The Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) is a feral resident that is currently getting more and more common and slowly replacing the Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri), another feral species, as well as the Long-tailed (Psittacula longicauda), a resident.
The parakeet was first reported as far back as 1943 without any sign of breeding taking place. Through the years there were further reports of sightings and later, reports of breeding, until now these birds are increasing in numbers and slowly replacing the other two species. The image on the left shows a male Red-breasted Parakeet.
The parakeet nests in tree cavities and several pairs may nest in the same tree or adjacent trees. A small colony can be seen in Changi Village where they nest in angsana trees (Pterocarpus indicus).
Robson’s Birds of South-east Asia lists the subspecies of this Red-breasted as fasciata.
The recent report of mating of the Red-breasted at Changi, accompanied by images of these birds has cast doubt on the identification of the subspecies.
Two of the males in the image have been identified as nominate P. a. alexandri by Joseph M. Forshaw, the world’s leading expert on parrots. The third male, the one mounting the female, shows a slight tendency toward fasciata as the breast is slightly darker (see below).
And according to Joseph, “Presumably the population in Singapore originated from birds that escaped from captivity, and so it is possible that both alexandri and fasciata could be present, as well as hybrids between the two. I would identify all males in your photograph as nominate P. a. alexandri, though the mounting male is slightly darker on the breast and so does show a slight tendency toward fasciata.
“As you so rightly point out, there is uncertainty about subspecific identity of the female. I suggest that there are two possibilities – she may be a alexandri x fasciata intermediate, or she could be a younger bird (first or early second year) that has not acquired the all-red bill of the adult. I am of the opinion that she is a younger bird of alexandri, and would point out that adult males mating with females in subadult plumage is not uncommon among parrots; the reverse, involving males in subadult plumage is quite uncommon.
“This is indeed interesting, for it indicates that the population in Singapore may be alexandri, not fasciata as had been claimed. Further investigations are needed to settle this query.”
Yes, birders should pay more attention to the Red-breasted Parakeet. We have yet to establish whether the subspecies fasciata exists. And if so, are there hybrids around? The mounting male whose plumage is darker than the other males may hint to their presence.
Images by Chan Yoke Meng.