Like the great actrors of the ’40s and ’50s, the lovely baraband parakeet (Polytelis swainsonii) is neither gaudy nor pretentious. Possessing the elegance of Grace Kelly, the charm of Cary Grant and the dignity of Ingrid Bergman, the baraband richly deserves the moniker it’s known by in the bird’s native country of Australia – the superb parakeet.
The baraband’s elegant demeanor is heightened by its slender shape and long tapering tail, which is predominately a soft shade of bright green. Males of the species have a rich shade of yellow on the forehead and crown. That shade is repeated in a large area covering the cheeks and throat. A flaring broad crescent of light, bright red frames the lower boundaries of yellow on the throat, while the beak is a slightly duller shade of red.
Female and immature birds lack the yellow and red markings of the mature male. Females are less numerous than males and are often difficult to identify because
of their resemblance to the young male – many breeders have found that, just as they begin to dream of nesting successes, their “females” suddenly mature into males. This color change typically takes place between 12 and 18 months of age. Breeders should purchase females that are approximately 2 years old to be certain of their sex.
In its native Australia, the baraband is indigenous to the interior of New South Wales in the range of the River Murrumbidgee, and in northern Victoria. They are usually found along the narrow wooded strips alongside the river and rarely stray far from the water. Thanks to artificial irrigation in the regions’ grain-farming areas, however, the habitat of the baraband has spread during the last few decades. That range of distribution is still quite small, but where they do occur the baraband is very common – flocks of up to 50 birds have been observed.
During breeding season, which occurs from December to September in the wild, the birds are typically observed in groups of eight to 10. Nests are located inside high, hollow branches, well outside the range of land-bound predators. Males often leave the flock in smaller groups during breeding season to provide their females with food.
That food consists of various seeds – including grasses, alfalfa, nettles, thistles, shepherd’s purse and cranesbill – as well as grain stolen from area farms. Berries and flower nectar round out the diet of the bird in the wild.
In captivity, the baraband parakeet requires a diet of seed mixes fortified with vitamins and minerals suitable for small hookbills or cockatiels and/or a suitable pelleted or extruded diet. Fresh fruit, dark-green leafy vegetables, spray millet and corn (especially when feeding young) are also suitable foods for pet barabands. The bird should also be provided with fresh cuttlebone and fresh water.
Those wishing to breed the baraband parakeet in captivity should house pairs separately in long, spacious aviaries so they don’t become overly fat. Although sexual maturity is already attained at the age of 1, the birds do not normally start breeding until they are 2 to 3 years old. For a successful breeding process, maintain slight humidity in the nesting area. The female typically produces four to six eggs, with an incubation period of approximately 20 days and a nestling period of 30 days.
An eye should be kept on the male once the chicks fledge, to be certain he does not become prematurely aggressive and harm the young in his desire to start a new nest.