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Vol 27 Issue 3 • Jun-Jul 2014

Red-tailed

Black

Cockatoo Adelaide Rosellas ZEBRA FINCHES

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What is Wrong with my Bird?...

WESTERN GROUND PARROT


Vol 27 Issue 3 U Jun-Jul 2014

Red-tailed

Black

Cockatoo Adelaide Rosellas ZEBRA FINCHES

+

COVER IMAGE RED-TAILED BLACK COCKATOO MALE BY PETER ODEKERKEN

What is Wrong with my Bird?...

WESTERN GROUND PARROT

features 141 TRAGEDY IN THE MAKING— WESTERN GROUND AND ORANGE-BELLIED PARROTS

By Peter Odekerken Peter examines Orange-bellied and Western Ground Parrots—just two species which could disappear for ever from Australian wildlife unless something is urgently done. 144 THE WESTERN GROUND PARROT—UNIQUE AND CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

By Kit Prendergast One of the rarest birds on the planet, its stunning appearance has not helped save the Western Ground Parrot from anonymity and the brink of extinction.

contents Volume 27 Issue 3 160 THE ITALIAN AFFAIR—PART 1

By Russell Kingston Join Russell as he discovers the many and varied ways birds of all descriptions are kept in Italy. 167 NEW LACEWING RED-RUMPED PARROT MUTATION

By Arthur Davidson What would the combination of Cinnamon and Lutino mutations in a Red-rumped Parrot produce? It took Arthur 14 years, but he found out. 168 PLUMAGE COLOUR PATTERNS BETWEEN THE SEXES—PART 2

By Kit Prendergast Kit continues her investigation into the correlation between plumage colour and the sex and behaviours of bird species.

178 THREE COUNTRIES, 5000KMS AND THREE TWINSPOTS AMONG 258 SPECIES

By Glen Holland Glen returns to the land of his birth, Zimbabwe, with a group of fellow birdos in search of the three southern African Twinspots—the Green, Pink-throated and Red-throated. 186 NFSA INITIATIVES FOR YOUTH IN AVICULTURE

By Gary Fitt, David Pace & Glen Holland It is vital that bird clubs and associations are proactive with youth programs and interaction in order to maintain aviculture into the future. 192 ADVERTORIAL

Ani Trans—the Caring Way to Transport Your Birds

158 LONGEVITY IN PARROTS— VERIFICATION OF AGE

170 RED-TAILED BLACK COCKATOOS

By Rosemary Low Many bird keepers over-estimate the age of birds. Rosemary provides anecdotal evidence for more realistic estimates of how long various parrot species live.

By Peter Odekerken Handrearing a Red-tailed Black Cockatoo melts Peter’s heart. Find out about his experience in keeping these remarkable large parrots.

regulars

164 CANARY CHATTER: RED COLOUR CANARIES

184 FINCH FUNDAMENTALS: FREIGHTING BIRDS

By Brian Bohl Brian examines the history and different varieties of Red Canaries.

By Marcus Pollard Marcus discusses some of the preparations necessary to safely send finches across the country.

146 BREEDING AUSTRALIAN PARROTS: THE ADELAIDE ROSELLA

By Barry Blanch Adelaide Rosellas are not a commonly kept bird, don’t make great pets and are therefore difficult to obtain, but these large rosellas come in a wonderful variety of colours. 150 FINCH FOCUS: THE ZEBRA FINCH

By Russell Kingston Russell speaks out in support of these colourful, easily kept and bred little birds, too often derided simply because they are inexpensive and common. 154 HOOKBILL HOBBYIST: CAPTIVATING ARATINGA CONURES

By EB Cravens We examine one of the most popular small parrot groups in the world, the Aratinga Conure, including the stunning and prolific Sun Conure.

175 AVIAN HEALTH WITH DR BOB: WHY DOES MY BIRD…?

By Dr Bob Doneley Dr Bob examines some of the most common questions he and his colleagues are asked every day regarding bird health. 182 THE WISE OWL: AUSTRALIA’S LARGEST BIRD COLLECTION THREATENED

By Milton Lewis Protecting our birds at home is one thing, but Milton highlights the need for all of us to take action against the growing threat to Australia’s biodiversity.

188 YOUNG BIRD KEEPER: BIRDS ARE A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND

By Caitlin Stubbs 189 WHAT’S NEW

• Hello Birdy DVD 190 CONSERVATION

• The Endangered El Oro Parakeet Fights Back By Dr David Waugh • WPT: Saving Honduras’ National Bird By Joanna Eckles & Carolyn Pradun 193 LAST CHIRP

• NSW Parrot Society Bird Sale • New Bird Club in the Kingaroy/ Burnett Area

194 classifieds 139


A DANKS

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY PETER ODEKERKEN

S T O R & AR g D P n i N k D a OU LIE M R t L e a e G h E r t N B Th n r i E R G nde y E d T U N e s S e g i A Tra WE OR Spec

Western Ground Parrot

W

e are at a point in Australian history when a number of species are about to disappear forever, and Australians do not have a proud record of preventing extinction. Most Australians will never even realise that birds like the Western Ground Parrot and Orange-bellied Parrot need our help. Most people, including myself, will never see these birds in the wild. Sadly, most people don’t even care if they become extinct. I consider myself lucky to have glimpsed the Eastern Ground Parrot—itself classified as Vulnerable and the closest relative to the Western Ground—on a number of occasions at Barren Grounds Reserve in New South Wales, Cooloola National Park in Queensland and of course Melaleuca, South West National Park in Tasmania. I say glimpsed because this is a secretive species and from our limited studies of these delightful birds, they seem to be most active in the early morning or late evening, when it is still quite dark. It seems that you need to be a koala or kangaroo— something ‘cute’ or easily recognised—for the public to become interested in saving a species. Even then we are not doing well. So, there is little hope for the Western Ground Parrot and the Orange-bellied Parrot as government funding does not provide nearly enough to assist.

Orange-bellied Parrot

THE ORANGE-BELLIED PARROT

The Orange-bellied Parrot is one of the rarest and most endangered species in the world and its habitat is continuing to disappear. For years we have been trying to save this species, yet according to Healesville Sanctuary, it is at risk of extinction in the next 3–5 years unless urgent action is taken. It seems we are at a point where, prior to the breeding season, an estimated 20 wild birds remain. Healesville Sanctuary reports there are a further 160–170 birds that are part of a captive breeding program involving itself, Adelaide Zoo and Taroona (Tasmania), and there are believed to be about 250 of these birds in total in captivity.

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P. e. adelaidae Adelaide Rosella male

P. e. adelaidae Adelaide Rosella female

Left and right: P. e. subadelaidae Adelaide Adela aide Rosella male m e

P. e. fleureuensis Adelaide Rosella female

147


finch focus

ON AUSTRALIAN FINCHES O CHES TEXT, PHOTOGRAPHS AND ILLUSTRATIONS BY RUSSELL KINGSTON OAM

THE ZEBRA FINCH T IN DEFENCE OF THE ZEBRA What is it about Zebra Finches that attracts such derision? Their number and ready availability are an issue, with one experienced breeder referring to Zebra Finches as the ‘flying mice of the finch world’. Personally, I suggest that the criticism is probably more about the low monetary value attracted by the species. Yes, they are a common species and yes, they are easily catered for and reproduce well even when they are kept in appalling conditions. But these are the very things that endear them to thousands of finch enthusiasts around the world. Zebra Finches have all the attributes that make them attractive to first-time bird keepers—they are colourful, easily sexed, survive on a basic diet, and are hardy and breed well. Many of the great aviculturists around the world learnt their basics from initially keeping Zebra Finches. I know that some of the first birds I kept back in 1956 were Zebra Finches and I still keep the species today. While you will never become a millionaire from breeding Zebra Finches, they remain vitally important to the bird-keeping industry. Many thousands are traded around the world through bird dealers each year. Firsttime bird keepers purchase the majority of them. Their colour, lively personality and inexpensive cost encourage children to plead with their parents to buy them a pair. For at least some of these children, it is the start of a lifelong love affair with bird keeping—and that is the future of aviculture. However, Zebra Finches are much more than a launch pad for young bird keepers. They are used in research. (Who could forget the work carried out by the late Dr Richard Zann?) Zebra Finch organisations around the world take the breeding and showing of these birds very seriously indeed. The Zebra Finch Federation of Australia, with its state and territory affiliates, is one of the best administrated of all bird-breeding groups. Its development of new colour forms and competitive showing is second to none. To these people, their studs of high-standard birds are just as important as say a breeding stud of macaws is to others.

n Australian subspecies of the Zebra Finch T. g. castanotis

Nominate form m of the Zebra Finch from Timor T. guttata

Australian grassfinches. With the exception of the northwest coast, distribution is restricted to the interior, with substantial areas of coastline unpopulated. Zebra Finches do not adapt well to high-density urban regions and, as a consequence, are not seen in parks and gardens in big cities. They will, however, make their home around farm buildings and backyards of small country towns and will invade grain crops. I fondly recall boyhood weekend campouts on farms in the Minden ranges, west of Brisbane, where we trapped Zebra Finches attracted to the crops of French white millet and Japanese millet. We noticed that in the crops of French white millet, few seeds had fallen prior to harvesting and therefore the Zebra Finches were feeding directly from the heads. They cleverly used their weight to bend sections of the head towards the ground and would then stand on the ground with one leg, while holding the seed head with the other leg, and feed. I have seen this behaviour in a number of other Australian grassfinch species. After harvesting, seeds are scattered along the furrows and provide a bountiful harvest for a number of local finch species including Plum-headed Finches N. modesta, Chestnut-breasted Munias L. castaneothorax and Double-barred Finches T. bichenovii. Zebra Finches are also not found in heavily forested regions, rainforest or coastal heathland, being more at home

DESCRIPTION A dimorphic species, colourful males with their white-spotted chestnut flanks, chestnut cheek patches and heavy black barring on the throat and breast are easily identified from the more austere females. Their mournful ‘bbeeeeee’ calls are synonymous with their close relation, the Double-barred Finch, with which they share the Taeniopygia genus. The four species comprising Taeniopygia are—the Timor Zebra Finch T. guttata, the Australian Zebra Finch T. g. castanotis, the Double-barred Finch T. bichenovii, and the Black-rumped Double-barred Finch T. b. atropygalis.

IN THE WILD Distribution and Habitat Most people associate Zebra Finches with Australia but they are also native to islands to the north-west of the continent. The nominate form, Taeniopygia guttata, occurs on Timor and the Moluccan Islands. The Australian form, T. g. castanotis, has the widest distribution of all the

150

Zebra Finches in the wild in Western Australia


hookbill hobbyist WORDS BY EB CRAVENS PHOTOGRAPHS BY PETER ODEKERKEN W

CAPTIVATING ARATINGA CONURES C

O

ne of the most popular small parrot groups in the world has historically been the Aratinga Conure. In fact, one could argue that these psittacines in their wildcaught imported phase were primary ambassadors to the general public regarding the fascinating realm of hookbill bird keeping—beyond the common Budgerigar and Cockatiel. Those wild-caught Aratingas of the 1980s were quite attractive, colourful parrots—a step up in size (especially beaks!) and intelligence from the popular Cockatiel, and with a bit of talking ability thrown in for good measure. They were reasonably priced, quite longlived when well cared for and, if trained patiently, overtly affectionate. Of course the most famous of these psittacines were members of the ‘yellow group’—the Sun, Janday and Blue-crowned. All three are delightfully social parrots, very smart, quick to befriend and sometimes quicker still to go after anything they perceive as a threat. Queen of Bavaria’s (Golden) Conures were once classed with Aratinga but have long since been given their own Guaruba genus.

The stunning colours of the Sun Conure make it an attractive pet and aviary species, however they can be noisy

SUN CONURE The Sun Conure was perhaps the most successful psittacine species bred and marketed in pet bird aviculture. Suns are prolific and not particularly difficult to coax into reproducing,

provided d d savvy parent birds b d make k up the h pairs. They h are stunningly beautiful and appeal to the eyes of most potential buyers. As handfed chicks, their playfulness, curiosity and endearing devotion to owners are near legend! It is no wonder

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