September 4th, 2010
Lineolated Parakeets, or linnies, are hidden gems of the bird world. They are fun, clever parrots that come in a fun-sized package. At six and a half inches tall, they are the perfect bird for those who live in apartments or other situations where a larger parrot would not be ideal. Often times, they are compared with budgerigars (the more common parakeet you find at pet stores) and parrotlets (another small parrot), and they can be calmer, sweeter companions, depending on the individual of course. They are more forgiving of you if you have to be gone most of the day than other parrots and can get along easier with other birds. Their life-span is generally shorter than other parrots, but longer than budgerigars at 10 - 20 years. They go through a terrible twos stage during their first real molt at about six months, but their terrible twos are not always that terrible.
Don't let the size of these birds fool you! They are as intelligent as many of the larger parrots and are just as capable of speech. They can learn tricks and ca be wonderful additions to the family. Males and females are both capable of speech, but, as with most parrots, it depends on the individual bird. Some just prefer to speak their native tongue.
If you are looking for a companion bird, one is plenty. They are very keen on snuggling with you and will treat you as if you are their soul mate. Unlike dogs or cats, birds are not in the baby stage forever and thus tend to treat you like another adult bird. Linnies spend most of their time on the bottom of their cage or upside down, so do not be alarmed if he doesn't like to sit on his perches all the time. They are less active than budgerigars and do not sit in the same posture. In fact, it is not uncommon to see linnies sleeping on their perch horizontally with their head down and their tail in the air.
With linnies, you must be careful of a few things. They are not the best at flying and thus spend a lot of time on the ground. You need to be careful not to step on them or you will lose your little bird. It is easy to train them to stay on a platform when they are out of the cage, especially if there are toys for them to play with. If your bird stays on the floor, be sure to walk around the house either barefoot or with socks, and shuffle around so you don't accidentally step on your bird. Also, be careful of couch cushions or blankets as linnies love to hide in them. This can also end tragically if you do not look where you sit.
Linnies love fruits, vegetables, and poultry so be sure to keep them in your birds diet. Millet and canary grass seed can be offered as a treat, but do so sparingly. They can also learn to eat a pellet diet which can provide them a lot of nutrients as well. Be patient if your bird does not want to eat what you offer right away. Just keep offering it and soon your linnie will learn it is a tasty treat. Some vegetables are unsafe for birds and these will be discussed in an upcoming article.
Linnies come in many different colors, much like budgerigars. They come in the natural green as well as many different mutations such as turquoise, cobalt, olive, mauve or slate (a grey color), lutino (yellow with red eyes), and creamino (off-white with red eyes). Sometimes, these mutations mix into each other and produce rarer plumages such as pied, dilute, or other neat colors.
Clipping the wings on linnies can be done for safety's sake, especially if you take the bird outdoors. Sometimes, a fully-flighted linnie will escape if spooked and it can be difficult to find the little birds. Nail trims are also very important as linnie nails can get especially long, and their activities can cause a nail to get ripped out, making them bleed to death. All grooming should be done by an avian vet or a reputable bird groomer.
The first vet checkup is very important. It is good to get a baseline on your bird and some breeders and shops require it. With linnies, it is important to know what they look ike when healthy so that you can tell when they are sick. A fluffed up linnie is not always a sick linnie so it is not always as easy to tell. This is why the vet check is important. They will do bloodwork and stool samples from the bird, another important thing to look at. Linnie poop is not like regular bird poop and can sometimes be alarming to first time linnie owners who think their parrot is sick when it's really healthy. Always look to see if something that you fed the bird has affected it before panicking.
Linnies are also rather hardy birds and sometimes enjoy colder temperatures. Being indigenous to the mountainous regions in South America, they are comfortable with higher elevations and are more comfortable with colder temperatures than other parrots. They still should have clean air, so no smoking around them, and be careful of teflon pans, as burning food on them releases fumes that will kill your bird. Candles should be avoided as the oil can clog up airways, and be careful about using certain household chemicals. There are better ways to clean the house anyway (hydrogen peroxide is amazing at cleaning stove tops).
The cage requirements of linnies are different from other birds. Because they spend most of their time on the ground, you want a cage that is longer than it is tall. Be sure to have perches of different sizes at different levels of the cage to give their feet a work out. Coarse wooden perches are wonderful for keeping nails in check (this cannot be used as a substitute for nail trims however). Do not put cuddle huts or anything that looks like it could be a potential nesting site in the cage however or you could end up with a hormonal parrot. Foraging toys are a must as it will keep the bird's mind active. Swings, shreddable toys, and toys with bells are always fun and linnies like yucca chew toys to exercise their beak and take out any aggression on. A good cage setup has plenty of toys and perches without over crowding. Be sure to hide food in different spots as birds rarely eat in one single place.
All in all, linnies can be wonderful companion birds. They are perfect for apartment dwellers or even those with a big house with a lot of space and no neighbors. They can fit into just about any family and can provide you with years of entertainment and love.