Monday, February 28, 2011

Stranger than fiction...

About a year ago I added a Nanday Conure to our flock, primarily with a view to having `Nandy' (yep - that's her name, full marks to me for creativity) provide some stimulation in our large flight for our Green-winged Macaw `Maya'. We obviously plan on pairing Maya up with a `real' Macaw sometime in the future (rather than a parrot that `thinks' it's a Macaw) but knowing that the two species groups - Aratinga Conures and Ara Macaws share many behavioural and biological similarities I took a punt on a little Nanday filling a social/stimulation gap for the big girl. I should qualify that the only reason such a plan was even feasible was the size of the enclosure. Integration of mixed species flocks can be loaded with problems but the ultimate variable that can set up success or failure is the enclosure size and the level of opportunity for the inhabitants to establish their own spatial comfort and access to their own resources. Sure enough, we observed plenty of aggression from the Macaw towards the Nanday initially but in every circumstance the Nanday was simply able to fly to an alternative perching area and the aggression didn't extend beyond displays and the odd squawk from the Macaw to let Nandy know that she wasn't welcome on the same perch. Over time we saw the spatial distance between the birds lessen and the level of tolerance on Maya's part increase. We also observed `mirroring' of behaviour between the birds. When one would feed, the other would do likewise - same for browsing, preening, drinking etc. All signs of comfort and acceptance of other birds in the environment. 

Over the past 6 months the relationship between the birds took on another dimension. I walked out to the aviaries one day and caught a little `mutual' preening going on. Well, maybe not `mutual' - more a case of a Green-winged Macaw kicking back and being `serviced' by her Nanday slave. I've caught them a few times since and as soon as they see me they stop, move apart and start rearranging themselves like two sheepish teenagers caught in the act. It's very amusing to watch and although such situations are not uncommon in captive parrots it still seems to look completely ridiculous! Another variable was added to the equation about 3 months ago with the addition of a male Nanday Conure that we acquired with a view to pairing up with Nanday. That didn't go so well initially as both Maya and Nandy ganged up on the poor little guy. I removed Nandy from the enclosure as she was the main instigator in the aggression. We kept them separated for two weeks while the new guy gained his flight confidence and learnt the boundaries of life with a Macaw. We re-introduced Nandy and although she went back to being aggressive towards her `arranged' partner, she seemed less persistent and he was more confident in handling the situations. Over the past 4 weeks the Nandays have actually formed a very tight pair bond, interrupted only by a few daily `excursions' on the side when Nandy is summonsed by Maya for her daily grooming session. I took a quick snapshot of the two of them today. Unfortunately, as soon as I appear they separate but imagine that little green Nanday in the pic above up on the wire at head level with Maya giving her a going over - hilarious! Stranger than fiction? not really - this stuff does indeed happen fairly commonly in captivity. Pretty captivating nonetheless.

Our dilemma now is that we have a pair of Nandays blatantly trying to breed (even without a nestbox). Hopefully we can work something out for Maya to have a replacement buddy now that her preening mate has found `greener' pastures elsewhere. Anyone interested in Nandays? I may have some babies this time next year!

The WIld Cafe

We have a resident flock of around 15 Sulphur-crested Cockatoos that divide their day between 5 or 6 properties adjoining ours. The primary reason why they have become permanent residents is simple - they have plenty of access to every resource they need. Food, water and nesting sites. It doesn't hurt that a neighbour of ours supplementary feeds them every day but they still partake is accessing plenty of natural foods - and the occasional dessert of non-indigenous cuisine on offer, thanks to what we've planted. In the most recent example, they decided that the time was right to hit our passionfruit vine. I was alerted to this via the sound of loud banging on the roof of our aviaries. When I ventured out to investigate I was confronted by at least a dozen Sulphurs gleefully extracting the choicest passionfruits from the vine, getting stuck into the contents, and then doing their best to annoy my birds by discarding the casings on top of them. 

What I found interesting was the stage of development of the passionfruit they were taking. It wasn't the nice ripe yellow ones, but the fruit that was probably a week or two away from being fit for human consumption. Like most examples of parrots eating fruits in the wild, the optimum stage of development that is preferred by the birds is quite different from what we tend to deliver to our pets. If you're struggling with getting your parrots to sample some healthier food alternatives to seed then it's worth trying slightly unripe produce (providing it is known to be non-toxic of course). You might find that whilst it doesn't exactly suit your palate it might just be relished by your birds!

New ABK Magazine - Get it!

Hey - I missed February! Well, I didn't really - it just kinda went by and every time I thought about doing some blog entries I was hijacked by my kids. Happens when you have three of them - all still in nappies. Anyways - if there's one thing you shouldn't miss it's the latest Australian Birdkeeper magazine. Why?... Hmmm - plenty of great articles - including a really cool `Part 1' article in the Pet Parrot Pointers column. I discussed it in one of my January blog entries but I got the release date all wrong. The current issues featuring the first part of the article is out now - Feb/Mar. It will be followed by Part Two (which I just finished penning today - finally beat a deadline) in Apr/May. If you keep forgetting to get to the newsagent then subscribe - that way it comes in the mail and you get before everyone else! Check it out at