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AVICULTURAL

MAGAZINE

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NOV 1 6 1998

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VOLUME 10# No. 1 1998^

THE AVICULTURAL SOCIETY

The Avicultural Society was founded in 1 894 for the study of British and foreign birds in freedom and captivity. The Society is international in character, having members throughout the world.

Membership subscription rates per annum for 1998 as for 1997: British Isles £18.00: Overseas £21.00 (plus £6.00 for airmail). (U.K. funds please). The subscription is due on 1st January of each year and those joining the Society later in the year will receive back numbers of the current volume of the AVICULTURAL MAGAZINE.

Subscription, changes of address, orders for back numbers etc. should be sent to:

THE HON. SECRETARY AND TREASURER, THE AVICULTURAL SOCIETY, c/o BRISTOL ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS, CLIFTON, BRISTOL BS8 3HA, ENGLAND.

Enquiries regarding membership should be sent to:

THE MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY, Stewart Pyper, 21, Primrose Hill, Nunney, Frome, Somerset BA11 4NP.

THE AVICULTURAL MAGAZINE welcomes original articles that have not been published elsewhere and that essentially concern the aviculture of a particular bird or group of birds, or that describe their natural history. Articles should be preferably typewritten, with double spacing, and the scientific names as well as the vernacular names of birds should be given. References cited in the text should be listed at the end of the article. Line drawings, black and white or colour photographs which illustrate a particular point in the article will be used where possible and should be clearly captioned. If authors wish their eventual return, they must say so when submitting the article and write their name on the back of each photograph. Tables and graphs will also be used wherever possible but authors should be aware of the constraints of reproduction, particularly regarding the width of the page which is 105mm.

ADDRESS OF THE EDITOR

Malcolm Ellis, Hon. Editor, The Avicultural Magazine, The Chalet, Hay Farm, St. Breock, Wadebridge, Cornwall PL27 7LH, England.

Avicultural Magazine

THE JOURNAL OF THE AVICULTURAL SOCIETY

Vol. 104 - No. 1 All rights reserved ISSN 0005 2256 1998

BREEDING THE FULVOUS-FRONTED PARROTBILL

by M. & N. Curzon

The Fulvous-fronted Parrotbill Paradoxornis fulvifrons is a very small bird, only about 12cm (4in) long, half of which is accounted for by the tail. It is among the smallest of the 19 members of the Parrotbill family, of which the best known is the Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus. The Fulvous- fronted Parrotbill is recognisable by its very short, globular bill (hence the name Parrotbill) and general fulvous coloured plumage, with an eye stripe extending to the nape, and a grey belly which at times looks almost whitish. Colour illustrations of this species can be seen in Birds of Sikkim and the Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (compact edition), neither of which are very true to life, for the live birds are very slender. They are found from south-eastern Tibet and eastern Nepal, through Sikkim and into China. There is the nominate form and three races, but we are unsure to which of these our birds belong. They were bought in February 1995 as ‘Grey-cheeked’ Parrotbills.

One needs to be very careful when catching and handling them. They are very quick, especially when moving around the aviary. There they spend a great deal of time in the bushes and as they clamber about remind you of mice running along the branches. Their diet consists of finely chopped fruit, insectivorous mixture and mini mealworms. Generally a dish of nectar is also available and they have been seen to take some. After being kept in a flight cage they were put outside in the summer of 1995. They shared the aviary with some Red Avadavats Amandava amandava. This is the same aviary (14ft x 12ft x 8ft high (approx. 4.2m x 3.6m x 2.4m high)) in which in 1989 the late Donald Risdon bred the Royal or Golden-breasted Starling Cosmopsarus regius. The parrotbills nested in a box bush 1ft (30.5cm) from the central path in the aviary and 1ft (30.5cm) above the ground. However, the nest built mainly using coconut fibre, together with the eggs were washed away during a thunderstorm, after which there was no further nesting activity in 1995.

The following year there was no nesting activtiy due to the fact that they

2

M'& N CURZON - FULVOUS-FRONTED PARROTBILL

were housed in a 3ft x 3ft x 6ft high (approx. 0.9m x 0.9m x 1.8m high) flight, within the aviary in which we bred the Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird Pogoniulus chrysoconus. This aviary was constructed principally to house new arrivals, where perhaps a new mate can be put to see how an original inmate reacts to it, or where an aggressive bird can be put perhaps to reduce its level of condition. The parrotbills spent time here due to the fact that we hoped to breed from our Red-headed Tits Aegithalos concinnus , but they disappeared due perhaps to vermin.

On Saturday, 15th March 1997 the parrotbills were let into the main flight and started calling immediately. Within a few days they had started to build a nest but it took almost a month to complete, the same length of time that it took the bush, a shrubby honeysuckle, to thicken up after its winter pruning. The nest was 3?. ft (approx 1.1m) above the ground, 1ft (30.5cm) from the wire and 4ft (approx. 1 .2m) from the birdroom wall. On the morning of Tuesday, 29th April five blue eggs were found. They were very beautiful and looked like those of the Dunnock Prunella modularis. At the time we were not sure if the pair was sitting but ten days later on the 9th May, two young fledged. It seems a very short fledging period, unless of course they were disturbed and left the nest prematurely.

From then onwards whenever anyone was in the garden the parents seemed to give an alarm call. The young appeared to be fully feathered, except that neither had a tail. They hopped about in the bushes, perhaps because they were still unable to fly. The parents did not appear to take any extra livefood, but we presume that they must have done. At the time, of the fruit offered, only grapes and sultanas were taken. They also took some of the insectivorous food, namely Witte Molen Universal paste. They also liked to run their beaks through seeding grasses. After the first few days only one youngster remained. The body of the other was never found. The surviving youngster was a very dull, pale version of its parents and lacked any of their fulvous coloration. The parents were never aggressive to other birds but were always noisy.

After the young left the nest, the parents were caught and each fitted with a split ring, to distinguish them from the youngster, which has never been caught or handled. At the time of writing (9th December 1997) all three look alike. We are still unable to distinguish the male and female parents, but expect to be able to do so when they nest again. Watching them follow each other is like watching Long-tailed Tits A, caudatus. As autumn changed to winter, they would not go inside, even after the short, sharp bursts of cold frosty weather at night followed by heavy rain that we experienced here in Somerset.

Their outside aviary is 3.6m x 3.6m x 2.25m high (approx, lift 8in x lift Sin x 7ft 4in high), with the indoor accommodation measuring 1.8m

M & N CURZON - FULVOUS-FRONTED PARROTBILL

3

wide x 3.6m long x 1.8m high (approx. 5ft lOin wide x 1 1ft 8in long x 5ft lOin high) at the front and 2.25m (approx. 7ft 4in) at the back. Other occupants were a female Yellow-winged Sugarbird or Red-legged Honeycreeper Cyanerpes cyaneus, pairs of Ruddy Ground Doves Columbina talpacoti , Orange-breasted Fruit Doves Ptilinopus aurantiifrons, Yellow- fronted Tinkerbirds, a male Roulroul Partridge Rollulus roulroul, Chestnut- flanked Zosterops Zosterops erythropoleura , and a female Quail Finch Ortygospiza atricollis and Rhodospingus Finches Rhodospingus emeritus.

As described above, the Fulvous-fronted Parrotbill Paradoxornis fulvifrons, has been bred by M. & N. Curzon. This is probably the first successful breeding of this species in Great Britain or Ireland. Anyone who knows of a previous breeding is asked to inform the Hon. Secretary.

* * *

In his article Twenty-five Years at Cobham’ ( Avicultural Magazine, 103, 2: 49-66), Raymond Sawyer mentioned a number of species which have been bred there, which are almost certainly first breedings within Great Britain or Ireland.

They are:-Wattled Ja9ana Jacana jacana , Black- winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Black-necked Stilt H. mexicanus , Masked Plover Vanellus miles , Violaceous Touraco Musophaga violacea. Black-cheeked Woodpecker Melanerpes pucherani, Plumbeous Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus, Blue Whistling Thrush Myiophoneus caeruleus, Island Thrush Turdus poliocephalus. Red-tailed Siva Minla ignotincta , Southern Tit Warbler Parisoma subcaeruleum, Blue-faced Honeyeater Entomyzon cyanotis, Black- masked Crimson Tanager Ramphocelus nigrogularis , Black-billed Weaver Ploceus melanogaster, Emerald Starling Lamprotornis iris, Splendid Glossy Starling L. splendidus.

Anyone who knows of a previous breeding of any of these species is asked to inform the Hon. Secretary.

* * *

Probably Another First Breeding

During a telephone conversation, just prior to this magazine being printed, Raymond Sawyer mentioned that at Cobham, one of the pairs of Blue-bellied Rollers Coracais cyanogaster have three young, which at the time were almost ready to leave the nest. Another pair, he thought, also have young in the nest. Raymond also said that a pair of Choughs Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax have reared a youngster.

4

CHESTER ZOO BIRD REVIEW 1997 by Roger Wilkinson

Chester Zoo is well known for its parrot collection and emphasis on working with breeding programmes for vulnerable and endangered birds. Our most important breeding in 1997 was that of the endangered Red-tailed Amazon Amazona hrasiliensis. These birds are part of the European EEP breeding programme co-ordinated from Dresden Zoo by Dr Hubert Liicker. Chester’s pair of Red-tailed Amazons arrived in 1995, the male from Paradise Park, Cornwall and the female from Loro Parque, Tenerife. This was their first breeding attempt and we were delighted when two strong chicks fledged in late July. Unfortunately one died shortly after fledging. The post mortem indicated a most unusual parasite, Besnoitia as being the cause of death. This is the first time Red-tailed Amazons have been bred at Chester and to our knowledge it is also the first breeding of this species on public display in any zoo.

Roger Wilkinson

Mount Apo Lorikeet Trichoglossus johnstoniae

Another parrot bred in 1997 for the first time at Chester was the Blue¬ winged or Illiger’s Macaw Am maracana, now considered vulnerable in the wild, which hatched and reared two excellent chicks. Other parrots bred included four Red-fronted Macaws A. erythrogenys, three Green¬ cheeked Amazons A. viridigenalis, four Cuban Amazons A. leucocephalus, three Blue-eyed Cockatoos Cacatua ophthalmica, one Thick-billed Parrot Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha, four Derbyan Parrakeets Psittacula derbicina, one Splendid Parrakeet Neophema splendida and two Yellow-backed Chattering Lories Lorius garrulus flavopalliatus.

WILKINSON - CHESTER ZOO BIRD REVIEW

5

Red and Blue Lory Eos histrio

Roger Wilkinson

Blue-Throated Conures Pyrrhura cruentata, Black-winged Lories Eos cyanogenia and Stella’s Lorikeets Charmosyna papou all hatched chicks but this year none were reared successfully. Important new arrivals to the collection included a pair of endangered Red and Blue Lories E. histrio and two male Mount Apo Lorikeets Trichoglossus johnstoniae (to join our two females) received on loan from Loro Parque. Both species have European ESB Studbooks. One of the newly formed pairs of Mount Apo Lorikeets spent time in a nest log but no eggs were laid. Other welcome arrivals to the

6

WILKINSON - CHESTER ZOO BIRD REVIEW

collection were a pair of Leadbeater’s or Pink Cockatoos C. leadbeateri and two Black-cheeked Lovebirds Agapornis nigrigenis. We received the excellent news that a male Carnaby’s White-tailed Black Cockatoo C. latirostris that we sent on loan to Rotterdam Zoo has successfully sired a chick.

Mountain Peacock Pheasants Polyplectron inopinatum are another EEP breeding programme species which were bred for the first time at Chester in 1997, with one chick being foster-reared by a bantam. Other pheasants raised by foster parents or hand-reared included two Palawan Peacock Pheasants P. emphanum, two Himalayan Monals Lophophorus impejanus, two Golden Pheasants Chrysolophus pictus and six Lady Amherst Pheasants C. amber stiae. Three Satyr Tragopans Tragopan satyra were reared by their parents. A young male Congo Peafowl Afropavo congensis reared by its parents was allowed to remain with them whilst they incubated a later clutch of eggs. Three chicks were hatched which the half-grown male helped to look after.

A pair of Common Peafowl Pavo cristatus reared five chicks. The Green Peafowl P. muticus had fertile eggs but none were hatched this year. Two Roulroul Partridges Rollulus roulroul were parent-reared in their aviary in the Tropical Realm’. Sixteen Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa were hand-reared from eggs laid by birds in ‘Europe on the Edge’. The Red- legged Partridges hatched chicks in the enclosure but these failed to survive. Chinese Painted Quail Excalfactoria chinensis successfully reared a chick in the mixed ‘Finch Flight’. The Red-crowned Cranes Grus japonensis hatched and reared one chick and two West African Crowned Cranes Balearica pavonina pavonina were foster-reared by bantams. Our Blue or Stanley Cranes Anthropoides paradisea laid for the first time but the single egg was infertile. We were devastated when later in the year we lost the male of this pair and more than grateful to the Tropical Bird Gardens, Rode, for the loan of their male. The Demoiselle Cranes A. virgo again had infertile eggs and a new male has been received on loan from Dr Martin Bourne. Little Egrets Egretta garzetta in ‘Europe on the Edge’ were unsuccessful in rearing chicks in 1996 so we elected to take eggs for artificial incubation and hand-rearing. Two chicks were hand-reared before one of the pairs of Little Egrets successfully hatched and reared their own chick. Other species bred in ‘Europe on the Edge’ included Waldrapp Ibis Geronticus eremita which reared four chicks (and another three Waldrapp were bred in the ‘Big Flight’). Eight Dalmatian Pelicans Pelecanus crispus were received from Villars Les Dombes, France, to increase our flock to ten.

We were asked to assist with collecting Lapwing Vanellus vanellus eggs from Hawarden Airport where there was a particular problem with these nesting waders presenting a hazard to the planes using this airport. A number

WILKINSON - CHESTER ZOO BIRD REVIEW

7

of clutches of set eggs were rescued and returned to our Incubation and Rearing Unit. Most of these were hatched and reared and although we had some difficulties in establishing these in the vast ‘Europe on the Edge’ habitat, at the year end we held a total of nine Lapwings. This total included an additional two rescue birds which were received from Gronant Bird Help together with a Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria.

The European Black Vultures Aegypius monachus again spent weeks extending to months sitting on their nest but again no eggs were laid. A pair of European Griffon Vultures Gypsfulvus were received on loan from Bristol Zoo during the winter and have already settled well in ‘Europe on the Edge5 . Perhaps their arrival may stimulate the European Black Vultures into reproductive activity this year. Other new arrivals included an Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus , which has been housed together with the Secretary Birds Sagittarius serpentarius and four Turkey Vultures Cathartes aura, one American Black Vulture Coragyps atratus and a Crested Caracara Polyborus plancus in the new ‘Condor Cliffs’ exhibit.

Caribbean Flamingos Phoenicopterus ruber ruber and Chilean Flamingos P chilensis were both very late starting to nest. A dry spring which did not encourage nesting behaviour was followed by a June so wet that when eggs were laid, they sat in small pools of water in the nest depressions. This necessitated our removal of some eggs for artificial incubation which we replaced with dummy eggs and then returning them prior to hatching. Although two Caribbean chicks were hatched, neither survived and of four Chilean Flamingos hatched only one survived, giving us our poorest year with flamingos since 1990.

Our successes breeding Humboldt’s Penguins Spheniscus humboldti over the last few years has resulted in them being so well represented in other European zoos that we agreed not to hand-rear any chicks in 1997. All chicks were left with their parents, resulting in three parent-reared youngsters. Six penguins were collected from Chester by Amneville Zoo in France and three birds, representing new bloodlines were received from Emmen Zoo, Netherlands.

Waterfowl reared in 1997 included Hawaiian Geese Branta sandvicensis , Ruddy Shelduck Tadomaferruginea , Common Shelduck 7 tadorna , Black¬ billed Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna arborea , Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina , Laysan Teal Anas laysonensis , Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris , Chiloe Wigeon A. sibilairix. Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata and Smew Mergus albellus . We also hatched, but this year were not successful in rearing White-headed Ducks Oxyura leucocephala, but for the first time at Chester were successful in rearing Meller’s Ducks A. me lien, Falcated Teal A. falcata and Garganey Anas querquedula .

Fourteen Speckled Pigeons Columba guinea , six Crested Bronzewing

WILKINSON - CHESTER ZOO BIRD REVIEW

Pigeons Ocyphaps lophotes and one Rock Dove Columbia livia were bred. Although we had some foot growth problems with newly fledged Luzon Bleeding Heart Doves Gallicolumba luzonica we eventually reared six youngsters from our two pairs. Two pairs of Nicobar Pigeons Caloeanas nicobarica each fledged a chick but this was soured by the loss of two of the breeding adults in the same period. Four Red Turtle Doves Streptopelia tranquebarica were received from the Tropical Bird Gardens, Rode at the year end and released into the free-flightarea of the ‘Tropical Realm’.

Roger Wilkin .

Humboldt’s Penguin Sphenicus humboldti

Two Spectacled Owls Pulsatrix perspicillata and one Barn Owl Tyto alba were reared. Our pair of White-faced Scops Owls Otus leucotis have reared 1 5 youngsters over the last five years and are thought to now be more than adequately represented in the managed British zoo population. We followed the studbook co-ordinators request to split this pair, resulting in no breeding in 1997. A new female was introduced to the breeding male but they showed little interest in each other. Two Tawny Frogmouths Podargus strigoides were hand-reared and. two Kookaburras Dacelo novae guineae were reared by their parents.

WILKINSON - CHESTER ZOO BIRD REVIEW

9

We had a less successful year with hornbills. The Great Indian Hornbills Buceros bicornis rn lidded- up but the female emerged without evidence of egg laying. Wrinkled Hornbills Aceros corrugatus and Trumpeter Hornbills Bycanistes bucinator both hatched chicks but these failed to fledge successfully and only one African Grey Hornbill Tockus nasutus epirhinus was reared. The touracos were more successful with three Schalow’s Touracos Tauraco schaloxvi and one Violaceous Touraco Musophaga violacea reared. The White -cheeked Touracos T. leucotis were late breeding and although chicks hatched none were fledged. Four Red-billed Magpies Urocissa erythrorhyncha were reared by their parents but this year neither pair of Superb Spreo Starlings Spreo superbus were successful in raising young. All four of our Superb Spreos have been in the collection between 13 and 14 years and were adult when received. Our longest living passerine in the zoo is a Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea received as an adult in 1978, which must now be at least 20 years old.

In the ‘Tropical Realm’ the Emerald Starlings Lamprocolius iris fledged two chicks but these disappeared before the year end; possibly having escaped, for no bodies were discovered. Red-eared Bulbuls Pycnonotus jocosus, Pekin Robins Leiothrix lutea and Silver-beaked Tanagers Ramphocelus carbo also fledged chicks. One pair of White-rumped Shamas Copsychus malabaricus fledged several broods of chicks and a Plumbeous Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosa was hand-reared. Mexican House Finches Carpodacus mexicanus. Zebra Finches Poephila guttata and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus Uraeginthus bengalus reared chicks in the Finch Flight. We were especially pleased with the latter, as these commonly imported waxbills are so often neglected in zoo collections. New species received included Omei Shan Liocichlas Liocichla omeiensis, Red-legged Honeycreepers Cyanerpes cyaneus and Grosbeak Starlings Scissirostrum dubium all of which have been highlighted for co-operative management in European zoos.

In total 87 species hatched chicks in the collection from which a total of 262 chicks from 72 species were reared successfully. The highlights were Chester Zoo’s first successes with Red-tailed Amazons, Illiger’s Macaws and Mountain Peacock Pheasants and the repeated breeding of several other conservationally sensitive species including West African Crowned Cranes. It was generally a good year for breeding but as always we also had our disappointments. With birds, no one year is like another, and we look forward to this breeding season knowing that there will be challenges and disappointments but hoping that at the end of the year there may also be further successes to report.

Dr Roger Wilkinson is Curator of Birds at Chester Zoo, Upton by Chester CH2 1LH, England. He is on the Avicultural Society Council and is Coordinator of the Palm Cockatoo EEP.

10

THE STAR FINCH Neochima ruficauda

by Anthony J. Mobbs

Two races of the Star Finch are recognised, namely Neochima r. ruficauda which is the nominate form and found south of Rockhampton in Queensland and N.r. clarescens which is found across northern Australia. The former has less crimson around the facial area and the abdomen is creamy-white. It is reported as being very rare in the wild. Indeed, from recent reports, it appears that both races are becoming somewhat scarce in the wild. N. r. clarescens is more brightly coloured, with extensive crimson on the facial area and a more yellow abdomen. Although there are two recognised races, other than in their country of origin, they have become so interbred that it is virtually impossible to identify the two distinct races in captive bred birds.

Star Finches can prove ideal subjects for the newcomer to Australian finches as well as to the more experienced enthusiast. The species is easily sexed, but the birds need to be nine months old or more before one can be certain of the sex of each individual. Young males can often be sexed at an early age as the majority usually start to sing shortly after being weaned. However, one cannot always be sure that non-singing birds are in fact females, until full adult plumage is attained. In full adult plumage male Star Finches have the entire front of the head, ear-coverts and throat crimson. Adult females have less crimson on the facial area. Also the white spotting which appears on the ear-coverts, mesia and throat is not so prominent in the female as it is in the male.

Star Finches will breed readily in either cage or aviary. They will also mix well with other species which are approximately the same size. Few pairs attempt to build a nest from scratch. Because of this, it is best to partly fill nest-boxes with soft hay before placing them in position. A small amount of nesting material should also be placed within easy reach of the breeding pair and the supply should be maintained at least until the chicks have hatched. The reason for this is that many males (especially when the breeding pair is housed in a cage) will continually take material from the nest while the female is incubating. In some cases, so depleting the nest, the female deserts. I put this behaviour down to boredom. If extra nesting material is made available to the male, he can occupy himself with this rather than robbing the nest.

The average clutch is five to six eggs. Incubation usually begins after the fourth egg is laid. Although both birds take turns in incubating, it is the female which incubates during the night period and for lengthy periods throughout the day. It can take from between 12 to 15 days for the eggs to hatch, according to how well the birds sit. Star Finches are extremely light

MOBBS - STAR FINCH

11

sitters and even the most steady pairs will leave the nest at the least provocation. Because of this, nest inspection is easily carried out. However, as Star Finches are less tolerant of nest inspection than most other species of Australian finch, I would suggest the eggs be inspected for fertility only once, the best time being some seven to eight days after incubation commenced. The nest should not be inspected again until the chicks are approximately ten days old. At this age, well fed chicks should be ready to be fitted with size C closed-rings. Once the rings have been fitted, the nest should not be inspected again until the young have fledged.

Copyright A. J. Mobbs

Star Finch chicks 12 days old

Star Finch chicks usually fledge when they are approximately 20 days old. It is important not to accidentally disturb them just before fledging, as if they leave the nest prematurely, one may find it impossible to persuade them to return, even to roost.

Immature birds have the upperparts dull olive-brown with the underparts brownish-buff, fading to white on the lower breast and turning to pure white on the abdomen and under tail-coverts. Their beaks are black; legs and feet brown. Young Star Finches begin to moult into a subadult plumage when they are approximately eight weeks old. When this moult is completed, the birds will look very much like poorly coloured adults. The males will have a certain amount of crimson on the facial area, but not nearly so much as a fully adult bird. Females in subadult plumage, may have a certain amount of crimson on the forehead, but their overall colour will be much paler than that of the males. The beaks of both sexes will have turned from black to red and the legs and feet will have become yellow. It may be six or seven

12

MOBBS - STAR FINCH

months before the young birds again begin to moult. When this moult is completed, the birds will be in full adult plumage and therefore easy to sex visually.

As a basic diet Star Finches can be offered either a good quality foreign finch mixture, or one can do as I do and supply plain canary seed, white millet and panicum millet in separate dishes. Spray millet can be supplied ad-lib. Small oyster shell, limestone and mineralised grit should be available at all times, as should cuttlefish bone. Every two or three days, flaked cuttlefish bone should also be offered, especially to laying females.

An -added source of calcium much enjoyed by Star Finches is shells from chicken eggs. Clean shells should first be placed in a saucepan of hot water which is allowed to simmer for two or three minutes, after which the shells can be removed and allowed to dry out completely. They can then be stored in a screw top jar ready for use.

Before offering the shells to your birds, first place about a quarter of a shell in the palm of your hand and then crash it into small pieces with your thumb. The pieces can then be offered to your birds by placing them on top of the grit. I give Star Finches of all ages about a quarter of a whole shell about every three or four days. Laying females can be offered the shells more frequently. Any uneaten shell should be removed after 24 hours, otherwise it may become soiled with droppings.

As with the majority of Australian finches, Star Finches enjoy greenfood and such items as thoroughly washed lettuce and spinach should be offered on a regular basis. Greenfood taken directly from the wild must be thoroughly washed under clean running water before giving it to your birds and care should be taken that it is gathered from an area which has not been fouled by cats or dogs or sprayed with chemicals. If in doubt, then do as I do and supply only commercially grown lettuce. Even the latter must be thoroughly washed before use.

Clean water for drinking must, of course, be available at all times.

Star Finches, especially when rearing young, can often be persuaded to take a good proprietary brand of egg food. Sprouted seeds are usually relished and should be offered ad-lib to pairs with chicks. Both' these foods must be fed fresh each day, any remaining after 24 hours being discarded.

Mutations

Although reports have appeared of a fawn mutation of the Star Finch, as far as I am aware, few are known outside Australia. However, the yellow mutation is well established both in Europe and the USA. The pied mutation is also well established in Europe, but as far as I know, is very scarce (maybe even unobtainable) in the USA. Both mutations are recessive; i.e. if either mutation is mated to a normal Star Finch, then only visual normals split for

MOBBS - STAR FINCH

13

the appropriate mutation are produced. In the UK, most yellow Star Finches are as robust as normals and because of this, most yellows are now mated together (rather than to normals), thus eliminating the need for split birds.

Copyright A J. Mobbs

Immature Star Finch, male, pied mutation. The crown and white bill will become red when the bird becomes fully adult (see text)

Pieds are also mated together regularly. However, the latter mutation requires outcrossing from time to time to pure normals of good size. Otherwise their size and stamina quickly deteriorate. When first it appeared in the UK, the pied Star Finch was extremely popular. In the majority of cases only the extremities are pied (i.e. the flight and tail feathers and also part of the head) and no doubt due to this the mutation quickly lost favour and at present few breeders appear to be persevering with pied Star Finches. Another feature of this mutation which can prove disappointing (especially if a breeder is not aware of the fact), is that many young birds which appear heavily pied whilst in immature plumage, will, if the pied area is around the face and on the beak have the pied areas replaced with the ‘normal5 colour, i.e. bright crimson, when the bird moults into full adult plumage. I have seen the occasional bird with pied areas of plumage on the body as well as the extremities, but such birds appear to be the exception rather than the rale. The combination of yellow and pied has recently appeared, although as yet I have seen . only colour photographs of this mutation.

Anthony J. Mobbs has recently written a small book of 40 pages about the Star Finch. It is priced at £3.95 post paid and is available from him at:- 65 Broadstone Avenue, Walsall , West Midlands WS3 1JA, England. Tel / Fax: 01922 477281 /E-mail: Mobbs.Birdbooks@btinternet.com.uk.

14

THE SUCCESSFUL PARENT REARING OF A PESQUET’S PARROT Psittrichas fulgidus AT LORO PARQUE

by Roger G. Sweeney

Pesquet’s Parrot Psittrichas fulgidus remains an uncommon species in zoological collections with records of captive breeding being comparatively scarce. Successful breedings have during the past 20 years been recorded in a number of collections including Loro Parque, Palmitos Park, Bronx Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and that of Antonio de Dios in the Philippines. Despite these successes the captive status of Pesquet’s Parrot is still fragile and breeding can not be described as consistent in any of the collections which have reared this species. The majority of birds which have so far been raised have been hand-reared. The reason why more breeding pairs have not been given the opportunity to rear their own young is unclear. Los Angeles Zoo has recorded some success with parent rearing.

Pesquet’s Parrots have been kept in the collection at Loro Parque for many years and successful breeding has taken place in the past. The male of the pair which is currently on exhibition was reared at Loro Parque. In recent years, however only clutches of infertile eggs had been laid. Two pairs with the potential to breed are currently housed in the collection, each of which laid two clutches of infertile eggs during the early and middle part of the 1997 breeding season. In November both pairs laid a third clutch, and the eggs of one pair proved to be fertile and resulted in the hatching of a chick in early December. When first seen the chick appeared strong and had food in the crop and therefore was left with its parents. Intervention with the view to artificial rearing was considered unnecessary so long as the chick was observed to be developing well in the care of its parents.

The pair of Pesquet’s Parrots which hatched the chick are housed in the new off-exhibit breeding centre. Both parents were bred in captivity and were hand-reared and so it was particularly pleasing to see them rear their offspring successfully. The male was reared at Jurong Bird Park and the female was reared at Bronx Zoo. They were introduced to each in 1996, in one of the older breeding centres, and at the beginning of 1 997 were relocated to the new breeding centre where they are currently housed in an aviary which measures 12m long x 1 .5m wide x 2.5m high (approx. 39ft long x 5ft wide x 8ft high). A nesting log was prepared from a segment of the trunk of a Washington Palm, and placed towards the rear of the aviary. We partly hollowed out the nesting cavity, but left the main part of the excavation to the birds. The aviary is furnished with three main horizontal perches which extend across the width of the aviary at the front, middle and rear of its length. Smaller perches are positioned in front of the entrance to the nest

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and at the front of the flight. The birds are fed twice-daily on a special liquidised diet, the ingredients of which include apple, pear, papaya, banana and carrot. In addition segments of fresh fruit are attached to the perches and a feeding dish of Prettybird Lory Select pelleted diet is provided. Clean drinking water is available at all times and once a day the birds are given a ten minute shower from an overhead sprinkler system.

The pair in the breeding centre began their first clutch of 1997 on 1st July, when two eggs were laid. These were removed later when they were overdue and were considered to be infertile. A second clutch was laid on the 10th September. On this occasion the first egg was laid in the nest and the second was found on the front feeding tray and was taken for artificial incubation. The egg in the nest was removed when it became overdue, and like the previous eggs was considered infertile. However, the egg which was artificially incubated was suspected of having been fertile and that the embryo had died early in its development.

This led us to suspect that some of the eggs previously thought to have been infertile might in fact have been fertile and had suffered a similar fate due to poor incubation behaviour by the pair. When they began nesting again, this time in November, we left them undisturbed for the first ten days, until the 19th November, when the nest was inspected and a clutch of three eggs was seen. They were left undisturbed until we expected them to hatch and on the 8th December we checked the nest and found a chick which appeared to be two or three days old. The remaining two eggs did not hatch. The chick appeared in good condition and had food in the crop, therefore it was not disturbed. On the 28th December, I briefly removed the chick from the nest so that one of the staff veterinarians could check the bone development, which appeared perfect. We decided against the use of a closed leg band as Pesquet’s Parrots have proved susceptible to leg problems, particularly Hyperkeratosis which can be problematic with metal leg bands. Instead the local CITES officials were informed about the chick soon after it hatched and were invited to observe the chick and its development. The preferred method of identification marking for this species is to place a micro-chip in the breast muscle once the chick is fledged.

From the third week of February onwards the chick could be seen each day looking out from the entrance of the nest, but it did not fledge until 14th March, when it left the nest in the morning and joined its parents perching in the aviary. From the first day out of the nest the chick looked strong and confident and seemed comfortable in flight and when landing. Within a few days it was seen feeding by itself and by April was regularly taking food directly from the food dish. On the 2nd April the chick was captured for a veterinary examination and so that a micro-chip could be placed in its breast muscle in the presence of the local CITES officials. The -chick had good

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SWEENEY - PESQUET’S PARROT

body condition and is now independent and looks strong. This success is especially pleasing because Pesquet’s Parrot is very much in need of more consistent breeding in captivity, and also because the chick was reared by its parents. This point is even more significant when one remembers that both parents are captive bred and hand-reared. This new breeding pair are comparatively young and so it is to be hoped that Loro Parque can look forward to many more successful years ahead with this pair, now that they have registered their first success.

Roger G. Sweeney was Curator of Loro Parque from March 1994 until May 1998. He now works as an international avicultural consultant and can be contacted by writing to:- Dymocks Mill Cottage, Oldcastle, Nr Malpas, Cheshire SY14 7NE, England.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF THE MANAGEMENT OF ECHO PARRAKEETS Psittacula eques echo ON MAURITIUS

1996/97

The 1 996/97 breeding season was the most productive in recent years. A total of 33 chicks hatched and 23 survived to fledging: 20 in captivity and three in the wild. In May 1997 the total population was estimated at 76-87 birds: 50-61 birds in the wild and 26 birds in captivity. This represents about a 50% increase since last year.

The wild population includes 14-19 females, 33-39 males (a ratio of about 1:2) and three fledglings. Of these, six or seven are believed to be sub-adults and one year old birds, including five or six males and one female.

A survey of the Black River Gorges National Park in August and September 1996 discovered six new breeding groups bringing the total to 13 known wild breeding groups of which 12 bred. The main focus of the work included intensive nest site management, rescuing eggs and chicks from failing nests, clutch and brood manipulations and predator control. Thirty-four eggs were laid in the wild of which 14 were harvested and two died as embryos. Eighteen chicks hatched in the wild of which 1 1 were rescued, four died in the wild and three fledged.

In May 1997, the captive population comprised 13 males, 12 females and one juvenile of unknown sex.. There were two adult males and four adult females and one established breeding pair. Eleven wild pairs are likely to be genetically represented in the captive population. Twenty-six chicks were handled at the breeding centre, 20 of which fledged. Captive

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management focused on hand-rearing and 20 chicks were hand-reared or partly hand-reared, 1 6 of which fledged. The remaining chicks were reared by Ring-neck Parrakeets P. krameri foster parents. Disease affected most of the chicks and caused some mortalities in chicks and at post-fledging.

A release into the wild of captive bred Ring-neck Parrakeets has been carried out to develop release techniques suitable for Echo Parrakeets. A release of captive bred Echo Parrakeets into native forest is intended within the next year, following the lUCN’s Reintroduction Specialist Group guidelines.

In recent years there has been a considerable increase in the known wild population of Echo Parrakeets. Some of this is undoubtedly due to a real increase in the number of birds but is also a result of additional birds being found due to more intensive fieldwork.

It is recommended that future work focuses on improving the productivity and survival of the Echo Parrakeet by improvements in nest site management, supplemental feeding of wild birds, disease control and improved diet for the captive birds.

This