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North American Birds in Aviculture – the Buntings

Rainbow buntingThe colors of North American’s Buntings rival those of any tropical bird.  Several species are popularly kept in Europe, Asia and Latin America, but laws limit the availability of most in the USA (check a local Softbill Society for legal specimens).  I recently wrote about the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris), one of the most colorful of the group (please see article below). Today we’ll discuss the Rainbow, Indigo, Versicolor and Lazuli Buntings.

In General

There are a few husbandry tips that apply to all Buntings.  One of the least known is that they relish the resin produced by pine and spruce trees.  Branches from these trees will keep your birds busy for hours.  Many aviculturists believe that something in the resin helps to keep the birds in good color as well. Read More »

Meet the Java Sparrow – Something Different for Finch Enthusiasts

Rice BirdI’ve always viewed the Java Sparrow, Padda oryzivora, (a/k/a Java Rice Bird, Java Finch) as something of a “stepping stone” between the small, typical finches and the larger, less common softbills.  Indeed, the moniker “sparrow” fits it well – despite being a true finch, its relatively large size (5 ½ inches), stout build and thick bill lend it a distinctly “un-finch-like” appearance. Read More »

The Scarlet Macaw – The Wild Side of a Popular Pet

Macaw in FlightThe Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is surely one of the most recognizable birds on the planet.  Images of this spectacular parrot adorn the brochures and T-shirts of travel agencies, zoos and aviaries worldwide.  Less well-known, however, is its natural habits and precarious existence in the wild.


At 33.5 inches in length, and with a wingspan to match, this deep red (or scarlet!), yellow-shouldered bird is one of the world’s largest parrots.

Its huge range extends from Oaxaca in southern Mexico through Central America to Columbia, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, and east to French Guiana.  Within this area, however, it is rare or absent from many locales, and may be extinct in El Salvador.  Feral populations thrive in Puerto Rico and Florida.
Read More »

Canary Types – an Amazing Array of Color, Size, Shape, Plumage and Song

For a somberly-colored bird, the Canary (Serinus canaria) has made quite an impression on us.  Shipwrecks, vicious dogs and thievery all figured into the captive history (please see article below) of what is now the most popularly kept finch.  Selective breeding has also resulted in an array of different types, some of which are barely recognizable as Canaries.

The First “Type” Canaries

CanaryDifferent Canary varieties (termed “types”) first developed quite by accident.  Canaries arrived in Europe in 1478, when they were taken to Spain from their native habitat on several islands off Northwest Africa.  As the Spanish sold only males and travel was difficult, Canary owners usually bred related birds to one another.  This increased the likelihood of mutations, including the yellow coloring that is now considered to be the Canary’s “normal” color (wild Canaries are actually greenish-brown).  Read More »

The Top 5 Websites for Budgerigar (Parakeet) and Cockatiel Enthusiasts

Sorting through the scores of bird interest websites can be very taxing, so I thought I’d highlight some especially good ones here (listed in alphabetical order).

Budgerigar Websites

While most clubs and societies focus on English Budgerigars, which differ a bit from the race more familiar in the USA (please see the article referenced below), English Budgerigar husbandry and natural history information will be useful to all Budgerigar owners.

Budgerigar Society

Based in the UK, the Budgerigar Society was founded in 1925 and boasts over 3,000 members – quite a reserve of expertise!

In addition to hosting exhibitions and providing a wealth of information on show standards and related matters, the society is committed to disseminating health, husbandry and conservation news, and does a fine job of it.  The posted research articles, many written by recognized experts, are top-notch.  The new Budgerigar owner, however, should not shy away – a series of wonderful articles for beginners is also available.

Great Western Budgerigar Society

Founded in 1952, this US-based society is one of the largest devoted solely to the care and exhibition of Budgerigars, and promotes the advancement of both scientific research and practical husbandry techniques.

It is well-known for hosting some of the country’s most popular shows…one of these, which featured over 1,300 Budgies, was the largest ever held in the USA.  I was particularly pleased to find wonderful photos of the various Budgerigar color types and printable Nest Box and Egg Log Cards.

World Budgerigar Organization

This international organization does a fine job of bringing together Budgerigar experts and enthusiasts from all over the world – governments should cooperate half as well!

At least 21 countries, including the USA, are well-represented.  I especially admire the group’s efforts in funding the translation and dissemination of important research articles.  Budgerigar show standards and conservation-oriented lobbying are also high priorities.

Cockatiel Websites

National Cockatiel Society

Now in its 25th year, the National Cockatiel Society is a great resource for aviculturists seeking information on any aspect of Cockatiel care or exhibition.

The website’s library is one of the most impressive I’ve seen, with many of the posted articles having applicability to other parrot species as well.  Specific interest areas, such as those for breeders and exhibitors, assure that no site visitor will leave unsatisfied.

North American Cockatiel Society

In contrast to many Cockatiel interest groups, the North American Cockatiel Society focuses its efforts on pet care as opposed to exhibition (however, the well-researched information on Cockatiel genetics and mutations will prove of interest to both pet owners and those who exhibit birds).

I was happy to see that fact and fun strike an excellent balance on this website – the articles are well-written and informative, and the “Just for Fun” section is most entertaining.  The “Frequently Asked Questions/Tips” feature covers just about all one might need to know when getting started in keeping cockatiels, while a chat-room and “Cockatiel of the Month” photo serve to liven up the visitor’s experience.

Further Reading

The race of birds that has come to be known as “English Budgerigars” is larger (and, some say, quieter – apartment dwellers take note!) than the Budgerigars more typically seen in the USA.  Please see my article The English Budgerigar for more information.

The Cockatiel’s life in the wild is less well-known than is its captive care, but very interesting.  To read about Cockatiel natural history, please see The Cockatiel in Nature.


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