The Derbyan parakeet, also known as Lord Derby’s parakeet, is a unique and beautiful species of parrot native to the hilly and mountainous terrains of India and Tibet, as well as the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces of China. They’re smart, social, and affectionate birds that can make great pets, though they get bored easily and require a good deal of stimulation, attention, and plenty of toys!
COMMON NAMES: Derbyan parakeet, Lord Derby’s parakeet
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Psittacula derbiana
ADULT SIZE: A medium-sized parrot approximately 18 to 19.6 inches in length and 11 ounces in weight
LIFE EXPECTANCY: Up to 30 years
Origin and History
The Derbyan parakeet hails from the mountains of north-eastern India, south-eastern Tibet, and southern China, where they make their home in the Himalayan sub-alpine conifer forests native to those areas.
Despite the relatively remote nature of their habitat, Derbyan parakeets are unfortunately a threatened breed. This is due to high rates of deforestation, as well as an illegal poaching trade largely spurred on by wealthy bird owners in China, where Derbyan parakeets are considered to be a highly prized pet. While there are ongoing efforts to repopulate them in both the wild and in captivity, the species remains at risk.
Derbyan parakeets travel in flocks of about 40 to 60 birds, pairing off for the breeding season (April into June) and raising their chicks in tree hollows until they’re ready to leave the nest—a period of about eight to nine weeks following the chicks’ incubation period.
Among their parrot peers, the Derbyan parakeet is known for being a highly intelligent and social bird, with a curious personality that can make them fun to train and engage with. These birds often become quite fond of their humans over time, showing outward affection—and even a willingness to cuddle—to those who they feel closest to.
Due to their smarts, Derbyan parakeets require a lot of stimulation and are prone to displaying signs of boredom that may include unwanted chewing. For this reason, they need a good deal of toys and other engaging objects, as well as lots of interaction with their people.
Speech and Vocalizations
Many Derbyan parakeets love to talk and can get quite noisy, though it’s not a mainstay of the species and some will prefer to live their lives quietly. When well trained, Derbyan parakeets can go from babbling to competent speech, and are even known to form full and complete sentences.
Derbyan Parakeet Colors and Markings
Derbyan parakeets are sexually dimorphic, meaning the two sexes vary in certain colors and markings in addition to sex-specific organs—though there are some similarities.
The species presents with legs, wings, and neck that are mostly green, with an almost iridescent purplish-blue making up the color of their head, chest, and belly. Both females and males exhibit black facial stripes, one wrapping around their forehead and another around their chin and neck.
A major physical difference between female and male Derbyan parakeets is their beaks, with females presenting with an all-black beak and males with an orangey-red beak.
Caring for the Derbyan Parakeet
Because they’re used to roaming free in the mountains, Derbyan parakeets are happiest when they have plenty of room to move around. A large and well-lit cage is a requirement, with lots of time outside of the cage to explore (though it’s advised to stick close, since they do have a tendency to get into trouble if left alone).
Caring for a Derbyan parakeet requires providing plenty of one-on-one attention. Most enjoy learning new words and phrases from their humans, as well as engaging with toys and simply hanging out and watching TV on your shoulder.
Occasional baths are recommended, and food and water bowls should be cleaned daily. Derbyan parakeets are pretty adaptable, but do try to stay consistent in terms of activity, socialization, and daily care.
Common Health Problems
The Derbyan parakeet is known to be a generally healthy bird, so long as their needs are being met in terms of space, diet, and socialization. As with any pet bird, they should not be neglected or left alone for too long, and you should keep an eye out for signs of distress or depression, such as lethargy, apathy, or skin troubles.
Diet and Nutrition
Seeds and pellets are a staple of the Derbyan parakeet’s diet, but they also have a taste for variety and enjoy a wide range of fruits, veggies, and legumes. Be sure to provide a balanced diet, and mix it up with treats like berry and broccoli skewers or fresh tropical fruits.
As with all birds, provide fresh water daily in addition to a healthy diet, and avoid foods like avocado and chocolate, which are toxic to birds.
Both mental and physical stimulation are key to a happy and healthy Derbyan parakeet. This active bird needs room to play, plus time out of the cage to exercise and explore.
Because this species likes to chew, provide safe accessories like cuttlebones for them to do so (and to keep them from chewing on things they’re not supposed to). This should be in addition to toys and perches, which you’ll want to clean regularly.
Social and friendly
Can get noisy, so not always suitable for apartment living
Will get despondent if not provided with ample socialization
Where to Adopt or Buy a Derbyan Parakeet
It can be difficult to find a Derbyan parakeet in the United States, but if you’ve got your heart set on one then it's worth keeping an eye on parrot rescue groups and rehoming societies. Expect to spend a few hundred dollars, and keep in mind that you may have to travel to pick up your bird and bring him or her home.
More Bird Species and Further Research
If you’re interested in similar species, check out:
Otherwise, check out all of our other small parrot species profiles.