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06 40 18
BUDGERIGARS FOR BEGINNERS Les Rance LESSER VASA PARROTS PART THREE Anton Schreuders
ON THE COVER
BIRD ISSUE FORTY: AUTUMN 2018
LESSER VASA PARROTS
PARROTLETS FOR BEGINNERS
06 PART THREE
PARROTLETS FOR BEGINNERS By Hayley Baker
BUDGERIGARS FOR BEGINNERS
IN 3R TER D ED D IT 20 ECEM IO 18 BERN
THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION REPORT
THE MAGAZINE FOR HOBBYIST BREEDERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS
BIRD SCENE: Issue Forty: Autumn 2018 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: email@example.com The views expressed by contributors to this magazine are not those of The Parrot Society UK unless otherwise explicitly stated
BIRD SCENE 3
Les Rance, Editor, The Parrot Society UK | www.theparrotsocietyuk.org | les.rance@
his time last year we were experiencing Avian Flu following an outbreak in Diss in Norfolk on 3rd June 2017. In addition to this we had the African Grey parrots that had been up-listed to Annex A of CITES we spent some considerable time advising people on what is required from DEFRA to ensure that all Greys that are sold have the correct Article 10 papers. We told people that if they were thinking of buying an African Grey they must ensure it comes with the yellow CITES documentation, it is an offence to buy a Grey if it is not correctly licenced. On 15th June 2017 Alan Jones and I travelled to the DEFRA offices in Bristol for a meeting with officers responsible for the implementation of the CITES regulations. At the time I said that it seems strange that a bird that is endangered in the wild but relatively plentiful in captivity and certainly not that difficult to breed, is not being treated by the authorities in a manner that encourages aviculturalists to devote time and energy in breeding more that could potentially be used to repopulate areas 04
in Africa where they were once abundant. Aviculturalists need encouragement, they do not need to feel as though they have done anything wrong by not holding the papers that officials now seem to think we should have. Prior to 4th February 2017 we could breed and sell the young with no need for paperwork, it was a perfectly legal activity. For many years bird keeping has been a relaxing past-time, however, for hobbyist breeders that keep their birds in unheated aviaries through the poor weather experienced this spring and it did not last long it can also be a worrying time, however, now that the weather is much warmer the birds seem more relaxed and there are plenty of reports that birds are breeding well this year in the UK. 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 the second part of the Lesser Vasa Parrot article by Anton Schreuders. There is also an article by myself on my experiences with Budgerigars
BY THE EDITOR
@theparrotsocietyuk.org which I spent quite a considerable time writing, I do hope you enjoy it. This is now the thirty ninth edition of Bird Scene, how quickly seven years can pass when you are working on 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 RPI inflation now running at 3.2% costs continue to rise faster than wages. 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 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 six 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 7th October 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
BY LES RANCE
BUDGERIGARS FOR BEGINNERS 06
hese enchanting little Australian parakeets have been enjoyed by tens of thousands of bird enthusiasts for 175 years as they came into Europe in the 1840’s and proved a prolific breeder. At their most popular there was an estimated million being kept as pets and breeding birds in the UK. The colour of the wild Budgerigar in Australia is light green they are 18 cm long and weigh 26 to 29 grams. As an inhabitant of the arid central belt of Australia their main diet is dried seeds which they find from searching the ground and dried up tussocks of grasses. Flocks of Budgerigars are always on the move in the wild as food is often scarce, as is water. To be able to breed in the wild they need to find a locality where it has recently rained for a few days which will allow the grasses to grow quickly and produce the much needed green soft seeds to feed to their babies as soon as they are hatched. Like the majority of psittacines they nest in cavities in trees laying white shelled eggs so that they can be seen in the dark of the hole. Four or five eggs are a normal sized clutch and laying occurs
every other day so it takes ten days to lay a clutch of five eggs. The incubation period is normally twenty-one days. Only the hen incubates which usually commences after the third egg appears and therefore the chicks hatch on different days and quite a size range of babies are found in the nest; Budgerigars are good parents even the last hatched survives possibly because this has a higher pitched call which the hen hunts out and feeds she also protects the smallest from being crushed or suffocated by its larger siblings. The young Budgerigars grow quickly in the wild and leave the nest site, normally a cavity in a tree, within six weeks fully able to join the flock and move on to a new locality when the food source diminishes. In captivity these timings are replicated but obviously they do not need to ‘move on’. The colour of the wild Budgerigar in Australia is light green, however with so many being bred each year it was not surprising that colour mutations developed and through controlled breeding in cages these new colours were rapidly produced.
Flocks of Budgerigars are always on the move in the wild as food is often scarce, as is water. To be able to breed in the wild they need to find a locality where it has recently rained for a few days which will allow the grasses to grow quickly and produce the much needed green soft seeds to feed to their babies as soon as they are hatched.
BIRD SCENE 07
Below: The picture below shows the sizes of the five young baby Budgerigars from the third round. At this time the youngest was only 1/10th the size of the largest baby.
Above: Two weeks on and the baby has grown tremendously, now being 1/3rd of the size of the largest baby in the clutch. Right Top: are three pictures of the four young that were bred in the first round. I was really proud of these birds and took far too many pictures of them! Budgerigars are so popular in captivity because they have a number of attributes which appeal to bird lovers. They are active, clean feathered, inquisitive and
extremely friendly birds which make ideal pets if purchased at eight weeks of age they quickly bond with their new owner because they love being part of a group, in their native Australia they are a flock bird and therefore are keen to be a member of a ‘flock’ even if it is only their owner and themselves. After a few days in the new cage they will quickly settle down and then you can open the door and gently rub their lower breast just above their legs with a straight finger imitating a perch, they just cannot resist stepping up on to it and from this point on training can begin. There are basically two ways to breed
Budgerigars in the UK, either in breeding cages where the owner places two birds that they wish to breed from in a controlled environment. The second method is in an aviary with a number of Budgerigars which allows the birds to select their own partners. Generally Budgerigars are quite easy to sex as adult birds in good condition will have a blue cere (the nostril area above the beak) if they are a cock or brown if they are a hen, no need for DNA sexing in Budgerigars! I have kept Budgerigars for many years, never exhibiting them just for sheer pleasure, mine are exhibition type but not
to the size and standard of the top UK breeders but they are very attractive fit birds and can fly well. As mentioned earlier there are basically two ways to breed Budgerigars, either in breeding cages with one pair in each cage or in aviaries. Four pairs of cobalt’s were selected that I had bred the previous year. I kept them in a 10’ long aviary within my bird room through the winter with no supplementary heating, feeding was only millet both red and white as I was trying to keep the birds as slim as possible, fat budgerigars do not produce such good breeding results and they are prone to an early death. I placed
different coloured plastic split rings on their legs in March and for a day I kept them in a Sonia cage so that I could study who had paired up to whom. This worked well and I wrote down the newly forming pairs, at this stage I had not decided whether to cage breed them or place them in an aviary. It took me some time before I decided on the way I would breed with them; it was in a large aviary measuring 9’ x 18’ ample room for four pairs. It was not until May, yes I know that is a little late in the year but as their breeding aviary had access to natural daylight (not light through glass) I wanted to wait until the outside temperature warmed up. To be honest when I caught them up to transfer them to the breeding aviary they were very much on the heavy side especially the hens which was a bit of a disappointment as I was hoping that the winter feeding regime had kept them fairly lean. As I am always willing, in fact quite enthusiastic, to try slightly different approaches to breeding I decided to offer both typical Budgerigar nest boxes with a wooden concave and upright parakeet nest boxes with a wire ladder down to the base which was covered with wood chippings. It was quite interesting because three of the pairs selected the parakeet option and only one hen went for the typical Budgerigar nest box. With a relatively large aviary there was plenty
of wall space to hang the nest boxes on the wire, what is important is to ensure that the tops of the boxes are at the same height, the higher the box the more popular it will be and fighting can occur to secure the highest.
Picture of breeding stock in their aviary
The white nest box is typically used for Budgerigars the brown box to the left is normally used for parakeets this particular style has a square hole much larger than the typical box. The hen that used the white box struggled to get out of it at times as the hole was only just large enough for her. Fortunately there were no problems with fighting which can become quite bad certainly between hens with blood often seen and some quite severe damage to both participants. It might have been that because the birds were young, had been together over the winter and had formed their pairs that this helped to
stop the curse of fighting but that is a bit of a guess, perhaps I was just lucky! Fighting and even killing other babies is possibly the greatest drawback to breeding in an aviary but it does allow the birds to keep relatively fit. As with all livestock feeding is an important aspect of their long term care and wellbeing as described earlier Budgerigars are primarily seed eaters with plain canary seed Phalaris canariensis and a variety of millets as their primary food source, spray millet seems a favourite. However they should be offered seasonal green foods such as chickweed which grows in a unique, intertwined manner and it has small white star-shaped flowers hence its Latin name, Stellaria media. tems have a thin line of white hair that grows in a weave-like pattern.
Picture of breeding stock in their aviary
Also dandelion Taraxacum officinala broccoli, carrot, sweet apple, germinated seeds and grit. Fresh water each day is essential.
There are basically three types (or sizes) of Budgerigars available in the UK. The smallest are commonly known as ‘pet type’ these birds are the closest to wild Budgerigars in size and vitality but now available in virtually all the colours. These birds breed well and are the best type for new enthusiasts to obtain because they are the lowest priced and their young can be sold to new owners requiring a pet. The second type is the ‘exhibition type’ birds that have been selectively bred over many years to increase their size considerably over the ‘pet type’. These present more of a challenge to breed as they do not have quite the vitality of the smaller ‘pet type’ due to their increased size but they are not as difficult to breed as the ‘Champion exhibition’ stock owned by the experienced UK fanciers that spend many hours tending to their valuable birds and win the major prizes at Budgerigar shows. These birds are the largest and are the third type available but often at a high price. In reality there is no exact dividing line between the three types and a group of breeders would fail to agree in which of the three categories some birds should be placed but that does not matter, what is without doubt is that there is a very wide band of sizes represented within Budgerigars.
Picture of the three types of Budgerigar available in the UK.
The Cobalt cock on the left is mine the large excellent Yellow Spangle Cock is owned by Champion Budgerigar breeder Roger Carr from Buckinghamshire and the Golden-faced Blue pet type Budgerigar on the right was bred by Hein van Grouw who is Curator of the bird skins collection at The Natural History Museum at Tring Hertfordshire. Very many thanks to these two gentlemen who allowed me to put this interesting picture together. Once these birds had been photographed they were weighed. The results were quite interesting, as I said in the third sentence of this article wild Budgerigars 12
weigh between 26 and 29 grams (average 27.5 grams) so although the Golden-faced Blue is the smallest bird here at 41 grams it is 13.5 grams or a huge 50% larger than the wild type. My Cobalt came in at 50 grams and Roger’s Spangle weighed 60 grams. So the three weights were 41, 50 and 60 grams which rather surprised me as I thought that there would be a greater weight differential. No doubt the expert Champion breeders know why there is not that great a difference and maybe one of them could use these columns to shed some light on this part of this article?
The above picture shows the Salter scales which weigh to 1 gram that was used to assess the weight of the Budgerigars, this model number is 1066 BKDR08 and was obtained from Tescos for a reasonable £9.00. I had a bit of a hunt around in my bird room and found a 2 litre ice cream tub that fitted nicely on the scales. There is a zeroing facility so once the tub is weighed you can zero the readout, place the Budgerigar inside and obtain an accurate reading, I think they are really designed for cooking but as that is not one of my skills (other than home made egg food) I think we will quickly move on! When buying Budgerigars always purchase young current year bred closed rung Budgerigars, you then know that no one has tried to breed from these birds and discovered that they have a breeding
The above picture shows the Salter scales which weigh to 1 gram that was used to assess the weight of the Budgerigars, this model number is 1066 BKDR08 and was obtained from Tescos for a reasonable £9.00. I had a bit of a hunt around in my bird room and found a 2 litre ice cream tub that fitted nicely on the scales. There is a zeroing facility so once the tub is weighed you can zero the readout, place the Budgerigar inside and obtain an accurate reading, I think they are really designed for cooking but as that is not one of my skills (other than home made egg food) I think we will quickly move on! When buying Budgerigars always purchase young current year bred closed rung Budgerigars, you then know that no one has tried to breed from these birds and discovered that they have a breeding fault and they are passing them off on to you. In addition if they prove good breeders they will give you a number of years of successful and pleasurable breeding results. The ‘pet type’ Budgerigars breed for more years than the large Champion exhibition stock. Until you learn about colour genetics keep either green or blue normal coloured birds. If you obtain sex-linked mutations
It is really absorbing to watch the young birds developing their flying skills after leaving the nest box and very quickly they are playing their version of ‘tag’ with the adult cocks, going up to them tapping their beak and flying off before the adult bird knows what has happened!
FEATURE (Cinnamon or Opaline) it can be difficult to eradicate these mutations. Even when you purchase normal coloured birds there is a possibility that some of the cocks will be split for a sex linked mutation and will produce young hens showing the mutation. Normal hens are never split for a sex-linked mutation. The colour expectations of my pairs of Cobalt x Cobalt are 25% Sky Blue, 50% Cobalt and 25% Mauve. With such a wide range of Budgerigars on offer there are birds for all pockets. Budgerigars are one of the easiest birds to maintain and this factor alone is a great reason to keep them as they provide hours of interest as they fly around their aviary. It is really absorbing to watch the young birds developing their flying skills after leaving the nest box and very quickly they are playing their version of ‘tag’ with the adult cocks, going up to them tapping their beak and flying off before the adult bird knows what has happened! As Budgerigars are generally very social birds this bonding into the flock is well tolerated by the adults and is obviously part of the growing up process for the youngsters. There is no doubt that they learn a great deal by watching how the adults interact with the other mature birds in the flight, so much can be learnt just by watching others. Budgerigars bred in one year are ready to breed in the next season. As the spring and early summer are the best months to
hatch and rear them this is when I like to breed my collection, especially if breeding in outside aviaries. All birds greatly benefit from ultra violet rays of natural daylight as it assists with calcium production and the building of strong bone structures, this is particularly important for breeding hens who need higher levels of calcium due to their egg production. If kept in outside aviaries with damp floors there is a strong possibility that intestinal worms will infect your stock because the soft shells of worm eggs will stay viable in these conditions much longer than they would in a dry bird room. An adult worm living in the intestine of your Budgerigar has the potential to lay 2,000 eggs a year these eggs pass out of the bird in its droppings and can quickly cover the floor of your flight. The worms live on the nutrients passing through the intestines and a large infestation of worms will basically starve the bird even though it is eating plenty of food. Each time your bird goes onto the floor to seek food it can easily ingest a worm egg. I once lost a light green hen which appeared to be in good condition possessing a rich brown cere and rearing five young in the nest box. Initially it was a bit of a puzzle as to why she had suddenly died but when I postmortemed her I found the breast to be very thin and the intestines full of adult worms, some thirty four in number,
FEATURE each worm being ¾” long, they were clearly visible. Fortunately the cock was an experienced father and he reared the babies himself. Liquid Panacur (it looks like milk) has proved to be a reliable wormer. I use the 2.5% solution and cut it 5 parts water to one part Panacur, a Budgerigar should be given ½ cc of this mixture. Panacur is well tolerated by birds and doses in excess of this are not fatal. In the past wormers were very bitter and even if you had used a worming needle with a specially adapted end to place the dose into the crop via the beak the birds would frequently sick the liquid up and your efforts were worthless. As Panacur is not bitter this is less likely to happen. Hospital cages are a valuable addition to the equipment that is needed to keep our birds in good condition. They have a heating element built into the wall or the floor of the hospital cage and are thermostatically controlled. They are capable of heating the bird to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and are very useful for hens that are egg bound or for birds that have a chill. They are also very good if a hen leaves her babies, it is surprising how quickly
chilled young birds become active again when they receive additional heat, this then gives you the opportunity to locate another breeding hen to foster the young under or allows you to hand feed them. As they are normally built of white plastic they are easy to wipe clean and disinfect when they are not in use. The clear plastic front which slides up to act as a door allows you to view the condition of the bird without disturbing it further. Always place food and water on the floor of the hospital cage and when the bird starts to look better reduce the temperature by 2 degrees each day to slowly acclimatise the bird to a lower temperature. This is a typical Hospital cage, which for the purposes of this article also doubled up as the photographic cage as I do not like pictures distorted by punch bars.
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LESSER VASA PARROTS PHARRETE
WRITTEN BY: ANTON SCHREUDERS 18 BIRD SCENE
Breeding In 1999 I took over a small group of Vasas from Mrs. Louwman, a lady well known by the zoo she had in Wassenaar near The Hague. The birds were all wild caught which were kept in a flock, but never had been starting to breed. The group consisted of both C. n .nigra and C. n. libs. The birds came from a large outdoor aviary and were hardy for our winter. Because I did not have enough space to house all the birds I sold three C. n. nigra and some pairs C. n. libs were placed with other breeders. One pair was loaned to my uncle Rens Schreuders. The birds got a nice big outdoor aviary with an adjacent small unheated stay inside for the winter. In the summer my aunt and uncle went on vacation and care was left to a son still living at home, my cousin thus. He fed the birds twice as much than their usual supply. Whether this excess food offer was a trigger I do not know, but the birds did go to breed. Eventually, two beautiful males hatched. This was the first breeding result and took place in the year 2000. Unfortunately, the neighbourhood complained the birds caused too much noise pollution. I took back the pair and put them in one of my father’s aviaries, where they didn’t breed unfortunately. In 2001 a second pair started breeding for the first time. This pair consisted of one of my first hens from 1993, which I had
During the first week the youngest and smallest chick I hand fed extra with Kaytee Exact Hand feeding for parrots. I did not even have a crop needle at home, so quite amateurish I used an ordinary syringe. As this chick grew a little bigger the hen took over the feeding and both two foster children have grown into healthy birds. linked to a male from the collection Louwman. This pair nests almost every year faithfully. The number of chicks per nest from this pair varies between two and four. Usually, four eggs are laid. A third pair was housed in one of the aviaries at my friend Tom Barbanson. This pair had two chicks in the nest of just one week old, when the birds due to circumstances could not be taken care by Tom anymore. The pair including the chicks in the nest box had to return to my place. At that time, luckily one of my pairs at home had four chicks that were almost about to leave the nest. The chicks from Tom, that were much smaller, I put in the same nest box with the four chicks from the other pair. This foster hen raised these chicks, together with her own four chicks without any trouble. During the first week the youngest and smallest chick I hand fed extra with Kaytee Exact Hand feeding for parrots. I did not even have a crop needle at home, so quite amateurish I used an ordinary syringe. As this chick grew a little bigger the hen took over the feeding and
BIRD SCENE 19
both two foster children have grown into healthy birds. One captive bred pair consists of offspring from my own wild caught birds. This hen produced (infertile) eggs at the age of two years. The next years this pair produced two chicks once and three chicks the other year. Unfortunately, the following two years the hen only produced infertile eggs. Last year she even laid seven eggs in one nest. This year I was luckier, the pair produced two beautiful youngsters. So for the third time a second generation C.n. libs has been born in my aviary. Almost all other hens in my collection have laid eggs, recently and in the past. Unfortunately infertile every time. Except for one young female C.n. nigra, that produced eggs for the first time and let them drop from the branch, all other hens laid eggs in the nest box and incubated. Because breeding in colony both with me as with Mrs. Louwman, has not proved
When being late, the males fail. They immediately stop feeding the hens, they are only interested to mate for a short period of time. Then, when hens don’t want to enter the nest box, chances are gone. Wishing for better luck next year…
20 BIRD SCENE
successful, I switched to a different strategy. Throughout the year I keep birds in a group together. Once the birds will feed each other, I watch which hens are most commonly fed by one or more males in particular. These birds I separate. The timing in separating the birds seems to be crucial. As mentioned earlier, the birds are sensitive to stress and they need plenty of time to get used to the new situation. Moving them to another aviary is counterproductive, but even placing partitions in the aviary also provides robust stress. However, when this is done in time, there is a reasonable chance that the birds will proceed to breed after some time. In my old aviary, where two pairs are housed this does well every year. In my larger aviary with a group of about a dozen birds this sometimes goes wrong. Sometimes I’m too early and then the pairs don’t fit (still put the wrong birds together), and sometimes I’m late. When being late, the males fail. They immediately stop feeding the hens, they are only interested to mate for a short period of time. Then, when hens don’t want to enter the nest box, chances are gone. Wishing for better luck next year… As previously mentioned in this article, this year I put three males together with two hens separately. This resulted in two nests, both with four eggs. The hens have been breeding steadily.
During this time I had the luck I could work at home frequently. Therefore I had the opportunity to observe the birds more frequently than usual. So I’m pretty sure which males mated with the hens. Of course I am not sure for 100% which particular male should have fertilized the eggs. I just separated these males with those hens from the flock to be sure that the hens would not mate with my captive bred males, in order to prevent all offspring being related. At the end all eggs in both two nest boxes seemed to be infertile. Three weeks after the last egg had been laid I removed the eggs, although the hens were breeding still. A couple of years ago Loro Parque’s curator of birds Matthias Reinschmidt told me that he got best results by keeping the birds in a flock the entire year, and
separating pairs into large cages in the same aviary during the breeding season. At about the same time, and without previously have been talking over we proceeded to the same strategy by chance. With me thus with varying success. Although it appears from Jonathan Ekstrom’s research that Vasa Parrots are polygynandric, I have noticed that hens still have a preference for one particular male. The hens that have been laying eggs previously, mate with the same male every year. That’s not to say they do not allow other males, but they look for the same male again every time. Sometimes breeding with a trio is successful, two males with one hen. However, in my case when I put the birds separately, space is limited. For me this has never led to any result. A better result may be achieved with a trio in a slightly larger
BIRD SCENE 21
aviary. For some breeders such a trio has led to results repeatedly. Successfully breeding in a flock has been reported by Chester Zoo only. Also Bengt Person in Sweden tried breeding in a flock, but as for me and Mrs. Louwman without any positive result. Most (coincidental) breeding results are obtained with one single pair, usually housed in a large aviary. In Madagascar Lesser Vasas probably breed from September, in our autumn. I draw this conclusion because the birds I’ve bought myself in Madagascar late October, clearly were fledglings born that same year. It took several years before my wild caught birds adapted to our seasons. Moreover, males and females didn’t come in breeding condition simultaneously. Still males don’t come in breeding condition all
22 BIRD SCENE
at the same moment. This also makes it difficult to consider prematurely which pairs should be separated best. Now my birds have adapted to our seasons more, the hen’s mandibles changing colour starts late February usually. Most males follow this a little later. They also begin to whistle more frequent and louder. Around May / June the birds feed each other frequently. It varies by individual birds when the first egg is laid. The earliest bird in my collection starts in July, but I also found eggs in September. In particular, where a hen previously has not laid eggs it is very sensitive to eggbinding. But also hens that have laid before remain vulnerable. Several hens I have lost by egg-binding, even in summer when the temperature was relatively high.
FEATURE Other breeders share my experience. When the nights are cooler you should decide to stay alert on this. While the cloaca swells anyway (even if the hen is not supposed to lay an egg), it is difficult to recognize eggbinding in time. When the hen is sitting fluffed-up you should act immediately. I have experienced that a hen only sits fluffed-up shortly before she dies. In the introduction under “Dull birds” I have described the courtship behaviour already. When it finally comes to mating, the birds take the time. Mating lasting more than an hour is no exception. Usually the birds sit next to each other and it seems like they bite each other constantly in the neck, while the genitals of the male are penetrated in the hen totally. Both birds make soft whistling sounds during mating.
Before every single egg is laid a copulation always takes place. One day after mating the egg is laid. Therefore I assume that each egg is fertilized separately and that the hen cannot use the sperm to fertilize more eggs. When the birds are disturbed and scared during mating and try to fly away, they won’t get loose immediately, just like dogs. The probability that sensitive organs hereby damage is present. Usually unperturbedly the birds go on as they are approached slowly. Once I was not aware that a pair was busy on top of a nest box and they were shocked by my sudden presence. The birds flew away, while they were still stuck together. After this panic reaction I have never seen a mating of these birds anymore. Too bad, because they had raised chicks successfully once before.
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My hens have a strong preference for large nest boxes with a large entrance hole. In the beginning, I have offered several different models of nest boxes, cabinets for Crimson Rosellas, cabinets with and without vestibule, cabinets for King Parrots and a Cockatoo nest box. The preference of all the hens in the group went out to the cockatoo nest box (type hollow trunk), giving many mutual quarrel, but no eggs. Now I produce my nest boxes myself out of plywood. The front I make segmented so that it somewhat resembles a trunk. The height is about 90 cm and the diameter about 50 cm. About 20 cm below the under part of the entrance hole I make a small plateau of about 5 cm deep, forcing the hen to climb down for a few cm. Below the plateau I placed a shot, which makes the
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inner bottom surface slightly smaller and more triangular in shape. In order to prevent the hen from jumping directly on the eggs from still a fairly large height, I also fixed a perch about 30 cm from the bottom. The bedding consists of a 10 cm thick layer of wood shavings. Before the hen reaches the bottom makes her thus three steps of 20 cm down. It is important that the entrance hole is large enough, about 10 cm diameter. If the hole is too small, the hen will not enter the nest box. The upper side of the entrance hole is located approximately 8 cm from the top of the nest box. My captive bred hens are content with a lower rectangular nest box, but the wildcaught birds don’t. When the first egg is laid the hen starts
FEATURE breeding immediately. Usually four eggs are laid, but nests of two to even seven eggs I have already experienced. The eggs are 34 mm long and 28 mm wide. The incubation period is 14 days. I tried to keep data since 2001. Although the birds sometimes nested in my vacation and / or it was not always exactly clear what day the egg was laid, not all details are 100% accurate. Nevertheless I have nice summary of average values. Hens breed very steady, and usually won’t let them chase away from the nest. Inspection of the nest is sometimes difficult, because in fact that can only happen if the hen has left the nest occasionally. All nest boxes I can open from the outside of the aviary. I made shutters in it. Almost all hens allow me to open the shutter while they sit on the eggs or chicks. They will not chase and stay on the eggs while they adopt a defensive or offensive posture. Therefore it is not possible to check whether another egg has been laid yet. Meanwhile, the slightly tamer birds let me push themselves aside by my hand so that I have a better view of the number of eggs. I just have to watch out for my hand then because they can bite pretty hard. By now I am so familiar with my birds that I dare to disturb some of them during breeding. Obviously I do not recommend you to do so. I just want to show with this that my Lesser Vasas breed very fanatically and that they are not easily upset.
Every other day an egg is laid. The eggs hatch after 14 days already. Often the first-born chick is almost one week older than the fourth chick. Because the chicks grow very fast, the last-born chick, that is much smaller than the rest then, sometimes is overlooked by the hen and insufficiently fed. About two times I have fed myself the fourth chick with a syringe during the first week. The first time I recognized late and the chick was too far dehydrated and did not survive. The second time, I luckily was alert to it and the chick survived. Other years, the hen raised four chicks on her own without my help. After hatching the young birds stay in the nest for about five and a half to six weeks. When they leave the nest box, they are almost as large as the parents, but still very awkward. They can hardly stand on their feet and flying also does not work well. It looks like they have left the nest
After hatching the young birds stay in the nest for about five and a half to six weeks. When they leave the nest box, they are almost as large as the parents, but still very awkward. They can hardly stand on their feet and flying also does not work well. It looks like they have left the nest too early, but it seems normal, because in all my pairs the chicks left the nest box so early.
BIRD SCENE 25
too early, but it seems normal, because in all my pairs the chicks left the nest box so early. I can imagine that in nature many young birds don’t survive, and that’s why Vasa Parrots produce relatively large numbers of chicks compared to other larger parrot species. Vasa Parrots are born having white beaks. After about ten weeks the bill colour shall start changing to black. Around this time the parents stop feeding their offspring. Within about twelve weeks the beak of the young birds will be totally black. Shortly after the young birds have left the nest box, the parents start moulting and the beak colour is changing to black. Because the chicks grow so fast parents are only focused on food and feeding. The amount of food that passes through during the breeding season is extreme. Besides the nearly double portion of seed
After mating the entire genital organ hangs outside of the body of the male.
26 BIRD SCENE
which I provide daily, for example one pair may consume one half a kilo of grapes extra. Almost daily I provide egg food if there are chicks in the nest box. There is much tampering and wasted as well. Sometimes the beak and head of the hen is smeared with food residues and the aviary should be cleaned more often. Especially when there are chicks in the nest box, the parents are very nervous. Tame birds are clearly reluctant and are not so keen on the caregiver than usual. With some patience, the young birds are easy to tame. Although I noticed that especially males continue to bite long and hard as they are tried to be petting or touching any other way. Bird keepers keeping a Vasa Parrot as a cage bird don’t endorse this otherwise. Some have reported me that the birds certainly will be touched without biting reflex or other adverse reaction. I
FEATURE think this is learned behaviour and that the birds do not appreciate the nature of being touched. It fits my opinion, not at their natural behaviour, in which no form of affection is shown between species. Peculiarities As if what was written above is not peculiar enough, there are still a few things I would like to mention. In addition to the change of the bill colour, I have already mentioned the swelling of the cloaca during the breeding season. The male sexual organ can even hang totally or partially outside the body. This phenomenon is fascinating, but even not always known by veterinarians. Many owners of a Vasa Parrot who are not familiar with this get scared and might think that the bird is suffering from a disease. I even read stories where an ignorant vet tried pushing back the hemipenis into the body, what had to be a tremendous torture for the bird. So don’t be scared if you observe this. In particular, immediately after mating the entire genital organ hangs outside of the body of the male. It takes a few minutes until the greatest part of the flesh has been retracted back into the body. During breeding season the aviary will need to be cleaned more frequent. This season the faeces become thinner. This is logical, because with a swollen cloaca obviously it poops a little more difficult. The thinner faeces give a stronger, typical smell. Therefore, there is sometimes
claimed that Vasa Parrots stink. That is not entirely true. The birds themselves don’t stink, it’s the faeces that smell. Outside the breeding season the faeces are solid again and almost without any smell at all. In addition to more liquid faeces the birds also lose much moisture if they come loose apart after copulation. Large amounts of slimy fluid leaves the gender gap and usually ends up on the aviary floor. This might not seem very tasteful, but it is a fact. Greater Vasa Parrot hens are losing their head feathers during breeding season, giving them a bald head. The skin colour on the head changes into lemon yellow to deep orange. Lesser Vasa hens won’t get bald. However, the skin may colour yellow to orange in the beak area, which, however, by the feathering is hardly visible. Finally The circumstances under which I keep my birds are far from ideal. I live in a row of houses and hereby I express my gratitude to everyone in my neighbourhood for their tolerance of the noise in summer. Also the amount of birds I possess is continuously too large for the available space. Nevertheless I usually succeed to get offspring at least from one pair every year. Only in 2010 and in 2013 I didn’t obtain any breeding results. Of course the facility plays a major role in achieving breeding results. Because of that
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my findings and results are subjective. By all means I gained a tremendous amount of experience over the years. Also, thanks to contacts with scientists who have done field research and contacts with zoos and bird parks I have amassed a large amount of knowledge, which I like to share with all breeders of Vasa Parrots. Unfortunately, it is still not entirely clear what triggers the birds to start breeding. I am quite convinced that food supply, a longer stay in the same room and keeping several pairs in close proximity contribute to successful breeding. Twenty years ago, parrot breeders still
28 BIRD SCENE
Unfortunately, it is still not entirely clear what triggers the birds to start breeding. I am quite convinced that food supply, a longer stay in the same room and keeping several pairs in close proximity contribute to successful breeding. furrowed brows when I said I just keep Lesser Vasas. There was hardly any interest in these beautiful and fascinating birds. The result of such attitude is that Vasa Parrots are still rare in aviculture nowadays. Finding unrelated offspring becomes increasingly difficult. Also, they wouldn’t be commercially
interesting. Breeders who want to gain financial profit I can tell that I have never earned money by breeding Vasas actually. However, because unrelated offspring is so difficult to obtain, the price of one pair has become a lot more interesting than twenty years ago. As a hobbyist with an ideal, however, I think it is more important to preserve the species rather than obtaining financial profit. The breeding of these birds took me no significant amount of money over the years, but gave me a lot of fun indeed. I have the impression that interest for Vasa Parrots has increased somewhat in
recent years, and more enthusiasts like to do a serious effort to breed these birds. For the survival of the species this is vital. While poor breeding results have been obtained so far (especially with C. n. Libs), I estimate that they will quickly disappear from the aviculture. I hope this article will inspire a bigger number of parrot breeders to take a breeding attempt with Lesser Vasa Parrots. They are relatively easy and strong birds to keep. Breeding them definitely is a challenge!
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BY LES RANCE
THE NAT EXHIBIT
32 44 BIRD BIRD SCENE SCENE
rogress with the background tasks associated with this year’s National is excellent and all the entry wrist bands, car parking passes and Officials badges have already been sent to the Show Secretary’s so that they can distribute them to exhibitors with their cage labels and lifting cards during September. Our sponsors, Johnston and Jeff are again providing excellent rosettes that I am sure will be greatly appreciated by the winners as they are of very high quality, the best current year rosette is bright red and the specials are a vivid blue. If you are lucky enough to win both they will be a beautiful addition to your bird room. 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 three 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
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parrot world, the list of classes had been expanded for 2017 and this expanded schedule will be retained for 2018. The Irish Fancy International will this year be organised by Les Summers as Maurice O’Connor is unavailable. Also joining our ranks is the Yorkshire Canary Club, so there will be 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 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
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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 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
L A N IO N T A N O I E T I TH XHIB BER 2018 E H OCTO 7T
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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.
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FEATURE 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 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. Arrangements are well in hand for this year’s Show on Sunday 7th October 2018. A meeting with representatives of all the supporting clubs was held at The Quality Hotel Coventry on Sunday 14th May. 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. “The National Exhibition” has been kindly sponsored once again by Richard Johnston of Johnston and Jeff, who has supported us from the start. This year their generous sponsorship
has also financed additional new judges stands to help with the requirements of our new clubs. The added attraction of bird seed also kindly donated by Johnston and Jeff Ltd as prizes can only help increase the numbers benched. 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 their 29th August 2018 edition and as previously carries advertisements from all the exhibiting clubs and details as to 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
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.
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they will be on offer at Stafford on 7th 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.
DONATE TO OUR CONSERVATION FUND… CLICK THE LINK BELOW: http://www.theparrotsocietyuk.org/donations.php
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PARROTLETS FOR BEGINNERS BY HAYLEY BAKER
hat attracts you to keeping Parrotlets? Is it their fun feisty behaviour? Their intelligence? The various colours? I personally love to sit there and watch how they interact in their pairs. I love how one minute they are grooming and preening each other and then the next minute they are having a huge verbal debate. They are truly entertaining little birds. But what ever reason we keep them we all care and house them in a similar way. The most commonly kept Parrotlet is the Celestial Parrotlets. Usually standing short at 5 inches and weighing around 28-35g. Their habitat is dry landscape with plenty of shrubbery to forage through. Parrotlets are a miniature Parrot from South America (Ecuador and Peru) that are becoming very popular and with a gain in popularity comes a great responsibility. When keeping Parrotlets whether as pets or for breeding research needs to be done. Ensure you are buying a happy healthy Parrotlet, ask your breeder questions, linage is extremely important. You don’t want to buy a bird too closely related or inbred. Also genetics play a huge part on the health. For example two of the worst possible combinations are Red eyed to Red eyed birds, this includes Ino and Fallow mutations as this can cause blindness in babies. I’ve had many emails regarding blind red eyed birds and this is more than likely due to improper
pairings. Also Double Dark factor to Double Dark Factor (this includes Mauve and Olive). Pairing such mutations is a poor combination as our DD birds are very weak specimens generally with poor feather structure. The best combination of linage would include one green parent at least. Greens are very important to breeding Celestial Parrotlets. Don’t let yourself get too carried away with mutations if you are interested in Breeding Mutations do not forget your greens. Luckily there are more and more breeders getting into keeping ‘pure’ greens if you can get some of them into your flock all the better. Keeping and breeding Parrotlets are suitable for beginner / intermediate bird keepers. The only downside to keeping and breeding these wonderful birds is that you must only keep these birds in pairs. They are really aggressive and territorial once sexually mature. I do however keep young in flights or large
The most commonly kept Parrotlet is the Celestial Parrotlets. Usually standing short at 5 inches and weighing around 28-35g. Their habitat is dry landscape with plenty of shrubbery to forage through. Parrotlets are a miniature Parrot from South America (Ecuador and Peru) that are becoming very popular…
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Parrotlets need a similar diet to Lovebirds, so I always recommend a Lovebird mix (Deli nature Number 72) or a parakeet mixed with a good canary seed (Ratio 60:40). Giving Parrotlets an interesting diverse fresh diet is also important.
FEATURE cages but in the same sex, then once they are sexually mature they then get paired up. Many breeders also do this, especially when showing Parrotlets. Parrotlet Set up Many breeder’s cages vary in the group, which proves they are not particular on the cage they breed in. Some people use double metal breeders, some use wooden, others all wire cages, and others even pet style cages. The minimum measurements I would recommend is 15x15x30 inches. I do feel they prefer a lengthy cage to a tall cage, but of course bigger the better. Bar spacing must be no bigger than 18 mm. Perches you must have a good variety with different lengths and widths, especially width as it is good for exercising the feet. Ensure food and water bowls are away from toys and perches, so they do not soil in them. The food and water must be changed daily. A good amount of toys but not too much to just fill the cage so they are unable to fly. With the toys do inspect daily for loose threads and possible dangers. Most toys are safe but it’s always good to check daily that they will not harm your Parrotlet in any way. Using a product like Easibed (www. gardenfeathers.co.uk) or similar is always good to put on the base as its super absorbent, clean and does not scatter around when the Parrotlets fly around their cage.
Feeding Parrotlets Parrotlets need a similar diet to Lovebirds, so I always recommend a Lovebird mix (Deli nature Number 72) or a parakeet mixed with a good canary seed (Ratio 60:40). Giving Parrotlets an interesting diverse fresh diet is also important. Ensure it is always finely diced as Parrotlets will not use their feet to eat. Apple, Pear, Pomegranate, Broccoli, Spinach, Melon, Berries, Quinoa, Brown rice, Carrot, Sweet Potatoes are a few good ideas to include in the mix and are popular with the birds. Diet in breeding birds is very important as the hen will lose a lot of calcium laying eggs. Always make sure they are getting plenty of calcium (good source is cuttlefish) but also a calcium supplement. Eggs are made up of nutrients, fat and egg shell. So the hen will need the nutrients used before, during and after the breeding cycle to keep her in good health and of course the babies too. Breeding Parrotlets. When setting up a pair for breeding there are a few steps to take. Firstly, and most importantly are they genetically compatible? If you have a blue to green or green to green this one isn’t too much of an issue. But if you are pairing a mutation to a mutation please re-evaluate. An ideal paring if getting into mutations is a visual to a split. For example, an American yellow to a green
If you are setting up a bird room with Parrotlets please make sure when cages are next to each other they cannot see one another. They become more interested in each other and may not breed as well, and if they are too close they may attack one another through the bars.
FEATURE split for American, you will still breed visual Americans but they will be healthier. Secondly make sure you introduce them in a mutual cage as mentioned before they are very territorial and if you were to add a Parrotlet to another Parrotlet in a cage there is a very high chance that new Parrotlet will get killed by the existing Parrotlet. Always let them settle with one another before adding a nest box, and make sure all perches are sturdy. Parrotlets should never be allowed to breed less than 12 months old, for a young hen to go through so much too young will take its toll on her. Never breed more than twice a year if you wish for the hen to live a long healthy life. When breeding Parrotlets calcium is so important so make sure cuttlefish is always available and provide egg food daily for babies. On the Parrotlet Interest Group many breeders use various boxes with great success. They vary from Budgie style to Lovebird and L shaped. Again a product like Easibed is a great base substitute for the box with a little soil. But I personally find if the box is on the front of the cage you will be more successful breeding (especially with Spectacled or Green rumped). Parrotlets as they usually lay 5-8 eggs and will incubate for 21-23 days. You can ring the babies when their eyes start to open (usually 7-9 days) and you can identify sex and mutation when feathers start pinning through (usually around 2-3
weeks). Babies usually fledge around 4-5 weeks and are fully weaned by 8 weeks old, never buy a Parrotlet less than this age especially a hand reared one as they can regress. If you are setting up a bird room with Parrotlets please make sure when cages are next to each other they cannot see one another. They become more interested in each other and may not breed as well, and if they are too close they may attack one another through the bars. However I find if placed opposite it is not as much of an issue. Always make sure there is ample lighting and though the winter months fully insulated or slight heat. Different parts of the country fluctuate in temperature. Never house Parrotlets outside especially in the winter this can be fatal.
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