Biology and breeding of the Mountain Parakeet

January 25th, 2016 | by Daniel Nuijten
Biology and breeding of the Mountain Parakeet

I would like to discuss a small green parakeet that I have been keeping in my collection since the 90s and which seems to have changed from a bird with a manual to a quite easy aviary bird which can be considered fully establish in European aviculture. Unfortunately, it is not that common in other continents but hopefully it will catch on there as well. It is Psilopsiagon aurifrons also known as the Mountain Parakeet.

It is around 18 cm big and lives on the slopes of the Andes in South America. We recognize four subspecies and two of them are present in European aviculture. Psilopsiagon aurifrons margaratiae has been present in Europe in small numbers but the last animals died in Netherlands a couple of years ago. Psilopsiagon aurifrons robertsi has been most likely never imported.



Its range is relatively small and the birds are complicated to spot there. So complicated that there are no pictures of the species in the wild. There are even no pictures of the species in captivity and at this moment we certainly know that pictures that were supposed to be picture the species, actually picture Psilopsiagon aurifrons aurifrons.

This subspecies shows intensive coloration variability in the wild with some birds in the north of range with limited yellow. After studying the holotype I have to conclude that P. a. robertsi has even less yellow and that kind of birds are not present in Europe. So breeders who claim to breed that subspecies unfortunately misidentified their birds.

The other two subspecies are well established and their populations can be considered stable. Psilopsiagon aurifrons aurifrons is very common, widespread and being bred well. Psilopsiagon aurifrons rubrirostris is uncommon but luckily several breeders in Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Denmark breed with them every year. Males of this subspecies misses the typical yellow coloration of the nominate form, but have a magnificent blue shine on their belly. In breeding and behaviour both forms do not seem to differ.



(c) TJ Lin. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


Birds usually breed after 12 months and the female lays 3 to 5 eggs which hatch after 28 days. I ring the chicks around the 10th day and the young fledge after six weeks. When they fledge you need to pay attention as the male may become aggressive to the male offspring. Especially, if a cage is small you need to keep an eye for this. I use common horizontal lovebird nest boxes although some of my pairs prefer the nest box to be divided into 2 chambers.

When I started with the species in the 90s the nest box was quite a delicate affair. I used specially crafted ones that had three chambers and females were very easily disturbed. With my current pairs it is a lot easier and some of my pairs breed even in a single chamber nest box. Also nest inspection is not a problem at all.

Another big difference is that when I wanted to start with the species the literature always mentioned how sensitive the species was and how many of the imported birds die. Some breeders blamed air-pressure, others the wet climate in Europe, but we actually were not sure about the exact cause.


Psilopsiagon aurifrons-Mountain-Parakeet-Argentina

The wild Mountain Parakeet (c) Ron Knight.This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


When I got the new birds I had to monitor them very closely especially on wet days and I kept them in a heated room. At this moment, I keep the birds outside without any heating and wet weather is not an issue any more. This is a big difference.

It is a lovely species to work with. Not shy and interesting to see. I would not recommend to keep the species in colony as males may be aggressive to each other. Also the diet is not an issue I feed my birds with Neophema seed mixture, regular egg food and fruit and veggies. During the breeding season I give them live food twice a week.

Hopefully we will see Psilopsiagon aurifrons rubrirostris spread further in aviculture and see the nominate species get more common in other comments.


author: Daniel Nuijten

Title photo: (c)Juan A. Malo de Molina. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.



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