Red-crowned Kakariki – Our Most Fertile Pair By Gordon and Joyce Paech

We agree with Mark SHEPHARD, in his book “Aviculture in Australia”, that a much more appropriate name to describe the two varieties of Kakarikis held in aviaries in Australia are Red-crowned and Yellow-crowned, instead of Red-fronted and Yellow-fronted. Both have a red frontal area. Yellow-crowned Kakarikis have a red frontal area with a yellow crown on the head and faint yellow behind the eyes. The Red-crowned Kakariki has a red frontal area to the eyes and a red crown on the head with red behind the eyes. Therefore, the distinguishing colour is on the crown and not on the frontal area of the head. Mark SHEPHARD’s book has a very good section on Kakarikis. We would suggest that aviculturists contemplating keeping one or more pairs of Kakarikis to acquire this book. It also has excellent coverage on other birds and subjects relating to aviculture.

Now to our most fertile pair of Red-crowned Kakarikis, which may be of some interest. We have kept and bred Kakarikis for over 10 years with some failures and some successes. This particular pair have been our most successful breeders. Upon viewing this pair in the aviary, they look no different than the other 7 pairs in our other aviaries, but they must have decided to show the other pairs how to get down to some solid breeding. At nine months old they fledged their first clutch, and in 26 months from the time of their first clutch fledging, 12 clutches were raised with a total of 61 young birds of their own fledged in that time. All were healthy, strong birds. The parents are now enjoying a well earned rest but they still look fit and healthy.

Breeding Results for One Pair

Raised Date

2 30 Jul 87 Parents 9 months old. Some eggs not fertile.
6 14 Oct 87 Started to lay in with young. Accepted another nest box.
Male finished raising all the young.
6 12 Dec 87 Gave another nest box. Male finished raising young.
4 25 Feb 88 Gave another nest box. Male finished raising young.
6 22 Apr 88 Gave another nest box. Male finished raising young.
5 21 Jun 88 Gave another nest box. Male finished raising young.
6 29 Aug 88 Gave another nest box. Male finished raising young.
7 31 Oct 88 Gave another nest box. Male finished raising young.
6 27 Dec 88 Gave another nest box. Male finished raising young.
2 28 Feb 89 Female helped raise young. 3 eggs not fertile.
5 10 May 89 Female helped raise young. 3 eggs not fertile.
6 21 Aug 89 Female helped raise young. 3 eggs not fertile.
Total 61 26 Months Now enjoying well earned rest. Both parents still fit and healthy.

How we housed and fed this pair of Red-crowned Kakarikis may be of interest. But although the housing and feeding may have helped in the breeding and raising of the young, we are of the opinion that one has to be lucky and strike the right pair to have that much success in breeding. Some pairs never breed or refuse to raise their young, and some pairs will only raise a few and then decide to rest, sometimes resting for 12 months or more before starting to breed again.

This pair shared a reasonably large aviary with one young pair of Princess Parrots. The aviary length overall is 5.2m of which 2.1m is shelter area. The shelter has a corrugated iron roof, two sides and back are V crimp iron, the ceiling and top half of the walls are lined with Hardiflex. The gap between the ceiling and roof iron is insulated with Rockwool bats. The remainder of the aviary is open flight. The aviary is 1.5m wide and 2.1m high. The floor is natural earth covered with coarse washed concrete sand.

Nest boxes for all our Kakarikis are made of wood or chipboard 12 mm thick or more. Box dimensions are 175 x 175 x 450 mm long with a 60 mm entrance hole in front near the top end of the box with a short dowel perch. The nest box has an inspection door located just below the middle of the box. It can be partly left open on hot days for extra air ventilation when young are in the nest box. Coarse sawdust or saw shavings and peat moss are slightly dampened and pressed into the bottom of the box. The box is suspended with a wire handle about 60 cm long. The wire handle is hung onto a gutter bolt or strong screw fixed to the back or side of the aviary shelter at a 25 or 30 degree angle, making sure the nest box is in the coolest part of the aviary shelter and about 60 cm down from the roof of the shelter.

If young are in the nest box it is very important (and we cannot stress this enough) that on very hot days the nest box with its young must be unhooked from its bolt or screw and placed on the floor in the coolest part of the shelter. Make sure that the hot sunlight does not shine on the box or near it at anytime. It is always several degrees cooler on the floor, and on extremely hot days it is also wise to wet a hessian bag and place it on the top and back of the box. This gives a cooling effect like the old fashioned water bag. Also partly open the inspection section at the bottom of the box to create a through movement of air. The parents will attend to the chicks on the floor. The box can be re-hung after sundown when the temperature has dropped. The young chicks can overheat in the nest box very quickly. Overheating is fatal to Kakariki chicks. It can be very disappointing to have a clutch of 5 or 6 lovely young in the nest box, and it only takes one hot day for them to overheat and all the young may die, when a little extra care could have saved them.

Kakarikis are not great seed eaters. We supply a small seed mixture in one deep container, such as a large plastic ice cream container. They love to scratch their seed around and, having a deep seed container, there is less chance of having seed scratched out over the floor. The mixture we supply is 2 parts Canary Seed, 2 parts Jap Millet, 1 part White Millet, half part Panicum, half part Linseed. Also in another deep container is Grey Stripe Sunflower and Safflower. We supply less sunflower seed when the birds are not raising young.

Each day they receive a small portion of freshly sprouted small seed mix and freshly sprouted sunflower seed. We prepare a fresh batch of sprouted seed each day, and do not let the seed become rancid or mouldy. Also we remove from the sprouted seed trays any seed that has not been consumed from the previous day. Larger portions of sprouted seed are given when the birds are feeding young. One freshly picked silverbeet leaf is supplied to each pair every day. Fruit, especially apple, once or twice a week, fresh corn on cob when available, any green or ripening grass seeding heads that are available, also grass stems to chew, also the green seeding head of silverbeet. When collecting grass be sure that it has not been sprayed with weedicide.

In conclusion we think that most aviculturists would derive enjoyment, as we have, by having one or several pairs of Kakarikis in their collection as they are very interesting little parrots, unafraid of humans, becoming very tame and inquisitive. Sometimes their activity is entirely unusual. We hope to relate an unusual activity at some later date. Another good reason to have one or several pairs is because they breed almost any time of the year, which gives an added interest in the aviaries by them often breeding when most other parrots are resting.

There must be other aviculturists that have had some success in breeding as we have. Let’s hear from you in these columns because that is what aviculture is about. The successful and sometimes unsuccessful keeping and breeding of birds.

Reprinted from the January 1990 edition of Bird Keeping in Australia, the official publication of The Avicultural Society of South Australia Inc.