Avicultural Hints

While the ‘experts’ can be wrong occasionally, experienced aviculturists can supply a wealth of information, some of which you will never find in books.

If fostering birds or eggs, e.g. Gouldians under Bengalese, remove the resultant young from contact with the foster species as soon as they are independent, or sexual imprinting may occur.

Tissues torn into strips are readily used for nest lining by some finches.

Use natural wood perches in the aviary – they are better for exercising the feet of your birds than are dowel perches all of the same size.

If a bird looks “off colour”, don’t take a chance – place it in a small cage with warmth and in a quiet place. Medication may be necessary, but if you don’t know what is wrong with the bird you may need to consult a vet. The wrong medication for an illness will not cure the bird.

Aviary doors that are greater than head height allow you to watch the birds when entering the aviary, instead of ducking the head and naturally averting your eyes. You can, by then, see a bird coming for the open door, generally frighten it back and prevent an escape.

To catch a bird with a net against the side of the aviary, allow the bird to fly past your face, between you and the wire, then net it with the hand the bird is flying towards (i.e., the ‘following’ hand).

Nest peeking can be a costly experience; and should be avoided with those species that may resent this practice. Far too often a finger in the nest habit has been responsible for upsetting birds that are nesting, especially if the birds have been flushed out of the nest for the inspection. If it is considered necessary to inspect the nest, try to wait until the birds have vacated the nest naturally and then carry out the inspection as quickly as possible and without visible interference to the nest. A disturbed twig or other nesting material will tell the returning birds that an intruder (and possible predator) has been around the nest, and may be still present (not unlike a broken window or door left ajar are signs of a recent home invasion). The birds may be reluctant to re-enter the nest under these circumstances.

Aviary shelters covered with galvanised iron can be a problem during the winter months, particularly when the nights are cold and frosty. Such conditions tends to cause galvanised iron to sweat which causes a considerable amount of dripping; and this in turn adds another hazard to that of the cold temperature existing. If aviary furnishings are arranged so that the birds are forced to roost close to the damp iron their health will be gradually undermined. To avoid this form of exposure all perches, brush and other roosting or nesting facilities should be at least 30cm from the roof. Several methods can be employed to overcome this problem. One is to line the ceiling with plywood or boards, another method considered beneficial is to paint the under side of the iron and before the paint dries, sprinkle it with sawdust. This is reputed to stop the dripping by absorbing the dampness. If the birds housed are to be kept in good condition it is essential that this problem is overcome.

Seed should be placed in such a position as to be completely protected from the elements and where droppings cannot foul it. It is most important that it cannot be saturated by driving rain as saturated seed will not allow the birds easy access to any dry seed that may still be in the hopper or dish; and this can be disastrous.

Many birds may not readily partake of such seeds as Maw and Niger if they are supplied in containers. If this is the case try a more natural method and throw a little on the floor of the aviary, in a cleared patch, in most cases the birds will favour this method of feeding. Scarlet-chested Parrots are particularly fond of Niger fed in this manner.

The use of seed hoppers overcomes the daily task of supplying seed, but care must be exercised when using these. A small piece of straw or similar material can render a hopper ineffective if it catches in the outlet and stops the flow of seed; if not checked regularly disaster can result. Seed containers should be cleaned regularly, if left for long periods they can accumulate a lot of dirt and dust which may prove harmful to the birds. Blowing the husks off is not enough, the container should be emptied and thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis.

The only parrot native to the United States is extinct. The Carolina parrot was considered by farmers to be a pest. Nobody bothered to breed this formerly plentiful bird and the last known specimen died in 1918 at the Cincinnati Zoo.