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We are grateful to the authors who kindly accept to contribute to this section.
As our first guest, we were particularly honoured to welcome Mr. Bob Nelson in February 2002. He is one of the most experienced and welknown American breeders of hookbills.
Originally published in the 2000 Convention Proceedings of the American Federation of Aviculture
With kind permission to reproduce given by the author.
Of the various smaller parrots and parakeets that I've been privileged to keep and breed over the last 56 years, the charming little Barred, or as it is more commonly referred to in the U.S, the Lineolated Parakeet has become one of my favorites. The name Barred Parakeet was apparently given due to the fact that there is a distinct black barring on the feathers of all colors except the lutino and cream albino mutations.
My first experience with the species was in 1957, when I was able to purchase 4 birds from a dealer in South California. I was told at the time that they had been captive bred. I later learned that these were probably contraband birds, and were almost certainly l. lineola from Mexico. These 4 birds eventually died, without reproducing.
I did not personally encounter the species again until 1992, when I was able to acquire some domestic-bred stock from Europe, through a broker in California, of the l. tigrinus subspecies. These birds have proven quite easy to breed, and have been very prolific. The have the wonderful characteristics of being both quiet and steady pets, while readily learning to mimic human speech, and whistle tunes. We have had several start to whistle tunes before they were completely weaned from hand-feeding!
Even though some people believe this species to be visually dimorphic, in that there is supposed to be more black present in the central tail feathers of the male bird, I have not found this method of sexing to be always reliable. When I first started working with this species, I "lost" an entire season with 2 pairs, due to improper pairing by the visual guidelines given. I now always DNA sex them to be certain. I would certainly recommend that others do the same. With the modern technology available to us today, there is no longer any reason, or excuse, to guess about the sex of any bird!
The Lineolated is a very peaceful bird, both with its own kind and other non-aggressive species. I have been told that in European aviaries, it is not uncommon to view them in a mixed environment containing finches, canaries, and neophema grass parakeets.
A Lineolated playing with a baby Amazon
Photos copyright Bob Nelson
Although I have never personally tried it, I know of at least one Aviculturist here in the U.S. that has had good results breeding the Lineolated In a colony setting. As with other species, it would be advisable to supply at least 3 boxes for every 2 pairs of birds, when breeding in a colony. These little birds do not seem particularly "fussy" about their nest boxes, and I know of people who breed them in standard Budgie nests. Since I have been fortunate enough to see pictures of European breeding facilities, we have chosen the horizontal style nest box that is sometimes used for Budgies, but is more often favored by many breeders of Parrotlets. This is the style that seems to be preferred by the more successful breeders in Europe.
For breeding cages, we have found 14"X14"X36" long to be quite ample and comfortable for this species. The nest is positioned at one end, on the outside of the cage, to facilitate easy inspection. As is the custom with us, for all species bred in cages, the birds are separated by sex and allowed to live and exercise in larger flights during the "off" season.
Even though we have never experienced problems with this species accepting mates that are chosen for them, it seems reasonable to assume that breeding results could be further enhanced by allowing them to choose their own partners. This, of course, is often not possible when working with color mutations, and smaller groups of birds. There are, many times, simply not enough unrelated birds available to a smaller breeder to make natural selection a viable option. I do firmly believe, however, that with any species natural selection, if it can be allowed, will result in increased positive breeding results.
This species has the fascinating habit, when nesting, of using coconut or palm fiber to make their nests more private, and presumably more comfortable to occupy. They seem to like a very thin layer of pine shavings in the bottom of the box for starters. Since the boxes already have a concave in the bottom, I only add about ½" of shavings. I have had people tell me that they have problems with their birds burying eggs. We have never experienced this problem. I can only guess that they are putting too many shavings in the box. Also, it is possible that they are simply disturbing the birds too much! If they are given additional materials, in the form of coconut or palm fibers to work with, they will create a dome of sorts over the actual nest cavity where the eggs are deposited. Some pairs save enough to place in front of the entrance when they are inside, rather like closing the door behind them! I feel that this habit further demonstrates their need and desire for privacy, and reinforces my theory that nest inspections should be kept to a minimum.
With regards to nest inspection, the protocol we observe with the Lineolateds is the same as with all species. Nests are checked once each week, usually on the same day, until the first egg or eggs are observed. The records are then noted, and further inspection is delayed until after the eggs should have started hatching. I believe the incubation period to be 18 to 21 days, depending on how soon incubation actually starts after the first egg is produced. Some hens seem to "set tight" immediately, while others will wait until 2 or 3 eggs are in the nest. Over the years, I have found these variables to be true with several species. It is a bit difficult to be precise, since I do not believe these birds should be disturbed daily for unnecessary nest inspections.
Thanks to the skillful handling of these little charmers in European breeding programs, there are now several lovely color mutations available.
Currently, we are working with lutino, cream albino, cobalt, sky blue, mauve or slate, and cinnamon.
Dark green and green Lineolated parakeets
Green and cinnamon young Lineolated parakeets
Blue and cobalt Lineolated parakeets
Photos copyright Bob Nelson
I have seen photos of some very nice pied birds in the past, but have been informed that this may be due to age and dietary inconsistencies, and are not to be considered true mutations at this point in time. The pictures I've seen were all of green pied birds. I can only imagine how lovely a nice blue, or mauve pied might be! In this species, as with most species, the lutino and cream albino mutations are sex-linked, and the blues are recessive. The mauve or slate is dominant.
Since they are comparable in size to Lovebirds, the Lineolateds are perfect candidates for pets in a small home or apartment. They are absolutely ideal for that situation where space is restricted, and excess noise is a problem. They are in fact, in my opinion, much more desirable for a pet than a Lovebird. It can honestly be said that they have even more attributes, and virtually none of the drawbacks of the Lovebird family. They have soft voices, which they readily use to mimic human speech and whistle. It has also been our experience that they have far fewer tendencies to nip or bite than the average Lovebird, upon reaching the age of sexual maturity. WE HAVE FOUND THEM TO BE CONSISTENTLY CHARMING AND AFFECTIONATE PETS! When removed from the parents for hand feeding at 2-3 weeks of age, they grow into enchanting pets that seem never to be offensively noisy and loud. They learn to "speak" readily, with incredible clarity, and learn to whistle tunes with very little coaching! One little girl I've kept as a personal pet, mimics the beeping of the microwave so convincingly I've often asked my assistant what is in the oven?!
These wonderful little birds are relatively easy to care for with regards to diet. Since I am a firm and passionate believer in a varied diet for all birds, I perhaps make it a bit more difficult than is actually necessary! The "Linnies" in our aviaries are provided with a good small seed mix of canary, millet, niger, buckwheat, hemp and paddy rice. To this seed mix is added a small pelleted food, making the total seed content of the mix about 60% and pellets or crumbles about 40%. We use pellets or crumbles that are of the size intended for consumption by Cockatiels and smaller hookbills. There are many brands to choose from that I have found to be quite similar in nutritional content. Cuttlebone and a good mineralized grit mixture containing oyster shells is always provided.
A germinated mix, consisting of black oil sunflower, safflower, red wheat, whole oats, (NOT GROATS) paddy rice, sometimes simply called un-hulled rice, and buckwheat is also given daily. Chopped apples and thawed frozen peas are added to the germinated mix each day, and broccoli florets seem to also be appreciated in small quantities. We adjust the portions of each food offered according to the variable demands of each pair of breeding birds. When a pair of birds of any species is feeding young, we observe closely to determine their dietary preferences, and feed each pair accordingly. Upon close observation, it will usually be obvious that their preferences change as the youngsters grow and progress. During the breeding season, the germinated portions are increased, and the dry portions are reduced.
As per information obtained from European breeders, a good egg food mix is given daily during the breeding season. I also like to provide a small dish of Petamine in each breeding cage. The egg food recommended by the European breeders is CeDe, with fresh hard-boiled egg added and mixed well. To this mix grated carrots are also added daily when young are being fed. It will be found that some pairs will also consume extra peas when feeding a nest of hungry offspring.
It is my sincere hope that these above guidelines will aid you in the enjoyment and captive management of one of nature's most charming and delightful creatures!
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