The Barred Parakeet (Bolborhynchus lineola) is commonly known as the Lineolated Parakeet or Linnie in aviculture. They are similar in size to lovebirds and budgies at around 16cm in length with a short tail.
These are small parrots which come originally from the highland forests across south Mexico down to Panama, Venezuela and southern Peru. They occupy areas up to 2000m above sea level in the forests and mountains and spend time on the ground then sleep in the trees. They are relative hardy and have been known to take baths in the snow. In the winter after they have bred, they will also venture to lowland forests, savannah and cultivated areas. They are flock birds in their natural habitat, living in groups from 20 up to 100.
In the wild, these little parrots have green plumage with black and dark green stripes, or bars. They have dark brown eyes and a horn-coloured beak with pink legs. It is difficult to sex the birds visually, though sometimes males have more marked black stripes. It is usually more reliable to use a DNA blood test for a certain result.
These are popular birds as pets due to their temperament and the ease of caring for them. They sometimes have a favourite human but will be friendly with everyone so are not the ‘one-person’ species that some of the bigger parrots become. They can also be taught to be handled by children, with the right supervision and teaching to the child.
They also come in a variety of different colour mutations including cobalt, turquoise, grey and yellow. In captivity, they have an average lifespan of 10-15 years.
They are calm birds with a range of gentle calls, only rarely a loud or piercing shout. They chatter often to each other and those around them and are very talented mimics, including copying human words. I have a hand-reared bird who says ‘hello’, blows kisses and does an excellent car alarm imitation!
When there is no snow available in their cage, they enjoy a misting from a spray water bottle for a bath. They will hang upside down from their perch with wings spread wide open to get the maximum water on their feathers and will preen thoroughly afterwards.
A balanced diet is crucial for Linnies as much as any bird. They are primarily seed eaters though some will take special parrot pellets. They also enjoy greens such as kale, broccoli and cabbage as well as vegetables such as carrot and cauliflower. Fruits enjoyed include banana, apple, apricot and oranges. Other treats include strawberries, pumpkin seeds, alfalfa and sunflower seeds. Scrambled or boiled eggs with shell are an excellent source of calcium, especially for a hen laying eggs.
Although every bird can be different, Linnies are usually well suited to a mixed bird environment. I have experience with keeping them with finches, canaries and other parakeets such as Bourkes and Kakarikis with very little problem. There will always be arguments, but one key thing is to have plenty of food bowls, so there is less chance of everyone trying to eat from the same place. When there are arguments, they tend to be a lot of noise and beak-bearing, occasionally a flapping of wings, but no real intent to harm.
Linnies are climbers, like most short-tailed parrot species, and prefer to climb to a spot rather than fly if this is possible. They are also chewers, but not in the destructive way of their cousins the lovebirds, more in an investigative manner. They tend to nibble or lick at things to decipher what they are, which can be a little painful if this is your finger! But bear with them, once they have sorted out what fingers are and have no fear of them, they will often nibble and preen your hands as if they were another bird.
Being intelligent little birds, Linnies also appreciate toys and will chew them or climb all over them. They are cautious of anything new introduced to their environment so put new items outside the cage for a while to allow them to realise they are not harmful or put them in a corner where the bird can avoid them. This will allow them to approach the new item in their own time, when they feel safe.
Of my two house Linnies, the younger sleeps on one end of his perch with his head and tail almost in line. The older hen has a fur covered triangular hidey-hole which hangs from the ceiling and allows her to retreat into it out of sight. These are easily available online and may need to replace periodically if become soiled, but a lot of Linnies do seem to enjoy sleeping in them. Perhaps it resembles the tree branches they would roost on in the wild, and their instinct tells them this is the place to be.
Linnies are very affectionate with their mates and often preen each other. This can be also a form of courtship and can mean the birds are ready to breed.
In the wild, Linnies nest in hollows of tree trunks, or on a limb. In captivity, providing them with a budgie sized nest box, or slightly larger is usually suitable. The female will begin to spend longer time in the nest, sometimes days on end, before laying eggs. Once she started to lay, the male will call to her from outside the box and warn her of any problems. He may also spend long periods of time in the nest box, only coming out if a threat is detected.
Typical clutch of eggs for Linnies is 2-4 which hatch after around 18-21 days of incubation. When they are born, the chicks have a dark grey down on them, and their coloured feathers begin to show at around three weeks. The chicks fledge from the nest after around five weeks. Generally, the adults will tolerate nest inspections, which is useful as the chicks make almost no sound.
As a first parakeet, or a new addition, Linnies are easy birds to live with, adorable little characters who will interact with humans if they have been raised that way and are not noisy. They have a variety of lovely colours and can live as colonies or as a pair of birds in a large cage so can be accommodated in most homes.