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The Kakariki

The Red Crowned Parakeet (Cyanoramphus noveazelandiae) is one of three species of parakeet known as the Kakariki by the New Zealand Maori.  The name, meaning ‘little parrot’ is also used in aviculture for these birds.  The other two birds in the family are the Yellow crowned Parakeet and the Malherbe’s Parakeet, which is critically endangered in the wild.

The Red Crowned parakeet was once widespread species across it’s native New Zealand but is now extinct in most of the mainland.  It is found in populations on Stewart Island, Kermadec Islands and a range of other small, offshore islands.

The average length of the male bird is 27cm with the female being slightly smaller in length and having a smaller beak.  The males usually weigh around 60g with the females slightly lighter.  Their average lifespan is around 15-20 years.

Keeping Kakarikis

Captivity-reared birds are relatively common and come in a variety of colours.  As well as the natural green with blue wing markings and red crown, there are also buttercup yellow birds, cinnamon variations and pied Kakarikis which have both green and yellow body feathers.

As a general rule, Kakarikis are tolerant of other birds in a mixed setup providing there is plenty of space.  These are quite solid birds, so a minimum recommended flight is around 3x2x2m for them to be able to exercise adequately.  In a cage environment, they will need time outside the cage in a safe area to exercise.

They are great characters, inquisitive and can be tamed from a young age.  Even birds which have not been handled can be befriended, as I have done with my male bird who will come to my hand when he feels like it or take a treat I hold out to him.  They are quite vocal and can make loud calls.

Kakarikis are good, all round eaters who like a wide variety of foods.  Seeds including millet, canary seed, sunflower, niger, hemp, linseed and safflower are all enjoyed as well as peanuts, sweetcorn and pinenuts.  Fruits and vegetables enjoyed include apples, oranges, kiwi, berries, spinach, kale and carrots.  They will also take greens such as dandelion leaves and cabbage.  My male bird has a love of dried chillis which come in parrot food mixes and will come each morning to see if I have one for him.

Stemming from their behaviour in the wild, Kakarikis will forage on the ground and like nothing more than raking through flooring material to find hidden treats.  Even in a food bowl, they will scratch around to find their favourite seeds to eat first.  They are messy eaters so if you have birds in a cage; it is always wise to put food bowls near the floor and behind protection, otherwise their dinner will be all over your floor.

Kakarikis are climbers who are quite happy to climb up a cage or mesh with beak and feet and do so with considerable speed.  They also use their dexterous feet to grab at things and pull them within their grasp.  This includes food held by another bigger bird who lives in a cage in their aviary!

Unlike some larger birds, Kakarikis enjoy bathing so a large enough bird-bath should be provided so they can bathe finch style.  They manage to spread water a considerable distance and are usually soaked, so watch from a safe vantage point!

Kakarikis are generally said not to be the most playful with toys in their environment and enjoy more different types of perches, swings and occasionally wooden or plastic balls.  They will chew whatever they have so be aware that toys may be destroyed along the way.


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Training

When you have an intelligent bird such as a parakeet, it helps to know a few tips about basic training, so the relationship gets off on the right foot.  Kakarikis have a short attention span so don’t expect to have long training sessions. 

Basic techniques include learning the bird to step back when you are going to feed him.  This means there is less chance of the bird lunging at the feeding hand and biting at what he can see as an invasion in his territory.  Positive behaviours can be reinforced by treats, but negative behaviours should be ignored, as shouting at the bird can be seen as a positive reinforcement.  Loud noises don’t necessarily mean a bad thing to birds.

Breeding

Kakarikis are sexually mature at around five months old but is best to wait until around a year of age before breeding.  They will happily produce two clutches per year, but attempts at more than this should be discouraged for health reasons. 

Males can be territorial when first pairing off, but this urge settles as they become more confident and mature.  The female will start to chew things which is a sign of being ready to breed.

The female lays her first eggs around two weeks after mating and clutches can be 6-14 eggs.  Eggs are laid every other day.  They are incubated for around 21 days and if being ringed, this needs to be done around 9 days of age.  At three weeks of age, the chicks have feathers coming through.  By this time, the male will be doing the most of the feeding while the female may be preparing her next nest.  The chicks fledge from the nest at around five weeks old.

They are usually weaned at around 45 days and will be on a fully adult diet by 55 days of age.

Conclusion

Kakarikis are small parrots with big personalities, who enjoy interacting with their environment and can be endlessly entertaining.  They can learn to be tame and have close interaction with humans or learn to overcome the worst of their natural fear of us.  They are simple to feed, albeit messy, and can breed without too much fanfare.  Therefore if you are looking to start with parakeets or simply add a new species to your repertoire, they are certainly worth a look.


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