Red-breasted Parakeet and Crop milk

on 1st October 2014

“Among aviculturalists, there is a school of thought that parrots, pigeons and doves are related. Though parrots have hooked billed weapons of mass destruction and doves have soft beaks, all of them are generally vegetarian. A characteristic that they have in common that distinguishes them from most other bird families is that parrots, pigeons and doves have powder down feathers. Hold any one of them and you will find a coating of fine dust on your hands.

“And, finally, all parrots, pigeons and doves feed their babies on ‘crop milk’ – a secretion created by sloughing off the lining of the crop.

Sun Chong Hong recently posted a video of a Pink-necked Green-pigeon (Treron vernans) regurgitating crop milk for a youngster LINK.

“Below are photos of a Red-Breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) doing the same.

“During the recent fruiting season, a flock of them regularly visited my neighbour’s rambutan tree in Seletar. The parent bird is on the left.

“The parent now feeds the well-grown youngster with crop milk as well as regurgitated fruit.

“Like Oliver Twist, the hungry youngster continues to ask; ‘Can I have more?’

“Red-Breasted Parakeets are not native to Singapore, but due to their former abundance in the bird trade, are probably the commonest Psittacine on this island today. Occupying the same ecological niche, they have effectively displaced the native Long-Tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda), which I hardly ever see in the wild now.

“There are several races. The ancestors of the birds in the photo, which have red beaks, probably originated from Indonesia. Those from India have varying amounts of black on the beaks. However, all the sub-species interbreed freely, so it is difficult to say if the birds in Singapore are pure-bred representatives of any particular race.

“Unlike other Psittacula species, which tend to be very prominently sexually dimorphic, it is not easy to distinguish the sexes of Red-Breasted Parakeets. In the Indonesian race, the red (or pink) breast of the female is less pronounced than that of the male. But the differences are subtle, and you will need to have two birds side by side to make a comparison.

“Among the Psittacula species, I have kept and bred longicauda, (Long-tailed) rosaceus (Blossom-headed) and krameri (Ring-necked). In my opinion, parakeets of this genus generally do not make good pets. They are more suitable as display birds in aviaries.

“Unlike lorikeets, cockatoos, love-birds and other parrots, Psittacula do not form strong pair bonds. Consequently, they do not bond strongly with humans. Though they can be tamed if obtained young, frequent and continued interaction is necessary. They revert to wildness if left alone for a while.

“As for wild-caught adult birds, they seldom, if ever, become really tame. And most of them (except rosaceus) have screams that are unexpectedly ear-shattering for such small birds. They also bite savagely.

“It would not be surprising if many disappointed purchasers of Psittacula parakeets turned them loose. They breed freely. And that is how the huge feral flocks in Singapore became established.”

Lee Chiu San
22nd September 2014

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. Regarding the Long-tailed Parakeet, I came across a flock of 40 to 50 on the 3 Sep 2014 at about 4.40pm. They were near the entrance to the Lower Peirce Reservoir engaging in comfort behaviour after a shower. By the time I took out my camera, some of them had already left the scene (view pic ).

    A female(?)was seen exercising her jaw while moving down a bare branch (Youtube video ).

  2. Dear Chong Hong, the trees behind the petrol stations outside the entrance to Lower Pierce Reservoir were among the last places where I last saw long-tailed parakeets in Singapore.

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