Home | Bird Breeding | Infertility in Pet Birds – a General Checklist for Breeders of Finches, Parrots and Other Cage Birds

Infertility in Pet Birds – a General Checklist for Breeders of Finches, Parrots and Other Cage Birds

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

A wide and varied range of factors can lead to low egg output, poor hatch rate or infertile eggs.  Today I’d like to present a general framework for looking at the problem.  I’ll address individual topics in detail in future articles…please also see the other articles on this blog, noted below, for further information.

Environmental Factors

It is important to be well-versed in the natural history of the species that you keep.  Knowing when your birds breed in the wild will give you an indication of what might stimulate them in captivity.  Having a compatible pair is often not enough to insure success – the hen may lay, but fertility can be affected if natural breeding stimuli are missing.  If you are experiencing difficulties, go beyond avicultural articles in your reading and look how the bird lives in nature…most of what we know about breeding animals of all types originated in this manner.

An increase in temperature, day length or humidity/rainfall may be required.  In many cases, light timers, humidifiers and portable room heaters can be used to create the appropriate conditions.

The appearance of a nest box or suitable nest site can be a powerful breeding stimulus, especially when combined with other environmental changes as mentioned above.

Weather and seasonal changes often bring with them novel food items, or an increase in the availability of certain foods.  The provision of live insects is a time-honored zoo and avicultural technique for certain species.  Budding trees, sprouting grasses or the ripening of specific fruits may also be important in stimulating reproduction…again, it is important to study your bird’s natural history.

Behavioral Factors

Same-sex pairs form among captive birds of many species.  For those which are not sexually dimorphic, courtship behavior may not be a reliable indication of a successfully mated pair.  Sexing via feather analysis or laparoscopy may be necessary.

Paired birds that live together but fail to mate are sometimes stimulated by a period of separation.

Imprinted, hand-raised and fostered birds sometimes fail to form pair bonds and mate successfully.

Nutritional Factors

Review your bird’s diet carefully, as vitamin and mineral deficiencies are often behind infertility.  Obesity is a cause for concern as well.

Genetic Factors

Inbreeding can reduce fertility.  Inbreeding depression is especially common among rare birds which originated from a small pool of founding stock.  You may also run into this problem with common species if you consistently purchase your birds from the same source.  Check that your supplier deals with various breeders, to assure that the birds in your collection are more likely to be unrelated.

Reproductive Disorders

If all else seems in order, you may wish to have your birds evaluated by a veterinarian, to rule any of the more commonly encountered avian reproductive disorders.

Please write in with your questions and comments.  Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

Further information on this topic may be found in the following articles:

Diagnosis and Treatment of Ailments Affilicting Various Aviary Birds 

Nests, Nesting and Nesting Materials for Finches, Canaries Lovebirds and Other Species

Lighting for Your Pet Bird and the Importance of Photoperiod

10 comments

  1. avatar

    dear, i have an african grey pair, the male has hatch an egg once befor with another male.

    since i brought the new male, they have bonded and the have laid 2 clutches each of 3 eggs. 5 of those eggs were large and nice expect the sixth was very small its size was of a love bird egg.

    my concern is that all the six eggs were infertile.

    so i dont know what to do regarding that, i cant find what the defect is, and was hopeing if u can help me with that.

    male is DNA tested.
    they r on good healty food too.

    i just dont know what to do to have fertile eggs from them.

    best regards

  2. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Since the parrots have nested, you have obviously done a good job in providing them with proper environmental conditions and, as you mention, a good diet. A problem with the reproductive system of either the male or female may therefore be involved.

    A detailed veterinary evaluation is the only way to rule out physical problems. If you do not have a specialist available, you may wish to consult the American Association of Avian Veterinarians.

    Inbreeding depression can cause infertility, and should be considered as well….parrots are not easy to breed in captivity, so the progeny from productive pairs often dominate local markets. If you have not already done so, I suggest that you discuss your birds’ ancestry with your suppliers.

    Sorry I could not provide more specific advice, but you seem to have husbandry well in hand, so changes in that area would not likely be useful.

    Good luck and please keep me posted,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Hello, Almane here.

    Thank you for allowing us to post on your blog get assistance.

    I have a pair of Moluccan Cockatoos that I saved them from a friend and they are with me for the 7 years.
    I’m doing every thing in my power to get them nesting and breed, got them 3 nest box’s but they keep eating them up, I even filled the last one with wood shaving but the female kept throwing it out and after 3 months she started eating the box.
    She’s always getting next to the male pushing at him and moving her wings and making some kind of heavy breathing sounds, but the male is doing nothing at all like he’s not even seeing any of this. after 3 to 4 months of that she starting pulling fethers out of the male head and wings and started skreeming and I’m not talking about her normal screming no this is some thing new its like she’s really angry at him or somthing.
    I cant see any thing wrong with him other than he’s a littil shay and not that friendly with me, there cage is 6′(L) x 2.6′(D) x 5.2′(H) with a nest box that’s out of there cage and its connected from the top left side its 1′ (W) x 1.2′(D) x 2.2′(H) .
    I feed them carrots, corn, cucumbers, oranges, bananas, nuts every now and then,apples and sunflower seeds, I just started teaching them to eat pellets.

    Some one told me that the ideal fruits for parrots are papaya, kiwi, pineapple, mangoes and pomegranates, these are tropical fruits found in their natural habitat, and for calcium you can get it from hard boiled eggs, watercress, spinach, blackberries or natural yogurt.

    A good calcium diet will ensure that my parrots have fine feather and are stress free, and for breeding parrots, calcium is good for producing healthy eggs.

    So I do all of this and add multi vitamins to there water once every 3 days so they don’t get sick from all the mids, So pleace assist me what did I do wrong because I’m not allowing the kids to get near them and I keep them in the house away from the heat and cold my only wish in life is to breed them and see an egg in that next box :(

    best regards

  4. avatar

    Hello Almane, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. It sounds as though you are doing everything right; Unfortunately, there can be many reasons why the male is not interested in mating – mate choice is not well understood, but I have often seen parrots of many species reject prospective mates; it’s a limiting factor in captive breeding programs for endangered species – even with many potential pairs, not all will work out. It could be that he is much younger than the female, and just needs time, but other than that there is no way to know why they are not forming a pair bond. Blood tests might be useful to determine his hormone levels, but you often need to do this several times to get an accurate picture of what’s going on. Sorry I could not offer more specific advice…I hope in time that he has a “change of heart”.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Thanks for your for your quick respond.

    As you know Moluccan Cockatoos are an endangered species and I like to do the world a favor and breed some thing that’s endangered and save some of the Moluccan the are in the wild, but my brother says that there is some thing that breeders in the UK and Holland use to stop the birds that they sell to the publics from breeding at there new homes just to keep the self in the market and to prevent any new compaction, if so isn’t there any thing that you know of that can reverse the proses.
    I dont know if that is what is done to them or its normal environmental problem but testing there hormone levels is a good start and that I just started adding vitamins E & C to there water + the other multi vitamins.

    So keep your fingers crossed

  6. avatar

    Hello Almane,

    Thanks for the feedback; I admire your commitment and wish we had more people like you working on endangered species conservation.

    I have heard rumors that dealers sterilize expensive birds, reptiles and mammals, but have not run into any real proof of such as regards cockatoos…it would be possible to surgically sterilize the male (anything’s possible, I know of vets who have tied off cobra venom glands to render them “safe” as pets – it doesn’t always work, however!). But if that had been done it the bird would still copulate, but his mate’s eggs would be infertile. So I would lean towards what I mentioned last time – it’s common; in fact, in my years at the Bronx Zoo I’ve shipped Sumatran rhinos, tigers, owls and others all over the world in attempts to breed them with unrelated mates, only to find they rejected their proposed partners!

    Another consideration is the bird’s early history – hand-raised birds or those raised in isolation or under stressful conditions often fail to develop normal mating behavior later on. A male great horned owl I hand raised tried to present mice (the usual owl “courtship gift”) to people during the breeding season, but attacked female owls…

    Good luck, keep at it and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar
    Dr.Nisar Hussain M.B.B.S.

    I have read ur opinion regarding infertility in birds. Pl advise treatmnt 4 primary infertilty in pigeon hens.
    Regards.
    Dr.Nisar Hussain.

  8. avatar

    Hello Dr. Hussain, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    My understanding is that infertility in pigeons often stems from inbreeding, especially where unique/rare breeds are concerned. As diet and breeding methods are well-understood, these factors are not usually involved.

    Please let me know if you need help in locating an avian veterinarian who might be able to test the birds.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    I am grateful for your blog information.
    I have a pair Brazilian parrot (f/m). Without any problems that you mention in your blog their eggs are infertile. I am from Iran.
    I will appreciate to receiving your answer.

    Best regard
    fatima

  10. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog and the kind words, much appreciated.

    When no apparent reasons exist, a reproductive system disorder or malfunction in one of the birds may be involved. This can exist in otherwise healthy birds and show may no symptoms other than infertility. Unfortunately, the only way to diagnose internal reproductive organ problems is via veterinary exam.

    Do you have any info on their background? If the local supplier receives stock from a single breeder, inbreeding is a possibility.

    It may help to know the species of parrot you are keeping; perhaps there is something peculiar to their biology. Please write back with the species and also details concerning the diet and I’ll check for further information.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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