Indian ringnecks are some of the most widely-distributed parrots found anywhere on earth. Their natural habitat stretches from arid western Africa right through to the humid monsoon forests of India. As you might expect, the Indian Ringneck is an astonishingly adaptable bird, capable of surviving in all manner of habitats.
It should be little wonder that the Indian Ringneck has subsequently become an alien resident in many other parts of the world thanks to the pet trade and the natural ability of escapees to thrive under almost any circumstances. The RSPB, for example, claim there are over 8,000 pairs living and breeding in the United Kingdom, where dozens of birds roost in groups around London and outlying counties.
This same adaptability, and the intelligence that leads to it, can make the Indian Ringneck parakeet a fascinating pet for owners of all ages.
Indian Ringnecks as Pets
The Indian Ringneck parakeet – Latin name Psittacula krameria – is a moderately large bird. Slightly larger than a cockatiel, but lacking the characteristic crest, the ringneck parakeet is characterised by a sleek, aero-dynamic body measuring some 30cm or so in length. The common name comes from the coloured ring which extends around the neck of adult male birds. In females, and juveniles of both sexes, this may be more muted or absent entirely.
Whilst most wild ringnecks – including escapees – tend to be a rich forest green is colour, other colour forms are recognised. Possibly the two most popular colour morphs are the “lutino”, a stunning yellow bird, and a blue version. The care of all colour forms is identical.
As anyone who has observed Indian Ringnecks in the wild will attest, these are highly sociable birds. Despite their propensity for company they can also be noisy and argumentative, constantly squabbling and squawking at one another. This same behaviour has the potential to make them challenging pets for those living in quiet residential areas.
Try watching ringnecks and you’ll also find that they rarely sit still for more than a few moments at a time; they’re always on the go, flying around, nibbling on twigs and searching for food. While this activity level can make them great birds to watch, as pets this means that you’re going to need a very large cage – if not an aviary. Aim to offer as much space as you possibly can if they are to remain happy in captivity.
Over the years Indian Ringnecks have developed something of a “reputation” among many bird owners, who find them rather temperamental. It seems that this may well be a result of their exceptional intelligence. As Ringneck Parakeets are such smart birds, they quickly get bored in captive surroundings. This can then bubble over into destructive tendencies or minor aggression toward their owner.
Keeping your Indian Ringneck entertained should therefore be seen as a critical part of a happy and healthy home life. There are a number of ways to achieve this. Firstly, as sociable birds it is generally kindest to keep at least two together, for continual company.
Secondly, a wide range of toys can be purchased to exercise your Ringneck’s brain. Experts now recommend buying more than you need – and slowly rotating them in and out of use over time. In this way, with toys being changed each week, you will keep your pet’s mind active over the long term.
Lastly, interaction with your bird should never be underestimated. Your pets should be allowed out of their cage each evening to explore and spend quality time with you. Following such guidelines most owners find that their birds calm down noticeably and can quickly build a strong bond with each other and their owner.
This is just as well, as Indian Ringnecks can live to be 25-30 years of age in captivity.
Note that Indian Ringnecks can be surprisingly adept at learning to talk. Many will teach themselves with no encouragement from their owners, so be careful what they repeatedly overhear!
Cages for Ringneck Parakeets
Ringneck parakeets should be kept in the largest cage that you can accommodate. At a bare minimum a large cockatiel cage should be considered. Better yet, long cages measuring some four to six feet in length are recommended, with perches placed at either end. In such a cage your Ringneck will be able to exercise their powers of flight, as well as climbing and crawling around their cage.
Note that like all caged birds, ringnecks can be messy feeders. It is not unusual to find a cage surrounded by bird sand, grit, feathers and shucked food. Owners should be ready to either vacuum around their pets cage on a regular basis, or to place the cage where minimal damage will be done.
While Ringneck Parakeets can survive a cold British winter snuggled up with friends, particularly damp, cold or windy weather is best avoided. When deciding where to place your cage try placing it away from potential sources of drafts – such as external doors or windows. Also avoid the risk of overheating, by ensuring that direct sunlight in the summer months cannot cook your bird alive.
If you have the budget to house your parakeets in an aviary then all the better. The extra space and environmental enrichment that these surroundings offer are greatly appreciated. All the same, ensure that your parakeet has someone dry and secure to hide away from the worst of the weather. A weather-proofed roosting area tends to work well.
Indian Ringneck Food
Ringnecks will eat a surprisingly wide range of foods if offered. The best “base” to your pets diet is a good quality complete parakeet food. Typically comprised of suitably-sized seeds, combined with dried fruit pieces, these diets are cheap and easy to provide. Your bird should have access to food at all times, so providing a basic seed mix in a food bowl is a good way to achieve this.
Most owners opt to supplement this basic seed-based diet with a range of other foods for interest. Larger nuts – such as monkey nuts – can be offered. So too can a wide range of human-safe fruits and vegetables, from pieces of apple to slices of carrot. Avoid feeding onion, rhubarb or potatoes, all of which can be toxic to animals.
For added environmental enrichment consider “hiding” these treats around the cage or aviary, hanging them from the ceiling and so on. Your pet will then be encouraged to use their brain in order to decide how best to reach their tidbit.
Indian Ringnecks are rather misunderstood birds in many ways. Any negative press directed at them is really just an extension of their intelligence, and ability to cope under a wide variety of conditions. With patience, and the right level of care, Indian ringneck parakeets can become long-lived, confiding and highly entertaining pets for all the family.
Just be sure to do your research thoroughly before bringing home your new parakeets as they represent a long-term commitment.