Just Fooling

You would think by now, after a couple decades of having birds around, that I would have learned to not get excited about eggs. Wait until they hatch, I am sure some wise person has said over and over. I’m pretty good with button quail eggs because, with four hens and three cocks, I haven’t had chicks hatch in the last year. And Pixel, my oldest boy, has been showing signs of aging. Like not being able to get both legs under him and going in the same direction. It’s spooky to see him rolling around on his back, but I’m getting used to it. Continue reading “Just Fooling”

Can’t Say No to Turacos

My first attempt at hand-feeding a red-crested turaco chick turned out fairly well. Sadly, of the two chicks I was given, one didn’t make it overnight. But the remaining one grew and thrived and is now happily matched to a female in hopes he might be a daddy soon. I loved his personality and curiosity, but living inside is bad for a turaco. Much as I hated to part with “Mort”, I loved knowing how happy he would be.

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Mort the adult turaco

Continue reading “Can’t Say No to Turacos”

Canaries: Sex Addicts of the Finch World

Humans have set up canaries to be good breeders, but we may have gone a bit overboard. I just brought home a pair of canaries, and they are very interesting to watch. They are in breeding season now, and the show must go on.

Most of the year, males and females are kept separately in big flight cages. When I brought my pair home, I got a special breeding cage for them, with a divider. Male on one side, female on the other. I named them Rico (for Enrico Caruso) and Bubbles (for Beverly Sills) since they are waterslagers, the very best singers in the canary world. http://animal-world.com/encyclo/birds/canaries/WaterslagerCanary.php

Rico sang his heart out, and Bubbles sat around looking pretty. I gave them some burlap to tug on, a nest bowl, and lots of food. The signs to watch for were vigorous pulling of the burlap threads and feeding each other. Canaries are super in-tune with the length of the days, so I worried they would be getting too much light in our office. But that didn’t seem to bother them. Soon, I observed them feeding each other. Still not pulling on the burlap, but I gave them some other materials, and put them together. I saw them feeding each other, and removed the divider.

Too soon! Bubbles tried her best to kill Rico, so I put the divider back in. Almost immediately Rico began singing again. Bubbles wasn’t buying it. She went about eating and bathing and looking at the nest without interruption.

Then, quite unexpectedly, I heard a quieter, unmelodious chirping. Looking up, I saw Bubbles with her tail in the air, chirping away. She had Rico’s complete attention. He fed her, he sang, he did everything he could think of to convince me to let him in with her. Once more, I removed the divider.

Whoa! Rico was on her like a moth on bird seed! In his enthusiasm, he knocked Bubbles off her perch. Minutes later, he was trying again, and being young and inexperienced, he tried to mount the wrong end. Oh, dear. But a few hours later, he had figured it out, and Bubbles was really patient with him. They mated happily all day. All. Bloody. Day.

The nest building hadn’t been moving forward very well. I discovered a different material that they seem to like better, and they are working on the nest together.

So for the first few days when they had unrestricted access to each other, they were ready at the crack of any light bulb and weren’t too ready to stop when we shut down for the night. I lost count of the sessions, which is a shame. I wanted to see if there is a world record that they could beat.

Just as I grew convinced that we were on the way to a nest full of babies, Bubbles had a grumpy day, and tried to kill Rico. Panicking, I applied the divider once more. Within five minutes, the little slut was near the barrier, her tail in the air, chirping and begging. Really, Bubbles? You really want to go there when you just tried to kill him?

Her bad mood passed, they kissed and made up, and finally the nest is taking shape. I learned that it will take a week for the hen to start laying her eggs. Now I just have to come up with more opera singer names for the chicks.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.

Save the Invasive Species!

That’s not really the subject of this post, I just wanted to get your attention, because on Facebook, I see a side bar ad to donate money to save the wild Quaker parrots of Manhattan. And I started wondering if it’s a good idea to save these immigrants. In the past, I have stated that I am in favor of helping wild parrots in the United States because they are so fragile in their own country.

But Quakers, also known as monk parakeets, are of least concern in Argentina. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monk_parakeet They are a very hardy and adaptive species, as shown by their survival in Europe, Asia, and New York. They are the only parrot that builds community nests. These structures are awesome. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gNk0yTZZHI

In the wild, these opportunistic birds will move in to the “basement” of a Jabiru stork nest and renovate to suit their needs. And the storks don’t even charge rent! Well, maybe a little guard duty, to alert them if a predator comes around. http://zoologica.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/the-nest-building-behavior-of-the-adaptable-quaker-parakeet/

This nest building is the main reason utility companies want to eradicate the bird in New York and New Jersey. http://wildparrotsny.com/index/breedfacts.html http://wildparrotsny.com/index/awareness.html
Apparently these birds are getting a better reception in Chicago. http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-home-fit-wild-parrots-108565

In California, Quakers are illegal. I’ve heard rumors that people still have them as pets. Just like I know people who have kept illegal ferrets as pets. But I have never heard of either wild herds of ferrets or wild flocks of Quakers in this state. We have cherry headed conures. And a variety of others. The California Parrot Project makes an interesting point that many species have been introduced and are now considered part of the natural world here. Eucalyptus trees, mustard plant, palm trees, all got here with people.

Here is a helpful video for identifying wild parrots in California. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnyHT6Sqq2E And the most famous are the parrots of Telegraph Hill. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAtld3KOpuY Cherry headed conures are Near Threatened in their home range, so keeping the colony flock in California safe and healthy makes perfect sense. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-masked_parakeet

California has been involved in bird conservation for many decades, so this new version shouldn’t be difficult to fit into our culture. Condors are the symbol of successful conservation in our minds. http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/nongame/t_e_spp/bird.html Maybe they have been a little too successful? http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/06/13/intruder-endangered-bird-species-damages-california-community-homes/

Just don’t bring up the thick billed parrot project. We didn’t really run that one, anyway. http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/thick-billed-parrot (click the Conservation tab) Here’s more on the effort to release captive raised birds into the wild: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/30/science/effort-to-reintroduce-thick-billed-parrots-in-arizona-is-dropped.html And I have heard that the main reason so many birds were killed by predators within 48 hours of release was due to their having their wings clipped while in captivity. The project people thought it would work to use a method of wing repair called imping. http://www.sanctuaryfederation.org/gfas/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Imping-Repairing-a-Birds-Damaged-or-Clipped-Wings-Greg-Glendell.pdf They found out the hard way that repaired wings were not good when a parrot is fighting for its life.

My conclusion, I think, is that we should do all we can to save threatened and endangered species, but not really worry about those that are thriving in many places. I’ll be back on Thursday.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Holland passed a law that bans the hand feeding and hand raising of parrot chicks. There are pros and cons in this situation, and I have yet to come up with enough information to decide for myself. So I’m going to throw some links up and see if there is anything that stands forth on either side.

The new rule prohibits the removal of birds from their parents before they can feed themselves. Even the removal of eggs is prohibited in this law. The reason given is that the parents stress when their chicks are taken away, and it can lead to behavior problems like plucking and self mutilation in the chicks. http://www.cageandaviarybirds.co.uk/news/latest-news/1040-parrot-hand-rearing-ban-for-the-netherlands.html

When the US banned the import of wild-caught birds in 1992, breeding became the only way to get some of the more popular species. I’ve seen wide-scale operations with round the clock care for baby birds, and I can’t help but think it’s a little unfair to the birds. They would have gotten better care and attention in a clutch of four than in a batch of twenty. But even small scale breeders who hand feed can get it wrong, and cause the death of a baby one way or another, and even inadvertently spread a disease throughout a flock. http://www.dutchparrotfoundation.org/trafficking-in-baby-parrots.php

The biggest problem I have seen with hand-raised birds is that they bond with humans and not other birds. My Amazon is sure I am his mate. Also some chicks bond with the hand feeder, and then don’t adjust well to being placed in a new home with new humans. My Indian ring-neck suffered that problem. http://www.fosterparrots.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Negative-Effects-of-Hand-Rearing-on-Parrots.pdf

Well, I find lots of negative opinions in this debate, http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatbirdblog/ even if they aren’t fanatics, but what is there that’s positive about hand rearing? I don’t mean the odd incident when a chick is abandoned or rejected, and this is the only way to save it. I mean as a business and a way to bond with a bird. http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatbirdblog/2011/08/05/myth-busters-do-hand-reared-or-parent-reared-parrots-make-better-pets/

Co-parenting has always seemed to be a better option to me. And with my budgies, it worked very well. But it doesn’t work with lovebirds at all. And it doesn’t work, apparently, with Chris Biro. He’s adamantly against the law. http://forums.avianavenue.com/index.php?threads/chris-biro-on-unweaned-parrots-and-the-dutch-banning-of-hand-raised-parrots.134562/

This video shows hand-raised parrots helping out with younger chicks. I don’t see a problem here.

Well, no closer to a position, but lots to think about. I will be back on Sunday.

Random Birds in the Wild

The word Random is awesome. It means many different things to different people. To me, it means this traffic camera and this toucan. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OR7Zm1Ajzo Totally random, right? Plus adorable.

When I thought about this post, I thought I would just see how many species of birds I could randomly think of for a country. I picked Africa and parrots that I don’t own. So grays and love birds are out. But there’s not much in the way of videos of wild parrots. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in the jungle with heavy camera equipment just waiting for the birds to fly past? So instead here’s a clip of a young Jardine’s chattering a bit in its sleep. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tW-H5qhV8oQ

If you have an hour, here’s a great video with lots of random parrots in it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhDiigWqDX8 It’s National Geographic, so it has to be the best!

And here is a really good video full of information on Jardine’s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2Kwj-TOkO4

Another random African parrot is the Meyer’s, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u23IDomN6Uw Here’s a short but clear clip of a wild Meyer’s parrot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C29Igd1sEmw I have trouble identifying Meyer’s and Senegal parrots, or should I say differentiating one from the other at a glance. I try to remember that the Senegals have the sunny orange feathers that the mild Meyer’s does not. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWA-lpf4CNw

One person describes the difference between the two as the Meyers loves to love you, the Senegal loves to be loved by you. So Meyer’s are like dogs, and Senegals are like cats. Good to know. And here’s more information about the differences in these as Rupells, another of the poicephalus parrots.

Possibly the rarest and most endangered member of this family is the Cape Parrot, with the awesome Zulu name of uPholi. That’s not a typo, the u is small and the P is large. http://www.parrots.org/index.php/ourwork/home/cape_parrot

I am not now, and never shall be, a rabid anti-pets, animal rights activist and fanatic. Animals can live very happy lives with their people, and people can only benefit from that relationship. But I am rabid about poaching. Wild birds and animals need to stay in the wild, and the wild needs to be protected. So read this article about wild-caught parrots being poached and the majority of them dying in transit.

Now go hug your parrots and promise them an extra treat when you have time. Speaking of time, you may notice that my mid-week posts have gotten late and later. My week has changed and my time is taken up thoroughly early in the week. This is my last Wednesday post, I’ll see you on Sunday and then move to Thursday of next week.

What is the Sound of a Sun Conure Laying an Egg?

My sweet female sun conure, Sunny, is about 17 years old. She’s laid a couple eggs over the years that she has been with me. One time she seemed badly injured following the production of one egg, and I worried over her for several days.

I put her in a hospital cage with soft towels to lay on, a heat lamp, and administered antibiotics. And kept my fingers crossed. She went from laying listlessly on the bottomof the cage to her normal self in a week or so.

Putting her back in with her cage mate Zazu was a touching moment. He had missed her, and started to groom her right away.

That was some years ago, and I hoped it was the last time she would feel like producing eggs. Confidence stayed high until a few weeks ago. Sunny began making an odd noise. The closest I can get to describing it is the sound of playing cards set to hit the spokes on a bike wheel.

The current cage that Sunny and Zazu share is tall with shelves up near the top. Their water is at the top, the food at the bottom, so they have to move around the cage. Sunny began furiously throwing food out of the dishes, making horrible messes and wasting seed and pellets at a time when we could least afford it. Mike devised a plastic bin with a lid, cutting the middle of the lid off, so that the seed can’t easily be kicked or thrown out of the container.

Turns out, she was trying to make a nest. The food bowls had been too small, no matter how much she dug into it. The bin suited her much better, and the noise she was making heralded an egg. However, she went up to the top shelf to lay it. The egg rolled down to the bottom of the cage and cracked.

So now, about every two days, she is laying an egg. A strategy that sometimes works with hens is to give them a nest box, let them lay the eggs, sit on them, and when hatch day rolls around and the eggs don’t hatch, they will abandon the nest. So I gave Sunny and Zazu a nest box.

Sunny obligingly laid an egg inside of it, then crawled up to the shelf looking like a rung-out dish rag. But she perks up in time to lay the next egg. Zazu has spent more time in the nest box with the clutch, so far. I’m waiting to see how long this goes on, and if they actually will incubate the eggs.

Are the eggs fertile? Do I expect chicks in this nest? I’ve never seen them mating, but maybe they like the privacy for their activities. Unlike cockatiels who will go for it whenever and wherever they find themselves in the mood. Audiences are welcome. I’m not getting my hopes up, but in a few more days I will candle the eggs and see if there is a spark of life there. Stranger things have happened.

On Sunday, we’ll visit the world of humans and birds once more. Have a good week.

Justifying the Old Ball and Chain

On Wednesday we looked at birds that mate for life. Now I want to explore the rationale behind that. One really good reason is that the time and energy spent in attracting a new mate every year can instead be channeled into establishing a territory, laying the eggs, incubating, and raising the young. Much more logical for migratory birds.

Beyond that, I can’t find much else to support the bonding for life. Parrots do it, for the most part, for exactly these reasons. http://pets.thenest.com/parrots-pair-life-12861.html

So what benefits the birds who don’t pair bond for more than a season? Mortality rates are high for first season breeders. If the young bird’s genes are going to get a chance to survive, optimal reproduction calls for more than one nest and more than one mate. http://blog.duncraft.com/2012/01/23/do-birds-mate-for-life/

Often with companion parrots, they pick us as their mate for life, and want to then get on with the business of copulation, laying eggs, raising the young, and so on. They just don’t understand why we want something different. Here’s an excellent article on the signs your bird is sending to you that you need to pay attention to. Unless, of course, you are ready to lay those eggs. http://bird-paradise.biz/lets-talk-about-the-birds-the-bees-with-birds/

Back in the wild, say it’s mating season again, which it almost is in the southern hemisphere. Rain is falling, grass and trees are growing and seeding or fruiting. The days are lengthening. A young cock’s fancy turns will attract the females. Getting in touch with his creative side, male birds put on a great display. http://www.buzzfeed.com/rebeccae/5-hilarious-bird-mating-dances For certain values of “great.”

The various birds of paradise are the champions at the display part of the show, as seen in these videos:


What’s the point behind all this display and dancing just to mate? Especially if the mating is going to be quickly done and quickly over? Apparently birds might be confused as to the species of their potential sex partner. And mating outside your species is a waste of time, effort, and genetic materials. So better to do what dad and granddad and so on back to the beginning of the species have done to tell the girls, I’m hip, I’m in good health, and I know the routine. Come and get me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courtship_display

I haven’t spent too much time on song or sounds, but these too are important parts of all the courtship rituals. In a dense jungle or forest, sound is the best way to attract the girls. Even in an urban setting, where sounds might not get so far due to tall buildings blocking the waves or other sounds competing, song still serves a purpose. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/birdsongs/whysing/document_view

The end result, whether with a life-long mate or a for now mate, is a new generation of babies that will keep the species alive and learn to dance just like mommy or daddy teaches them. This is the goal, passing on the genetic material and the ritual ensures, usually, that the most fit and most worthy pairs are successful. http://beautyofbirds.com/swanbreeding.html

Have a good day, happy July, and I’ll be back on Wednesday.