Merlin, My Alexandrine Parakeet

    Merlin hatched in the middle of March, 1999.  We thought she was male. Now we know she's female, but she says her name so it's too late to change it.  She's an Alexandrine Parakeet, a small parrot found in India, Sri Lanka and some other Asian countries.  Merlin has a big swing in my office window, made of maple and apple branches. She loves to climb all over it and look out the window, or preen her feathers and nap while I write. She has a very large cage and will spend part of every afternoon there, napping, chewing on toys and defending her treat bowl (sometimes, against treats). 

This is how Merlin looked just before her third birthday. Her tail feathers get longer every year.

Alexandrines are not picky eaters. Merlin was weaned to pellets, and she loves them, but she also eats carrot, apple, yams, green peas, baked potato, every kind of wild berry that grows in Newfoundland, fresh corn, plain fat-free yogurt, chicken, and boiled eggs. She will always try a new food, and always shakes her head, whether she likes it or not.

Here's a picture of Merlin and me when she was only a few months old.
baby Alexandrine parakeet

    Alexandrines are challenging pets because they are intelligent, active and they can be very noisy.  They need lots of different kinds of activities to keep them happy. Merlin has become much easier to deal with in the past few years. She still goes through a few months of agitation from late November, early December to March or so but it's not nearly as trying as it used to be. Some books suggest you don't have to cover parrots at night, but she seems to enjoy the extra security provided by covering and will refuse to settle in the summer if part of her cage is exposed until that's fixed. Parrots need more sleep than most people realize, and Merlin will often sleep from 6 pm to 11 am. A cranky parrot may well be chronically over-tired.  Yelling is not abnormal behaviour in parrots. A healthy bird in the wild will spend a good part of every day making noise, but people find this hard to take.  White noise is helpful in calming Merlin if she's yelling. I run an air filter in my office and in the room where her cage is. I started putting the air filter on high to cover the noise she made, but found it calms her down quite a bit. She can go from yelling all the time to preening and talking if the ambient noise level is high. Steady noise seem to have a calming effect on parrots. The dishwasher and vacuum cleaner also seems to soothe her, as long as she doesn't feel threatened by being too close to the vacuum.   
 

quicklink with pony beads

This is Merlin's favourite toy, a quick link with pony beads. She can easily crack the beads with her strong beak, but she really likes to unscrew the quick link, take a bead off, and then very carefully put it back on again.Although they seem like large parrots, big toys can hard for an Alex to handle. We find cockatoo-sized toys provide the most play time. Alexes are serious chewers and should be provided with toys they can destroy.  Clean branches, especially from unsprayed apple trees and honeysuckle shrubs, provide lots of bark to chew on and make great perches.   Puzzle toys such as the Jungle Talk Hide-a-Treat
are also very good, and a simple treat kabob with grapes or carrot is good for keeping her occupied when she's in her cage.



Alexandrine playing with toy



Here's Merlin playing with her quick link. When she's occupied like this, she's very quiet and happy.

A parrot like this takes about as much energy as a dog or a toddler would. A parrot won't wake you up in the middle of the night, but will require three or four hours of your time every day, minimum. That time can be spent doing others things as well, though, like watching TV or vacuuming the carpets. 

I think this species should be bought as soon as they are weaned, directly from the breeder. A lot of information about Alexandrines indicates they don't bond to people, but we haven't found that to be true. Merlin likes everyone in the family and is always happy to see my husband and daughter at the end of the day. She also likes some of our friends, always recognizes them and enjoys being with them. She doesn't like to be petted, but enjoys sitting on or near us for part of each day. She's also quite good at amusing herself, provided she's given new toys to play with and chew.


Back to main page.