Red-breasted Parakeet “confrontation” at Changi

on 24th May 2009

Jason Cho a.k.a. jcho has an interesting encounter with, what he thought was a confrontation between two male Red-breasted Parakeets (Psittacula alexandri) and a female in May 2009 at Changi Village in Singapore. The male was flying to a female perching just outside her nesting cavity and got involved in what looked like a confrontation. All the time another male was nearby just watching (above).

John Vickerman gave an interesting interpretation based on the images Jason provided: “…I don’t think they are actually fighting at all! I am happy to be corrected on this, but I think that male… has flown over to the female (black bill diagnostic for female) and she is expecting to be fed by the male since she will not spend time away from the nest hole foraging for herself thus leaving any eggs vulnerable to predation – egg brooding is almost entirely carried out by the female in nearly all parrot species.

“She is trying to stimulate the male… to feed her, and by presenting an open bill to the female, he is showing her that he is ready to feed her. The… female and the male almost locking beaks at opposing angles which is the moment when regurgitated food passes from the male to the female (below). It has to be done this way by definition of the structure of the beak otherwise an awful lot of food would be spilt!

“I agree it does look a bit like fighting, but in REAL fighting, feet and claws are used as well as much wing beating. In these pictures, the feet of both birds are not being raised in anger at all, and neither is the female thrashing her wings around. The apparent vigour being displayed by the male’s wing flapping is, I suspect, a combination of his trying to maintain balance in conjunction with the neck muscle spasms associated with the quite violent regurgitation process, and the female’s receiving of the food.

“So having achieved the objective of being fed, the female returns into the hole to carry on brooding, and the male flies away probably to preen and clean up or feed again ready for the next feeding session.

“Now where does (the other) male fits in? Probably, quite simply, not at all! Many parrot species loosely associate together all their lives and often breed quite closely together in fairly sociable communities. Most parrot species pair for life, so neither the brooding female nor husband male… would feel unduly threatened by the close proximity of another bird, and because they do not hold territories (other than the nest site itself), there is no need to expend energy chasing off a nearby bird. (The other) male… may be unmated and is just “hanging around”. He could even be an offspring from a previous year of the pair in question and so is “trusted” not to make a nuisance of himself. He will be ok as long as he doesn’t try to actually enter the nest hole – you might then witness a REAL spat!

“Nice work and a good document in pictures here, Jason. I hope this all makes sense, and I would be interested to hear of any other theories.”

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

5 Responses

  1. Something to add about parrots and their love lives. Almost all Psittacula (the genus to which the red-breasted parakeet belongs) are not known to have very strong pair-bonds. Outside of the breeding season, males and females do not have very much to do with each other, unlike parrots of some other genera.

    Psittacula are also rather tolerant of conspecifics, even in aviary situations, and flock-breeding can be practiced in captivity.

    This type of behaviour can be found in grass parakeets, some (but not all) of the smaller cockatoos and the Trichoglossus lories.

    This is not the case with all parrots. With some of them, such as Lorius attempts to keep more than one pair in the same aviary, even outside the breeding season, will result in murder.

    In field studies, paris of parrots belonging to these aggressive genera usually give others a wide berth. Though several pairs may feed in the same tree, they keep a respectful distance apart.

    Some parrot species forage in flocks, but breed apart from the flocks, and defend their nesting areas quite aggressively against trespassers. The large macaws and the large cockatoos are known to do this.

    An interesting breeding behaviour is practiced by Eclectus, which are so sexually dimorphic that the males and the females were once thought to be different species.

    A study was recently concluded in Australia which threw some light onto why females are bright red while males are green.

    The female finds herself a nice nest hole, then hangs around outside to attract eligible suitors.

    When a likely one comes along, she chats him up, gets fed by him, then retreats into the hole safely out of sight of predators.

    After seeing him on his way to forage for more food, she comes out again, flashes her bright colours, and hopes that another male will come along to make a contribution.

    The study found that one female Eclectus could have as many as five males serving her – and most of them were unaware of what she was doing with the others.


    Lee Chiu San

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