Friday, February 21, 2020

Keeping ZEBRA FINCHES

English: Domesticated Zebra Finch Taeniopygia ...
Domesticated Zebra Finch Taeniopygia guttata  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) are the most common species of Australian finch and comes from the family called Estrildid which features most of the finches kept in aviculture across the world. It lives in the cool south and tropical far north of the country as well as in Indonesia and East Timor.

Basics

People have called zebras 'flying mice' due to the ease of which they reproduce. This is great if you are looking to start breeding or add a new species to your aviary as it is very little in the way of specific requirements for them.

Zebra finches are happy to live in colonies with their own kind of birds, as well as a huge range of other species. They will live peacefully with nearly all other species of finch, canaries, British birds, doves and even smaller parakeets.

When breeding, both birds can be a little defensive of their nest and will chase other zebras away from it. This is a natural behaviour and will extend when a chick fledges, or leaves the nest, but is never particularly aggressive or result in harm to the other bird. It is more of a noisy, fast-flying warning to keep away from their house.

Feeding zebras is pretty uncomplicated, as well. Use a good foreign finch mix as the basis of your feeding regime and supplement with egg food and some specialist seeds such as niger or hemp seed. Fresh fruit and vegetables are very important for their health, and they will readily consume foods such as spinach, kale and cabbage and fruits such as apple, pear, grapes, mango and plums. With fruit such as apple and plum, remove any seeds or stones as these contain tiny amounts of toxic substances, so better not to take a chance. Access to grit or cuttlefish is also important, especially around breeding time to replace calcium used in making eggs in the hen.

Breeding

Zebra finches don't have a particular breeding season in the way many birds do. They are triggered into breeding condition by light and heat levels or sometimes, for no perceivable reason! They like a variety of nesting materials and are surprisingly good little builders. Coconut fibre, jute, sisal, feathers and even dried grass will all be incorporated into the nest which will usually be a domed affair. They will also happily use a half-open finch nest box or one with a single hole in.

Once the nest is finished, take away surplus nesting material; otherwise, they will keep building and even cover their eggs. Anywhere from 2-7 eggs are laid and are incubated by both birds for around two weeks. When the chicks hatch, they are tiny and nearly hairless, blind and helpless. They are fed by the parents in the nest for around three weeks at which time they fledge fully feathered and resembling an adult save for their black beak. A way of knowing that the bird has matured is that the beak will change from black to bright red for a cock bird or a duller red for a hen.

After fledging, the chicks are fed by the parents for at least two weeks, at which time they may be able to fly or may not be proficient. If they aren't the best at flying, they will seek out corners to hide in so always keep an eye open for fledgelings in odd spots and make sure they don't get themselves stuck.

Zebras can breed at crazy ages of around three months, but it is advisable to wait until at least six months of age before allowing this. One way to ensure this is to keep males and females in separate cages until fully matured.

Keeping Zebras

The lifespan of these little birds is surprisingly long. In the wild, they live around five years but in captivity, 5-7 is average, 12 is possible and the oldest zebra was recorded at 14.5 years of age. They are relatively hardy concerning weather conditions, though any bird should be sheltered from the worst of the climate.



They will happily live in a good-sized cage as a pair or colony, or with other birds. They will also thrive in a flight or large aviary cage and in a flight, can become quite friendly towards humans when they can approach on their own terms. Standing very still with food in hand before the first feed is a good way to win them over, and some may happily hop onto your hand to get in at the food first.

Conclusion

No matter what your experience with birds, zebra finches are a great bird to have. They need little specialist care and can breed easily given a few simple supplies. They come in a range of colours as well and different mutations, so you can quickly get involved in the fun side of genetics and learning which pairing might produce which colours. But all in all, they are fantastic little characters who will quickly win your heart.



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The AMERICAN BALD EAGLE - Facts Everyone Should Know

English: American Bald Eagle taken at the Hoog...
American Bald Eagle taken at the Hoogle Zoo in UT
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
Many people don't know that the bald eagle has been the symbol of the United States and the nation's national bird since 1782. Sea Eagles, so common in 18th century Europe, were a common sight to America's early settlers, and it is from mistaking the two birds that the bald eagle got its name. There were no bald eagles in Europe, as the bald eagle is found only in North America. The sea eagle name lingers, and the scientific name, Haliaetus leucocephalus, actually means "sea eagle with a white head" in Greek and Latin.

Of the 'sea eagle' species, the bald eagle is the only one that is native to North America. The bald eagle is immediately obvious by its smooth, white head and white tail, contrasted by the deep brown feathers of its body. Coins, flags, buildings, and seals in the United States have used the image of the bald eagle to symbolize the country.

The bald eagle is a fierce bird of prey, along with other raptors, such as hawks, vultures, owls, and falcons. The bald eagle lives on a diet of live prey, such as waterfowl and fish, as well as rodents, snakes, rabbits, and birds, but they will eat carrion when there is no live prey to be eaten.

Bald eagles are enormous and intimidating birds, with adults growing to 32 inches in length, with wingspans to 7 ½ feet, and weighing up to 16 pounds.

The largest eagles live in Alaska, and the smaller eagles can be found in Florida. Wherever the bald eagle lives, the animals in the region scatter when the bird begins to land.

Each hunting pair of bald eagles requires an area of 2 to 15 square miles in which to hunt. Each pair of bald eagles shares a nest, furiously guarding it against predators. The bald eagle sometimes chases animals that have made a catch of their own, such as the East Central Florida bald eagles that chase Ospreys along the Indian River Lagoon. The eagle will then get to eat the Osprey's catch, as the Osprey drops its squirming prey to escape the eagle.

Although they are birds of prey, the bald eagle shows a tremendous instinct for family loyalty. The bald eagle stays with its mate for life, though few other birds follow this behavior. Though most birds live a much shorter time, the bald eagle can live for as many as 25 years. They live across North America, from the north, including Canada and Alaska, across the middle expanses of the U.S., and south into the northern part of Mexico.

The bald eagle travels frequently, flying to northern climates to escape hot summers, the birds usually return close to the place where they were hatched in order to begin families of their own. Breeding bald eagles lay one to three eggs in the spring, which hatch about 35 days later. After three months in the nest, the baby bald eagles begin to fly, and a month later fly away from their mother for good. The dangers of hunger, disease, harsh weather and toxic chemicals can all make life hard for baby eagles, but almost 70% manage to adapt and survive for at least a year.

Did you know that to save the species in 1940 the United States Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act? This law made it illegal for people to disturb or bother the birds. This also included taking bald eagles for reasons such as selling, trading, or transporting them and also included their eggs and nests. Taking an eagle included shooting at the birds, wounding them, trapping, capturing, disturbing them, or killing them in any manner.

Large numbers of bald eagles died because of DTT, the overuse of pesticides, and other toxic chemicals. The bald eagle was given a chance to be saved by the many reintroduction programs and new laws that were enacted to help them. It seemed nearly impossible to save the species from extinction at the time.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 allowed species that were small in numbers to be classified as threatened, and species with very low populations to be classified as endangered. In the early 1990s, the rapidly increasing numbers of bald eagles made it possible for the species to be taken off the endangered species lists in most states.



The bald eagle has dramatically increased in numbers between 1963 and 1994, rising from about 500 pairs to almost 5,000 pairs and leading Congress to reclassify its status as threatened. With the increasing population of the bald eagle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will soon take the bird off the endangered species list.

To observe the bald eagle is a pleasurable experience. The long strides of the bald eagle as it launches leads into the soaring, slow-motion movement of the bird in flight. The determined eagle keeps to its determined path, its prize kept in sight. The skies of North America are increasingly filled with the majestic bald eagle. Everyone should make an effort to see this animal.



Saturday, April 20, 2019

A Favorite BACKYARD BIRD - The CHICKADEE

Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Chickadee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Chickadee is a familiar and welcome visitor to most backyards in the United States. Varieties of this bird are found across the entire US. A member of the titmouse family, there are five variations in the US. Mexican, Chestnut Backed, and Mountain Chickadees reside in the western states. The Black Capped and Carolina Chickadees cover most of the US from New Jersey to Kansas and south from Texas to Florida. I mention these two together because they are so similar, even at close range, they are hard to distinguish. It would appear they have a hard time themselves as Black Capped and Carolina Chickadees have been known to breed with each other in areas where they overlap.

This active friendly bird will visit almost any backyard birding area and become a year-round resident. After becoming regulars at your feeders during spring and summer, most will winter in the same area they had their summer nests, provided the weather doesn't turn too harsh. Even then, they will migrate only a short distance and return when it warms. For year-round backyard birding, the chickadee is hard to beat. These birds have a cheerful call and song and provide hours of entertainment checking the trees and shrubs for insects.

Insects are the food of choice for the Chickadee. They eat live insects, eggs, and larvae while hopping or hanging, even upside down, in trees and shrubs. They sometimes make quick short flights and catch insects on the fly. They also enjoy berries, fleshy fruits, suet, acorns, and seeds. This friendly bird is a regular at our tube and platform bird feeders. We see them taking one sunflower seed at a time from our bird feeder and flying a short distance to open it. They enjoy our blueberry bushes, pine cones, and muscadines as well.

Chickadees can be trained to eat from your hand. It will take patience and consistent offerings, but these birds will slowly begin to come to you. This occurs more often in colder weather when the food supply is more scarce. This chickadee enjoys a variety of foods and can be enticed with various offerings until you find the one which works for you. Try various nuts, seeds, or fruits at about the same time each day. The inquisitive chickadee will get closer and closer until you find them eating from your hand!



Chickadees nest naturally in hollow trees or old woodpecker sites. They can be attracted to man-made birdhouses. Obtain a birdhouse made for them and place it in a pine, elm, aspen or birch tree. We have them nesting in houses attached to our wood fence. Just be sure you have a sturdy house, rough sawn for the bird to cling to and protect them with predator guards at the entrance. A chickadee house should come with tree shavings. While not used for the nest, it looks at this as proof this is a proper nesting site.

This bird is easily attracted and a favorite of many backyard bird watchers. Offering several varieties of food will keep these visitors happy. Provide sheltering shrubbery, water, and natural or man-made birdhouse nesting sites and you will have an entertaining songbird dancing, singing, and performing upside down acrobatics for years to come. If you are fortunate enough, the Chickadee will reward you with eating from your hand.




Friday, April 19, 2019

Peach Faced LOVE BIRDS

English: A trio of peach-faced lovebirds. The ...
A trio of peach-faced lovebirds. The left one has a standard "peach-face" crest, the middle one is a peach-face and a fischeri hybrid (as indicated by the two-colored beak and smaller body size) and the right one is a color mutation aptly named as "orange-faced" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My Peach Faced lovebirds are pint-sized bundles of joy. They have the full personality of parrots while being easy to house because of their size. My birds are little clowns, playing for hours at a time. They love to hang from toys, spin them around, and dance on your shoulder. I have had to watch my buttons! They love to pull them off my clothes! Such loving little birds: they love to snuggle and preen.

Many people believe lovebirds must be kept in pairs. This is simply not true. A single lovebird makes a better pet because it bonds to you rather than to another lovebird. While it is easy to keep a pair of lovebirds tame if you plan on spending lots of time with your bird you can keep it alone. However, if you work long hours and don't think you'll have a lot of time for your love bird, I recommend you get him/her a companion. This will keep your lovebirds happy and prevent boredom. It is important to realize that while lovebirds are a small parrot, they have the intelligence and abilities of some of the largest parrots.

They never stop amazing me with their ability to escape their own cages. I have to put copper wire on the cage doors to keep them in, and sometimes they figure out how to untwist the wire and open the door!

Lovebirds will sometimes try to become the little bosses of the household. I recommend using the same type of gentle dominance training that is used for larger parrots.

Are you looking for a bird that you can teach to talk? Lovebirds can learn to mimic sounds and speech on occasion. However, I don't recommend that you buy any species of bird only because of the expectation that it will speak; even the famous African Greys sometimes don't learn to speak. So, if that is your only reason for buying a bird, I'd seriously urge you to reconsider as the bird could end up abandoned because of your own disappointment.

In my opinion, love birds and parrots both make great pets even if they never utter a word. We have both in our home. The lovebirds chatter away all day, never making a sound that anyone can understand, except as being simply 'noisy chatter.' However, our Double Yellow Head parrot makes up for it; his vocabulary is very long, extensive and he is constantly talking.

If you decide to breed love birds just remember they are prolific breeders. You may soon, as we did, find our home overrun with lovebirds! And, as a word of caution, "do not" put bark chips in the nest of the baby birds. Though the odor is pleasant to humans and is good for older birds it is too strong for baby lovebirds. I must admit I learned the hard way and had casualties on my hands! Paper is the best thing to put in the nest along with some alfalfa. Do not get powdered alfalfa, rather dried alfalfa blades. If you decide to use paper, do cut the paper (newspaper is best) in long strips and put it beside the nest. Mama will take it into the nest. And, remember if mama snaps at you she is only protecting her nest!

My favorite lovebird is Lucky, so named as it was our first clutch and she was the only one, of six, that survived when I put the bark chips in the nest.



We do not have an aviary breeder, rather, our lovebirds are paired off in separate cages. The best way to tame babies quickly is to remove the babies from the next when they are about two weeks old and hand feeds them. This way, the birds get the best of both worlds: the immunity conferred from their parents and the tameness that comes from being handled by humans.

Our lovebirds are abundance weaned so that they are happy, well-adjusted birds. We feed them pellets, a good seed mix, alfalfa, wheat grass, quinoa, sprouted beans, and other veggies and fruits. And, oh yes! Lovebirds love to not only eat grapes but to toss them around also. In short, lovebirds love playing. They keep us entertained for hours. If you decide to get a lovebird for a pet, you will have made an excellent choice!



Monday, April 1, 2019

Fact Sheet: COLLARED ARACARI - Pteroglossus torquatus

(Original title: Rainforest Birds - Collard Aracari)

Collared Aracari
Photo  by mTuttle 
Bird Name:
Collared Aracari

Latin Name:
Pteroglossus torquatus

Status:
Least Concern

Scientific Classification:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Ramphastidae
Genus: Pteroglossus
Species: P. torquatus

General Information:
The Collared Aracari is a colorful bird that resides year-round in the jungles of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. It is a toucan and has a distinctive long bill that is almost a quarter the size of the bird itself. It is a very social creature and usually found in flocks of 6 - 15 birds.

Physical Description:
An adult bird is around 16 inches in length, with its bill accounting for about 4 inches, and weighs approximately 230 g. Male and female are similar in appearance, each with a black head and a colorful chest of red, green, and yellow feathers. Juveniles are much duller in color compared to their adult counterparts, with paler underparts and a less distinct bill pattern.

Diet:
Although the Collard Aracari is primarily an arboreal fruit-eater, it will also feed on bird eggs and small prey like insects, lizards, and fledgling birds.


Habitat:
This near-passerine bird occurs from southern Mexico to Panama, but also extends into Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. The bird makes its home in the tropical rainforests of southern Mexico and throughout Central America. It is also a common resident in lowland forests and will often nest in natural cavities or old woodpecker nests.

Reproduction:
A female usually lays 3 - 4 eggs per clutch in an unlined nest. Both male and female incubate the eggs for a period of about 16 days. The young will leave the nest at 40 - 42 days.