The Barnard’s Parakeet (Barnardius zonarius) is a bird of many names – it is also known as the Australia Ringneck, the mallee ringneck and the Port Lincoln parrot. This is because there are four subspecies, which have recently all been classified as one species due to interbreeding.
The four subspecies are as following with details of their natural areas and colours. All of the birds are around 33cm in length with basic green colouring and all have a yellow ring around the back of the neck, with wings and tails being a mixture of blue and green. Generally, female birds are duller in colour than male birds. Their lifespan in captivity is around 10 years.
Twenty-eight Parrot (B.z. semitorquatus) – this bird is found in the coastal and sub-coastal forests in the south-western parts of Western Australia. It can be identified by the red band across its face as well as a green belly.
Port Lincoln parrot (B.z. zonarius) – this species is found from Port Lincoln in the south-east to Alice Springs in the north east as well as from the Karri and Tingle forests of South-Western Australian right up to the Pilbara district.
Cloncurry Parrot (B.z. macgillivrayi) – found from Lake Eyre basin in the Northern Territory across to the Gulf Country of north-west Queensland as well as from Burketown south to Boulia and east to west from Hynuna and Camooweel. It can be identified by the yellow belly, light green body feathers and the lack of a red band on the face.
Mallee Ringneck (b.z. barnardi) – this is the bird known in aviculture as the Barnard’s Parakeet. It is found in central and western areas of New South Wales west of Dubbo, south-west Queensland west of St George and east South Australia as well as north-west Victoria. It can be identified by the red band on the face being very dark.
As mentioned, the Mallee Ringneck or Barnard’s Parakeet is the one most often found in captivity in this country, though other subspecies are occasionally mentioned. Regardless they are all similar in habits and requirements so the following information can apply to any of them.
The ideal accommodation for these birds is in a flight, one pair per enclosure, perhaps with a pair or two of other non-aggressive parakeets. They can become temperamental during breeding season and keeping more than one pair together often results in fights and arguments.
It is advisable to have an enclosure that is long, around 15 feet in length with width being less important, around 3-4 feet. This allows them to properly stretch their wings and fly. They are quite hardy birds that will need shelter at night and a frost-free place to roost in the winter but otherwise don’t need heating.
Due to their enjoyment of gnawing and for general happiness, it can be ideal to add branches from non-toxic trees into the aviary for them to perch on as well as chewing. This helps them maintain their beak and claw condition also.
These birds enjoy taking a bath so as well as clean drinking water, fresh bathing water should be made available.
As pet birds, they are described as being less noisy than other birds of a similar size. They don’t like handling as much as Amazons or Cockatoos but do need plenty of attention.
These birds can suffer from psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) so be aware of the symptoms of the illness and monitor for any signs in your birds. Because they will forage on the floor, a good worming schedule is also advisable to avoid any problems occurring.
The basis of their diet can be a good quality seed mixture for large parakeets. They will eat egg food, especially when breeding and will eat green food. Greens are found to be favoured over fruit as a general rule though it is wise to try birds with many different things to see what they like and don’t. They will also grab food from the floor of their cage or enclosure.
Sprouted seed is a great dietary balancer because it gives in to the urge to eat seed that consumes many birds but by sprouting, the higher fat content is removed and the nutrients remain. A variety of different sprouted seeds can work well as oily seeds such as Niger and rape retain protein and carbohydrates when sprouted while starchy seeds such as canary and millet has less protein but more carbohydrates.
They like to gnaw so willow branches or untreated fruit tree branches are advisable to keep their attention away from their enclosure. Grit should also be available for them as required.
Unless you are buying a proven breeding pair, it is best to get a pair of these birds from a situation where they have chosen their own partners, as putting two birds together is not a guarantee of a happy couple. Once bonded, they stay bonded for life.
Courting behaviour includes the male chattering to his mate then crouching in front of her with his tail fanned out and moving quickly from one side to another. He also squares up his shoulders and wings, vibrating them slightly.
In the wild, they make their nests in the hollow of a tree trunk. Choosing the site of the nest is something they spend a lot of time doing so it may be wise to offer a few nest boxes to allow the pair to pick the one they like to mimic this behaviour.
The nest box size for these birds is around 40cm high by around 25cm in diameter. Between 4 to 6 eggs are laid and the chicks hatch at around 20-21 days. They fledge at five weeks of age and are fed by the parents for a time afterwards, with waning frequency.
When they are around a year old, they are adult birds though full male plumage may take longer than this to develop. Barnard’s typically only produce one brood per breeding season.