Most people equate the word “parakeet” with the diminutive green (or blue, yellow, white) little bird with black barring: aka the budgerigar or budgie.
As one becomes more schooled in the world of pet birds, he or she soon discovers that this is a very general term to describe a variety of small- to medium-sized parrots that have long tail feathers. It’s unfortunate that budgies seem to dominate the “parakeet” designation, because people might not get past this moniker to catch on to the species’ names that also come before it. Among the most spectacular members of this generalized group are Indian ring-necked parakeets ( Psittacula krameri manillensis), which, more often than not, make people stop straight in their tracks and exclaim, “What bird is that?!”
Pat Bush has experienced the “parakeet-equals-budgie” confusion first hand. “When we first started out about 10 years ago, people thought Indian ring-necked parakeet meant budgie,” said Bush, who operates The Beak in San Diego. “They would see our ad and call to inquire about budgies.”
One look at a Indian ring-necked parakeets, however, should be enough to clue one in on the fact that not all parakeets are budgies. “With the Indian ringneck, there’s 9 inches of body to go along with 9 inches of tail,” Bush said. Indeed, to say that Indian ring-necked parakeets and other Psittacula have long tail feathers is an understatement. The Indian ring-necked parakeet’s extra-long tail feathers can give it a rather sleek appearance, like a leggy model on a fashion runway.
Indian Ring-Necked Parakeets Are Not Shy
Indian ring-necked parakeets and other Psittacula parrots might just be one of the most overlooked, misunderstood pet birds. Early on they seem to have gotten a bad rap as being hands-off birds, better suited for the aviary than in the home as a pet bird. Joyce Baum, who has worked with Indian ringnecks for 20 years pointed out that Indian ring-necked parakeets “are just like all other parrots/parakeets. They are still wild animals [not domesticated], and thus have the same instincts and reactions as others.”
The point being that it’s the socialization, not the bird that makes it a good pet parrot. “They are just like other parrots/parakeets, and have similar reactions,” said Baum. “Ringnecks can make marvelous pets if handled properly. I know of a lot of people with pet ringnecks who simply love them, and would not trade them for another species.”
Ona Tassell, owner of Heavenly Wings Aviary in Arizona, shared the sentiment that social interaction goes along way with Indian ring-necked parakeets. “If well socialized at a young age, they will love attention from everyone. Like most parrots, they prefer a consistent, safe environment without sudden drastic changes.”
If you’re under the impression that Indian ring-necked parakeets are skittish and shy, you definitely haven’t met Baum’s, Bush’s or Tassell’s Indian ringnecks. According to Baum, ringnecks are “very outgoing, intelligent, inquisitive, and look out … [you] never know what they will be into next.”
Bush describes Indian ring-necked parakeets as incredible engineers. “They love playing, they love being out and are very inquisitive.” Foot toys seem to be favorites, “especially ones that they can carry around and watch fall from the cage top.” Bush recommends training ringnecks, and all birds for that matter, to play on top of the cage to encourage independent play. “The ringneck picks up on this easily, as they are just as happy playing by themselves as they are being held.” Bush pointed out, however, that in order to keep a ringneck tame, it must be interacted with on a daily basis. “A ringneck is definitely not a bird to put in a cage and leave there; they will not stay tame.”
Indian Ring-Necked Parakeet Loves To Eat
Along with the parakeet moniker comes the notion that Indian ring-necked parakeets consume a seed-heavy diet and not much else. Bush is a firm believer that Indian ring-necked parakeets “are the best eater there is. They love fruits, vegetables; anything in season.”
“I have found ringnecks to be one of the best birds for eating,” said Baum. “They love food, and eat anything and everything you give them, as long as they are introduced to a lot of different foods as youngsters … same as other birds.”
Both Males & Female Indian Ring-Necked Parakeets Can Learn To Talk!
Baum said that both males and females Indian ring-necked parakeets can be fantastic talkers. “I have five right now that talk and that includes both sexes, and I’ve known of many others who do too. If you don’t spend time talking to a bird, it likely will not learn to speak in our language. They have to hear it in order to learn to say it.”
Tassell said that Indian ring-necked parakeets are also great mimickers that “can make a variety of sounds.”
Indian Ring-necked Parakeets Can In The Home & Aviary
Although some Indian ring-necked parakeets would appreciate spending time in a spacious, well-equipped aviary, that doesn’t mean they can’t happily live inside the home. “They should have a cage big enough to allow them to flap and exercise their wings; room for several perches and toys without being cramped; same as other species,” Baum said. “All birds need space as they are very active in the wild, so ringnecks are no different.”
In Tassell’s experience, Indian ring-necked parakeets seem to prefer width over height. But that’s not to say that you don’t have to accommodate the Indian ring-necked parakeet’s long tail. “The cage should be large enough for them to fully stretch out their wings, and their tail feathers should not hit the back of the cage while perching,” said Tassell, who noted that these active birds need a variety of toys.
Indian Ring-Necked Parakeets Rings May Vary
You might notice that some Indian ring-necked parakeets, well, don’t really have much of a ring. Let the experts explain:
“The most noticeable visual difference between male and female is that the male gets a ring and the female does not,” said Bush. “The ring does not appear until after two years, so until then, know there is real visible difference.”
According to Baum, “males are visual between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, when they get their very distinct rings, the color of which varies depending on the color of the body feathers.” She noted that females have “a very faint, thin ring around their neck, as do all juveniles.”
Speaking of males and females, there are some noticeable behavioral differences. “As with most parrots,” said Tassell, “as females mature, they go through nesting behaviors. Females sometimes become cage territorial around breeding season January to May. After the season [is over], they go back to their normal selves.”
“Hens rule in this species,” said Bush. “And they are not above eliminating their competition, if necessary.”
According to Baum, “behavioral differences depend mostly on their upbringing and how they are handled, other than sexual behaviors.”
Indian ring-necked parakeets aren’t the only Psittacula in town. Ona Tassell dished about her experience with Alexandrine and plum-headed parakeets.
Alexandrine parakeets (Psittacula eupatria) are much larger than most other Psittacula , with an average body length of 22 to 24 inches and a tail length of up to about 14 inches. “They are very curious and interested in what’s going on around them,” said Tassell. “They can be loud at times. Mine do not talk as often as the ringnecks or moustache parakeets. They normally communicate through distinct, high-pitched sounds.”
According to Tassell, Alexandrine parakeets are outgoing if hand-fed and socialized. “They love to interact and often do silly things to get your attention,” she said. “One of mine is hilarious and I often play mimicking sound games with him.
“Alexandrines can talk, but mine communicate with high-pitched sounds the majority of the time. They tend to vocalize first thing in the morning and sometimes right before dark. These vocalizations can be loud at times.”
Male Alexandrine parakeets tend to have a larger, more defined shaped head. “Around 18 months of age, they start to develop a black ring with a pink outline. Females tend to have a smaller head and normally are not as large as males.”
Plum-headed parakeets (Psittacula cyanocephala) are on the small-side of the Psittacula parrot scale, and quieter, too. “Plum heads can talk, but they do not talk as clear as moustache or Indian ringnecks, said Tassell. “They tend to make softer high-pitched sounds than most Psittacula .”
A well-socialized plum-headed parakeet can make a wonderful pet and interactive pet bird. “They are shyer than the larger Psittacula , but this may be an inborn survival instinct due to there size.” Speaking of size, they don’t require quite as large a cage as larger Psittacula . “They should have enough room in the cage to fully expand their wings and to perch without their tail feathers touching the back of the cage.”
The male plum-headed parakeet is one of the most beautiful Psittacula parrots. Female plum-headed parakeets are dominant and tend to run the roost.