Reischek’s Parakeets

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The Reischek’s Parakeets or Antipodes Red-Fronted Parakeets (Cyanoramphus hochstetteri, previously Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae hochstetteri) was named after Andreas Reischek, who collected specimens of the parrot in 1888 and named this species Platycercus hochstetteri for the son of his friend, German geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter, who made a geological survey of New Zealand.

The Reischek's Parakeet was closely related to the now extinct Macquarie Island Parakeet (Forshaw, 1973; Taylor, 1975).


Description

The Reischek's Parakeet is a small green parrot averaging 30 cm (12 ins) in length (including its tail), and it has a wing length of 130 - 150 mm (5 - 6 ins).

Its plumage is mostly yellowish green. The front, crown and spots on the lower back are orange-red. The outer flight feathers are light blue.

Similar Species: It looks similar to the Red-crowned Parakeet, Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae, but generally has a much more yellowish plumage. The flight-feathers are only faint blue and it's larger.


Distribution / Range

The Reischek's Parakeet lives only on Antipodes Island - one of New Zealand's southern remote, bleak and inhospitable subantarctic islands (62 sq km in size, situated in the South Pacific Ocean, 850 km south-east of New Zealand). It is one of two parrot species found on the islands; the other being the larger Antipodes Island Parakeet (Cyanoramphus unicolor). Interestingly, hybridization between the two island Kakariki has occurred in captivity, but is unknown in the wild.

The island is too southerly and windswept to support trees, and the main vegetation types are tussock grasses, ferns and stunted scrub. Both Parakeet species utilize the vegetation, not only for food requirements, but also as nesting sites and as protection from the prevailing subantarctic weather conditions.

Even though the existing conditions are forcing them into being ground-inhabiting birds, both species are good fliers.


Habits / Personality

Like many species living on remote islands, Reischek's parakeets are fairly approachable and have very little fear of humans. They also possess a strong natural curiosity.

Reischek's parakeets have adapted well to the harsh subantarctic island conditions in a similar way to its co-inhabitant, the Antipodes Island parakeet, and they share the same ground feeding, roosting and nesting habits. These two species are often observed at the same feeding locations. It is rather unusual for two such similar species to co-exist in such small areas.

Reischek's parakeets are usually found in pairs or, more commonly, in small groups foraging on or near the ground. Gatherings of them can often be seen at isolated springs and water holes. Occasionally flocks fly to close neighboring islands to forage.


Reproduction / Breeding

In their natural habitat, the breeding season varies depending on climatic conditions. Breeding could feasibly occur at any time of year, but they usually breed between October and December. They may nest in living and dead trees (if available), but typically nesting occurs under large rocks and thick vegetation - for example, in the form of a tunnel dug into the base of a tussock. The nest is lined with small pieces of wood, feathers, moss, grasses and other dry material. They may reuse nests every year.

The female incubates the eggs alone, usually starting after the second egg has been laid. An egg measures 25.8 x 21.3 mm (1.00 x 0.84 ins). A clutch usually consists of 5 eggs and the incubation period is about 20 days. The young fledge when they are about 5 to 6 weeks old. However, the young are fed for one more week after fledging. The offspring is generally hardy.

Captive birds are typically confiding from the onset and not timid at all; and they are usually very willing to breed in captivity. Even though they are mature when they are about five months old, it's best to not allow them to breed in the first year.

They should be provided an aviary with the following minimum dimensions: 3.5 x 1 x 2 m (10 x 3 x 6 ft). Free flying is possible. They need protection from winter frost.

Breeding activities can occur at any time of the year, but winter breeding is best avoided. A clutch usually consists of 4 to 9 eggs.

Two to three breedings a year are possible - the pairs often start a new clutch before their previous young are independent. While the hen is brooding a new clutch, the male will continue to care for the chicks.

A suitable nest box would be 8 x 8 x 14 inches or 20 x 20 x 35 cm. Colony system with other species possible even when breeding.

They are commonly seen running along the mesh. They tolerate other birds and enjoy being on the ground and scratching the soil, which makes them susceptible to parasites; therefore, regular worming is recommended. They are not known for chewing.

Breeding and Caring for Kakariki Parrots


Vocalizations

Their calls are trisyllabic and shrill. They make soft, chattering sounds when feeding.


Diet / Feeding

Natural Diet: The Reischek’s Parakeet feeds on tussock flowers, buds, shoots, leaves, seeds, fruits, berries, nectar, as well as invertebrates such as fly larvae in the guano of the penguin colonies. They also feed on seaweed and mussels and take up tiny stones. Their diet appears to have a high insect content. They basically share the same feeding habits of the larger Antipodes Island Parakeet, except that the latter supplements its vegetarian diet by scavenging animal remains and eggs of petrels and albatrosses, which breed in large numbers on the islands.

Captive Diet: Provided should be a good quality seed mix of millet, canary grass seed, oats, some sunflower (including sprouted) and hemp. They also need plenty of fruit, vegetables and greenfood; as well as a regular supply of branches with flowers and buds. Vitamins and mineral supplements (as necessary), particularly vitamin C in spring and autumn. Also offer grass turf with insects and small quantities of mealworms and minced or ground meat; softened bread and eggfood during the breeding season and when raising chicks.


Status

Despite its currently healthy population, its very limited distribution on one island makes it vulnerable to extinction due to events such as the accidental introduction of rodents to the island.

It has the same listing as the Antipodes Island parakeet, as 'at risk-naturally uncommon' on the 2008 New Zealand Threat Classification System.


Taxonomy

The Reischek’s or Antipodes Red-Fronted Parakeet was previously considered to be a subspecies of the Red-crowned Parakeet, C. novaezelandiae, which it resembles in appearance. However, this species was later lumped with the extinct Macquarie Island Parakeet (C. novaezelandiae erythrotis) from Macquarie Island in a 2001 paper by Wee Ming Boon and others following an examination of the molecular systematics of the genus which found that many of the Red-crowned Parakeet subspecies should be elevated to full species. However, Boon's research was flawed as the origin of the Macquarie specimen material was the Antipodes Islands. Therefore, the Reischek's parakeet has now been elevated to the full species C. hochstetteri.

Species Names: Scientific: Cyanoramphus (novaezelandiae) hochstetteri ... English: Antipodes Red-fronted Parakeet ... Dutch: Antipodes Roodvoorhoofdkakariki ... German: Antipoden Ziegensittich ... French: Perruche grande d'ile Antipode ... CITES I - Protected Species.

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

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