Home | Bird Behavior | Lessons Learned – Larger Bird Cages Can Cause Problems – Part 1

Lessons Learned – Larger Bird Cages Can Cause Problems – Part 1

White-crested ThrushWith very few exceptions, providing one’s birds (or any other animal) with more space is beneficial on many levels.  However, while keeping White-Crested Laughing Jay-Thrushes, Garrulax leucolophus, I learned that nasty surprises may be in store.

White Crested Laughing Jay-Thrushes are among the most amusing and curious birds one can imagine, and they are often star attractions in both private and public collections.  Unfortunately, due to their size (10-12 inches), insatiable curiosity and high level of activity, they are suitable only for an outdoor aviary or room-sized indoor enclosure…but as pets or study subjects they have few rivals.

Peaceful Coexistence Shattered

Many years ago I looked after four Jay-Thrushes that were housed together in a large flight cage at the Bronx Zoo.  They got along well for 10 months or so, and when the adjoining flight cage became vacant I opened the door that separated the cages so that the birds would have more room.

I made the mistake of doing this at day’s end, and did not observe the birds for long after giving them access to their expanded quarters.  Next morning, two of the Jay-Thrushes were dead.

Extra Space – Positives and Negatives

It seems that the provision of extra space can trigger territorial or breeding behaviors that were suppressed because the original cage did not allow sufficient space to establish a territory.

This is surprising, in a way, but even animals known for aggressive behavior towards others of their kind may get along in cramped quarters (this is not to be encouraged, of course, but it explains quite a lot).  I’ve since seen this phenomenon play out with animals as diverse as Cuban Crocodiles, African Pygmy Geese (please see photo) and Peccaries…even long-term pairs may fight if the change spurs one but not the other into breeding condition.

African Pygmy GeeseConversely, larger quarters can also allow for the coexistence of birds that would not get along in smaller areas.  There is a fine line, and the keys to finding it are an understanding of your birds’ natural histories, and careful observation following the provision of extra space.

The Gang of Four

Happily, the 2 “killers” got on quite well with another pair of jay-Thrushes after being introduced into a half acre exhibit.  Their keepers took to referring to the birds as a “gang”, as they were always into some type of mischief.

Amazingly bold, and quick to take advantage of any opportunity, one Jay Thrush made off with a visitor’s keys the moment they were dropped.  A cohort of hers/his (sexes are impossible to differentiate by sight) stole a small lever belonging to a cash register that was being repaired in the exhibit’s entryway (“normal” birds steered clear of this very busy area!).   The pilfered lever, hidden by the bandit, was longer being manufactured, and so the register was discarded!



Further Reading

Jay Thrush videos and information from Zoo Atlanta.

How Much Room Does a Finch Need?


One comment

  1. avatar
    custom parrot cages

    Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to have separate cages for animals that are too territorial. Not only will the birds have more space for themselves, but in the end will be a lot happier and easier to take care of.

About 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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