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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. Read More »

Color Loss in the Strawberry Finch or Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat MaleIn addition to gorgeous coloration, the Strawberry Finch (Amandava amandava) possesses just about every other quality one could ask for in a finch.  Both males and females sing sweetly year-round, and also amuse keepers with a variety of unique buzzing sounds and low “growls”.  Their courtship and breeding behavior, which is displayed readily, is among the finch world’s most interesting.  Small wonder they are perennial favorites in both the pet and zoo trade.

Range and Habitat

The three subspecies of Strawberry Finch occupy a huge range that extends from southern Nepal and Pakistan through much of Southeast Asia to Indonesia.   It is a bird of marshes, swamps and other habitats near water, but also visits fields, gardens and farms while foraging.

The Strawberry Finch’s popularity has resulted in a number of intentional and accidental introductions.  It is now established in such far-flung locales as Hawaii, Spain, Egypt, Fiji, Singapore and Puerto Rico (I imagine that a diligent search might turn up a few in Florida as well!). Read More »

The Dark Side of Parrot Rescuers and Rescue Groups

Caged ParrotsThe very qualities that make parrots such desirable pets – intelligence, sociability, long lives and high activity levels – can also make it quite difficult to provide them with proper care.  During my years with the Bronx Zoo, I was astounded by both the numbers of people looking to find homes for their “problem parrots”, and by those seeking to adopt unwanted pets.  Parrot rescues have sprung up all over the world in response to this situation, but not all are what they appear to be.

Hoarders – Drowning in Birds

“Animal Hoarding” has become a trendy term lately, but there is nothing new about this sad phenomenon.  Over several decades, in the course of assisting the NYC Police Department and other agencies responding to animal emergency calls, I have run across people who jammed their houses full of unsustainable numbers of turtles, rabbits, lizards and even caiman (South American crocodilians) – as well as the more commonly-kept dogs, parrots and cats.  To the person, most were good-hearted and well-meaning, but for some reason (please see article below) they became enmeshed in unrealistic efforts to save too many creatures.  Read More »

Planning for the Spix Macaw’s Return to the Wild

SpixaraMy experience with reintroduction programs for creatures ranging from spiders to Guam Kingfishers has convinced me that the good intentions of conservationists, standing alone, are never sufficient to ensure any creature’s long-term survival.  Conservation must make economic sense to people living in the habitat where the work is being done, and they must also genuinely favor the animal’s return.  Today I’d like to highlight a program that is doing an excellent job at laying the groundwork for the return of the Spix Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) to Brazil.

Gone but not Forgotten

Extinct in the wild since 2000 and represented by less than 100 captive individuals, the beautiful blue Spix Macaw is among the rarest of all birds.

Recently, representatives of the group Parrots International visited Curaca, Brazil (Bahia State), the former habitat of this bird, in order to access reintroduction possibilities.  A Loro Paraque Foundation project that had been in place in Curaca had been cancelled 4 years prior, but the area’s tiny schoolhouse retained the name given it by local children at that time – The Spix Macaw School.

Children’s Concern Sparks Groups to Donate

Children in the area remained concerned about birds – fearing the researcher’s truck held bird-poachers, 3 youngsters stalked it for several miles in the broiling sun, and spied on its occupants!  Moved by the concern evidence by this action, Parrots International supplied the school with the funds it needed to remain in operation (located in one of Brazil’s poorest sectors, it was about to be closed).

Other groups joined the effort, and soon the school was provided with nighttime electricity (to allow for much-needed adult classes), an upgraded toilet and supplies.  In order to assist adults in attending evening reading and writing classes, meals are also supplied.

In addition, 4,000 acres of prime Spix Macaw habitat, known as the Gangorra Farm, has been purchased by Parrots International and the Lymington Foundation.

Practical Conservation

This program presents a fine example of an effective strategy – public support for the macaws was obviously strong, but the practicalities of life in a poor, rural area would likely have prevented effective action.  By attending to some basic needs of both adults and children, and placing important habitat under private ownership, Parrots International and its partners have set the stage for what may someday be a successful reintroduction program for the magnificent Spix Macaw.

Further Reading

Learn how to help this and other species via donations, purchases or volunteer action here.

Video of Spix Macaw breeding program.


Spixara image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Robert01

The Red-Vented Bulbul – an Ideal Softbill or Non-Typical Cage Bird

Red-vented BulbulI first kept Red-Vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer) as “filler birds” to take up space in a huge, planted aviary I maintained at the Bronx Zoo.  However, their confident, inquisitive natures soon led to their being among the exhibit’s most popular inhabitants with visitors.  I find them to be among the most easily-kept of the softbills (a term applied to a loose collection of “non-typical” cage birds such as Bulbuls, Pekin Robins and others), and a great species with which to start when seeking to add variety to one’s collection.

Description and Range

Red-Vented Bulbuls inhabit a huge range that extends from India east to Vietnam and south to Java; they have also been introduced to Hawaii and many other places.  They inhabit open woodlands, scrub, farms, villages and cities, pairing off while breeding but otherwise going about in small groups. Read More »

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