45 Bird Scene - Winter 2019 / 2020

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BIRD ISSUE FORTY FIVE: WINTER 2020

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THE MAGAZINE FOR HOBBYIST BREEDERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS

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REPORT: THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION 2019

SP RI N 2N G E D D I 20 MA TIO 20 RC N H OU

SLOWLY BUT SURELY, THE PHILIPPINE COCKATOO GAINS GROUND

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BREED AND IAN ULD O G RELEASE FINCH


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CONTENTS BIRD SCENE: WINTER 2020

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

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SLOWLY BUT SURELY, THE PHILIPPINE COCKATOO GAINS GROUND Dr. David Waugh

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50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PARROT SOCIETY UK - PART 2 By Alan Jones

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BREED AND RELEASE Gouldian Finch

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REPORT: THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION 2019 Les Rance

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MICE, ROOFS AND BIRD ROOM CONSTRUCTION Rosemary Low

ON THE COVER

BIRD ISSUE FORTY FIVE: WINTER 2020

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THE MAGAZINE FOR HOBBYIST BREEDERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS

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FR

REPORT: THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION 2019

RIN 2N G ED D IT 20 MA IO 20 RC N H OU

SLOWLY BUT SURELY, THE PHILIPPINE COCKATOO GAINS GROUND

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BREED AND IAN ULD RELEASE GOFIN CH

BIRD SCENE: Issue Forty Five: Winter 2020 BIRD SCENE is run by The Parrot Society UK, Audley House, Northbridge Road, Berkhamsted HP4 1EH, 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 W

ith our national news focused very firmly on the imminent General Election and the vast range of promises from the political parties I do hope that you enjoy reading this winter edition of Bird Scene and that it brings you a different subject to absorb. We all know that bird keeping is a relaxing past-time, however, for hobbyist breeders that keep their birds in unheated aviaries through the poor weather experienced during the winter months it can also be a rather worrying time, however, with careful preparation and planning we can mitigate the worst of the weather. If aviaries are exposed to the wind then the provision of clear plastic sheeting wrapped around three sides of the aviary improves the conditions inside remarkably and at a very low cost. During the winter moths it is always important to feed your birds each day, not only to ensure they have plenty of food but also to study your birds and make sure they are not distressed by the weather conditions. 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 04

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an excellent article from Dr David Waugh on the efforts to protect the Philippine Red-vented Cockatoo, a bird that is admired by many bird enthusiasts. It was very much a firm favourite of our former Chairman Cliff Wright and the Society gave a sizable donation to the Zoological Society of London in the days of John Hayward to assist their work on this cockatoo. Also in this issue we have a report on the National Exhibition that was held at Stafford County Showground on Sunday 6th October. The quality of the images taken by our Designer Neil Randle are excellent and allow readers of this publication, who may not have been able to attend this event, a real insight into the day. There is also an article relating to Gouldian Finches, those beautiful finches from Australia, let us hope that they have not been troubled by the very severe fires raging in some parts of the country. Also we continue the reports from our seminar held at Chester Zoo which focused on conservation issues. So really quite a lot for you to read and hopefully pick up some pointers that may well assist you with whatever species of birds you currently maintain. This is now the forty-fifth edition of Bird Scene, how quickly eight years


@theparrotsocietyuk.org

TION

BY THE EDITOR

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 CPI inflation now running well in excess of 2.0% 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 e-magazine we do not have this problem, or for that matter the cost of colour printing. As a result of

LES RANCE

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 seven 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 has been produced to publicise The National Exhibition held each year at our October Sale Day/Show at Stafford County Showground which was held on Sunday 6th 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 look at the Bird Scene archive. BIRD SCENE 05


Adult Philippine Cockatoo feeding on flowers.

This long-lived cockatoo is endemic to the Philippines, and in 1950 it was common throughout the archipelago but then suffered a massive and rapid decline, most likely in the mid-1980s, which left a population of as few as 650 individuals…

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FEATURE

BY DR. DAVID WAUGH - CORRESPONDENT, LORO PARQUE FUNDACIÓN

SLOWLY BUT SURELY, THE PHILIPPINE COCKATOO GAINS GROUND

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he well-known fable of the hare and the tortoise, which pits one against the other in a race, concludes with the tortoise as the winner, the lesson of the story being that success can be achieved slowly and steadily. In real life, the character of the tortoise could easily be assumed by the Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) - not the bird, but the wild population of the species. Slowly but surely this wild population is increasing in response to the comprehensive conservation efforts being undertaken to prevent its extinction, and to bring about the recovery of the species and its lowland forest habitat. Since 1999 these efforts,

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Graph of the wild population increase of the Philippine Cockatoo. Blue line – upper estimates: red line – lower estimates.

encompassed in the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Programme (PCCP) led by Peter Widmann and Indira LacernaWidmann of the Katala Foundation Inc., have been supported by the Loro Parque Fundación, with US$1,816,201 and absolute trust that the strategy and the actions will pay off. This long-lived cockatoo is endemic to the Philippines, and in 1950 it was common throughout the archipelago but then suffered a massive and rapid decline, most likely in the mid-1980s, which left a population of as few as 650 individuals, perhaps 89% of these being found on Palawan and its satellite islands. The main causes of its decline have been the destruction of lowland forest and mangroves, and trapping and poaching of nestlings, and the dire situation of the

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Philippine Cockatoo resulted in its listing in the IUCN Red List as ‘Critically Endangered’. In response, the PCCP set as its overall goal the stepwise down-listing of the species in the Red List, as indicated by an increasing self-sustained population within the natural range of the species. To achieve this, the PCCP has enacted a broad array of conservation interventions, including nest protection and monitoring, applied research and population monitoring, protected area establishment and management, habitat restoration, rescue and captive management, translocation, capacity building, conservation education and advocacy. A key approach is the inclusion of former poachers as wildlife wardens for nest protection and monitoring, which not


FEATURE only immediately removes poaching as a major threat factor, but at the same time provides a wealth of traditional knowledge for the protection of the species. Constantly being refined as necessary, the methods applied over the past twenty years have resulted in the recovery of the local populations of the Philippine Cockatoo in four project sites within Palawan, being the islands of Rasa, Dumaran and Pandanan/Bugsuk, and the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm mainland site, which in 2019 collectively had between 60 to 86% of the total population. Therefore these form an important part of the overall positive population trend which, more than merely remaining stable, is gradually increasing. The tortoise is winning! All objective estimations of wild populations incorporate an upper limit and a lower limit, which are shown in Figure 1 for the four most recent years (2016-2019). Thus,

the most optimistic latest population estimate is of 1,278 individuals, and a four year increase between 14.5 and 23.2%. If current levels of protection in the project sites can be maintained and the positive cockatoo population trend continues, down-listing could be achieved by 2024 following the IUCN criteria for population recovery of three generations, which is 39 years for this species, and assuming that the major population crash occurred in the mid-1980s. Palawan is currently undergoing rapid development, some of which affects directly the breeding and foraging habitats of cockatoos. To help avoid the more damaging effects of such development, the PCCP is involved in policy dialogue with local and national decision makers and government agencies regarding these emerging issues. Slowly, but surely is the way forward.

The intrepid Philippine Cockatoo wardens of Dumaran Island.


BY

ALAN JONES

Eric Peake

T R A P O TW

50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PARROT SOCIETY UK

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FEATURE

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s reported in the 44th edition of Bird Scene Ray Ackroyd’s film about the protective collaring of trees in Australia set the scene for the day, and showed the audience just what could be done out in the field, with a simple idea, limited manpower, and some basic equipment. Eric Peake then took to the stage to introduce a prestigious international selection of speakers for the rest of the day. First up were two keepers from our hosts, Chester Zoo, presenting some of the conservation projects with which the Zoo has been involved. Anne Morris, lead keeper on the parrot section, started with a talk about some of their earliest fieldwork in the late 1980s and into the 1990s to hand rear and release Echo Parakeets (Psittacula eques). Anne described how habitat destruction had brought this species to the brink of extinction, with a mere 20 or so individuals left in the wild in the 1980s. These parakeets were initially provided with nest boxes in the remaining forest, and later individuals were brought into

purpose-built aviaries to aid breeding. Eggs were taken for incubating, or young chicks were taken for hand rearing, into a purpose-built unit, with strict hygiene control. All chicks were weighed regularly, and fed by tube and syringe. All were checked for external parasites – a common cause of chick morbidity in wild parakeets – and initially fed individually. As they grew and fledged, they were grouped together in crèche fashion to avoid imprinting on humans, before ultimately moving to an outside flight where they could see others of their own kind. Here they were still monitored by attaching small bowls of feed to weighing scales. The birds would land on the cups to feed, simultaneously registering their weight as they did so. The final stage was a soft-release aviary with feeding stations to which the chicks could return while they gradually explored the big wide world. Native plants were grown in the aviaries, or the birds’ natural food berries and fruits were ‘spiked’ in their flights, so that they would learn about ideal food sources.

Anne Morris

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A small bell was attached to the middle tail feather to monitor their movements initially. Some birds quickly removed this interference, but all were eventually lost at the bird’s first major moult, by which time all would be independent. Hopperstyle feeders (to which the birds had become accustomed while in their flights) were mounted on posts around the site to ensure that all individuals would continue to receive adequate nutrition. Anne then went on to show the natural rain-forest habitat of these birds, with photographs of released individuals. She described how these methods had increased the population of free-living Echo Parakeets to 120+ breeding pairs at the last count. Anne’s colleague Gareth Evans then took the stage to describe a recent survey on the Ecuador Amazon Parrot (Amazona autumnalis lilacina). This study followed DNA research carried out by Chester Zoo’s Director General Dr Mark Pilgrim, who was interested in the relationships between the various species and possible subspecies of this group of Amazon parrots. After 10 years of dedicated study, Dr Pilgrim was able to confirm that this parrot should be listed as a distinct species, and it was immediately classified as endangered by IUCN. The Ecuador Amazon is found just in a small area of dry forest habitat in southwest Ecuador, known as Cerra Blanco. The parrots roost in nearby mangrove trees, so the survey team staked out these roost sites in the

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early mornings and late afternoons, to observe and count the birds flying to and from their roost sites. Birds counted ranged from 40 to 140, mostly in pairs or threes. Allowing for the fact that some may have been nesting, a maximum number for the area surveyed was estimated at less that 200, so a truly endangered population. Trees were surveyed for possible nest holes in the area, and a follow-up survey is planned for early 2017. Gareth went on to describe Chester Zoo’s attempts at breeding Amazona lilacina since the arrival of the first individuals in 1983. None were bred until 1996, following a change in nest box design. In the following year Mark Pilgrim set up a studbook for the species, and the Zoo acquired several individuals from various sources and gathered them together in a communal aviary. The parrots then selected their chosen partners, and these bonded pairs were set up in breeding situations at the Zoo or with other agencies. This technique led to a rapid increase in breeding success. Gareth continued by describing the current breeding aviary for these parrots at the Zoo, and we were able to see these for ourselves on the following morning’s guided tour. They are not highly destructive parrot species, so flights can be planted out to mimic their natural habitat more closely than is possible with many other psittacine birds in captivity. The breeding cycle and feeding regime


FEATURE

Gareth Evans

of these birds at the Zoo was described. Nutribird pellets, with pulses and fresh fruits and vegetables are given, presented in dishes mounted off the floor to prevent contamination by mice. Some chicks are taken for hand rearing, but most remain with their parents. A selection of fresh, bird-safe branches and foliage is provided for nutritional and psychological enrichment. Following a few questions from delegates, this session was followed by a welcome coffee break, prior to the next presentation by Dr Mark Stafford, which will be reported in the next issue!

Birds counted ranged from 40 to 140, mostly in pairs or threes. Allowing for the fact that some may have been nesting, a maximum number for the area surveyed was estimated at less that 200, so a truly endangered population.

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M

any well meaning aviculturists would like to believe that bird keepers could make a positive contribution to conservation by acting as a gene bank which could be tapped into for breed and release programmes. This gene bank would also be an insurance policy which could be used should a species become extinct in the wild. This is highly desirable, but in the cold hard light of dawn how realistic is this belief? Breed and Release programmes were popularised and well publicised during the nineties by Gerald Durrell of Jersey Zoo and Sir Peter Scott with the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and continues to be promoted by many zoos as it fits their corporate profile of education and conservation. Despite its high profile with the public, generally speaking scientists these days are somewhat cautious as it is difficult to implement, is very expensive and has a chequered history of success. A total of 19,561 vertebrates, invertebrates and plants are on the worlds Red List. Furthermore, the rate of extinction is accelerating with the global phenomenon being labelled by scientists as the world’s sixth mass extinction; one of the previous ones being the extinction of the dinosaurs. Worldwide there are 1253 species of birds considered to be threatened plus another 843 near threatened. This makes a total of 2096 species of bird in need of urgent conservation. The situation of birds in Australia? To quote Birdlife Australia. “27 species or sub-species are now listed as Extinct, 20 as Critically Endangered, 60 as Endangered, 68 as Vulnerable and 63 as Near Threatened” ie a total of 211 in need of help. Of course it would be impossible for aviculture to play a role in keeping and breeding all of the 2096 different species and improbable even here in Australia if

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BREED RELEA GOULDIAN FINCH

…This makes a total of 2096 specie need of urgent conservation. The s birds in Australia? To quote Birdlif “27 species or sub-species are now Extinct, 20 as Critically Endangered Endangered, 68 as Vulnerable and Threatened” ie a total of 211 in nee


FEATURE

D AND ASE

es of bird in situation of fe Australia. w listed as d, 60 as 63 as Near ed of help.

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we concentrated on our own 211. Furthermore, saving all these species is going to be impossible with the scarce finance and resources currently being made available. Sadly, it is probably going to be a question of trying to focus effort on those areas and species which are most likely to end in a positive result and on programmes that benefit the largest number of species within a single exercise. In that context, the Gouldian Finch is considered an indicator species for the general health of Australia’s northern savannahs. In other words, conservation activities which save the Gouldian Finch are highly likely to save a number of other species living in the same or similar habitat. Our scientists decided the first phase of any meaningful conservation programme is the scientific research. The experience of others had shown that if you do not first have a thorough understanding of why a species has declined you cannot possible save it. Logical when you think about it! As an example, the highest profile USA conservation programme is the California Condor Recovery Program which started in 1987 when all the surviving Condors left in the wild were captured and put into a captive breeding programme. The first birds bred in captivity were released in 1992, but two years later were recaptured and brought back into captivity again because it

Sadly, it is probably going to be a question of trying to focus effort on those areas and species which are most likely to end in a positive result and on programmes that benefit the largest number of species within a single exercise.

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was realised that not enough research had been done to gain the knowledge of how to sustain them in the wild. Two years later the breed and release programme was continued and a hugely intensive management programme of the wild population implemented, so that by 2007, at a cost in excess of USA $35,000,000 the wild population had been increased to 210, some of which had actually been bred in the wild and the rest of the population being created by progressively releasing captive bred birds. Despite some apparent success, depressingly, scientists have now concluded that should the ongoing intensive conservation management stop, the current wild Condor population would relatively quickly become extinct again and paradoxically the more birds that survive in the wild the cost of conserving them will increase pro rata to well over the $2,000,000 or the $10,000 per bird per annum it has been costing. So now of course the programme faces the difficulties of gaining increased ongoing funding or letting the wild population die out. It is possible, that if the authorities concerned had appreciated the difficulties they were going to face and how much it was going to cost, the programme would never have started. We could quote numerous examples of limited or zero success in implementing breed and release programmes. The high profile and highly expensive attempts to reintroduce tigers, chimpanzee and elephants for example have failed completely. Closer to home the Rothschild’s (Bali) Mynah is another example of high endeavour and high cost with questionable results. In 1990 there were only 15 Mynahs left in the wild. A breed and release programme was implemented which at its height managed to get the wild population up to a maximum of 50 birds. By 2011 this mainland population was back down to six.


FEATURE

…conservation activities which save the Gouldian Finch are highly likely to save a number of other species living in the same or similar habitat.

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The point we are making is that there is no point in breeding and releasing birds back into a habitat or environment which will not sustain them. It is an expensive waste of time and effort as well as being potentially cruel. Significantly, most programmes were implemented around the same period before the world had learnt that breed and release was no panacea. To be fair, when you were surrounded by feral birds which got established either by deliberate or accidental release, it all looked simple, so was an easy trap to fall into. In fact I was a whisker from being caught up in a programme myself. My long time friend Professor Stewart Evans had done a census of the Royal Parrot Finch in Vanuatu and discovered that it now only existed on 4 of the total 84 islands that make up the archipelago. This was down from its previous distribution of 14 islands. We went a long way

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toward getting permission to trap some of the precious wild stock for a breed and release programme and only dropped the idea when it all got embroiled in politics. We were totally naive; despite a number of attempts over the years, no one had even managed to establish a captive bred stock of Royals, never mind trying to reintroduce them back into the wild and we had no idea why they were declining!! It may help the reader towards a better understanding of Breed and Release if we provide a synopsis of our work, together with some of our logic and conclusions and the background against which we are working. With all this background knowledge gained from the heart breaking work of others, we decided to first put in the hard yards and implement a thorough research programme to properly understand why the Gouldian Finch was declining before wasting scarce money trying to


FEATURE

…we decided to first put in the hard yards and implement a thorough research programme to properly understand why the Gouldian Finch was declining before wasting scarce money trying to implement any remedial conservation work.

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implement any remedial conservation work. Unlike some of the programmes quoted, the Save The Gouldian Fund does not have access to tax payer’s money and our private donors would likely abandon us if they thought we were not putting their money to good use. A synopsis of some of the papers resulting from this research can be viewed at www.save thegouldian.org/ The first part of the research concentrated on the basic ecology, the basic life cycle of the Gouldian Finch. Studying wild birds is hard; they keep flying away; and making it even harder is the remoteness and ruggedness of the Gouldian’s home terrain. Outside of the breeding season the Gouldian also prove to be highly nomadic and as the nature of the terrain meant they could only be followed around on foot, this was arduous to the point of being impossible. Studying the whole life cycle of the Gouldian Finch meant that our scientists were out in the field for long periods at a time in all weathers and despite their dedication, living in tents became increasingly difficult. Getting back to a boiling hot tent after a day’s working in temperatures up to 40ºC is not fun. We therefore decided to commit some of our scarce financial resource to creating a permanent Field Research Centre by converting a building the Wyndham Shire Council had kindly leased to us on a peppercorn 21 year lease. At the same time, it was decided to create a Captive Bird Research Centre to house some 2,500 Gouldians. This now meant we could keep scientists out in the field for longer spells and in all weathers and the Captive Research Centre meant they could prove, in a proper scientific manner, whether what they had observed in the wild was significant or not. It also meant the scientists were able to conduct experiments that would have been impossible to achieve in the wild.

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One of the first conclusions drawn from this original research was that a Breed and Release programme was highly unlikely to help in the recovery of the Gouldian for the following key reasons: 1. Domestic Gouldians would not recognise and be able to evade the myriad of predators which include 6 species of snake, at least 4 species of lizard, 8 bird species (as well as a few more opportunistic species like kites who would enjoy an easy target morsel) and at least 4 mammals. 2. Water is seasonal and ephemeral. We do not understand yet how on earth the wild birds are able to find it, but they do and we would be surprised if domesticated Gouldians have the skill. 3. Seed is the same also, particularly at the start of the wet when all the seed which had fallen on the ground gets covered in water and mud and quickly sprouts into inedible plants. The start of the wet is patchy with localised showers occurring over a wide geographic area. This means that the first shower produces seed which is available as another area becomes inundated. The wild Gouldians are able to source this disparate food source. Although this is not proven yet, the hypothesis is that near ripe and ripe seed have a high ultra violet emission value which roving Gouldians can identify from the air. 4. And last but not least, if the wild population was dying out, one had to assume that there was something or some things that were causing that. Until whatever it was was corrected, how cruel would it be to release some domestic Gouldians into a lingering death? The long term commitment to the programme, the Captive Bird Research facility and the quality of our


FEATURE

By providing scientists with captive bird research facilities, hand in hand with the avicultural knowledge, a number of other species may be saved from extinction.

scientists has produced ground breaking results with over 30 published papers which have been recognised with a number of scientific awards. However, without the avicultural know how of how to keep and breed Gouldians, this programme could not have been successful – and this is how I believe aviculture can best contribute to conservation. By providing scientists with captive bird research facilities, hand in hand with the avicultural knowledge, a number of other species may be saved from extinction. It would be very satisfying if aviculture was viewed as a net contributor to conservation. Perhaps this could be achieved if every

avicultural society in the world approached their local university with a view to assisting and providing facilities for research programmes. Your approach might be met with a degree of scepticism initially, and in that context you are welcome to use the STGF as a reference point if you wish. We are happy to provide any practical support we can. I have got to warn you though that an endangered species is probably going to be hard to breed in captivity. Almost for sure it is endangered because it has speciality requirements and cannot or will not adapt to changed circumstances in its natural habitat. So I would recommend you do your homework first! This breeding facility would in effect be the same the zoos provide, but there are not

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The research on the Gouldian Finch’s basic lifestyle is ongoing. We particularly need to know why so many juveniles are lost during the wet season and what the dynamics of the dry season nomadic phase are.

enough zoos with enough space to accommodate all the species requiring help. Furthermore, the zoos are better equipped and more likely to concentrate on the larger species which also provide a better public display, whereas private aviculturists largely tend to specialise in the smaller bird species. The research on the Gouldian Finch’s basic lifestyle is ongoing. We particularly need to know why so many juveniles are lost during the wet season and what the dynamics of the dry season nomadic phase are. By reading Dr Sarah Pryke’s papers, you will realise that the Gouldian has problems at each stage of its life cycle, all of which no doubt have compounded to exert downward pressure on numbers. However, the most significant problem has been man’s interference with habitat. Gouldian Finch

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habitat is under threat from significant change created by cattle and land clearance for agriculture and mining, however the biggest threat of all are the annual wild fires which sweep through the landscape year after year. This is a relatively new phenomenon which has only occurred since European settlement and is dramatically changing the vegetative structure of the landscape. In any change of habitat there are winners and losers. The vegetation which benefits from annual hot wild fires is proliferating whilst the plants which cannot stand this regime are declining. This in turn has an effect of the insects and animals which rely on the plants for sustenance and of course therefore the knock on effect right up the food chain. In the case of the Gouldian this change to the habitat, together


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with the effects of preferential grazing by the cattle, is possibly creating a shortage of the grasses which seed during the wet and perhaps therefore is the factor having a downside effect on juvenile survival rates. However, the biggest known impact the fires are having is to dramatically reduce the number of natural hollows available for nesting. The scientists have discovered that it takes up to nine years for new saplings to become immune to the hot fires and, at the other end of the scale, the older trees which have suitable nesting hollows become more vulnerable to fire. So the old hollow trees are being burnt out whilst no new saplings are surviving to replace them. This shortage of suitable nesting hollows is having a serious effect on Gouldian population numbers due to the compounding effects of potential increased nest predation and increased nest parasitism together with competition for nesting sites from the Long-tailed Finch and feral bees. The big problem here is that even if one was able to control the widespread arson, it takes between 70 to 100 years for a tree to create

suitable nesting hollows, which means that unless alternative nesting sites can be made available the decline of the Gouldian Finch would continue for decades to come. A small scale experiment was conducted to see if Gouldians would accept an artificial nest box. After a number of prototypes and a lot of trial and error, we devised a nest box which, to our delight, the Gouldians accepted. It is even fair to say they are preferred to the natural alternative! Furthermore, breeding results from our artificial nesting boxes are better than in the natural sites as we position them to minimise predation and there is no build up of nest parasites. By sealing and painting them with a reflective paint, together with judicious placing, we have also ensured they are long life and to our delight, are also fire resistant. Famously one nest box survived it’s host tree being burnt to the ground and was sat there virtually unscathed in a mound of ash! Over 3000 nest boxes have now been installed in a number of adjacent suitable experimental sites. This has virtually eliminated competition from

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We have known pockets of Gouldians spread across the northern savannahs, so if we can extend these isolated populations out toward each other, eventually we could potentially join them up.

the Long-tailed Finch and has led to around 400% increase in the local study population. These experiments mean that we now have one of the legs for staging a recovery programme. As an ecological rule of thumb, where 90% of habitat is cleared, 50% of its species will become extinct. This means that as the pace of land clearance for agriculture, mines, housing etc increases we are losing more and more Gouldian habitat. Trying to stand in the way of economic progress is like trying to push water uphill, but why can’t we have economic development working in harmony with nature instead of against it? To this effect our scientists are working on projects with a number of mines and a major new irrigation development on the Ord River. First of all they are ecologically mapping the sites before development takes place and then advising on

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how best to develop the land whilst accommodating the displaced wildlife. So the concept is, where a waterhole is removed, then a replacement waterhole is created off site. Where nesting holes are destroyed then replace them with artificial ones in a local suitable site. Where land is cleared for agriculture, ensure a wide margin of untouched habitat is left around the new paddocks and ensure there is a wide corridor left for movement between the cleared sites and pristine untouched land etc, etc. We have only been doing this for 2 years and have now employed an extra scientist to control and implement this facet of our work. The results of these experiments will be monitored and the process refined on an on-going basis. Over a period of time we will know exactly what effect habitat change has on the Gouldian Finch and to what extent the current remedial


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activities work. So what else for the future? I hope we have sufficiently demonstrated that breeding and releasing Gouldian Finches into a habitat which will not support them will not work. And that is without considering the problems associated with trying to teach them how to find water in the dry season or recognize predators etc, etc. The conservation programmes that have worked well are where wild caught species are trans located into a suitable habitat. These are often islands or fenced off pieces of land where feral predators are removed and the habitat allowed to recover. So for example the Rothschild’s Mynah programme failed to work on mainland Bali, however a small number were trans located to a suitable, predator free offshore island where the population has now increased to 130 birds. The STGF does not have anywhere near enough funds to attempt anything like this, however, it would seem that possibly the biggest thing holding back the recovery of the Gouldian Finch is the lack of nesting sites. Certainly we have demonstrated that where artificial nest sites are introduced we create a local population explosion. So for the time being the first leg of our recovery programme will be extending the range of our current known populations by installing nest boxes in new, but adjacent suitable locations. We have known pockets of Gouldians spread across the northern savannahs, so if we can extend these isolated populations out toward each other, eventually we could potentially join them up. So this is another way you can help. We can put up new nest boxes as fast as we can finance them. Mmmmm $$$$$$$$ please! And also we need lots of volunteers to come and help us with the annual census of our populations around Wyndham. We do this in the first full week of September every year. Contact David

Myers to book your spot. Not only will you help a worthy cause but you will also have plenty of fun, visit one of the most spectacular tree wildernesses left in the world and see loads of birds including 6 species of finch. We are of course trying our best to work on the fire problem. Getting all the various land owners, stake holders and organisations, who each have their own agenda, to work together is an enormous and difficult task which in all honesty will probably not be achieved without Federal Government involvement. However, we are plugging away and in some small way are making a little progress by working with the local authorities and land owners. We have a joint research programme into the effects of fire on the Gouldian finch with the local department of Ecology and Conservation scientist which will produce vital information as it matures. We also publicise the problem and are trying to get the Federal Government interested. It has been estimated that 8% of Australia’s carbon output is created by wild fires!!!! You would think they should be very interested! And, for our overseas followers, imagine an area the size of half of Europe, or the whole Eastern states of USA going up in flames every year. The problem is that Australia is so big and Gouldian finch country so wild that nobody notices. What I have not covered so far is whether aviculture could act as a potential gene bank and perhaps a current working example of this is the Spix’s Macaw which is now extinct in the wild. It would be nice to think that this could be a role for aviculture, but to achieve it would take a concerted effort by a large number of people and bird societies. One of the biggest problems we face is a lack of genetically heterogeneity, ie rare birds kept in captivity tend to become too inbred. Some species can stand heavy inbreeding but most lose fertility and fecundity and just slowly die

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out. Australian aviculture has lost over 20 different species in the last couple of decades for this reason. To create a successful and useful gene bank the chosen bird or birds would have to become a popular cage bird kept by many people. They would have to be cheap enough for the average person to afford and be able to be kept and managed in a reasonably standard set up. Relatively few people can afford speciality set ups and have the time to provide speciality food and management. It would probably be better to concentrate on birds which are now THREATENED in the wild, rather than ones which are already endangered and therefore already have a diminished gene pool. For more information visit www.savethegouldian.org

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Finally, we would like to give a heartfelt thanks to our Sponsors, donors and volunteers whose effort and money has made this programme possible. And to those of you thinking of donating – please do, we spend very carefully, so that each dollar counts. All the money we receive is spent on the birds, none of the people working on our administration receive a salary or indeed claim any expenses. We have surely redefined the meaning of ‘living on a shoe string’! The Parrot Society UK wishes to thank the Australian Finch Society for permission to republish this excellent article. The Save The Gouldian Fund where people can donate at www.savethegouldian.org


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THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION 2019 BY LES RANCE

I

n contrast to the very cold start to the 2018 event, when leaving my room in Stafford I had to de-ice my car, the first time that year, there had been heavy rain around 3.00am and care was needed to avoid the large puddles at the sides of the roads In Stafford, but very fortunately It had stopped raining. Obviously this is very Important to all our visitors that are bringing their birds Into

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the showground and those who wait outside for admission at 9.30 am. By buying prepaid entry wrist bands all our members could enter the Halls quickly after 7.30 am. The sale of hobbyist breeding stock both from our member’s and non member’s tables who can sell finches, canaries and budgerigars but not other members of the parrot family was very well supported with over 640 tables


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in the Bingley Hall and Prestwood Centre. A large number of hobbyist bred stock found new homes from the buyers who came in large numbers. There is no doubt that The National Exhibition is the leading and most popular bird show held in this country for hobbyist bird breeders, not just because of the sales tables but also the Exhibition that is held in the Argyle and Sandylands Centres.

There is something for everyone available from the 60+ traders who so generously support this event, especially from our sponsor Johnston & Jeff Ltd the leading UK seed supplier. The exhibition in the Argyle and Sandylands Centres organised with the assistance of the 18 clubs that support this event continues to receive plenty of entries, may this be the case for many

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years to come. These enthusiasts work so hard to construct the staging from midday on the Saturday and take in many entries in the late afternoon and Saturday evening. This judged event was as popular as ever with many high class birds on view, even if numbers were down on 2018. Crystal glass rose bowls were kindly donated by Ray Howells of Birds

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and Things for best bird in Show and by Steve Roach of Rosemead Aviaries for the best junior exhibit, their generous donations for these valuable awards are very much appreciated. Cage and Aviary Birds give the Exhibition a special supplement in their publication so that all their readers are aware of which clubs to contact to enter their exhibition stock into the Show.


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Again Neil Randle our magazine designer took a 1,000 images on the day so that we have plenty for the next twelve months. Please do enjoy the pictures on the following pages. In 2020 the Show will be held on Sunday 4th October and will follow similar lines to this year’s event but more use will be made of the Prestwood Centre to house the stands of

such supporters as The Australian Finch Society, The Bengalese Fanciers Association, The Waxbill Finch Society and Java Sparrow Society. Within the two exhibition halls there is always a great buzz of chatter and excitement, it is always a pleasure just to stand there and absorb the environment and listen to people enjoying themselves and promoting their hobby.

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BIRD SCENE 35 BIRD SCENE 17


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Why a hobby in budgerigars?

The

Budgerigar Society There are many reasons to join the Budgerigar Society Starter Pack - Membership certificate, Colour Standards booklet, members list etc. Magazine - “The Budgerigar” The society publishes a bi - monthly magazine which is posted to all members. Mentor Network - Guidance based on location for inexperienced Budgerigar enthusiasts.

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Caters for all ages Great as pets Pedigree challenge Fellowship of breeders Meeting new people Travel as a judge/ exhibitor

Products - There are some excellent products available Ranging from booklets to equipment and clothing Official closed rings Your own personalised code, which distinguishes you from every other breeder in the world.

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MEMBERSHIP FOR 2020 AND 2021 FOR THE PRICE OF 1 YEAR’S MEMBERSHIP

BOOKS AND PRINTS: AFRICAN POICEPHALUS PARROTS Print & Booklet £16 plus p&p UK £5, p&p world £10

THE MANUAL of COLOUR BREEDING PRICE REDUCTION!! on remaining copies, now only £20 each plus p&p UK £5, p&p world £10 THE ROSELLAS PRICE REDUCTION!! On remaining copies, now only £5 each plus p&p UK £5, p&p world £10

The Following Supplements & Titles are now out of print and unavailable:INDIAN RINGNECK PARRAKEET (Supplement to Manual) LINEOLATED PARRAKEET (Supplement to Manual) COCKATIEL (Supplement to Manual) BREEDING THE AMBOINA KING (CD) GENETICS WIZARD

Cheques/drafts in BRITISH POUNDS STERLING ONLY payable to: J&P Hayward Carterton Breeding Aviaries, Brize Norton Road, Carterton, Oxon, ENGLAND OX18 3HW Tel: 01993 841736


ARTICLE BY: ROSEMARY LOW

M

ice and rats are extremely resourceful creatures. If there is a way to get into our aviaries and bird rooms, they will find it. This means that waging war on rodents must commence literally before the foundations of the building are laid. In fact it should start with the planning. If you decide to build a wooden bird room or perhaps convert a double garage which is partly constructed from wood, it will be almost impossible to exclude vermin. Gnawing through wood is so easy for mice. Once they enter it will be extremely difficult to exclude them. If you must use timber, take the following precautions: 1. Stand the building on a concrete base. 2. Be aware that insulating the bird room is asking for trouble. Of course it helps to prevent heat loss but it is better to spend a little more on heating the room (if heat is necessary) than living with mice breeding in the cavities between the two walls. I know because this happened to me. After two micefree years, the mice moved in. The glasswool insulating material was deemed perfect for mouse nestmaking. The only solution was to rip out the inner wall, including the roof lining, and leave the building permanently without lining. The mice moved out. But that was not

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MIC

ROOFS AND BIRD ROO CONSTRUCTION


CE,

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OM

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the end of the problem. They moved into the other building which was lined, and took up residence in the roof. A nightmare scenario! The patter of feet which I was hearing daily were those of mice. There was no alternative but to take the roof off and construct an entirely new one. That was four years ago and my bird room is now mousefree. One advantage was that with the new roof I did away with the skylight windows. Its inclusion had been a mistake because it caused condensation to drip from the roof to the floor. 3. If you have a wooden building, nail tin plate or aluminium, inside and out, to the height of 1ft (31cm). This precaution will be useless if there are any holes through which mice can enter. Check the point where electricity cables leave the building, cover ventilator and extractor outlets with small mesh and ensure that all doors and windows are tight-fitting. Also remember that if you have pop-holes to allow your birds access to outdoor flights, mice will enter if they have access to the flights. Welded mesh should be buried around the perimeter of the flights to prevent this. For preference, don’t build a bird room from wood. Brick is much more expensive but if you can afford it, brick or breeze blocks are ideal materials. You might also consider obtaining, second-hand, the kind of prefabricated cabins which are used on building sites, for example. As long as there is no wood in their construction!

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Precautions If you have outdoor aviaries and you feed your birds in the flight part, mice will be almost impossible to eliminate. You might also attract rats. To protect food and water from vermin, weather and the droppings of wild birds (increasing the likelihood of disease being transmitted), it is essential to have an indoor section, either an enclosed shelter or a cage inside a building, where the birds are fed. This increases the length of time it will take mice to find a food supply, although it is not guaranteed to keep them out if wood is used to construct shelter or building. There are other precautions that you can take to discourage mice from finding your garden attractive. If you feed the wild birds, clear up any uneaten food before nightfall. If you keep rabbits or other pets that have a dry food, remove any dry food at night. Finally, do not discourage your neighbour’s cat from visiting your garden at nightfall. Generally speaking, once a cat has discovered it cannot reach the birds in your aviaries, it will lose interest in


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There are other precautions that you can take to discourage mice from finding your garden attractive. If you feed the wild birds, clear up any uneaten food before nightfall. If you keep rabbits or other pets that have a dry food, remove any dry food at night. Finally, do not discourage your neighbour’s cat from visiting your garden at nightfall.

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Also, with the increase in Sparrowhawks in gardens, it will prevent these pests from attacking your birds. Another tip is to grow climbers such as passionflower, honeysuckle and clematis over the top and sides of the flights. Sparrowhawks are now so numerous, even in city gardens, that every step should be taken to prevent them diving on the aviaries. Even if they cannot reach the birds, the shock can cause birds to desert eggs or young.

them - but if there are mice about it will return night after night. I would strongly advise that when planning your aviaries, buy enough welded mesh to double wire all surfaces that are accessible to cats and owls. It might seem like an expensive exercise but this will prevent deaths from injuries by night marauders. Also, with the increase in Sparrowhawks in gardens, it will prevent these pests from attacking your birds. Another tip is to grow climbers such as passionflower, honeysuckle and clematis over the top and sides of the flights. Sparrowhawks are now so numerous,

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even in city gardens, that every step should be taken to prevent them diving on the aviaries. Even if they cannot reach the birds, the shock can cause birds to desert eggs or young. Eliminating mice The trap is the most environmentally friendly form of elimination. But does it work? At the risk of displeasing mouse trap manufacturers, I have to say that I have never caught a single mouse in the metal traps that catch mice alive. I am told that wooden ones are more successful. Obviously traps can be used


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only in bird rooms where there are no birds loose. They can be used in aviaries only if they can be placed inside a box and if no small birds are present which could enter the box. The traditional type of spring trap, usually baited with cheese, can be successful - assuming you are not squeamish about removing victims. Note also that mice absolutely love chocolate and this can be the best bait of all. Be warned that some very cheap wooden spring traps are almost impossible to set. I once tried a plastic spring-trap which was very easy to set. I soon found

it had a major disadvantage. The spring was not strong enough. The mice would be trapped but not killed. I found mice trapped by the tail or the foot and being too soft-hearted to see any animal suffer, I would release these victims alive. The newspapers often feature advertisements for ultrasonic mouse deterrents. I have not tried them since I have been assured by two people who have that they are not effective. Members’ experiences on this method would be welcome. The obvious alternative to traps is poison. I greatly dislike the use of

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poison since it can get into the food chain and because death is not swift. Presumably it could also poison a cat if a cat caught a mouse which had eaten poison. I look on poison as a last resort. However, to deal with rats and, in some situations, with mice, there seems to be no alternative. The mouse poison which you can buy in a hardware store is unlikely to be effective over the long term, since mice will eventually become 46

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immune to it. It is therefore advisable to contact the vermin control department of the local council. On one occasion I saw a rat in my garden and a very helpful man from the Council arrived with some blocks of poison placed inside small cardboard cartons. There is no charge for this service. If you as much as catch a glimpse of a rat, call the council immediately. Do not leave nest-boxes in position in outdoor aviaries


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If you place mouse poison in your bird room, don’t think all you have to do is to put it in a suitable place and wait for the mouse population to crash. Now your work begins. On the first and succeeding nights of poison use in a bird room, sweep the floor, clean the cage trays, etc, and remove every food container. If they can feed on seed, they will not take the poison.

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

all year unless you close the entrance by nailing wood over it. If a rat enters the aviary and finds a bird roosting inside, it will kill it and you are likely to find a headless victim. If you place mouse poison in your bird room, don’t think all you have to do is to put it in a suitable place and wait for the mouse population to crash. Now your work begins. On the first and succeeding nights of poison use in a bird room,

sweep the floor, clean the cage trays, etc, and remove every food container. If they can feed on seed, they will not take the poison. Mice are so resourceful that they can learn to feed during the day but offering them only poison at night will usually solve the problem. BIRD SCENE 47


NO 1 PARROT FOOD

A traditional and sound base food mix, made to an enhanced formula. Composition: striped and white sunflowerseed with safflowerseed, whole maize, whole oats, paleskin peanuts, monkey nuts, pine nuts, chillies, flaked maize, flaked peas, puffed maize, puffed wheat, naked oats, buckwheat, and red dari. Feed with fresh fruit and veg. Avian nutritionists, breeders and bird-keepers are learning ever more about the food needs of these splendid birds and the nutritional benefits of some foods vs. others. Hence, even a traditional base mix should be upgraded as our knowledge grows. This excellent formula has 16 ingredients. It should be fed with fresh fruit and vegetables, or can be blended with Johnston & Jeff's Fruit, Veg and Nut Mix.

THE FINEST BIRD FOOD CONTACT: JOHNSTON & JEFF LTD., BALTIC BUILDINGS, GATEWAY BUSINESS PARK, GILBERDYKE,EAST RIDING OF YORKSHIRE HU15 2TD T: 01430 449444 www.johnstonandjeff.co.uk mail@johnstonandjeff.co.uk Johnston & Jeff foods are only sold through retailers. Please contact us if you need information on your nearest stockists, our mail order partners, and for information and feeding guides. We reserve the right to add to the composition of our blends if we find a better grade or wish to enhance the menu. Please check our web site for up-to-date details.