The Barraband Parrot, also known as the Superb Parrot (Polytelis swainsonii) is a parrot originally from southeast Australia. They are found in the dry woodlands of New South Wales and Victoria and their population is believed to be around 10,000. Their favourite habitat is in the trees along the banks of rivers and streams. They are one of the few species that have actually thrived in recent times as the artificial irrigation in the areas has allowed them to widen their habitats.
Its feathers are mostly bright green with dark green flight feathers. The male has yellow forehead feathers and at the throat with a red horizontal band across the edge of his throat. The female has a pale blue-green face, grey-green throat and orange thigh feathers. They are typically 40cm in length.
Generally, Barrabands will live peacefully with other species of parakeets of a similar size to them. It is not advisable to home them with smaller birds such as finches and canaries simply because accidents can happen due to the size difference. It is crucial though that there is enough space for the birds as being too closed in can cause arguments amongst even the most well-tempered birds.
These birds love to be flying around so either a large enclosure, or plenty of time out of their cage is essential for their health and happiness. Outside, they are relatively hardy but will need a sheltered night house to roost in. If they don’t get sufficient exercise, obesity can become an issue.
A variety of differing sizes of branches or perches are important in their home and if they have some with bark still on, they will also enjoy chewing this. It is also their way of maintaining beak and claws.
Barrabands are noisy but do have a melodic song. They need to bathe regularly to maintain their feathers and also like to forage on the ground for seed and other food, scratching around with their feet.
Health wise, they have a susceptibility to respiratory infections such as mycoplasmosis so need to be watched for signs, which can often show around their eyes also. As they like to forage on the ground, they should also be regularly wormed.
In the wild, groups of males are often seen foraging for food without the females and pairs may form loose colonies of around six pairs. They eat eucalyptus flowers, fruits, nectar and pollen as well as a variety of grass and weed seeds such as alfalfa, nettles, thistles and shepherd’s purse.
In captivity, their diet consists of a large parakeet mixture as well as fruit, vegetables and greens for their vitamins and minerals. During breeding season, they will take extra egg food. A typical mixture for them will include some sunflower seeds (not too many as fattening), safflower, canary seed and millets. Spray millet is also enjoyed separately.
Their favourite green foods seem to be carrot, apple, broccoli and celery and have diet preferences similar to Kakarikis. They also enjoy sweetcorn mixed with their egg food. When breeding, a calcium supplement can be added to water or sprinkled on food depending on the type to help the hen build herself back up after the stress of laying eggs.
They also enjoy gnawing so branches from trees such as willow will fulfil this need for them. Grit is also vital to have easy access to for digestive reasons.
The wild breeding season of the Barraband is between December to September.
In the wild, they nest in a hollow limb or a tree hole and this is something that can be replicated in captivity. If not, they will use a nesting box around 30cm by 60cm height and an entrance hole around 9-10cm. Add some rotten wood to the bottom of the box or some moist peat moss.
Between 3-5 eggs are laid and the female incubates them for around 21 days. The birds will aggressive defend their nest against anyone approaching, including humans so only attempt nest checks when both birds are out. Fledging takes places at around 4-5 weeks old and the parent feed for some time longer.
When the young first fledge they can be somewhat clumsy so extra precautions should be taken to ensure they can’t harm themselves. There are occasions when the male adult bird may become a little aggressive towards them while he encourages his hen to nest again, so this should also be monitored.
It can take up to a year for the young to get their complete adult feathers and during this time, all look like females. During this time, they can be sensitive to disturbances and changes so try to keep their environment and steady and consistent as possible. It also means that a bird cannot be definitely sexed visually until it is around two years old. Prior to this the only guaranteed method would be to have the bird DNA sexed.
If you are breeding Barrabands in a colony system, make sure all the nest boxes are at the same height and are the same size and type. If you are using adjoining aviaries where the birds can see each other, make sure the nest boxes are within easy line of sight of the other pair.
These birds are widely regarded as a beautiful, inquisitive and intelligent small parrot species that will be a pleasure for anyone with only the most basic parrot experience to manage. They are similar in many of their traits to birds such as cockatiels and Kakarikis. They do need plenty of room to avoid becoming overweight through inactivity but can live in colonies happily with others of their species or similar sized birds. Feeding them is also similar to other large parakeets and they have relatively straight forward needs for breeding and rearing their young.
On a side note, if you enjoy showing birds, a Barraband is the only bird in the National Cage Bird Show in the US to win all three of their top awards, parrot or otherwise!