Scientific name Polytelis alexandrae
Common Name (Australia): Princess Parrot
Adult Length: 45cm (18in) -- half of which is tail.
Adult Weight: about 100g
Potential Lifespan: about 30 years. There is even a record of a female that reared young over a period of 35 years.
Status in Wild: Always scarce. Classified as Near-threatened since 2004.
Australia, arid areas of central and western parts. This Parakeet is a nomadic desert dweller. The irregular rainfall results in fluctuations in numbers or sudden eruptions.
Degraded habitat, resulting in reduced food availability. This has been caused by the introduction of sheep, rabbits and camels. Predators such as cats and red foxes are also believed to contribute to their decline which is thought to have occurred in over 50% of the range.
The plumage is brighter in the male who has a mauve-blue rump. The female is distinguished by her greyer-blue rump, upper tail coverts and crown.
Are duller coloured with much shorter tails and the beak is brownish-pink. A hint of blue on the crown suggests that it is a male. At the age of a few months males start to make a chuckling call and they erect the small feathers of the crown. Full adult plumage is acquired in the second year.
A unique feature is the elongated spatule-tip to the third primary in each wing. This might be worn away before the next moult but is evident in most adult males.
It resulted in the species being placed in its own genus, Spathopterus, in 1895. This feature was not mentioned in early descriptions and was apparently unnoticed.
It was not long before taxonomists rightly rejected the idea that it was important enough to classify the species in a separate genus.
This is the favourite species of many keepers of Australian Parrots due to its friendly and attractive personality. Its beauty, elegance and tameness resulted in it being an object of desire to early bird keepers.
Unlike many rare birds, it proved to be an ideal subject in captivity and a free breeder. The reason is that, as a desert species (like its compatriots the Budgerigar and the Cockatiel), it thrives on the minimalist conditions of captivity.
In the world of Parrots, their pastel colours are unusual and, among Australian Parakeets, their confiding nature is exceptional.
Before Australia prohibited the export of its native fauna, in the 1950s, more Princess of Wales were imported into England – but in small numbers. Most of those in our aviaries today originate from that time.
It took a couple of decades for the species to be reared in sufficient numbers for the price to be affordable. In the 1960s Princess of Wales were found only in the aviaries of a few wealthy aviculturists who specialised in Australian Parakeets. They had aviaries in the region of 20ft (6m) long.
Unfortunately, today many of these Parakeets are kept in enclosures that are far too small. Joseph Forshaw, author of the acclaimed work Australian Parrots, states that an aviary for a pair should be at least 4-6m (12-20ft) long. I would say that 15ft (4.5m) is the absolute minimum.
They like to spend some time on the aviary floor, so some thought should be given to the surface. I would suggest shingle (small stones) perhaps laid over existing grass. The latter will grow up through the stones in places.
Nibbling at the grass will provide enjoyment for the occupants. Stones are easily kept clean with a pressure washer. Any eggs from intestinal worms will not be so readily accessible as on a concrete floor; nevertheless, these parakeets need to be wormed before and after the breeding season. This must not be neglected because parasitic worms such as Ascaridia are a common cause of death of adults and young.
The aviary should include an enclosed shelter. Unless it is in a well protected location, the sides should be enclosed with corrugated plastic panels on a wooden frame. These act as windbreaks and will help to make life more comfortable during the winter.
Have a look at the choices of cage available here.
A variety of nest-box designs and sizes are used. Some Australian aviculturists favour nest-boxes hung at an angle of 45 degrees.
In the UK the usual size is about 2ft (61cm) deep and 8in (20cm) square, but much deeper boxes are sometimes employed.
The clutch size is four to six and the female alone incubates, for 19 or 20 days for each egg.
Some males are attentive parents, feeding the incubating female and the chicks, while others are less conscientious.
Chicks can be closed-ringed with 6mm rings at the age of about nine days. After about five weeks the young leave the nest.
The availability of mutations, initially the striking lutino, then the blue, caused a surge of interest in this species in Europe. The blue mutation is blue-grey with a whitish throat; the blue areas are retained.
They need seed, green foods and some vegetables, including carrot, celery and dark green leaves such as spinach, smooth sowthistle and young leaves and roots of dandelion. Fresh corn (tender, not hard) cut into small pieces, is a treat. Fruit, such as apple and orange, is also appreciated.
A good quality seed mixture should be used, with the addition of a little hemp during the colder months. Millet sprays are also enjoyed. Egg food, sprouted seed and/or a few soaked oats should be available when chicks are in the nest. A powdered calcium additive can be sparingly mixed with this.
Find the right food for your Princess of Wales Parrot here.
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