Bourke's Parakeet (Parrot): Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Bourke's parakeet sitting on a tree branch.

Greg5030/Wikimedia Commons/CC By 3.0

Bourke's parakeets are an excellent introductory bird for those new to hookbills or parrots; they have a calm demeanor and can entertain themselves. They are quiet birds that are ideal apartment dwellers and are equally suited for individual cages or small aviaries, where they are excellent partners for finches and cockatiels as well as other Bourke's parakeets. Keep gentle Bourke's parakeets away from larger, aggressive birds.

Species Overview

Common Names: Bourke's parrots, Bourke's parakeet, Bourkies, blue-vented parrot, sundown parrot, and pink-bellied parrot

Scientific Name: Neopsephotus bourkii

Adult Size: 7 to 8 inches

Life Expectancy: May live as long as 25 years

Origin and History

Bourke's parakeet is a nomadic species native to Australia. Their habitat spans much of the continent including Queensland; New South Wales; and central, southern, and western Australia. Their principal habitat is the dry plains, but they also live in native cypress and eucalyptus woodlands. Wild birds also live in urban areas. 

These birds are named for Sir Richard Bourke, the governor of Australia's New South Wales territory from 1831 to 1837. It was initially classified as part of the Neophema genus but was assigned to the Neopsephotus genus in the 1990s.

Successful captive breeding programs have made Bourke's parakeets popular pets in homes all over the world. This species is not threatened; wild populations seem to be growing.

Temperament

Known as an adorable, gentle, and good-natured species, Bourke's parakeets make good pets when hand-fed as babies, which allows them to bond with their human caretakers.

These are intelligent birds but are also mellow and quiet, especially compared to other parrot species. They are cuddly and prefer companionship; expect a guest riding on your shoulder often. They also get bouts of energy and enjoy flying around.

Speech and Vocalizations

Peak activity usually occurs just after sunrise and sunset, when they can get a bit noisy, though not annoyingly so. Overall, these are relatively quiet birds when compared to other parrots. Unlike other parrots, Bourke's parakeets do not talk or perform tricks.

Bourke's Parakeet Colors and Markings

While not as vividly colored as other species, Bourke's parakeets are still quite eye-catching. They have a dusty brown tint to their plumage with pink feathers covering their chests and abdomens, and blue tail feathers. The backs of their wings display a darker brownish-gray hue with each feather highlighted by a lighter-colored outline.

The sexes can be distinguished visually—they are sexually dimorphic. The adult male has a blue forehead while the adult female has little or no blue on the forehead. The male also tends to be slightly larger than the female.

Several color mutations are possible with Bourke's parakeets. One of the most popular is the rosy Bourke's parakeet, which is a bright shade of pink.

Caring for Bourke's Parakeets

These birds are enthusiastic flyers, so they are better suited for roomy aviaries rather than cages. A suitable aviary is at least 6 feet in length with several tree branches for the birds to climb.

If an aviary is not a practical possibility, choose the largest cage possible, with dimensions that are wider than they are tall, as these birds enjoy horizontal flight. A cage should be at least three feet long, 1 1/2 feet wide, and 1 1/2 feet tall. This bird is best suited caged with another Bourke's parakeet; although they can live well on their own. If kept single, interact with it daily to curb loneliness. Swings are an excellent addition to an aviary or cage.

Bourke's parakeets are enthusiastic bathers, so make sure to keep bathing pools inside the cage or aviary. Make sure the bathing water is fresh and clean. You can also spray the bird with lukewarm water for an enjoyable activity for the bird.

Parakeets are incredibly social birds, and Bourke's parakeet is no exception. Although less demanding than some other species, your bird needs at least two hours of interaction and training each day.

Common Health Problems

Like other parrot species, Bourke's parakeet can be prone to psittacosis, which can be spread between birds and humans. This bacterial disease causes respiratory problems; it is treatable with antibiotics. A number of viruses can also strike parakeets, that can cause feather problems, diarrhea, and pneumonia.

Parakeets are also prone to sinus congestion caused by the Aspergillus fungus; proper nutrition and hygiene will prevent this problem.

Several parasites can affect parakeets. Intestinal parasites may cause a bird to lose weight and become depressed, while external mites and lice will cause the bird to scratch and lose feathers.

Diet and Nutrition

Bourke's parakeets are grass parakeets, which means that they forage for food among the fields and plains. Wild Bourke's parakeets consume a diet based mainly on seed, grasses, and different plant matter, supplemented with fruits, berries, insects, and other types of food when available.

A Bourke's parakeet in captivity needs a balanced meal daily. This bird will eat up to a tablespoon of small parrot seed mix meant for budgies and birds of similar size and a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Exercise

Bourke's parakeets are less active than most other parakeets but still need between 2 to 3 hours outside of the cage daily in a supervised play area. These birds like long horizontal flights, so provide a safe flying environment—free of other animals, ceiling fans, and open doors or windows.

Your Bourke's parakeet will enjoy plenty of toys. Offer commercial plastic toys with bells and bright colors and everyday household items to gnaw on, such as cardboard egg cartons.

Pros
  • Calm, gentle, even-tempered

  • Quiet, good species for owners with close neighbors

  • Can live with a few other bird species

Cons
  • Does not talk or perform tricks

  • Requires at 2 to 3 hours of exercise, mental stimulation, or a larger cage for horizontal flying needs

Where to Adopt or Buy a Bourke's Parakeet

You cannot usually find Bourke's parakeets in pet stores; more often, you'll need to seek out a breeder. These birds are not given up by their owners as often as other, more difficult pet birds. But, still, reach out to rescue organizations and animal shelters to see if there are birds available for adoption.

Breeders sell Bourke's parakeets in the range of $100 to $300. Rescues, adoption organizations, and breeders where you can find Bourke's parakeets include:

Make sure that the bird you want to take home is alert, active, and exhibits all the signs of a healthy bird, such as bright eyes, clean feathers, and a full crop.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you're interested in similar species, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other small bird species profiles.