The Blue-winged Parrot (Neophema chrysostoma) inhabits the whole of Tasmania, the islands of Bass Strait, the whole of Victoria and the South-eastern portion of South Australia. The northern extreme of the range being roughly a line drawn from Gawler in South Australia through Broken Hill in New South Wales to the Victoria-New South Wales border on the east coast.
The Blue-wing is approximately 200 to 225mm in length, which is about average for all the Neophema groups. The upper surface is olive green, the underparts yellow, the wings are blue with black flight feathers, the nose-band is blue.
The Blue-wing is the hardest of all the Neophemas to sex. As with the Elegant (N. elegans) the blue nose-band is the surest method of sexing these birds. It is usually broader and darker on male birds. However, it is possible to get bright females and dull males which look identical. In this case I go by the black of the flight feathers. In the case of the male these are an intense glossy black, while those of the female are a duller grey-black.
The young are a dull version of the hen and take about six to nine months to attain full colour. It is almost impossible to sex immature birds.
Blue-wings nest later in the season than the other Neophemas. They rarely go to nest before mid-November and sometimes as late as mid-December. If a pair double broods the second nest is seldom before late January. As a consequence many young are lost in the nest due to the high temperatures prevailing at this time – December and January temperatures are usually in the 30-35 degree Celsius range.
Clutch sizes vary between four and six eggs, the usual number being four or five, six being very rare. Good birds in top condition usually have 100% fertility. It is uncommon to find an infertile egg, unless the birds have been inbred. The hen sits extremely tightly. It is often hard to get her to leave the nest if you want to inspect the eggs. I have had to lift hens off on many occasions when inspecting the nest. They do not seem to mind this as they return to the nest as soon as the aviary is vacated. The eggs take about twenty days to hatch. The young spend three to four weeks in the log and take another two to three weeks to become independent.
I have found that the Blue-wing is the only Neophema to prefer logs hung at an angle. I give all my parrots a choice of logs when they first go to nest, one at an angle and one vertical. All the other Neophema species invariably choose a vertical log, but I have only had one pair of Blue-wings do so.
As with the other Neophema species the staple diet consists of canary seed, millet (white and Japanese), pannicum, hulled oats and sunflower. They show a preference for the oats and sunflower. This tends to make them fat, but as it does not appear to interfere with their breeding capabilities or affect their life span I give these seeds to them as they want them. They also consume large quantities of seeding grasses in season and much silver beet and milk thistle during the rest of the year. Large amounts of green-feed are consumed when feeding young.
Blue-wings tend to be flighty birds and go into mad panic if frightened. This seems to be a natural quirk of this species, as I have found hand reared young very friendly until released into an aviary, they then quickly become as wild as those raised by the parents.
Except for Elegants, they get on very well with birds in adjoining aviaries. I have housed them with Bourkes (N. bourkii) with quite good results. This is probably because Bourkes go to nest as early as September and the Blue-wings not until two months later, thus there is no competition for logs.
Bathing is a favourite occupation. As soon as I place fresh water in their dishes they are in it. They also like to get under a fine spray from the hose.
I offer my birds the following logs:
Vertical 450 to 500mm in length with a 50mm hole 60mm from the top.
Angular 600 to 700mm in length with a 50mm hole 60mm from the top. Both ends are closed and the log hung at an angle of 25 to 30 degrees from the horizontal.
I use nesting material consisting of 50% peat moss, 25% coarse sawdust (not shavings) and 25% sifted dirt. This is mixed and left to stand for six to twelve months before being compacted into the bottom of the logs.
Reprinted from the January 1979 edition of Bird Keeping in Australia, the official publication of The Avicultural Society of South Australia Inc