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Lovebird, Peach-Faced (Agapornis rosiecollis)

by Jim Hayward

Original homeland

Found in countries of South-west Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Cape Province in South Africa & Angola.

Natural habitat

Arid open country.

Status in the Wild

Plentiful

Status in Aviculture

Plentiful, especially in the numerous colour varieties.

Level of keepers experience

Ideal for beginners.

Hardiness

Hardy against cold, but susceptible to frost bite on feet in severe freezing weather.

Type of Accommodation

Aviary (suitable size 3ft x 4ft x 6ft) or cage (suitable size 3ft x 16in x 3ft). The frame can be made of wood, but suffers some gnawing; minimum guage mesh - 19g.

Type of Diet

Mixed seed - 50/50 Canary and white millet mixture, panicum and Japanese millet, and a small amount of sunflower and safflower. Small amounts of apple and other fruit sprinkled with vitamin-mineral powder; a little hard or boiled maize is also appreciated. Seeding grasses and chickweed can be given as available; other types of wild growing food are enjoyed. Cuttlefish bone should be available at all times, and a good quality mineralised grit is beneficial. When young are hatched, soaked millet sprays and moistened wholemeal bread can be given. Clean water daily - of course.

Sexing

There are no plumage differences in the sexes, but adult hens are wider in the abdomen, and adult cocks longer and slimmer.

Sexual Maturity

Some birds will attempt to breed at six months old and even younger, but should be held back if possible until a year old.

Nesting season in Britain

Any time of the year, but most successful from late summer to late autumn.

Type of nest

In the wild a woven nest in the hollow trunk or branch of a tree, or old weaver nest. In cage or aviary a wooden nest-box with willow being provided as the perfect material for next making; this the birds whittle, carry into the box tucked in their rump feathers and weave into a cup.

Usual number of eggs

4 to 6

Incubation period

22 days

Usual number of young

3 to 5

Fledgling age

Around six weeks

Usual number of clutches

Best to limit to three clutches per year.

Nesting habits

Only hen incubates, both sexes whittle nesting material.

Special considerations

Small but regular supply of fresh willow twigs, or other suitable non-toxic tree species needed.

Noise factor

Natural calls inoffensive at a short distance.

Availability

Usually plentiful.

Colour Varieties

Since the 1970's a whole range of striking colour varieties have been established with the Violet and orange-faced being the most recently available to British breeders.

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Lovebird, Madagascar (Agapornis cana cana)

Lovebird, Madagascarby Jim Hayward

ORIGINAL HOMELAND:
Widespread in all but the central plateau area of Madagascar. They have also been introduced, with mixed success, into several of small islands in the Indian Ocean: Mauritius and Rodriguez in the Mascarene Islands, on the Island of Mahe (Seychelles), on Comoro and Mafia Islands, and the Island of Zanzibar.

NATURAL HABITAT:
Woodland of an open nature, rather than dense forest.

STATUS IN THE WILD:
They are to be seen in large flocks and live off the wild seeding grasses and make pests of themselves by raiding the cultivated grain and rice crops.

STATUS IN AVICULTURE:
Scarce. Many years ago Madagascars were commonly available in Britain. Sadly this is not the case now, and though in the latter years of importation some consignments were imported, they are not widely bred - owners have an uphill task in persuading them to thrive and multiply in any substantial degree; no large aviary or cage bred stocks are known to exist.

LEVEL OF KEEPER'S EXPERIENCE:
Only suitable for knowledgeable breeders of small and difficult species of psittacine birds.

HARDINESS:
These birds should not be considered to be hardy in confinement, being susceptible to lung trouble in cold and foggy climates.

TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION:
Most birds are very nervous and erratic when confined to cages and are liable to dash themselves against the top and sides. They should have a secluded inside flight with access to a well sheltered outside flight, so they have the security of the inner one at all times of the year and the benefit of the outer one in the warm months. A wooden framework with 19g wire mesh is sufficient. Birds bred in confinement are more confident than wild caught specimens, but great care must still be taken when moving them from one premises to another - the stress involved is sufficient to lower their resistance to cold and infections.

TYPE OF DIET:
They are more suited to small seeds like panicum, Japanese millet, white millet, canary, the tiny seeding grass heads of Poa annua, seed capsules of chickweed. Any sunflower offered should be as small as that which is given to British Finches. Madagascars appreciate green food and apple; a vitamin-mineral supplement can be sprinkled on the latter. A little wholemeal bread and milk can be offered, especially when there are young in the nest.

SEXING:
Hen Madagascars lack the grey plumage and black underwing coverts of the cocks; immatures can be sexed easily as the young cocks show black underwing coverts like those of their fathers; though already having the grey feathering, it has a greenish cast.

SEXUAL MATURITY:
Mature enough to attempt to breed at a year old.

NESTING SEASON IN BRITAIN:
Usually late summer to early autumn.

TYPE OF NEST:
In confinement they will take to a nest-box which should be made appropriately smaller (just over 4" square inside) than those used for larger lovebirds - bearing in mind their comparatively feeble nest building habits and lesser size. They do not line out the sides of the nest nor make a domed structure; they are just as likely to throw anything out of the box as they are to carry material in. Some crumbled, well rotted wood mixed with an amount of soft fine sand should be placed in the bottom of the box as a base. Willow should be available for those birds that find a need for nesting material.

Pair of MadagascarsUSUAL NUMBER OF EGGS:
Four to six.

INCUBATION PERIOD:
Twenty-two days.

USUAL NUMBER OF YOUNG:
Three to five.

FLEDGING AGE:
Six weeks.

USUAL NUMBER OF CLUTCHES:
If persuaded to nest, possibly two clutches.

NESTING:
whittled bark, leaves and other materials which she carries into the hollow by tucking them under her rump feathers. The cock has a twittering song during the breeding season and is likely to be hen-pecked by his shrewish wife. Nervous birds, they resent interference and once breeding is in progress it is wise to leave the nest well alone.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS:
On several occasions birds have been imported which have had respiratory problems and found to be suffering with infestations of air sac mite; the mite will quickly infest other birds, but the usual cure is to hang a strip of dichlorvos in the bird room so that its vapour will be inhaled by the birds and the mite destroyed. However, I believe there have been some worries in the past that this substance poses a human health risk - so care is needed.

NOISE FACTOR:
Inoffensive twittering calls.

AVAILABILITY:
Extremely spasmodic.

COLOUR VARIETIES:
No mutation colour varieties have been reported.

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Macaw, Caninde (Blue-throated) (Ara glaucogularis)

Macaw, Caninde (Blue-throated)by Jim Hayward

ORIGINAL HOMELAND:
Bolivia

NATURAL HABITAT:
Forested areas adjacent to waterways.

STATUS IN THE WILD:
Regarded as endangered and is on the DOE's Schedule One which means that breeders must obtain licences to sell their surplus stock.

STATUS IN AVICULTURE:
Rare and highly sought.

LEVEL OF KEEPER'S EXPERIENCE:
Only breeders of long experience with the commoner species of Ara should consider obtaining these macaws.

HARDINESS:
Resilient against cold as are the other large macaws, but adequate shelters should be constructed and facilities to protect against severe weather should be installed.

TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION:
If these large macaws are to be kept to be kept in ideal circumstances, a great deal of space is required; aviaries need to be built with substantial materials and be of sound construction. A large macaw can easily crush thin wire and wood can be reduced to piles of splinters and the heaviest gauge welded mesh should be used, with galvanised iron pipe or angle iron screwed or bolted together to make the framework. A walk-way around the sides of the aviary block, can be covered with a thinner gauge 1/2" x 1" mesh to prevent sparrows and other small birds from entering. Large rodents can be foiled by a 'rat skirt' of mesh or galvanised steel dug in around the boundary of the entire aviary. Shelters can be made with brick or concrete block; concrete floors should be laid in the shelters, but if used in the open flights must be constructed with a drainage system; concrete often encourages the growth of moulds and algae. An alternative to concrete floored flights on well drained land involves the removal of top soil and laying of a 6" to 1ft layer of 1/2" to 3/4" diameter pebbles or shingle.

TYPE OF DIET:
As varied as possible; as well as a mixture of large seeds and nuts, the following should be provided: grain (e.g. shot and cooked wheat), pulses (cooking is advised, if given raw some beans can be toxic and may also contain a tryptopane inhibitor which creates digestive problems), a variety of vegetables (including scalded frozen peas, cooked root crops, raw carrot and greens), tropical fruits (mango, papaya, star fruit, kiwi, etc.), cheese and small amounts of cooked lean meat or poultry, even white fish, budding willow or branches of other non toxic species, uncontaminated flowering and seeding weeds (e.g. chickweed, dandelion, sow thistle) and berries from the elder, hawthorn and rowan. Cuttlefish, grit and other suitable sources of calcium and mineral are necessary for the maintenance of the skeleton, digestion and egg production, and should be available at all times - as should clean fresh water. It is worth remembering that avocado is considered to be harmful to parrots.

SEXING:
Sexing from appearance is difficult if not impossible. Surgical sexing is generally employed to solve this problem.

SEXUAL MATURITY:
Attempts at nesting with other large macaws like these usually begin from four to five years old.

NESTING SEASON IN BRITAIN:
Attempts at nesting with other large macaws like these may occur at any time of year, from mid winter through spring summer and autumn.

TYPE OF NEST:
Aviculturists use a variety of nesting receptacles for large macaws like these including large boxes, barrels, even metal drums and dustbins - sometimes set up high and other times just laid on the floor. An initial covering for the bottom of the nest can be made of soft sieved sand and rotted wood, but pieces of wood can also be placed or fixed inside the nest for the birds to gnaw and in so doing provide extra nest litter.

USUAL NUMBER OF EGGS:
Eggs may vary from two to four, but most usually three, which are generally laid with a couple or even more days between eggs.

INCUBATION PERIOD:
From twenty-five to twenty-eight days depending on the time of year and temperature.

USUAL NUMBER OF YOUNG:
Two to three.

FLEDGING AGE:
At the age of just over three months, the young are ready to fledge the nest; they resemble their parents, apart from their slighter build, dark irides and shorter tails.

USUAL NUMBER OF CLUTCHES:
If left to breed naturally the length of the nesting/rearing cycle leaves time for only one clutch per year.

NESTING HABITS:
As with the other large macaws, breeding pairs can be fierce in defence of their nest, eggs and young. Mating can be frequent and prolonged and is carried out as the birds sit side by side - in keeping with the habits of other South American parrots. Mutual preening is part of the courtship ritual, during which the cock regurgitates food for the hen and feeds her with a pumping action.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS:
Parrots as rare as the Caninde Macaw should not be considered as pets, every available specimen should be included in a breeding programme.

NOISE FACTOR:
The raucous voices of macaws can cause disputes with close neighbours and even legal proceedings, so careful consideration must be given to this potential problem before purchasing such large parrots.

PRICE RANGE:
Subject to negotiation between the parties.

AVAILABILITY:
Rarely offered for sale.

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Quaker Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)

Quaker Parrakeetby Jim Hayward

ORIGINAL HOMELAND:
Widely distributed in four sub-species through parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Escapees have established the species in USA.

NATURAL HABITAT:
Dry scrub, sparsely wooded savannah, palm groves, orchards, plantations, and is drawn towards areas of human occupation from which the species has benefited.

STATUS IN THE WILD:
Extremely common, large flocks.

STATUS IN AVICULTURE:
Well established.

LEVEL OF KEEPER'S EXPERIENCE:
Beginner with some experience of keeping medium sized parrakeets.

HARDINESS:
Very hardy.

TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION:
Have been bred in flights of only 6ft in length, but a length of 15ft is more suitable; any wooden framework should be covered with thin metal and not less than 16g welded mesh for the aviary covering - they are actively destructive birds. As long as the aviary is protected from cutting winds with part of the roof covered in, an open fronted shelter will suffice.

TYPE OF DIET:
The basic diet consists of: the usual parrakeet seed mixture (sunflower, safflower, canary mixture, various millets including spray, and 50/50 budgie mix), and a small amount of fruit and vegetables such as apple, carrot, pear, orange, sweetcorn, peas, grapes and celery - as well as wild picked greenfood such as chickweed, seeding grass, dandelion (flowers, roots and leaves), shepherds-purse, sow-thistle and so on. Bread and milk is usually appreciated, or canary rearing food, especially when young are in the nest; germinated and soaked seed helps encourage breeding condition and encourages the feeding of young, but great care must be taken to see that it is only given fresh and contains no harmful moulds or infections.

SEXING:
Sexes alike in plumage; surgical sexing is generally employed.

SEXUAL MATURITY:
Two to three years.

NESTING SEASON IN BRITAIN:
From early summer to early autumn.

TYPE OF NEST:
They will take to a nest-box - to which is often added a 'thatched' roof or porch, but it is more usual to fix up a wire mesh platform and provide them with a continuous supply of twigs (usually willow or birch), so that they have the opportunity to fulfil their instinct to construct their own bulky nest. One breeder recommends destroying the nest at the end of the season to encourage nest building and stimulate breeding in the spring and summer.

USUAL NUMBER OF EGGS:
Four to six.

INCUBATION PERIOD:
22 to 24 days.

USUAL NUMBER OF YOUNG:
Three to five.

FLEDGING AGE:
Between six and seven weeks.

USUAL NUMBER OF CLUTCHES:
Usually one, sometimes two.

NESTING HABITS:
This species is unusual in being expert at constructing its own nest from rough (usually thorny) twigs; a roughly globe shaped nest is woven and built into the outer branches of trees, with other pairs using the original nest as a base to construct additional chambers until a mass of woven twigs provides a communal nesting site for several breeding pairs - as many as twenty chambers in one nest has been recorded.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS:
Though considered a colony nester, some breeders find that more young are produced when pairs are housed separately.

NOISE FACTOR:
Extremely and frequently noisy, sufficient to cause complaint from close neighbours.

AVAILABILITY:
Often available.

COLOUR VARIETIES:
Blue, and - much rarer - Marine (turquoise, green/blue) and Dilute (predominantly lime yellow and white); one breeder in the south of England has produced a Red-eyed Pied Marine on at least two occasions.

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Alexandrine Parakeet (Psittacula eupatria)

Alexandrine Parrakeetby Jim Hayward

ORIGINAL HOMELAND:
A vast expanse of the near and far east, from Afghanistan through Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Burma, Thailand and on to Indo-China.

NATURAL HABITAT:
This adaptable species is to be found in a variety of habitats, from riverine forest, to arid thinly wooded country, from highland to lowland, from the vicinities of villages to the gardens and parks of towns.

STATUS IN THE WILD:
As common as to be seen in roosts numbering thousands in its strongholds, such as northern India, but sparsely represented at the peripheraries of its range.

STATUS IN AVICULTURE:
Always popular as pets since the days of Alexander the Great, nowadays becoming much more popular as a breeding aviary species.

LEVEL OF KEEPER'S EXPERIENCE:
Suitable for the novice with experience of keeping the smaller Indian Ringneck.

HARDINESS:
These parrakeets are known to be susceptible to frost bitten toes; apart from this, they are recognized as a hardy long lived species.

TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION:
It is a shame to keep a pair of such large and handsome parrakeets in a flight less than 15ft in length; the destructive habits of these birds dictate that the aviary must be strongly made to withstand their powerful mandibles, so wooden framework and thin mesh will be no obstacle whatever to the birds' escape - at least 16g welded mesh should be used and wooden framework covered with metal sheet or replaced by metal pipe or angle iron. A shelter is advisable.

TYPE OF DIET:
Seeds and grains; sunflower, safflower, mixed canary, mixed millet, maize, wheat, etc; a daily mixed portion of fruit and vegetable, apple, orange, grapes, berries, corn-on-the-cob, peas, celery, cabbage, carrot, cabbage, chickweed and other wild food as available. Wholemeal bread and milk, and germinated seed should be given during the breeding season; a lot of cuttlefish is eaten (or wasted) and should always be available.

SEXING:
Only cocks have black neck rings and pink collars, but both sexes have maroon shoulder patches. The tails of hens are shorter than those of the cocks, but those of immatures are still shorter.

SEXUAL MATURITY:
Alexandrines do not attain full adult plumage until they are three years old, and are likely to begin attempts to breed from three to four years old.

NESTING SEASON IN BRITAIN:
Breeding can commence as early as February or March but it may be wiser to hold them back til March or April - they are known to go to nest as late as June.

TYPE OF NEST:
Suitable nests measure 10" square by 18" to 24" deep; made of inch thick exterior plywood and reinforced at strategic points with metal to save frequent repair. Initial filler of crumbled rooted wood and soft sieved sand, with offcuts of wood placed inside which the hen will quickly reduce to nest litter.

USUAL NUMBER OF EGGS:
Two to four eggs are usual.

INCUBATION PERIOD:
Incubation takes 22/23 days.

USUAL NUMBER OF YOUNG:
Two to three.

FLEDGING AGE:
About seven weeks.

USUAL NUMBER OF CLUTCHES:
A single clutch per season is usual.

NESTING HABITS:
During courtship, the cock's display consists of exaggerated advances, bowing, stretching, twirling and eye flashing, with shoulders thrust out. Only the hen incubates.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS:
As with Ringnecks and Plumheads, 'hens' of pairs purchased as 'true pairs' can prove to be cocks after moulting; it is unwise to purchase cocks with the expectation of easily finding spare hens.

NOISE FACTOR:
High pitched far carrying but cheerful calls; could upset close neighbours.

AVAILABILITY:
Generally available.

COLOUR VARIETIES:
The first Lutino is reputed to have been imported into England in 1923, the shoulder patches of the Green bird are altered to orange red in the Lutino; about the same time, the first Blue was also imported and small numbers of both varieties were bred up, only to be lost during the ensuing war years. Lutinos and Blues are still rarities but do exist, however, in some cases colour varieties have been introduced into the Alexandrine via hybridization with the Indian Ringneck.

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Swift Parakeet (Lathamus discolor)

Swift Parrakeetby Jim Hayward

ORIGINAL HOMELAND:
Migrates between south east Australia and Tasmania.

NATURAL HABITAT:
Wooded areas wherever trees are in blossom, and infestations of insects (lerps).

STATUS IN THE WILD:
Plentiful.

STATUS IN AVICULTURE:
Established but uncommon.

LEVEL OF KEEPER'S EXPERIENCE:
Knowledgeable keeper of both lorikeets and the smaller Australian parrakeets.

HARDINESS:
Reasonably hardy.

TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION:
Protection from cutting winds is needed; a flight of at least 12ft for these active flyers; an enclosed shelter is advised; the framework can be of wood and thin (19g) mesh is sufficient.

TYPE OF DIET:
These small parrakeets have brush tongues, in the wild they live on nectar and pollen, as well as taking insects (especially psillid lerps). In the aviary their basic diet of nectar with sponge cake or bread sops should be supplemented with a daily supply of fruit (apple, pear, orange, berries, etc), greenfood (though may not be favoured), buds, and non-toxic fresh heads of flowers - as well as a seed mixture. A varied diet, with nectar the most important item.

SEXING:
Cocks are generally slightly thicker set and fractionally brighter in colour than hens, but sexing can be difficult.

SEXUAL MATURITY:
One year old birds will attempt to breed.

NESTING SEASON IN BRITAIN:
Spring and summer.

TYPE OF NEST:
A plywood nest measuring 6" square inside by 15" to 18" high is suitable.

USUAL NUMBER OF EGGS:
Four or five.

INCUBATION PERIOD:
18 to 20 days.

USUAL NUMBER OF YOUNG:
Two or three.

FLEDGING AGE:
About five and a half weeks.

USUAL NUMBER OF CLUTCHES:
One.

NESTING HABITS:
They winter on the Australian mainland and return to the cooler climes of Tasmania to nest.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS:
Beware of wasps and bees attracted by the nectar in late summer - stings have been known to kill Swifts.

NOISE FACTOR:
Noted as a quiet aviary bird.

AVAILABILITY:
Variable, usually scarce and highly sought.

COLOUR VARIETIES:
Colour varieties have occurred including Dilutes in which the green areas have been reduced to lime yellow, and Fallows which are a paler green with red eyes.

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