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BOURKES Parakeets  

(Snippets of info. you may not have known about these quiet, inoffensive little birds
that are a great and colourful addition to any small-bird Aviary)

  • As they originate from the dry, arid areas of Australia, they have evolved to survive on "poor pickings"
    Their digestive system is designed to best utilize what it extracts from a diet of mixed seeds,
    inc. "weed-seeds" + tree/bush buds.  

  • Also, it is able to extract moisture out of the seeds and  dry grasses like "spinefax"
    (an Aus. Desert grass -) + bark off trees and bushes inc. Eucalyptus bushes.  It's digestive
    system is not used to our "juicy" English grass!

  • Some English WEED SEEDS you can offer:  Chickweed, Curly Dock seeds, Shepherds Purse,
    Plantain ("Rats Tails") offer when seeds are dark brown, Dandelion seeds when dk. brown
    - cut fluffy white heads off and feed (just b4 it opens out and becomes the "dandelion clock"). 
    Seeding grasses when standing Hay is ripe and ready to cut. 
    (Canaries & Budgies  and most other parakeets love all the above also). 

  • Feed minimum Sunflower and safflower seeds (if any)- as these seeds are too oily and rich for them.  
    They are a bit like a "Camel" of the bird-world and can exist and thrive on meagre pickings. 

  • So you aren't doing them any favours over-indulging them in rich foods etc.

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Both these seed mixes are ideal for Bourkes, as they contain a good mix of  small seeds that are easily digested. 
 I also add extra plain canary seed to the seed mix.

They also appreciate Millet Sprays.

Budgie Tonic Seed
Linseed, groats, black rape, millet-mix, Niger, safflower.
Waxbill Seed Mix
Plain canary, sml. millet mix, Niger, linseed, hemp, + bisc-mix

   <<  Click on the pictures to enlarge

  • Becos they originate from an arid area, they tend not to eat moist fruit and veg. and can get
    digestive disorders inc. diarrhoea if fed with lettuce or similar "wet" veg.

  • They will nibble on a fresh carrot & Celery + bits of sweet apple, Broccoli and love Sweetcorn + Egg food

    • - which is where you can add any vits + mineral powders/supplements.

    • Mine demolish sprigs of Broccoli in no time flat - very good for them too!

  • They do not tend to bathe a lot (but will bathe if you provide a bath).

  • They do love being under light rain showers.

  • They DO need plenty of fresh air - but not draughts

    • - so make sure Aviary is sheltered from cold winds (and rain) blowing directly in during
      winter months

    • Usually winds/weather from North and East are the colder.

    •  they must have fresh air

    • So if you are leaving a side of the Aviary open to the elements - make it the south-facing side.

    • If they are in an Aviary, it's a good idea to give them a wooden shelter to shelter or roost in.                                               (see picture) ►

  • They are most active in the early morning and early evening (i.e. dawn and dusk)
    that is why they have bigger eyes, which denotes a nocturnal type of creature.

  • From late morning and into the afternoon they siesta quietly, in shaded parts of the Aviary
    and are at their least active. Which is what they would do in their natural habitat, the Australian Outback, during the hottest part of the day.  They would try and find somewhere shaded
    and cool, to rest, amongst the shrubby thorn trees.

  • So try and provide a shaded area for them in their Aviary.

  • They don't like their Nestboxes to be in direct sunlight either.

  • They must have a good flying space but also lots of variable size branches incl. lots of little thin
    "twiglets"  hanging in all directions, to encourage them to exercise their feet and teach them
    dexterity and balance.

  • They love to strip the bark and nibble the buds. 

    • An especial favourite are the Leaves and twiglets off a willow-tree, esp. in spring when new
      leaf-buds and the mini catkins appear.


  • Mutation Bourkes are mono-morphic (i.e. visually very similar in colouration).  

    • So, it's very difficult to tell the sexes apart, esp. when the birds are immature 
      i.e. under 4 - 6 months, when they go thru their juvenile moult.

    • cocks tend to show maturity sooner than hens and can "display" fairly soon after they
      have gone thru
      their first moult - if conditions are right i.e. mixed aviary with mature, active hens.

    • If there a few Cockbirds tho, the more dominant cockbirds WILL DISPLAY while the more subservient ones may not while in that Aviary environment.

    • You may need to separate a "Cock" and Hen together to see the Cock display.

  • Some people say that the Cock birds have a longer, flatter slope to the top of their heads.  

  • Cockbirds are slightly bigger and appear bolder than the hen with a brighter appearance/colouration. 

    • (Once they have gone thru. their first moult).

    • Lutino Cockbirds tend to have a lot less white on their faces than hens and can sometimes be
      just a deep pink with next to no white at all round their heads and faces.

  • Before the first moult, immature birds all tend to look like a hens.

  • Hens tend to be slightly smaller in size and be lighter or a slightly duller colour. 

  • Hens have a slightly smaller, rounder-shaped head.

  • HENS will Bite (with intent) when handled and can "growl" 

    • all defense mechanisms to ward off predators when they are protecting their own nests.

    • This tendency is often an easy way to help "sex" a lot of parakeets, even when they are
      still in the nest - the hens will bite and the cocks may give you a nip but nothing serious!

  • Cock birds are much milder mannered. 

    • They may bite if handled but not with the same intensity as a hen would.

    • One thing I have noticed is that if you have a row of Bourkes on a perch together ~ the ones that sit more "upright" are usually the Cock birds and the ones that are  on a more "horizontal" plane, are usually then Hens

      • See picture ~ 2 birds on left are cock birds and 3 closest are Hens

  • 22nd Feb. 2007  seemed to be the "first day of Spring" this year

  • 2 of the Bourkes that my friend has and  was unsure of their sex, started to perform courtship "Displays" both at the same time and going thru the same "performance", to prove they were
    indeed Cock birds.
    COURTSHIP DISPLAY  (as observed)  ~  Cockbird                              

  • Both Birds flew quite positively onto branches. 

  • They landed heavily, almost with a definite thump, as they held their wings away from their
    bodies to make themselves look bigger.

  • They looked like wide "canopies" from behind, with their bodies just above the horizontal,
    as they landed on the branch.

  • Then they then stretched their bodies and head up to full height and bobbed down a couple of times.

  • They hold their wings away from their bodies  (a bit like Concorde) & arc their backs, as they are performing these movements.

  • Some cock birds actually tap their beaks on the branches as they are doing the bobbing.

  • They repeated this numerous times and as one bird displayed the other seemed to copy almost simultaneously.

  • I must admit the hens weren't particularly impressed but then this was just the
    "First Day of Spring"!!!   (to them too!)

  • Normal-coloured Bourkes are much easier to sex, once they have gone thru their first moult,
    approx. 6 months, as the Cockbird has a distinct blue line across the top of the Beak, a white strip
    thru the eye-line and blue on the "Shoulders" of the wings

  • Make sure they have oystershell and mineralized grit, cuttlefish bone and iodized nibbles,
    esp. when breeding - this should supply most of the calcium and minerals needed for the hen to form
    her eggs without drawing calcium from her bones.

  • They lay 4 - 8 eggs  

  • Incubation  : 17-19 days 
    (depending on when they start to incubate ~ I have noticed that they do NOT start incubating from
    when they lay their first Egg - often after 2nd, 3rd or even later).

  • So, take this into consideration when calculating when the first egg would be due to hatch

  • Usually it's about 23 days from first egg laid to first chick hatching and often 2 chicks will hatch together.

  • Then another often hatches the following day

  • From then on - they hatch every other day.

  • The first Egg has been known to hatch up to 7 days after their due date

  • cos the Hen hasn't started to incubate until 3rd-4th Egg laid.

  • So, don't be too impatient to discard the eggs thinking they aren't viable!

  • It is best ALWAYS to let the hen decide for herself, when the eggs are not viable -

    • at which point she will either abandon them

    • Kick them to the back of the nestbox

    • or kick them out of the nest, ready to start again.

  • Then often the following eggs hatch every consecutive day rather than every alternate day

    • (which is how they were laid)!

    • I presume this is so that the chicks are closer together size-wise.

    • Which should help prevent sibling rivalry

    • and the bigger chicks getting all the food

    • plus avoiding the possibility of the smaller ones being crushed or starved.

  • HATCHING : Budgie chicks are naked when they hatch, whereas Bourke chicks are covered
    in a fine white
    down (similar to Cockatiels).
                                          Their skin colouration appears deep pink-
    click to see photo►

  • CLOSE RINGING  :  14 - 16 days 

  • (slightly later than a Budgie cos their legs and feet are more dainty, even tho Ring size
    is the same

    • (A rough guide is when eyes are approx 1/2 open)

  • Ring Size : L (same as Budgies) 

  • 2007 Ring colour : BLACK + white inscription  (usually your initials > 07 > consec. nos)

  • 2008 Ring Colour : Dark Blue + white inscriptions

  • 2009 Ring Colour : Violet + white inscriptions

  • FLEDGING:  approx. 28 - 32days (similar or slightly earlier than Budgies)

  • I put coloured split Rings on the opposite leg to the closed ring and use the same colour for all the chicks in that nest .

    • i.e. GREEN for one pair of Birds, (Poss. RED for another Nest of chicks)  so all their young can be identified as belonging to that pair of birds, once they are in the Aviary flying around.

    • As they all can look so similar.

  • I also put the closed ring on alternate legs of each chick (once again to help quickly identify them)

    • i.e. on the left leg of the eldest chick and then on the right leg of the next oldest
      and so-on.

    • Or if you have 2 rosa's in a mixed-coloured nest of chicks - you can put the closed rings on the opp. legs to each other.

  • The Cockbird chooses the Nest site (or Nest box in our case)


    for Bourkes are better to be on the neat side size-wise as the hens take up very little space

    • They tend to look like little torpedos - i.e. long and narrow, when they are incubating.

    • - they also can scatter their eggs, which is a waste if they chill.

    • I find this size seems to work well 12" high x  5 1/2 - 6" wide 8" deep. With 1 3/4" diam. pop-hole.

    • It's the width that is the criteria - too wide and it's just too big

    • Make sure there is a fairly wide concave in the bottom of the nest box too, so that if the hen does scatter the eggs then they roll back into the middle and don't stay on a flat bit away from the hen's warmth, which is needed for successful incubation

  • The Hen, cleans it out and prepares it for use.


    •   Make VERY SURE that you do NOT put too much bedding in for them. 

    •   Budgies / Bourkes don't really need any bedding - just a wooden concave base. 

    •   They may benefit from a Little sprinkle of bedding i.e. Easibed wood chip to help stop
      the eggs rolling around and becoming chilled and also to help prevent
      "Splayed Legs" as
      the chicks have something to push against - a slippery surface is a big

    •   A friend made a big mistake by putting over 1" in the bottom of her nestboxes, thinking
      she was being kind and making the birds "comfortable".

    •   She lost nearly all her first round of chicks off a few hens, as they got buried, lost or chilled.

    •   SO BE VERY AWARE as it's very upsetting to find unnecessary dead chicks.

  • The Hen does all the incubating.

  • General rule of thumb is approx. 2 weeks from 1st mating to 1st egg being laid 
    (this applies to a lot of birds and is a rough guide).

  • They don't seem to start incubating until the 3rd Egg has been laid - so even though 18 days is the incubation time, you really need to add 5 days to this = 23days b4 they do start to hatch then you
    often get a couple hatching together and then again the following day one or 2, which can throw your calculations out if you are not used to this!

  • The Cockbird feeds her and guards the Nest while she's sitting.

  • They need worming regularly as they are Floor foragers.

    • Don't worm while they are Breeding - usually before and after the Breeding season.

  • They mix well in an Aviary, as they are a very quiet breed of bird. 

    • As with most smaller breeds of bird - be wary if mixing with LOVEBIRDS 

      • - as they have been known to nip the legs off Canaries and small finches.

  • I have bred a pair in an Aviary with Budgies that were also breeding

    • - no problems as long as they were introduced at the same time

    •  Don't introduce a new pair of any breed of bird if any one pair has chosen it's nestbox and been in the Aviary enough time to claim it as it's own territory - then you might have problems.


  • Bourkes can be prone to Heart attacks if they get mega stressed 

    •  i.e. if you are trying to catch them up. - Their hearts race and then they can suffer
      heart failure.  

  • If this happens put the bird quickly and gently into a quiet, dark place to let it, hopefully, recover.  

  • Cocks are slightly more prone to this than hens, 

    • who are more likely to give you a hard  nip, if caught up 

    • (as they would when protecting their nest boxes) 

    • but they can still end up the same, if great care is not taken.


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