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Ruppell’s Parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii)

By Dries Louw

The Rüppell’s Parrot is endemic to northern-western Namibia and south-western Angola. It is usually found in dry woodland where it utilizes the tall trees along the dry river-beds. It is apparently dependent on large trees such as baobabs etc. in its distribution area where it occurs in small flocks. Because of the arid nature of the small area of distribution the species id locally distributed and will therefore be vulnerable to trapping and predation.

These birds although mainly a grey- brown colour are not unattractive. They are sexually dimorphic, with the cock being almost entirely grey-brown with the exception of the shoulder patches and the under wing-coverts, which are a bright yellow. The thighs are also yellow, sometimes a more orange-yellow. The hen is more colourful than the cock in that her lower back, rump, lower belly and vent are blue. The thighs, under wing- coverts and shoulders are yellow as in the cock birds.

In South Africa there do not seem to be a lot of these birds in captivity at present and yet a number of people have bred them successfully. As these birds are not found anywhere in South Africa in the wild, we do not have to have a permit to keep them. This means that there should also be an opportunity to export them should there be a surplus, but the fact that they are not brightly coloured may be a negative for the overseas breeders. The exporters are probably in a better position to evaluate the potential market. Whatever the reason the demand and consequently the price for these birds has fallen considerably and many of the former breeders no longer keep them.

Ruppells Parrot

One very successful breeder in South Africa is Dries Louw. The Rüppell’s has been one of Dries’ favourite birds for many years. Along with the breeding of Meyer’s Parrots and Brown-headed Parrot, these parrots provided him with a great deal of enjoyment over the years. For many years Dries maintained three breeding pairs. These pairs bred regularly for him with the pairs rearing three or four babies per year each. On one occasion one pair reared five babies. Dries feels that perches consisting of one straight stick across the back of the aviary and another across the front of the aviary, are not correct for parrots, especially the smaller Poicephalus species. Dries uses a twisted hardwood branches with side branches like fingers on a hand. These he attaches to sides of the flight at front and back in place it the traditional straight perches. The varying thickness of the branches he feels gives better exercise to the parrots’ feet and it give the parrots a chance to move about on the branches.

Dries feeds his Rüppell’s the basic softfood that he feeds all his parrots. This consists of a cooked mixture of maize and various peas to which is added some Avi-Plus parrot/parakeet supplement and diced vegetables. His birds also get sprouted seeds and he finds that his Rüppell’s preferred sprouted sunflower seed to dry sunflower seed. From time to times he gives his birds “treats” which consist of a food item that they do not get every day, such as peanuts, or some other food item that he has found that they enjoy – like other greens.

When it comes to nest boxes, Dries developed his boxes for his African parrots. Whereas most nestboxes have an entrance hole in the middle of the facing side with a ladder, usually of wire, directly below it, Dries made his entrance hole to the one side, as we see in the photos. The wire ladder instead of being placed below the opening was placed against the adjoining side. This meant that the bird could reach in and grasp the ladder with its beak, swing its body in and descend backwards down the ladder into the nest. He found that his birds always nested in the side of the nest furthest from the entrance hole, so by having the hole to the side the eggs and babies where never directly below the ladder where they could get broken or injured by parent birds entering the nest. The inspection door can be on the front or the side as long as it is convenient to clean the nest and replace nesting material. Dries first puts a layer of damp shavings in the nest and presses them down firmly. On top of this he places a layer of dry shavings so that the total depth is about 10cm.

Another successful breeder of Rüppell’s Parrots is Louis Bothma. Over the years he has kept and bred many Rüppell’s and found them easy to keep and to breed. The parents reared the young successfully on Louis’ standard parrot softfood which consists of cooked mix of maize, assorted peas, some barley and/or wheat. To this is added Avi-Plus Parrot/Parakeet or Avi-Plus Breeder Boost 2000. Chopped vegetables are then added to the mix. When babies hatch a separated hopper of Avi-Plus Breeder pellets are provided for the parents to use ad lib.

Louis has also experienced a drop in demand for these birds to the extent that he no longer breeds them. This applies to Meyer’s and Brown-headed parrots as well. With the latter two species permits are also required as they are indigenous species. This further complicates breeding these birds.

What is the future of these birds in our aviaries? This is hard to predict. So much depends on the demand for babies or young pairs. Without being able to sell progeny, breeders will be reluctant to keep them.

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