Plum-headed parakeet - Psittacula cyanocephala

Origins: India and Sri Lanka.

Length: 33cm (13in).

Similar species: The blossom-head parakeet (P. rosa) is almost identical to the plum-head, but in this case, hens have maroon patches on their wings, while cock blossom-heads have a yellow rather than white tip to their long tail feathers.

Purchasing: Quite readily available, although mature sexed pairs command a premium, as do odd hens. There always seem to be more cock birds available.

Appearance: Only adult cocks have the characteristic plum-coloured head feathering, with those of hens being greyish. The head coloration of both sexes is green, up until about five months of age, when they moult out for the first time to resemble adult hens. Odd plum feathers may then be evident on close inspection in the case of young cocks, although they will not acquire full adult plumage until they are over two years old. However, DNA sexing now means that cocks and hens can be separated with certainty as soon as they fledge.

Destructive capabilities: Far less than most parrots. Will rarely inflict serious damage on aviary woodwork.

Suitability: Not highly regarded as a pet bird, but ideal for a garden aviary.

Care: Plumheads are not aggressive by nature and can be housed in a mixed collection with other birds of similar temperament if required, although breeding results are often better if pairs are kept on their own. Provide a mixture of millets and canary seed combined with some sunflower, along with a suitable supplement, or offer a complete diet.  Fruit, especially sweet apple will be eaten readily, as will greenfood. A flight of at least 2.75m (9ft) is to be recommended for a pair.

Breeding: Site nest box in a sheltered locality in the aviary. The chicks will not be brooded at night from about the age of 10 days old, and so are at risk of being fatally chilled until they are fully feathered if the weather turns cold. Even if the first round of eggs fails to hatch, or the chicks die at an early stage, the hen is unlikely to breed again until the following year.

Breeding data: 4-6 eggs. Incubation lasts 23 days. Young fledge from about 6 weeks onwards.

Colour variants: Pieds often reported, but in some cases, these odd yellow patches may disappear during a moult.  A lutino mutation and dilutes also known, along with occasional blues, while a UK breeder is currently attempting to develop a red strain.    

Health concerns: Susceptible to frost bite, so must not be allowed to roost in the open on cold nights.

Potential lifespan: 20 years or more.

Noise rating:  Relatively high-pitched, whistling calls which are unlikely to cause offence. Become more vocal at the start of the breeding season, but generally quiet.