Raising the Charming Bourke's Parakeet


I remember the day well when my
husband brought a small bowl with a
diaper in it into the kitchen and placed
it in front of me. As I peeled back the
folded diaper, there huddled a piece
of grey fluff with the smallest beak I'd
ever seen! As I looked quizzically at
my husband, he explained that as he
was making his routine inspection of
our small bird aviaries, and the nest
boxes in each flight, he found a disastrous
sight. Inside one of the Bourke's
Parakeet nest boxes he found the
mother and three babies dead, and
one baby, about two weeks old, clinging
to life. This is what he presented to
me. I told him that I couldn't feed a
bird that small, and who could find
the beak on a baby Bourke's anyway!
(I was used to hand feeding parrot
types, after all!) He informed me that I
was "a pro" and could do anything I
set my mind on. Looking back, I realize
that this was probably a buttering
up job on his part, but it worked. I ran
over to the feed store and purchased a
1 cc syringe, because the smallest I
had in the house was 20 cc at that
time, and that just wouldn't do. I successfully
raised that little Bourke's
baby, and she became my constant
nursery companion for the next three
years, flitting from cage to cage and
riding atop my shoulder as I fed my
nursery full of cockatiels, rosellas, and
assorted parrot babies.
I know I'm known for telling sentimental,
almost unbelievable stories
about my birds, but I swear they are
all true. This one is as well. This little
Bourke's did not have a cage, she
lived in my nursery, occasionally flying
into the kitchen to see if I was preparing
the next batch of handfeeding
formula. She monitored my feeding
each time, watching intently from my
shoulder. Since I was usually feeding
60 cockatiels at a time, there were
occasions where one would flutter 

down from its cage. The nursery at
that time was my small family room,
so with the clutter of many, many
cages, piles of diapers, and the aquariums
I used as brooders, the cockatiel
would be lost. On one of my missions
of cockatiel finding one day, the
Bourke's flew off my shoulder and
onto the floor. She started to chirp and
excitedly hop back and forth while
facing a folded pile of diapers. I
looked around the diapers and there
was my baby cockatiel! From that time
on, when I had a baby to find, I just
waited, and my Bourke's would eventually
find it and "point" to it. She was
my unofficial nursery attendant. True
Now that I've gotten the sentimental
"mother hen" story out of my system,
I'd like to tell you a little about one of
the most precious, docile birds ever to
come out of Australia, the Bourke's
Grass Parakeet. They belong to the
family Psittacidae, a large family of
birds which belong to the Psittaciforme
group, and bear the name Neophema
burkii, or Neopsephotus bourkii.
Of all the grass 'keets, I believe the
Bourke's Parakeet is the hardiest,
even though it is the most docile. We
have only raised the Bourke's, but this
is comparing notes with other grass
'keet breeders.
We found the Bourke's very easy to
breed, and I would highly recommend
this bird if your're thinking of getting
into breeding small birds for the first
If you are hurting for space, you can
colony breed the Bourke's but we
have found that this does not produce
the best results. They are not aggressive
to their mates, other Bourke's, or
other birds in the cage, but the production
is not what it should be when
you colony breed them. We have,
however, placed a pair of Bourke's in 

a flight with a pair of cockatiels and
both pairs had successful breeding
For one pair of Bourke's, our flights
were 4' by 8' by 8', constructed out of
1x1/2" wire. Several flights stood side
by side, and there was a center aisle
with more flights on the other side.
This safety area is a must so you do
not suffer the loss of a fly away bird.
Plywood covered the top and sides of
each flight, but only one third of the
way from the back forward. The rest
of the flight was open to the elements,
but enclosed with a safety area, so the
birds could enjoy all the seasons and
fresh air.
If at all possible, do not place your
flight on a ditt floor. This goes for all
birds, but the neophemas are prone to
getting worms, and they dearly love to
fly down and check out what interesting
morsels of food lay in the dirt. If
you have dirt floor flights, try putting
wire over them to dissuade the
rodents from entering the flight. The
birds should be wormed once a year,
no matter what type of floor your
flight has.
The nest box was a simple lovebird
box, wooden, about 6-1/2" x 10-1/2"
x 9-1/2", with a little porch on the out-

side so the male could stand watch.
We placed clean pine shavings in the
box. If you choose to tty your hand at
colony breeding, be sure to put one
and a half times as many nest boxes as
you have pairs of birds in the flight.
They like a choice, and this avoids any
squabbling over boxes. For one pair
to a flight, one box is sufficient.