Adult length: Most males measures about 58cm including the tail which accounts for about 36cm. The female’s tail is slightly shorter.
Wingspan: 14-23cm (depending on sub-species).
Adult weight: about 250g.
Sexual dimorphism: Adult females lack the black and pink neck ring.
Immature plumage: Similar to that of the female but with much shorter tail (only about 10cm) and grey iris. Adult plumage is usually acquired by males between the ages of 18 and 30 months. The neck ring of the male can take two years to develop fully.
Potential lifespan: 30 years.Status in wild. Although its IUCN status is Least Concern, it is declining in some parts (at least) of its range, especially Sri Lanka.
The Alexandrine Parakeet has a very large range in Asia: P. e. eupatria: much of India, also Sri Lanka. P. e. nipalensis: eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan, central India to Nepal, Bhutan, and Assam to Bangladesh. This is the largest sub-species, with the male measuring up to 62cm. P. e. magnirostris: Andaman Islands and nearby Coco Islands, Bay of Bengal. P. e. avensis: Cachar district of Assam to southern Burma. P. e. siamensis: Thailand to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. This is the smallest sub-species, measuring up to 56cm.
The theft of chicks from nests for pets unfortunately occurs on a very large scale. In recent years it has been an annual occurrence in India for hundreds of chicks to be confiscated from sellers and taken to rescue centres. Some of these are tiny, featherless little creatures and many of them do not survive. The tradition of keeping Alexandrines as pets is so old that it will be difficult to stop this.
Suitability as a companion
The Alexandrine is an extremely handsome bird with plumage of a fine texture. In many respects it is very endearing and it can learn to mimic. It might even be described as the “Macaw of the Old World”, with its stream-lined proportions, large beak and great intelligence and cleverness.
Just as in the Macaw, the destructive power of its bill, combined with the strength of its voice, are good enough reasons for few being kept as companions in Europe. However, the large beak and white iris of the eye give it a slightly fearsome look!
Confining it to a cage should never be considered. It needs to be let out to fly -- and this causes problems in most homes -- unless they are made of steel! Although it is seldom kept as a pet in Europe, in Asia and Australia young are hand-reared for this purpose.
If acquired when young, an Alexandrine should learn to whistle and to mimic a few words. It should be handled daily and given a lot of attention, or behavioural problems are likely to develop. It must also have a lot of different items with which to keep its beak occupied when inside the cage!
Its history in captivity goes back centuries, reputedly to the time of Alexander the Great (356-323BC). Some historians believe it was the first parakeet to reach Europe.
As aviary birds… …they excel - as long as the aviary is not wooden! Light-weight aluminium or steel must be used as a framework if you do not want to see your Alexandrines flying at liberty. Actually, there are few more wonderful sights!
A BBC news report of July 2004 reported Alexandrines in Lewisham Crematorium (south-east London). They could have been escapees or just possibly misidentified Ringnecks, of which there are many in this area. However, I know of more than one keeper who has had Alexandrines gnaw their way out of a wooden aviary and I would emphasise that they should never be considered for this type of accommodation.
My first experience with this species was in my garden in London in the early 1980s. One Christmas Eve, above the pre-dusk cacophony of my Parrots, I detected an unfamiliar voice. I soon sighted an Alexandrine flying towards the neighbouring garden.
I tempted him on to the roof of one of my aviaries with strategically placed sunflower seed. Soon he clambered down to feed. Tired and hungry, he spent most of the next day sleeping and eating. The weather was cold and his tameness led me to believe that he had come from a cage.
During the next two days he spent most of his time in a big apple tree, occasionally taking short flights. He looked so magnificent on the wing I was tempted to let him keep his liberty but I feared some gun-happy individual might end his life.
I therefore made a structure from welded mesh, baited with an apple, and he entered at once. I placed him in a spare aviary. Within three weeks he had caused so much damage that I reluctantly caged him. It was then I discovered the endearing intelligence of this species and readiness to mimic words. He became a great favourite but I felt it was unfair to keep him so closely confined and gave him to a friend for breeding.
In the UK, Tropical Birdland in Leicestershire has a very attractive way of showing their Alexandrine Parakeets. The aviary has a double door through which visitors enter. The Alexandrines fly down to a viewing area and take grapes from visitors, perching in a line on a large branch. Visitors are clearly enchanted by them.
As in most Psittacula parakeets, the pair bond is not strong. Courtship feeding can start in the early winter as the male gradually becomes more confident in his behaviour towards the usually dominant female. In Europe they nest very early in the year, often in February. Two or three eggs are laid. The incubation period is 28 days and young spend about seven weeks in the nest.