The Alexandrina Parakeet (Psittacula eupatria) is a species of parrot named for Alexander the Great who is the one who is said to have first exporting it from the Punjab in India to the various parts of the world his empire covered. They were prized pets to the nobles and royalty for many generations after this.
These birds are naturally found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and have established colonies successfully in a number of other countries including Germany, England, Belgium, Greece and Turkey. These are likely release captive birds and are often found alongside Indian Ringnecks. In Pakistan, they are critically endangered and the sale of the birds is banned, though takes place frequently on the streets and often in poor conditions. Trappers for the pet trade have caused a dramatic decline in the wild population.
The Alexandrine is the largest of all the parakeets at 23 inches in length and with a wingspan of 7.5-8.5 inches. It has an especially long tail; usually around 8.5-14 inches and adult birds weigh around 200-300grams. Their feathers are mostly green with a blue-grey sheen around the cheeks and a yellow green abdomen. All of the birds have a maroon patch at the top of their wings along with a bright red beak.
Like their close relatives the Indian Ringnecks, they can be sexed by the neck rings on male birds. These develop once they are aged three years and while females may have shaded feathers in this area, it is never a proper ring. The band of feathers are black with a pink band beneath. Their average lifespan is about 30 years in captivity.
Due to their association with Alexander, these birds are said to be one of the oldest captive parrot species across the Eurasian continent. They have a reputation of not being the most sociable bird so are best kept a single pair to an enclosure.
Alexandrines like to fly so need plenty of space. A flight at least 60 feet is necessary for them to fly though the width is not quite as crucial, as long as it is wide enough for them to fully open their wings. It needs to be securely constructed possibly from metal as wood construction could see them chew through and escape. This gnawing urge also means there is little point in putting plants into their aviary, as they will destroy them – unless you put them there for this reason!
For keeping indoors, the largest possible cage is needed, such as the type used for macaws and they will also need time of out of the cage to fly around properly.
Character-wise these birds are describe as gentle and, while not as cuddly as a bird like a cockatoo, can be very interactive. They are very intelligent and need to be socialised with or can become aggressive and only interested in one person. They are more independent than some of the other larger species but still need plenty of time and interaction, otherwise behavioural problems such as feather plucking and aggression can result.
Alexandrines are one of the species of birds that go through a bluffing stage, a bit like being a teenager, where they will try the limits of everything and can bite or other naughty behaviours. For this reason, they are not recommended for first-time parrot owners as this behaviour can be tricky to deal with and there is a risk of being hurt as well. With the proper behavioural techniques, this time can be conquered and a loving and affectionate pet will be with you for a long time to come afterwards. They can be excellent mimics as well, learning to copy human speech and other noises they hear in their surroundings.
They are described as noisier than other ringnecks species but still quieter than African Greys or Amazons so while may be suitable for some housing situations, perhaps not for those living very close to neighbours.
Some Alexandrines love a bath and enjoying playing in water while others are less keen. These may make use of a rain shower for the purpose or otherwise, an ultra-fine spray bottle can be used to give them a shower.
There are some good quality seed mixes available for large parakeets and these will make a good basis for their diet. They also need daily intake of green food and fruit as well as egg food less frequently, more when they are breeding. Willow twigs and untreated fruit tree twigs will be ideal for gnawing purposes and they will also make use of a grit mixture.
Fruits that have been recommended for these birds include apple, banana, melon, orange and peach as well as tropical fruits such as kiwi, mango and papaya. Vegetables include broccoli, celery and corn as well as greens such as kale, spinach, watercress and collard greens. They can be offered weed seeds and leaves as long as you know there is no risk of them having been sprayed with anything such as dandelion or chickweed. Some flowers also make a nice treat such as violets, impatiens and pansies but again, beware any pesticides.
An ideal balanced diet is recommended at 25% seed, 50% pellets and 25% fruit and vegetables.
In the wild, these birds breed from November to April, depending on where in their range they live. They tend to say 2-4 eggs that are incubated for 28 days starting from the laying date of the second egg. The chicks fledge around seven weeks old and are cared for by the parents for around another three weeks.
In captivity, breeding should not be considered until the birds are at least five years old. Once they are mature enough, a tree hollow is an ideal location for breeding but a traditional nest box may also be used. A layer of moistened peat or moss is added to the bottom of the box and it needs to be at least 12 inches diameter, with a height around 24 inches.