A puzzling parrot

Colour variations in Australian Ringnecks (ssp Mallee Ringneck)

We have a small flock of about 6 Mallee Ringnecks resident in our garden. We see them every day and they have breed successfully nearby. The Mallee Ringneck is a race of the Australian Ringneck and is found in areas which contain predominantly mallee tree habitat. Our 5 acre block is half covered in mallee trees, so they probably feel quite at home.

In recent weeks I’ve been aware that one of them has some interesting colour variations. In the photo above, the bird on the left has a much darker head than normal, plus more yellow on the chest and blue cheek feathers rather than green. Throughout the broad range of the Australian Ringneck there is considerable colour variation.

The Western Ringneck (also called the Port Lincoln Parrot) has a particularly dark head – it’s black in fact. Port Lincoln Parrots have been recorded in the Adelaide metropolitan region, but it is suspected that they were aviary escapes or releases. I’m not claiming that this bird is of the race, Port Lincoln Parrot, but I suspect it may have escaped from someone’s cage as they are a common aviary bird. Another possibility is that it is the progeny of cross breeding between a Mallee and a Port Lincoln Parrot, thus accounting for the washed out grey head rather than a black one. Both races interbreed readily in the Flinders Ranges where their ranges overlap.

The photo below shows a close up view of the same bird. The third photo shows the normal colours of the Mallee Ringneck.

I’d be very interested in reader’s comments.

Australian Ringneck, Murray Bridge

Mallee Ringneck Parrot


11 Responses to “A puzzling parrot”

  1. John Tongue says:

    Hi Trevor,
    I’d opt for either a natural “hybrid” (if that’s the right word for a cross between ‘races’, anyway), of the two. Or, as you say, parhaps an aviary escapee, and who knows what odd breeding crosses might sometimes be used there. We once had an odd bird in our garden in northern NSW that turned out to be a ‘hybrid’ between a Pale-headed Rosella and an Australian Ringneck. A local lady used to take great delight in producing all sorts of strange cross-breeds. However, we also had a natural pairing of a Galah and a Little Corella used to vist our neighbours for 40 years, or so, and brought their offspring each season. Interesting looking birds!!

  2. Trevor says:

    Hi John,

    Whatever it is we find it intriguing. It has “paired” up with the other bird shown in the first photo. It will be interesting to see if they breed.

    I find it difficult to come to terms with aviculturalists who deliberately interbreed to get variations of colours. Why mess with creative perfection?

    On a related topic: it’s been decades since I’ve seen Twenty Eights and Port Lincoln parrots. Is there much variation between these two races?

  3. John Tongue says:

    G’day Trevor,
    There is intergradation between them with “full” Twenty-eights really onl being in the far SW of WA. They are similar, but the Twenty-eight has a green belly, and more red in the forehead, while Port Lincoln has a yellow belly, and less (or sometimes no) red.

  4. Trevor says:

    Thanks John,

    A few years ago when camping in the Flinders I was totally confused picking between the Port Lincoln Parrots and the Mallee Ringnecks. Fortunately I generally don’t list at the race level so it’s not a big issue for me. Two exceptions to this personal “rule” : I do take notice of the various races of magpies and rosellas. To my eye, I cannot see how a yellow rosella and a crimson rosella are the same species! With the magpies I just find it fascinating. Next week I have a post scheduled showing a White Backed female in company with a Black Backed male in Lameroo. Interesting.

  5. Hi Trevor,
    I have added a link to my blog with a Mallee Ringneck photo I took in Brookfield CP a while back. This bird also has the same attributes as the bird in your garden with a dark head and larger yellow band on the chest! Thought you might find it interesting?
    Chris Steeles

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the link and alerting me to your site. You have many great photos posted so I’ll have to visit it regularly.

      Jealous much of you seeing the SC Parrots. I’ve seen them in aviaries but never in their natural setting. Same with the Bourke’s – only ever seen one outside of a cage (up near Quorn decades ago).

      I have made a mental note to visit Brookfield CP some day soon – probably the coming spring it will be great after the good rains over the last 12 months.

  6. Louise says:

    I can’t offer any advice, but wanted to comment how beautiful these birds are-they must be a delight to see so often.

  7. Cheryl Keatley says:

    Dear Trevor
    My daughter rescued a Mallee ring neck parrot after it had been hit by a truck, it has lived alone, calling other parrots in the area. Because of the rat and mouse plague, we put him in a patio cage, purchased from Cheap as Chips he has been in the cage for 6-8 months and suddenly has changed colour his yellow ring has turned pink and his blue feathers are turning red, if we didn’t know it was Bruno I would swear that someone has changed him for a Rosella, but he still sings the same song and other ring necks answer him, can you tell me why after 8 years in captivity he has suddenly changed colour. He has been fed the correct parrot food and still has a healty appetite. Hoping you can help me.


    Cheryl Keatley

  8. Rex Whitehead says:

    Recently, in Mount Isa, I photographed a pair of Cloncurry Ringnecks. (Race macgillivrai). Both of which had dark grey, to black head caps. With also, a grey colouring on the chest.
    Of the many Cloncurry Ringnecks I have seen and photographed, I’ve never seen this dark cap before.
    As we are remote from the other ringneck species, the closest with a dark cap, being the Port Lincoln, which is in the Northern Territory.
    I guess, there could be interbreeding with species, as it appears they could be as close as the Queensland/Northern Territory border.
    Any suggestions.
    Rex Whitehead. Mount Isa

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