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BIRD ISSUE FORTY TWO: SPRING 2019

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THE MAGAZINE FOR HOBBYIST BREEDERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS

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M E 3R R E D D 20 JU ITI 19 N ON E O

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THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION 2019

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AN AVICULTURAL FAVOURITE – THE CUBAN FINCH

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RED-BELLIED FIRE FINCHES IN BUSH AND AVIARY


SALE DAYS IN 2019 SUMMER SHOW: Sunday 7th July 2019 NATIONAL EXHIBITION: Sunday 6th October 2019 ‘HELP BIRD KEEPERS SHOW’: Sunday 1st December 2019

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All our shows are he ld at Staffordshire County Showground, Westo n Road, Stafford ST 18 0BD.

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CONTENTS BIRD SCENE: SPRING 2019

CONTENTS DONATE TO OUR CONSERVATION FUND…

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CLICK THE LINK BELOW: www.theparrotsocietyuk.org/donations.php

RED-BELLIED FIRE FINCHES IN BUSH AND AVIARY Russell Kingston OAM

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SECURITY REPORT Dave Dickason

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THE PENNANT’S ROSELLA Les Rance

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THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION 2019 Les Rance

ON THE COVER

BIRD ISSUE FORTY TWO: SUMMER 2019

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M ER 3R ED D 20 JU ITIO 19 N N E O

THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION 2019

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AN AVICULTURAL FAVOURITE – THE CUBAN FINCH

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RED-BELLIED FIRE FINCHES IN BUSH AND AVIARY M

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MAGIC MOMENTS AT PRAGUE ZOO (PART 1) Rosemary Low

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THE MAGAZINE FOR HOBBYIST BREEDERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS

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AN AVICULTURAL FAVOURITE – THE CUBAN FINCH Graeme Hyde

BIRD SCENE: Issue Forty Two: Spring 2019 BIRD SCENE is run by The Parrot Society UK, Hardy House, Northbridge Road, Berkhamsted HP4 1EF, England. FOR SALES AND EDITORIAL ENQUIRES Telephone or Fax: 01442 872245 Website: www.theparrotsocietyuk.org / E-Mail: les.rance@theparrotsocietyuk.org The views expressed by contributors to this magazine are not those of The Parrot Society UK unless otherwise explicitly stated

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Les Rance, Editor, The Parrot Society UK | www.theparrotsocietyuk.org | les.rance@

INTRODUCT B

elieve it or not, it is now just over two years since the up-listing of African Grey parrots that had been added to Annex ‘A’ of CITES on 4th February 2017 and we are still advising people on what is required from DEFRA to ensure that all Greys that are sold have the correct Article 10 papers. If you are thinking of buying an African Grey you must ensure it comes with the yellow CITES documentation, it is an offence to buy a Grey if it is not correctly licenced. At this time last year we were still experiencing Avian Flu and the whole country was classified as a Protection zone, but fortunately this did not affect Sales Days of hobbyist breeding stock. It seems that chickens, ducks, geese and swans are the birds most at risk from contracting Avian Flu. Dare I mention Brexit? At this time last year I wrote ‘What is starting to interest us is the affects that Brexit will have on bird keepers and the possibility that quarantine will be re-imposed on birds coming from mainland Europe. This would make quite a difference for companies who import birds for the pet industry as at the present time, as far as I am aware, there are no functioning quarantine stations for birds in the UK. These facilities can be quite expensive 04

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to both build and maintain and therefore anyone thinking of building one will obviously think very carefully before they go down that route. This may well mean a dire shortage of stock for the pet trade.’ Really at the time of writing this Introduction on 22nd February 2019 nothing is any clearer! The weather is being very kind to us with a temperature today of 14C but I am fairly sure it will not last, at present a strong Jet Stream is dragging heat up from the Canary Isles and the Caribbean and everything is pleasantly warm, it is certainly exciting my birds. Bird keeping is a relaxing past-time, however, for hobbyist breeders that keep their birds in unheated aviaries through the poor weather experienced this winter it can also be a worrying time, let us hope that we do not experience a cold period that lasts into spring. Those who keep their stock in breeding rooms where they can easily turn up the heating however are in a far more satisfactory position. In this edition of Bird Scene we are very pleased to have two excellent articles on Finches. ‘An Avicultural Favourite – The Cuban Finch skilfully written by Graeme Hyde and the second ‘Redbellied Fire Finches in Bush and Aviary’ by Russell Kingston. part of ‘A


@theparrotsocietyuk.org

TION

BY THE EDITOR

Millennium Trip Down Memory Lane’ by the Late John Mollindinia. Also an interesting article from Loro Parque on the two Scarlet Ibis chicks that they have bred. These is also part 2 of a very interesting article on Zebra Finches by Ken Lockwood and Gerald Massey. This is now the 42nd edition of Bird Scene, how quickly eight years can pass when you are working on a project – the first FREE on-line bird magazine produced in the UK. At 48 pages this is quite a big read! Every time we post the Parrot Society magazine I cringe at the cost. Postal costs appear to have increased far faster than inflation and if The Royal Mail are not careful they will find that their income will reduce even further as people and businesses send less and less by conventional means. With CPI inflation now running at 2.2% costs continue to rise. These costs obviously affect bird clubs when the show schedules have to be posted to potential exhibitors and equally it affects the exhibitors when they return their entries. In addition how much longer will bird clubs be able to afford to post magazines to their members? This must be a great worry to many club officials. Fortunately with an

LES RANCE

e-magazine we do not have this problem, or for that matter the cost of colour printing. As a result of increases to the costs of both postage and printing I am really pleased that we decided to produce Bird Scene as a FREE e-magazine. We have learnt a great deal over the past eight years about this way of communicating with bird enthusiasts and I am sure that this knowledge will become more and more valuable as we see further increases in costs to paper magazines. We are always happy to receive articles about the species that are being exhibited at The National and are very pleased to give publicity to the club supplying the information. Regular readers will know that Bird Scene as been produced to publicise The National Exhibition held each year at our October Sale Day/Show at Stafford County Showground which will be held on Sunday 6th October 2019 and to promote our Conservation efforts for threatened parrots in the wild. An archive of earlier editions of Bird Scene can be found on the Home Page of our website www.theparrotsocietyuk.org so if you would like to see earlier versions please do log on to our site. BIRD SCENE 05


Pair Red-Bellied Fire Finches - Male: Right Lagonosticta senegala © Howard RobinsonCounty

ARTICLE BY: RUSSELL KINGSTON OAM 06

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RED-BELLIED FIRE FINCHES IN BUSH AND AVIARY

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here is a small Finch that frequently slips under the radar in Australian aviaries. Maybe it is its docile nature or quiet call. What is it about this delightful little bird that continues to thrive in captivity after fifty-six years of having no injection of fresh blood while many other species have suffered a serious decline - or worse? In this article I will explore the possible reasons for this and other matters surrounding one of the most delightful finches to come out of Africa.

Here in Queensland, the Red-billed Fire Finch goes under the obscure jargon of Ruddy or plural, Ruddies. At times it has been incorrectly referred to as the African Fire finch. Other common names include Senegal Fire Finch, Common Fire finch, Fire Finch and the seldom used Australian name of Pigmy Blood Finch. The Afrikaans call them Rooibekvuurvinkie. Whatever common name one wishes to use, they are in the genus Lagonosticta and loosely related to Twinspots and Pytilias. There are eleven species of Lagonosticta. These are: Red-billed Fire Finch, L.senegala; Bar-breasted Fire Finch, L.rufopicta; Brown Fire Finch, L.nitidula; Black-faced Fire Finch, L.lavata; Black-bellied Fire Finch, L.rara; African Fire Finch, L. rubricata; Jameson’s Fire Finch, L. rhodopareia; Mali Fire Finch, L.virata;

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Rock Fire Finch, L.sanguinodorsalis; Chad Fire Finch, L.umbrinodorsalis and Palebilled Fire Finch. L.landanae. L.lavata, L. sanguinodorsalis, L.umbrinodorsalis and L.landanae are monotypic whilst the remainder have a number of sub-species, which I have not dealt with here. Red-billed Fire Finches are monogamous breeders. They are also the primary host of the Village Indigo Bird, Vidua chalybeata, a parasitic Whydah. Natural breeding seasons vary across their wide range depending on the climates. In captivity, they have been so domesticated that they have lost their instinct for seasonal breeding with the result that they will reproduce at almost any time of the year. In confinement, Red-billed Fire Finches are prolific breeders and will successfully rear fifteen or more youngsters in a single year. A dimorphic species of under 100mm in length, the red body colour of the males may not be confused with the brown females. Both sexes carry fine white spotting on the upper flanks. The male’s brown wings are suffused with red. The red underparts vignette into pale brown or off-white on the belly and ventral region. In both sexes, the mandible is wax red with black along the culmen. Red plumage on the female is restricted to lores, rump and upper tail coverts. Both genders carry a distinctive yellow eye-ring. Fledglings are alike and cannot be determined until they commence colouration.

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Red-billed Fire Finches are widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Open savannah and lightly wooded areas are preferred habitat, although I have seen them by roadsides and tracks in such high veldt as the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda. Mostly, they gather food and socialize on the ground. The diet consists of small cereals and insects. They are opportunistic in that they will avail themselves of human presence, taking discarded or spilled grain and drinking from leaking taps, drains and dams. Because of their propensity to spend a lot of time on the ground, they are open to invasion by intestinal worms and Candida. Both are issues for aviculturists to deal with on a regular basis. In the field they are regularly encountered and their trusting nature enables one to approach to within a few metres. They are particularly tame around human habitation and carry this docility

The diet consists of small cereals and insects. They are opportunistic in that they will avail themselves of human presence, taking discarded or spilled grain and drinking from leaking taps, drains and dams. Because of their propensity to spend a lot of time on the ground, they are open to invasion by intestinal worms and Candida.


FEATURE into captivity. Red-billed Fire Finches are seldom troublesome when confined with other species. Because of its high numbers in Australia and subsequent low monetary value, it is unlikely that fresh stock has been brought into the country illegally over the past 56 years. Why then

Red-billed Fire Finches are seldom troublesome when confined with other species. Because of its high numbers in Australia and subsequent low monetary value, it is unlikely that fresh stock has been brought into the country illegally over the past 56 years.

do Red-billed Fire Finches continue to flourish while many other species have fallen by the wayside due to the lack of fresh genetic stock? I believe the reason is two fold. Firstly, prior to the cessation of live imports into Australia in 1956, there were a number of various Fire Finch species imported. All have disappeared with some, no doubt, being cross-bred with Red-Billed Fire Finches. Such “hybrid vigour� would ensure their longevity well past the time when one would expect pure strains to survive. Through continual breeding back to the Red-billed Fire finches, the resulting birds that we have today resemble Red-billed Fire Finches with the following variations: (a) the intensity and hue of the red in individual

Red-billed Fire Finch photographed in Uganda. Photo supplied by Russell Kingston OAM.

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birds. This varies from deep, blood red through to orange-red. In some instances, there is evidence of a suffusion of pink (not to be confused with the “Pink� mutation); (b) A variation of flank spotting from individual to individual. Some birds carry no spots at all while others have a clear cluster of spots. (c) Colouration of the mandible whereby most are wax-red while others display a hint of bluish suffusion. The second factor influencing the longevity of Red-billed Fire Finches in Australian aviaries is their possible tolerance of genetic closeness. In other words, some species are more tolerant of lack of fresh blood than are other species.

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In captivity, Red-billed Fire Finches are easily catered for and, provided with suitable conditions will readily reproduce. A large well-planted aviary, whilst aesthetically pleasing and enjoyed by the birds, is not essential for successfully breeding of Red-billed Fire Finches. I have seen them kept and bred in everything from small cages through to large enclosures. They do tolerate half-open flights. However, care may need to be exercised in cold climates. In deference to their natural habitat, the housing should be devoid of residual dampness. It is important that they be shielded from cold winds and driving rain.


FEATURE

Because Fire Finches like to pick around on the aviary floor, there is a temptation to place their food on the floor. In the interest of good health, however, I urge against this practice. The grit mixture I provide consists of finely ground, baked eggshell, fine shell grit, Diatoms (Avi-Natural), charcoal and finely ground cuttlebone. All drinking and bathing water must be pristine at all times.

Feeding Red-billed Fire Finches is relatively simple. The basis is a good quality dry finch mix of seeds. Additional small seeds will be appreciated. One such seed is Phalaris, a small canary seed that is enjoyed by most waxbills. Half-ripe grass seeds may be taken, although less so than some of the other waxbills such as the Common Waxbill, Estrilda astrild. I have never seen them taking broad-leaf greens such as silverbeet. Soft foods, sprouted seed mixtures and plain cake may also be offered. In my experience though, most of their diet in captivity is confined to the dry seed mix and small live food. By far the most successful live food that I

feed my waxbills is live termites. Other breeders report success with frozen termites, live or frozen maggots and small mealworms. Larger live food in the form of live crickets, live moths and cockroaches are not taken by the Fire Finches. Because Fire Finches like to pick around on the aviary floor, there is a temptation to place their food on the floor. In the interest of good health, however, I urge against this practice. The grit mixture I provide consists of finely ground, baked eggshell, fine shell grit, Diatoms (Avi-Natural), charcoal and finely ground cuttlebone. All drinking and bathing water must be pristine at all times.

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Fledglings emerge from the nest after twenty days. They are usually well-developed, albeit with short tails, and capable of short flights.

Whilst Red-billed Fire Finches will reproduce without the availability of live food, reliable breeding results with high productivity are unlikely. I have had pairs rear small numbers of youngsters during my time abroad when the live food has been withdrawn. When setting up breeding pairs, one should select partially or half-coloured birds. They will go to nest at six months of age and by their third year, their breeding potential is in decline. The longevity of Fire Finches is lower than that of most other waxbills and one can only expect a lifespan of only four years in confinement. Red-billed Fire Finches will accept a variety of nest sites within a cage or aviary. Small enclosed or half-open nest boxes, woven wicker baskets, dried gourds, dried brush and shrubbery growing in the aviary will all suffice. In keeping with their opportunistic habits, the preferred nest building material is variable. This may consist of soft, dried pliable grasses of lengths up to 250mm, soft white feathers and swamp grass. The dome-shaped structure has an entrance hole on one side. A feather of grass head

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may be placed strategically at the entrance so as to inhibit viewing of the interior. Four or five small elliptical eggs are laid with serious incubation commencing upon the arrival of the fifth egg. In extreme circumstances, up to eight eggs may be laid by a single hen bird. The incubation period lasts for 12 or 13 days. Whilst there are eggs or very young chicks, both parents will brood at night. During daylight hours, the male bird carries out the majority of the incubation duties and, in the evenings, the hen takes over or shares with the male. An increased taking of insects, such as the termites, precipitates the imminent hatching of the youngsters. The parents do this when they hear the youngsters within the eggs. The discarded eggshells are removed from the nest by the parents and deposited at some distance. The parents do not feed the dark skinned hatchlings for their first 24 hours of life. They are brooded by their parents for the first nine or ten days. If after that period, there is a sudden drop in ambient temperature, the nestlings are at risk of dying of exposure. Fledglings emerge from the nest after twenty days. They are usually welldeveloped, albeit with short tails, and capable of short flights. The plumage is almost entirely brown, lighter on the underparts. There is a smudge of Alizarin Crimson on the rump. The mandible is


FEATURE charcoal in colour. The parents will lead the fledglings back to the safety of the nest for the first three or so nights. The fledglings usually stay together and much of this time may be spent on the aviary floor. Whilst some of the chicks may be seen to be picking around food bowls or on the floor, it should not be safely assumed that they are fully weaned until they are at least two weeks old. I have not experienced issues with parents attacking independent juveniles that are left with their parents. Nor have there been any problems of juveniles interfering with subsequent nests or fledglings. I have never observed older juveniles adopting a supportive role in the rearing of subsequent broods. At the current cost in Australia of an average AUD $60.00 a pair, the Red-billed Fire Finch is a lovely little bird that is a must have for novices and experienced breeders alike. The only sobering note I make is that it is important that every effort is made to ensure sufficient stocks of “normal” birds are bred. Three colour mutations have been established in recent years and whilst attractive in their own right, could in time, threaten the viability of our stocks of normal birds.

These mutations are: pied, pink and fawn. While I continue to maintain a small number of pairs of pied birds, I have discarded the Pink mutated birds. I found this dominant mutation difficult to eradicate from my Fire Finch population and only succeeded in doing so by restocking with all new normal birds. With dedicated breeders and a little luck, such a colourful, inexpensive and easily catered for species is assured a place in Australian bird keeping for decades to come. The Society would like to thank Russell for taking the time out of his busy schedule to write this article as we know he is very busy in aviculture. Special thanks to Graeme Hyde for his support with this article. Drawing Pair Red-Bellied Fire Finches - Male: Right Lagonosticta senegala © Howard Robinson

DONATE TO OUR CONSERVATION FUND… CLICK THE LINK BELOW: http://www.theparrotsocietyuk.org/donations.php

At the current cost in Australia of an average AUD $60.00 a pair, the Red-billed Fire Finch is a lovely little bird that is a must have for novices and experienced breeders alike.

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SECURITY REPORT DAVE DICKASON

Dave can be reached on 07545 347177 or email reunite@theparrotsocietyuk.org Enquiries can also be made with the PSUK office Monday to Friday between 9:00 am and 3:30 pm.

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ave Dickason has been appointed as the new coordinator for lost, found and stolen parrots. Dave serves on the Council and has been a trustee for four years and has kept birds for over fifty years. Dave said ‘It is a pleasure to be taking on the lost, found and stolen register. As you will know John Hayward was the main person in the UK providing a service for lost and found parrots and was respected by all those who came into contact with him. Without a doubt it will be difficult to follow in John’s footsteps.’ Having retired from the police service at a senior rank in London Dave has extensive experience in both investigation and crime reduction.

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nfrequently aviaries or bird rooms or indoor pets are targeted by thieves, some for exhibition birds some for parrots or other birds. Often when these thefts occur, particularly if the thieves are organised bird thieves, there may be a spate of thefts in a particular locality over a period of weeks or months. It’s important to be aware of any thefts which occur within the region you reside or further afield where purchasing birds is concerned. The following advice is given for the consideration of bird keepers, we cannot make any recommendations regarding alarms, CCTV systems or other technical equipment. The general principle is to firstly secure the garden or area where the


birds are housed, make it difficult for thieves to access and difficult for them to make an escape. There are various things generally you can do to make your garden more secure. Fencing, remember to check local rules regarding height and planning regarding fencing which divides dwellings or is adjoining a public footpath or highway. If you are using fencing panels consider putting trellis on the top, this makes it difficult to climb over. Architectural bushes with sharp spikes make a good line of defence when grown. Lighting is important, lights which come on permanently at night and movement activated lights. Remember not to locate these where they would interfere with any

neighbour or affect the birds. There are very good solar powered movement lights available at a reasonable cost, these are invaluable where there is no power supply and simple to fit. Natural surveillance is a good thing for the front of the house, but not so the aviaries etc can be seen from the highway. There are various quality systems available these days to monitor your property, if investing in CCTV ensure that the system is capable of recording and providing clear images in reduced light. Don’t leave any carrier boxes / cages in bird rooms which could be easily used to steal your birds. Once the access to the area where the aviaries / bird rooms is

If you are using fencing panels consider putting trellis on the top, this makes it difficult to climb over.

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secured look at the aviaries or bird room. Are the doors secure with good quality locks, are all the windows in bird rooms secured. There are several good quality alarm systems available worthy of consideration. External factors to consider: be very careful when advertising birds or equipment for sale, do not include any address or information which would enable thieves to locate your premises. Anyone calling on a mobile should be discouraged and requested to phone back on a landline. My advice is not to advertise on any form of social media, on Facebook for example there is other information which would assist in locating your premises and often

My advice is not to advertise on any form of social media, on Facebook for example there is other information which would assist in locating your premises…

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giving anyone who reads your page your current location, including in some cases when your family is on holiday! Similarly it is not advisable to post photographs of valuable birds such as Hyacinth macaws with updates on Facebook pages or similar media. Be cautious about telling people you don’t know about your birds in general conversation. Make sure you are satisfied as to the identity of any people visiting to view birds or equipment for sale. A good thing to do is to discreetly record the registration number of any vehicle and ensure the CCTV is operating correctly if fitted. Do not show people you don’t know the full extent of your setup.


FEATURE Keep accurate records of ring and microchip numbers, in the case of valuable birds keep a photograph of your bird, in the case of unusual colour mutations photographs can assist in identifying individual birds. Keep all cites certificates or DNA certificates if applicable secured in your home. Birds in the home: secure access to your home through your garden, particularly the side and rear. Walk around outside and look for any obvious ways a burglar could access your property and target harden any easy access points. Ensure that doors are secure and have approved locking mechanisms, ensure all windows have locks and that the keys are not left in the locks. Make sure that any ladders are secured and cannot be used by a burglar; the same applies to tools stored in a garden shed and in particular spades which can be used to gain access. It is worth considering movement detection CCTV which via the internet will send messages to your phone and enable you to view directly in to the area covered by the CCTV from anywhere where there is an internet service. There are small inexpensive units available due to the advances in technology. Other factors to consider are couriers who regularly deliver bird food or equipment to your address, do not disclose what you keep. When buying birds be aware that there are numerous

scams targeting people wanting to purchase birds, particularly hand reared parrots and valuable birds. These people advertise on websites, in the newspaper and on social media. Often the price is well below the market value to entice victims. One tip is to Google the telephone contact number and see how many other adverts appear in your search. Never reveal the birds you keep or your address until you are absolutely certain who you are dealing with. Scammers often request payment up front or a substantial deposit to arrange delivery, of course there is no delivery or refund of any money. Beware that ‘Pay as you Go’ mobile phones are generally not registered and there is no record of who is using the phone. It is safer to request to speak via a landline. If you are collecting the birds the seller maybe equally as cautious and require you to contact via a landline. My advice is to source birds via the Parrot Society or other reputable club or from a reputable known breeder/exhibitor. We are not able to give recommendations as to which type or make of equipment to purchase, the information given is given purely for advice and each individual place is unique all have different risks . Further crime reduction advice can be obtained from your local police service crime reduction officer who you can access through your local community policing team.

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THE PENNANT’S ROSELLA ARTICLE BY: LES RANCE

PLATYCERCUS ELEGANS

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ennant’s Rosellas are found in the wild in southern Queensland through New South Wales and South Australia. My first knowledge of these beautiful Australian parakeets was obtained when in 1967 I purchased a book written by a Dutch aviculturalist Dr H D Groen ‘Australian Parakeets -Their maintenance and breeding in Europe’. The author published the book himself and it was only available by post from his home at £3.75 and I can confidently say that it was the best value for money book that I have ever owned reading it cover to cover many times. The experiences with Pennant’s Rosellas that Dr Groen had with his pairs was not that good but this was possibly because of their reluctance to incubate their eggs, nowadays Pennant’s appear to be quite easy to breed. They

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are certainly steadier than they were in the 1960’s when many of the birds had originated from rather excitable wild caught stock, at this time it was common for youngsters to leave the nest box and fly headlong into the wire at the far end of the


FEATURE aviary and break their necks. I have kept these birds almost constantly for thirtyfive years and they have proved a successful part of my collection. I have never ventured into the many colour mutations that are popular with some aviculturalists because I believe that the wild coloured natural birds are far superior in looks to any of the mutations. When young Pennant’s leave the nest box they have a considerable amount of green in their plumage which allows a degree of

camouflage for them whilst they are learning to fly, the green only moults out when they moult into adult plumage when they are eighteen months old, the orange beak colouration changes much quicker and within two months of leaving the nest they show the typical adult colouration in this area. Over the past year I have kept a new pair, these are birds that I obtained from the wife of the man who built my bird room and she had two years with them and bred youngsters both years. The hen is closed rung and was born in 2009 but as the cock is not rung I am not sure of his age but would guess that it is similar to the hen. After I had purchased them in September 2014 and they had completed their quarantine period I placed them in an outside aviary where they have stayed for the last year, producing 5 fit healthy youngsters, the last of which only left the nest box on 2nd August, the images in this article (excluding the picture on this page and page 26) were taken on the evening of 16th August. To get my birds fit for the breeding season during the winter months when

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Their aviary is 10 feet long and protected on three sides with sheeting, ¾ of the roof is covered in glass fibre sheeting which allows light through, the remaining ¼ has only Twilweld and this overhangs the last 2’ 6” of the aviary giving access both to rain and natural daylight. the weather is above freezing I provide germinated seed every day and they also receive egg food on a Wednesday and Saturday each week, I like to feed this not only because it supplements the food consumed with animal protein but also it keeps them familiar with the fare I

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provide throughout the breeding season. The recipe for my egg food is at the end of this article. I am becoming more certain that birds benefit greatly from being housed in flights that have access to natural daylight and the beneficial ultra violet light that it contains. Australian parakeets can be kept and bred indoors quite successfully for a year or even two but soon the birds start to look old and the breeding results quickly deteriorate, more likely than not due to the lack of direct natural light. Humans who remain indoors constantly soon become sallow in appearance and miss the beneficial properties of natural daylight. My Pennant’s Rosellas were fine throughout the 2014/15 winter without


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any problems and did not appear to worry about the low temperatures that they experienced even the low night temperatures that we experienced in the month of May. Their aviary is 10 feet long and protected on three sides with sheeting, ¾ of the roof is covered in glass fibre sheeting which allows light through, the remaining ¼ has only Twilweld and this overhangs the last 2’ 6” of the aviary giving access both to rain and natural daylight. I hung their nest box up on 1st February

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2015 but as the weather was still cold there was no interest shown at this time. My Indian Ringnecks who are fairly early breeders were in and out of their boxes but I was not too concerned with the lack of breeding interest from the Pennant’s as it was still early for them, I tend to find that Pennant’s are far from the earliest breeders in my collection. It was not until early June 2015 that I noticed the hen was in and out of the nest box and I left them alone with no nest inspection. Soon the hen was rarely seen although from the demeanour of the cock I was


FEATURE fairly confident that she was OK, certainly the amount of food that was being taken indicated that both birds were eating. I guessed when the first egg was laid and assumed a clutch of four eggs which would have taken eight days to lay then added twenty-one days for incubation plus an additional fourteen days so that when I finally looked the babies should be two weeks old or dead if the outcome was not positive. So after forty-three days I looked to see the result of the pairs labours; because there was continued strong interest in the box and the egg food was being taken in increasing amounts I was fairly confident that there

were young alive. When I looked I was delighted to find five babies well past the seven day old stage. The five young Pennant’s Rosellas grew quickly and feathered up very well, looking at them I think there are four cocks and one hen. I am fairly good at sexing young Pennant’s, something that has come through years of experience with these delightful birds so I will save my money and not use DNA testing on this particular species. The hens are just as brightly coloured as the cocks but noticeably slighter in the beak area the cock’s upper mandible being much broader and the head of the cock is as a rule is considerably large. My other

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pair have produced three youngsters which are all hens so that will give me four pairs three of which will be unrelated. When breeding birds if possible I do not like to disturb their breeding activity and would rather let the birds ‘get on with it’, fortunately with this pair on this occasion this policy worked well because when I did look there were five babies in the nest these were only I would guess 12 days old and there were no infertile eggs remaining so I can only conclude that five eggs were the clutch, which is about normal for Pennant’s. Over the past few years I have been close ringing more and more of my birds with Avian I D rings and

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I decided to ring any young Pennant’s that I was lucky enough to breed during this year, the correct size being ‘P’. As I had bred quite a few Cockatiels I was short of ‘P’ sized rings but had plenty of the slightly smaller ‘N’ size. Rings are measured by their inside diameter ‘P’ being 5.99 mm and ‘N’ 5.33 mm so I used the ‘N’ rings and they seem to fit really well. When I went into the flight and made a further nest box inspection, there were still the five fine young babies about ten days old which looked just a little too small to ring so I quickly departed, after four days I returned armed with the rings and a sharpened matchstick which comes in handy to help


FEATURE hook the back two toes through the ring. The ringing went well but it was fortunate that this was carried out on a Saturday when I always feed the dry staple VerseleLaga Big Parakeet mix and clean off the feeding shelves because I noticed that the hen Pennant had not gone back onto her youngsters, after an hour she did return so all was well. When ringing it is best to do it in the evening as the adults tend to be more eager to return to the nest box at this time of day. At the time of obtaining these birds I also received the nest box which they had bred in for the two previous seasons and that they were obviously very happy using, sometimes by changing nest boxes when they become chewed makes birds unhappy and they will not accept the replacement, if you do change boxes try to find a space where you can retain the old damaged one just in case they decide they want it back! I know patched up nest boxes look rather untidy but that is a small price to pay for a successful nest of young parakeets. Soon after the young left the nest the hen continued to show interest in the box but nothing came of that and I was not surprised when she started to go into the annual moult. So from two pairs I have bred 8 healthy youngsters. So 2015 was a better year for my Pennant’s Rosellas than 2014 with eight good quality babies on the perch. What will 2016 bring? Again the parents will be kept in their aviary and the same

regime followed as in 2015 but with the addition of more fruit to the diet which was mainly apple following a good harvest from my trees, the only problem with feeding fruit during the summer months is that it does attract wasps which can kill birds if they sting them, so if wasps are present in high numbers it is possibly best to curtail the use of fruit in August and September. I am delighted that there were five babies because that has been the best nest I have obtained from a pair of Pennant’s for a number of years and an indication that fertility is good. I do hope that you have enjoyed reading this article as it underlines that Pennant’s Rosellas can be free breeders but sometimes there are unexpected and unexplained reasons why things do not go to plan. If you require any information on the Pennant’s please do not hesitate to e-mail me at les.rance@theparrotsocietyuk.org or telephone me on 01442 782245 at the office, I would be pleased to help.

…sometimes by changing nest boxes when they become chewed makes birds unhappy and they will not accept the replacement, if you do change boxes try to find a space where you can retain the old damaged one just in case they decide they want it back!

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FEATURE Percentage of seeds in Versele-Laga Big Parakeet Standard mixture Yellow millet 20 % Striped sunflower seeds 15 % White millet 12.5 % Canary seed 12 % White sunflower seeds 7.5 % Peeled oats 7.5 % Safflower 7.5 % Buckwheat 5% Paddy rice 3% Linseed 3% Japanese millet 3% Hempseed 3% Niger seed 1% Homemade Egg Food Ingredients • Aldersons Cooked Cereal Conditioning Meal (dried bread in a course powder) sold as a horse conditioner. • 2 Standard sized eggs. • Water Method. Place into a bowl 300 grams of the Aldersons Cooked Cereal Conditioner Meal. The two eggs are hard boiled for 11 minutes to ensure that any salmonella bacteria are killed.

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They are then placed in my Kenwood Classic liquidiser with 175 mls of the water they were boiled in and turned into an eggy liquid and poured onto the Aldersons Cooked Cereal Conditioner Meal. A further 175 mls of water is poured into the food processor which is then activated to gather up any of the remaining egg and this watery mixture is also poured onto the Aldersons Cooked Cereal Conditioner Meal. All the ingredients are mixed with a desert spoon until it turns into a crumbly moist mixture. Just a few words of caution if you use too much water you obtain a mushy mess that your birds will not eat. Just experiment with the amount of water used until you are happy with the mixture you produce. The above quantities produce a large amount of egg food so it may be preferable to halve all the ingredients when you first try this method.


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BY LES RANCE

THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION 2019 T

he National Exhibition is organised by 18 bird clubs who have a strong interest in exhibiting cage birds. The exhibition of birds has been an interesting hobby for many bird enthusiasts over very many years. Over these years The National Exhibition has been held at a variety of large halls. I have personal experience of attending The National held in the late 1960’s at

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Alexandra Place in North London and also at The National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. These shows were run by Cage and Aviary Birds when this publication was owned by IPC Magazines Ltd up until 2003. The Parrot Society organised a meeting in 2006 to discuss the possibility of arranging an exhibition alongside of our successful sales events at Stafford County Showground every


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October. This suggestion was very well supported by the clubs who are now regular attenders at this one day event. Historically The National Exhibition like a number of other specialist shows was a two day event but as these require an expensive overnight stay most exhibitors prefer to attend a one day event. We have been very fortunate to be supported by Richard Johnston the managing director

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of seed wholesaler Johnston and Jeff Ltd from Yorkshire his sponsorship has included a tonne of seed for the winning exhibitors, some high class rosettes, entry wrist bands and awards for the winners of the five main categories. In addition Ray Howells of Birds and Things donates

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a cut glass rose bowl for The Best in Show and Steve & Claire Roach of Rosemead Aviaries award a similar prize for the best junior exhibitor. Keith Jones the Parrot Society Treasurer is The National Exhibition co-ordinator. Progress with the background tasks associated with this year’s National is excellent. We will again be holding a meeting with the organising committee in Coventry in April or May to review the 2018 event and make improvements for the 2019 show which will be the 12th we have held at Stafford County Showground. All clubs that participate in The National Exhibition are invited to attend this meeting. Each time we organise this Show we aim to improve both the exhibitor experience and that of the viewing public and the points discussed at this meeting prove invaluable in ensuring improvements continue to achieve these goals. It is very important to ensure that everyone is kept well informed about the progress being made with the organisation of such a challenging event. The Parrot Society can only thank the bird club officials that have all worked so hard to increase the number of exhibits year on year and made this exhibition the success it has become. We were pleased to announce that the London Fancy Canary Club, who joined our canary clubs four


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years ago for the first time are again exhibiting their member’s birds this year. The Parrotlet Interest Group who also joined the ranks of exhibiting and their birds will again be in The Parrot Society section where there is a good sized show schedule to cater for these miniature gems of the parrot world, the list of classes had been expanded for 2017 and this expanded schedule will be retained for 2019. The Irish Fancy International will this year be organised by Les Summers. Also the Yorkshire Canary Club who exhibited in 2018 will be there, so we will have a vast array of canaries at The National. Twelve years ago The Parrot Society started out on a venture of hopefully rebuilding “The National Exhibition” that had been run up until 2003 at the Birmingham NEC. The defining factor was whether it was possible for all branches

Each time we organise this Show we aim to improve both the exhibitor experience and that of the viewing public and the points discussed at this meeting prove invaluable in ensuring improvements continue to achieve these goals. It is very important to ensure that everyone is kept well informed about the progress being made with the organisation of such a challenging event. of our hobby to jointly pull together and ‘make it work’ after recording such a success in the first year the question was then whether the enthusiasm would be sustained. It has indeed worked each year since the first Show in 2007 the numbers of exhibits have increased and we are working hard to ensure that even more varieties of exhibition quality canaries are on the show bench for this year’s event. By combining this exhibition with the

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already highly successful Parrot Society October Sale Day at the superbly equipped Staffordshire County Showground a large proportion of the exhibitors were familiar with both the location and the available facilities. UK bird exhibitors now view this event as the premier ‘all variety show’ on the UK calendar. We are delighted that the exhibition is obtaining increasing support from both continental judges and breeders who travel long distances to attend this event it is exciting to think that in a very short time this exhibition has been able to attract these dedicated fanciers from all over Europe. The continental influence is not only limited to the fanciers, there is an increasing demand from continental traders to attend this event, further increasing the

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range of products available to all our enthusiastic visitors. As it is located on the A518 only a few miles to the east of junction 14 of the M6 so vehicles can quickly arrive at the Showground. We are indebted to the management and editorial staff of Cage & Aviary Birds magazine for the production of a very well designed insert, with our contribution being the collation of the information from all the exhibiting clubs. The supplement will appear in one of their editions near the end of August 2019 and as previously will carry advertisements from all the exhibiting clubs and details as to


FEATURE who to approach to obtain the Show Schedule for your chosen species. This supplement has now become a feature of “The National Exhibition”. Since the show took on the name “The National Exhibition” in 2010 the demand for trade space has significantly increased, with some new traders making their first appearance this year. So whatever your bird keeping requirements they will be on offer at Stafford on 6th October. The Sandylands Centre and half of the Argyle Centre will again be used to accommodate the exhibits with the ‘booking in’ and club stands filling the remainder of the Argyle Centre. This facilitates the management of the exhibition during the judging of the birds

and allows both exhibitors and general visitor’s access to the exhibition at the earliest possible time on the day. The Parrot Society Council members hope that all the exhibitors and the officials of the specialist exhibiting clubs have a very enjoyable day. The Parrot Society would like to thank the clubs for all the kind words and support that you have given us. It will make this year’s “National Exhibition” a pleasure to be involved with.

Since the show took on the name “The National Exhibition” in 2010 the demand for trade space has significantly increased, with some new traders making their first appearance this year. So whatever your bird keeping requirements they will be on offer at Stafford on 6th October.

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AN AVICULTURAL FAVOURITE – THE

CUBAN FINCH

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS AND EXPERIENCES Introduction Of all the finches, waxbills and other finch-like seedeaters legally imported into Australia before World War Two (1939-1945) the Cuban finch Tiaris canora was and continues to be an all-time favourite avicultural species due to its charming nature, willingness to breed and its daylong activity as an aviary bird. It is easy to cater for, is an outstanding bird in every way and well established in Australian aviculture. From the time of the ban on importation of exotic finches into Australia no wild caught Cuban finches have been introduced into our small gene pool of this popular species. 06 34

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Description The accompanying painting of a male Cuban finch by renowned artist, Howard Robinson - a member of our society, illustrates the distinctive coloration of an adult male. Unlike many other finch species the male and female are dimorphic (i.e. plumage colours are different). The female has dark chestnutbrown around the head instead of black, the yellow is paler, and its appearance is quite different to the male. Length 9cm. Juveniles, which resemble females at the time of fledging, except for their short tail,


FEATURE

ARTICLE BY: GRAEME HYDE

‌the Cuban finch Tiaris canora was and continues to be an all-time favourite avicultural species due to its charming nature, willingness to breed and its daylong activity as an aviary bird.

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usually cannot be sexed at that time except for young males, which often sport an odd black feather shortly after leaving the nest The Genus Tiaris The Cuban finch is one of five species in the genus Tiaris and the “only one that is well-known in aviculture� (Restall 2007). The five small tanager-finches, also known as grassquits, are: 1. Cuban finch T. canora 2. Black-faced grassquit T. bicolour omissa 3. Yellow-faced finch T. olivacea (formerly known as the olive finch) 4. Sooty grassquit T. fuliginosa 5. Dull-coloured grassquit T. obscura Distribution and habitat It is distributed in Cuba and nearby islands. In the wild it apparently frequents woodlands, pinewoods, coffee plantations, cultivated areas, house gardens and areas of grassland bordering fields. The average temperatures throughout the year in their natural range are from around 10 degrees Celsius, through to 35 degrees Celsius (Kingston (1998). Housing Although it is an interesting species when housed in a large, well-planted aviary, they have been successfully bred in aviaries of all types and sizes. After a few years of keeping and breeding the Cuban finch I realised it didn’t matter what the aviary was like - so long as the basic needs were

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available, eg dry brush in the shelter section for roosting at night and nest building. An earthen floor is desirable as it spends a lot of time fossicking on the aviary floor. The aviary, regardless, of type or size, must be draught-free. They enjoy bathing in a fine mist spray especially in the warmer months of the year. It is wise to keep only one pair in a mixed collection of finches and, importantly, not to include species that feature yellow as part of their plumage colour, eg green singing finch or star finch, as the male Cuban might become aggressive towards them. It is preferable; if possible, to avoid housing them in adjoining aviaries that have wire mesh divisions as their aggressive nature, to their own kind, can cause bickering between neighbouring males. Feeding It is an easy species to cater for and the usual small seeds are relished including white panicum, red panicum, white millet, jap millet, canary, and niger. They are fond of seeding grasses - especially panic veldt grass Ehrharta erecta, flowering heads of milk thistle, soaked or sprouted seed, plain cake, lettuce, silverbeet, pear, apple, orange and the vinegar fly Drosophila which is attracted to rotting fruit. To create a rotting fruit culture I cut up citrus fruit as well as adding pieces of apple and tomato, replacing the ingredients as necessary. Many breeders also supply an egg and biscuit food to which is added a hard-boiled


FEATURE egg, as this type of supplementary food is popular with the Cuban finch. Fine shellgrit, crushed eggshells and cuttlefish bone should be available all the time. Clean fresh water is important and they enjoy bathing regularly. Breeding in captivity A special feature of the Cuban finch is its continuing interest in breeding. They will breed virtually all-year-round except for the colder winter months of a cooler climatic area when, of course, it is unwise to allow them to nest. If given adequate and draught-free quarters they will live happily in colder climates and breed regularly. When the male is in breeding condition he will pursue the female around the aviary relentlessly, often with nesting material in his beak. This species has the fascinating habit of being able to conceal its nest and often you are not aware they are nesting. This is compounded by the female who is at all times is a light sitter, leaving the nest whenever she hears someone approaching the aviary. The male utters a short alarm call. Usually she will stay off the nest until you leave the aviary vicinity. Even the closing of a back door of a house has been known to make her leave the nest. They prefer to build their dome-shaped nest a growing bush, or dry brush in the shelter section of the aviary, the latter according to Russell Kingston is their favoured nest site. In his experience he has

never observed them having their nest site below one metre in an aviary (1998). Nestboxes are rarely used for nesting, although they will use receptacles such as a wire mesh cylinder. The nest, which is large for such a small bird, is made from materials such as fine grass, swamp grass and pampas grass fronds. Feathers are popular for lining the nest. Both male and female are involved in nest construction. The entrance to the nest is low and access to the nesting chamber is upwards - this is a special feature of their nest. Copulation, which may take place in the open, commences with the female crouching low on the perch, quivering excitedly, and calling to her mate. Pair bond in this species is strong and mutual preening is common. Although several experienced aviculturists have commented on them plucking their own kind I did not have this experience with the breeding pairs I have kept. Certainly allopreening (where one bird raises the feathers on the back of its head and neck and the other bird preens this area) is a popular activity. The usual clutch is 2-4 small eggs that are white with reddish-brown spots over them. Only the female incubates the eggs, which take 12-14 days to hatch. Nest inspection which, due to the design of the nest as mentioned above, is unwise. I remember the first time I bred them [in the 1960s] they deserted the eggs after I made the mistake of inspecting the nest.

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A nesting female Cuban is evident by her curved tail. Faecal sacs and dead young are removed from the nest by the parents - often some distance from the nest site. The begging call of the young is usually audible at 7-10 days. They usually fledge around 21 days, leaving the nest together - regardless of the feathering. Often the male will commence building another nest when young are still in the present nest. They are excellent parents and show great concern for their fledglings, which become independent about three weeks after leaving the nest. They will rear their young without the aid of livefood, or even seeding grasses, even though it is preferable to supply one, or both, items to ensure strong healthy young birds. Unless the aviary is large it is not advisable to leave the young with their parents. It is recommended that they be removed to another aviary once they are completely independent of their parents. Adult coloration occurs about eight weeks after fledging. It is not uncommon for young birds to nest at 3-4 months of age, although it is obviously better that they are older before being allowed to breed.

The begging call of the young is usually audible at 7-10 days. They usually fledge around 21 days, leaving the nest together - regardless of the feathering. Often the male will commence building another nest when young are still in the present nest.

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A SELECTION FROM SOME AVICULTURAL WRITINGS DR ARTHUR BUTLER In the definitive book, Foreign Finches in Captivity (1899), Dr Arthur G Butler of Beckenham, England, documented the


FEATURE available information on finches held in captivity in England and the Continent. For the Cuban finch he quoted the experience of Dr Karl Russ, a successful German aviculturist of the day, who said: “It ranks high among the most graceful and

beautiful inhabitants of the bird-room; in consequence of remarkable ease with which it can be bred, long the darling of all amateurs and breeders.” This is an indication of the Cuban’s popularity for more than 100 years.

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ERIC BAXTER In the informative book, The Avicultural Writings of Eric Baxter (1963), when discussing the Cuban finch, Eric said: “It is also interesting to note that when they made their initial appearance in aviculturists’ collections many years ago broods of four, sometimes five young were reported, which compares favourably with the results obtained today. It must be remembered that the birds we have in collections at the present time are the progeny of birds that were in [Australian] fanciers’ collections at the time the ban was imposed on imports of all foreign species of birds, which dates back to 1938.” BILL HUNTINGTON In an article “It Can and Does Happen” (Australian Aviculture 1976) based on his experiences with the Cuban finch Bill wrote: “I agreed to a friend’s request to temporarily keep in one of my aviaries a young Cuban cock as he did not have a spare aviary and it had to be separated from its father. The young Cuban soon became a favourite mainly because he had an attractive and different colour pattern and was so bright and cheerful.” After buying the male, and a female from another source, Bill began breeding Cuban finches. In discussing his breeding results he said: “…I had gained some experience since my introduction into the hobby, and not only did I not lose one of those Cubans but they produced 23 young in a

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AUSTRALIAN AVICULTURE VOLUME 64 - No. 12 December 2010

period of 12 months and every Cuban that fledged matured into a fine specimen. Third generation birds from the original pair, together with 2 outcrosses, are now breeding for a grand total of 42 in a period of 17 months.” FRED BARNICOAT From a South African perspective our long-time member, Fred Barnicoat of Johannesburg, contributed an interesting article to Australian Aviculture titled, “Cuban Finches Reach South Africa Again, Thanks to the Efforts of Aviculture in Australia”(1977). He wrote: “Cuban Finches died out in South Africa during the Second World War. I saw them for the first time in 1955 when they were again imported and, as the price asked at that time was


FEATURE very modest, roughly the equivalent of $10, I purchased a pair before the end of that year, and almost immediately bred my first baby Cuban in the November. In the following six years I bred them consistently. They were very easy to cater for and reared their young without livefood. Various grasses and weeds at the seeding stage were the only extras provided and these are certainly very beneficial and perhaps even necessary to rear young successfully.” He added: “I pay tribute to the Australian aviculturists who have so carefully and efficiently kept this delightful species going without importing any new blood since 1939! Their success with the Cuban Finch is unique in world aviculture.” JEFFREY TROLLOPE When discussing the Cuban finch in his book The Care and Breeding of Seed-Eating Birds (1983) English aviculturist Jeffrey Trollope wrote: “Prior to the ban on export of these birds [into England] by the Cuban Government, this species was the most frequently imported grassquit. Although a free-breeding species in captivity, it is apparent that aviary stocks were inadequate for it to become established”. He describes the Cuban’s voice as: “A cheerful if not accomplished singer, a series of loud but not unmelodious notes. The calls are psew - ee – eeh and a psew, psew-ee.”

ROBERT TROTT In his article, “The Breeding Machine” (Australian Aviculture 1986), Robert detailed his breeding results with the pair of Cuban finches he bought in 1983. He wrote: “In 1984 they bred 16 young from 6 nests and in 1985 16 young from 8 nests. So far this year (1986) they have fledged 8 young from 3 nests. They have only lost two young after fledging; these were from their second and fourth nests in 1984. There doesn’t appear to be any time of the year when this pair won’t breed. In 1984 the young fledged in February, March, April, June, September and October. In 1985 - January, March, April, May July, August, September and November.” He added: ”As far as special feeding goes they particularly like slices of orange, which when laid flat on a bird wire shelf enables the birds to stand directly on the orange slice tear the pulp away with their beaks. The Cubans are especially fond of panic veldt grass seed heads.” MARK SHEPHARD When discussing the Cuban finch in his book, Aviculture in Australia (1989), Mark Shephard wrote: “To solicit the male, the female raises here tail, crouches low over the perch and quivers excitedly, calling to her mate. Copulation may take place in the open. The pair bond is usually strong, but if a bird is lost, a new partner will be accepted. Mutual preening is common, but occasionally this activity can be taken to

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extremes, with feathers being plucked from the neck”,,, Adding, it …”is a very active nest builder and may change its nest site regularly.” RUSSELL KINGSTON In his book Keeping and Breeding Finches and Seed-Eaters (1998) Russell Kingston states: “They will readily learn to take mealworms and greenfood from the hand, however, I discourage this practice due to the Cubans becoming jealous and aggressive towards other species in the aviary, who also show a tendency to become friendly towards the aviculturist.” … “For aviculturists in colder climates, I recommend breeding their Cubans between spring and summer. Indeed, even in the sub-tropical climate [Queensland] where I live, I have found Cubans have a preference for this time.” THE EXPORTATION FROM AUSTRALIA OF EXOTIC SPECIES At the committee meeting of the National Finch and Softbill Association (NFSA) held on 4 July 2010, in Adelaide, a discussion on the “Exports of Exotic Species” took place and the members present were deeply concerned to learn that 13,000 foreign finches had been legally exported overseas by Melbourne dealer(s). The break-down figures being 93% goldfinches, 3.2% redfaced parrotfinches, 1.6% Cuban finches and 1.8% greenfinches. David Pace, president of the NFSA, writes:

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“Regarding these export figures the 1.6% of 13,000 is 208 individuals and although it does not sound like many but you only need to look at the recent figures of Australian finches held in Victorian aviaries. Some species such as black-throated and crimson finches, pictorella and yellow-rumped munias etc, have fewer than 500 individuals - if 208 individuals were shipped out in one year alone, it would cause a huge loss in genetic material. If it were to occur over 5 years, the species would be in a dire situation. Aberdeen and other foreign finch species are likely to be under 100 individuals.”

Bibliography Baxter, E. 1985. The Avicultural Writings of Eric Baxter (ed. M Shephard & C Welford). The Avicultural Society of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia. Barnicoat, F. 1977. Cuban Finches Reach South Africa Again, Thanks to the Efforts of Aviculture in Australia. Australian Aviculture, pp.47-48. Butler, Dr A G. 1899. Foreign Finches in Captivity (Second Edition) Brumby and Clarke, Hull and London, England. Hyde, G. 1995. The Cuban Finch: A Delightful Foreigner. Australian Aviculture, pp.64-67. Huntington, W G. 1976. It Can and Does Happen. Australian Aviculture, pp. 108-109. Kingston, R J. 1998. Keeping and Breeding Finches and Seed-Eaters. INDRUSS


FEATURE

Productions, New Farm, Queensland, Australia. National Finch and Softbill Association Inc. Committee meeting, Adelaide, 4 –7-2010. Pace, D. October 2010. Personal communication. Shephard, M. 1989. Aviculture in Australia. Black Cockatoo Press, Prahran, Australia. Restall, R. 2003. Breeding the Black-faced Grassquit Tiaris bicolour omissa With Some Notes on Behaviour. Avicultural Magazine, Vol. 109 No. 4, Journal of the Avicultural Society, England. Updated 2007 by the author for the AS website. Trollope. J. 1983. The Care and Breeding of Seed-Eating Birds. Blandford Press, Poole, England. Trott, R. 1986. The Breeding Machine. Australian Aviculture, pp.237-238.

Acknowledgement Painting: © Howard Robinson, The Forge, Front Street, Wheatley Hill, County Durham, DH6 3PS, England.

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BY ROSEMARY LOW

MAGIC MOMENTS AT PRAGUE ZOO

E PART ON

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FEATURE

I

n September Rosemary visited the Czech Republic to speak at a symposium and to sign copies of her latest book to be translated into the Czech language. While there she had the opportunity to visit one of the best zoos in the world -- indeed, TripAdvisor list it as number four after San Diego, Loro Parque and Singapore Zoo. Many people look after birds but very few do so with a passion that makes my heart dance with joy. When I met Antonin Vaidl I knew instantly I was in the presence of a man whose knowledge of and intense love for birds was extraordinary. As curator of birds at Prague Zoo he has built up, almost with a free hand, a bird collection which is of outstanding interest for the range of unusual species and for the high rate of breeding successes. After spending four hours with him, viewing the birds, I began to tell myself to stop saying “Amazing!� But there was no other word for it! The young birds that I was seeing indicated breeding achievements far in excess of other collections I know. And I am not talking about common species but rare and difficult ones. The methods he has used to provide a good diet,

persuade pairs to produce chicks, then to ensure their survival, impressed me deeply. Sustained successes with many difficult species would be impossible without the numerous off-exhibit breeding aviaries. These total one hundred and thirty -more than double the aviaries on show. The first one Antonin took me to was very special for him. He opened the door of the enclosed area to reveal two young Palm Cockatoos. They eagerly jumped on to his hand. There were several months between these two, both of whom displayed the white-tipped upper mandible typical of young birds. Antonin had reared them in his own home. It had been necessary to move the eggs to an incubator. The Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) is one of the most charismatic of all parrots. Rearing from the egg is extremely difficult. Then comes the stage at about three weeks when many handreared Palm chicks succumb. No wonder

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he was so proud of them! They were beautiful birds -- a male and a female, and the difference in head and beak size was obvious. Antonin has an excellent team of keepers but the young of a few species are so rare or difficult to rear that he prefers to rear at least the first chicks in his own home. This was also true of the four Black-billed Amazons (Amazona agilis) that he hand-fed this year. This is a sensitive species that thrives in captivity only with special care and great attention to diet and cleanliness. It has very rarely been bred. I was very interested to see the four young of this small, dark green parrot. They were in perfect feather and health.

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To me, they are totally unlike members of the genus Amazona so I asked Antonin if he thought they were Amazons. “Absolutely not!� he replied. He was delighted that all four Amazona species in the zoo reared young this year. The others were the rare Yellow-billed (A. collaria), and the Red-tailed (A. brasiliensis), also the Festive (A.festiva) which although not rare in the wild, is uncommon in aviculture. Antonin lived and worked in the Philippines for a short while. This fact is reflected in the number of extremely rare bird species from those islands found in the zoo. These include the Blue-naped Parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis) and the Mount Apo Lorikeet (Trichoglossus


FEATURE

johnstoniae). Both are little known in aviculture and the Blue-naped Parrot has seldom been bred. Antonin showed me two youngsters with the typical almost pastel shades of the species and the lovely feather quality and intricate wing markings. These young will be retained for a ground-breaking new bird exhibit that will open in 2017. “Ground-breaking� is true in more than one sense as contractors are currently working on the foundations in a rocky hillside. It was with great anticipation and excitement that Antonin spoke about this. His vision includes landscaped zoogeographical exhibits with appropriate birds and plants. The other parrot from the Philippines, the tiny Mount Apo Lorikeet, is very rare in private aviculture and has not bred

Antonin lived and worked in the Philippines for a short while. This fact is reflected in the number of extremely rare bird species from those islands found in the zoo. especially well in the few zoos that keeps it. In Prague more than thirty young have been reared. I was shown a breeding pair and two chicks in the nest-box. Currently there are not many parrot species on exhibit -- but this will all change in 2017. Today the focus is on lories, hanging parrots and fig parrots, housed in a range of aviaries in the higher part of the zoo, reached by a chair lift -- or a path built above sediments 600 million years old, the floor of an ancient sea. Continued in the Summer Edition

BIRD SCENE

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Bird Scene Spring 2019  

Bird Scene is a new e-magazine from The Parrot Society UK to promote the National Exhibition of Birds held in October at Stafford County Sho...

Bird Scene Spring 2019  

Bird Scene is a new e-magazine from The Parrot Society UK to promote the National Exhibition of Birds held in October at Stafford County Sho...