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How to Train a Bourke's Parakeet

By Karen Lawson | Updated September 26, 2017


Items you will need

  • A Bourke's parakeet, preferably young.

  • Your bird's favorite treat (try millet spray)

  • Consistent training techniques, applied daily

Bourke's parakeet (neophema bourkii) is a small grass parakeet originally from Australia. Not to be confused with the popular budgerigar, commonly called a parakeet or budgie in the United States, a Bourke's parakeet is a smaller bird with a more reserved nature. Typically kept in groups as aviary birds, training experiences can vary according to the age and temperament of your bird.

The Bourke's is about 6 inches long including its tail. Its colors (as shown in the photo) are a combination of muted brown, gray, pink, white with accents of violet blue. The bird's large dark eyes give it a gentle appearance, and it's quiet twittering sounds won't disturb the most sensitive of ears. Bred in captivity for many years, the Bourke's parakeet is also available in a pink mutation known as the Rosey Bourke's.

Typically sold and kept as aviary birds, the Bourke's is not usually kept caged as a pet, but young Bourke's parakeets can be hand-fed and will readily attach to their human "parent." If you're lucky enough to find a hand-fed baby Bourke's, you won't need to do much training as the bird will want to be near you (or perched on you) given the opportunity.

If you want to tame a Bourke's parakeet, here are some tips for training your pet to step up on your finger.

After allowing your Bourke's parakeet a day or two to get settled in its new home, you can begin taming the bird by speaking gently to it several times a day. Move slowly and quietly around your bird, so it won't startle. You want to gain your bird's confidence. Watch your bird's body language; if it comes close to you, that's a great start, but it may retreat to a corner of the cage. Another sign of fright is a horizontal posture that indicates that your Bourke's is ready to launch into flight. If your bird flutters around in the cage, step back as the bird can injure itself as it thrashes around. This may occur if the bird was raised in a large aviary and is not used to living in a smaller cage..

Discover your bird's favorite treat. Bourke's are from a family of birds that enjoy grass seed, and spray millet seed sold in pet stores (birdseed on the stem) is often a great favorite. Hold some millet in your open palm as you open the cage and gently insert your hand. Hold your hand open with the treat, and don't attempt to touch the bird or move your hand toward it. It may take a few days of this before your bird gets used to your hand. It's unlikely that your bird will alight on your hand and take the treat; your goal is for your bird to get used to your hand and understand that you won't harm it. When you can consistently place your hand in the cage with the bird staying calm, it's time to move to the next step.

Now that your Bourke's parakeet has gained your trust (and recognizes you as the bearer of treats), it's time to gently approach the bird while it's in its cage. Hold your index finger out horizontally and slowly approach your bird. It will probably look at your finger, move its head in either direction looking for an escape. If the bird flees from your hand, don't try to approach it. Just keep your hand steady within the cage, and talk gently to your bird. Once it settles down, try again. You may offer a treat to remind the bird that your hand is a good thing. Your goal is to gently press your index finger against your bird's chest just above its feet. As you do this, say (in a cheerful, high-pitched tone) "Step up." The bird will either back away or step up. If it steps up, praise it and keep still for a moment. If the bird jumps off of your finger, give it a moment and repeat the process. Eventually, the bird will step up when you present your index finger as a perch.

Once your bird readily steps up on your finger within its cage, it's time to take it out of the cage on your finger. (Read the safety tips before attempting to remove your bird from its cage.) It's best to start out in a small room with few or no windows. bathrooms are ideal, but make sure that the lid on the commode is closed Ask your bird to "step up," and when it does, gently remove your bird from the cage. If it takes off, go to where it lands and ask it to step up. If it does, you can congratulate yourself on having hand-tamed a Bourke's parakeet. If the bird flees in fright or confusion, you may need to lower the lights and gently retrieve the bird, holding it so that it can't bolt in the dark. Speak gently to your bird as you retrieve it. This process can take time, but eventually, your bird should learn to "step up" and stay on your finger.

Photo Credits

  • www.hscbemidji.org/images/australian_bourke.jpg