PATIENCE AND OPTIMISM .. REQUIREMENTS FOR BIRD BREEDING
by Linda Greeson
Patience and optimism are necessary characteristics for any breeder of birds to possess. To survive on that rocky road to success breeders must be those who view the glass as "half full" rather than " half empty." There is no one involved in this absorbing hobby for a few years who cannot relate endless incidences to prove this observation. I am certainly no exception.
The story of one of our pairs of Macaws is a prime example. Some ten years ago we were lucky enough to find a beautiful Blue and Gold baby who had been born with one malformed foot, making the price just right for our then very limited bird budget. We named him Stumpy, a not too sensitive choice, but he didn't seem to mind. Stumpy matured as a family pet, a delightful bird until he reached the stage when nature started demanding that he have a mate. After a long search, Henrietta, a big, mature, and equally beautiful Blue and Gold, was found for him - no bargain price on her!
Stumpy and Henrietta were paired off in a nice cage cage in the aviary, but they seemed completely incompatible. Stumpy hung on the sides of the cage calling loudly for members of the family. Henrietta stayed at the opposite end, bleating like a sheep. A year passed before they would even share the same perch.
Two years of devoted care and feeding passed before these two reached some tolerance of each other, and yet another year before quite a friendly but platonic relationship developed. Over the years changes in cages and nest boxes having no effect, we finally purchased a walk in flight the size of a small room for them. It was set up amidst flowering hibiscus and waving palms, shaded by a large tree. A partial roof was installed and special perches obtained. All in all, we felt we had created a little bird heaven for them.
They flew about happily, seemingly delighted with their new home, but Stumpy still called loudly for the family at sunset, and Henrietta continued bleating like a sheep.
We persevered. " Stumpy must still be too young. Give him some more time." was our reaction. After another year in their luxurious home Henrietta started making amorous advances and Stumpy started to welcome them. After some months of observing them preening each other, feeding each other, and generally having a warm courtship, the glad news was out. At long last they were mating! Anticipation ran high.
New wood shavings were added to the nest box. Henrietta immediately and vigorously scratched these out, making quite a flurry. "Whatever she wants- whatever makes her happy," we thought. Then joy of joys, at long last she produced an egg.
Even my optimistic nature was strained when the next morning the long awaited egg was found on the floor of the flight, smashed of course. After no more eggs were produced and another breeding season had passed, we decided that the fault must have been with the nest box and yet another type installed.
Some ten years after Stumpy arrived in our home Spring arrived again, and we were sure that this year we would have baby Blue and Golds from the pair. If not this season, surely next year. We love and enjoy the pair so much, giving up on Stumpy and Henrietta is not even considered, no matter how many more years it takes. It now seems as summer approaches it will take yet another year.
Honey was a baby Sun Conure, bought as a pet for my Mother, her first bird. He was a hand fed baby and pampered and petted with toys and attention galore. The choice of his name was a mistake. If ever there was a grouchy, ill mannered bird he was it. He reacted to all this special attention by screaming and biting, even the hand that offered him his favorite treat, apple finely diced just as he preferred. After two years of daily effort his vocabulary consisted of loudly telling the dog "Keep quiet!". He screamed angrily at any guests entering the house. Mother finally gave up on him.
He was a beautiful specimen, large for a Sun. and fat and healthy, so we took him next door to our aviary to set him up for breeding. After trying him with several different hens, we found a submissive, sweet tempered young one who was willing to put up with Honey. Honey apparently did not like other birds any better than humans, but he did tolerate this mate. With each attempt to find him a compatible mate another breeding season passed. When his young hen matures sufficiently we have hopes now that Honey will father some babies for us. Meanwhile he continues screaming loudly "Keep quiet!" at the other birds.
Fortunately these experiences are not typical of what usually occurs in our aviaries. We have hundreds of examples of satisfying successes over the years to counteract the failures. Shortly after their purchase we were delighted to find our pair of large and exceptionally beautiful but unproven Green Winged Macaws were mating and produced two eggs. To our dismay a nocturnal visit by a possum climbing around their flight startled them so scrambled eggs were the result. Disappointing, but we are looking forward to another season, happy in the knowledge that we have two good parents capable of producing fertile eggs.
These are the "ups and downs" experienced by every breeder. With the passage of time no one misses them. The frustrations as well as the successes are what makes this an all absorbing and fascinating hobby. Besides, if all went well all of the time, what a loss of interesting conversation when we gather with friends!
Last Updated: April 26, 2013
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