, Australia (by email)




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