Joining together individuals who share a common interest in breeding Carduelan species in captivity
Red Siskins 2012
late 2011 I bought 2 pairs of Red Siskins and by January 2012 I already
had my first clutch of two
The female colored up beautifully and by November of 2002 she paired up with an older male and laid 4 eggs. A day before the eggs were due to hatch I noticed she wasnít sitting on eggs any longer. By the color of the eggs it was easy telling they were still alive, I had two options either to throw them out or to foster the eggs out to another pair of Siskins. One of the older Red Siskin females had been sitting on clear eggs for fourteen days so I gave her the eggs. Three of those eggs hatched, one was infertile. I normally check young in the nest at least twice daily after they hatch, I could see that two young were fed nicely, but the youngest (the smallest) the chick No 3 had empty crop.
Unfortunately the following
morning I found the smallest chick dead, squashed under the other two. The first three to
four days are critical for the young to survive, they need warmth and they
need to be well fed by their parents usually the female for the first 5
days. The following day I noticed that the larger chick had twice as much
food in its crop than the smaller one. On the third day the smaller chick
had no food in its crop so I decided to help by toping them up once a day.
Everything was Ok but for some reason the bigger chick was growing twice
the rate of the smaller one, I named them Laurel and Hardy.
By day 10 Laurel was almost fully feathered and nearly three times the
size of Hardy. Laurelís crop was enormous, always stuffed with food
while Hardy could not compete and was getting more and more depended on
me. From about day seven I could tell I had two males. I am not sure what
is the cause for the difference in the size of these siblings but I believe
the female knew that the younger chick is not well and may be even
that the chick should not be fed but I fed it anyhow. I have seen this
once before in the Oriental Greenfinches I bred some years ago.
Sadly Hardy only made it to twelve days of age. Despite the difference in
size of the two fledglings Laurel is no bigger than a small hummingbird.
saw him for the first time fly from a perch to a perch a distance of about
a meter. It is not uncommon for young Red Siskin females to produce two to
three clutches in their first season as this one did and as this is her
first clutch it is considered normal or 'excusable' for not sitting on her
until they hatched. If this happens more than once then it is best to get
Since I needed photographs of eggs and young European Greenfinches this was a perfect opportunity to prove that I can breed this species and now I can say if anyone ever asks me that I bred the European Greenfinches as well. Not even in my wildest dreams did I think that the European Greenfinches can be so interesting specie to work with. Both pairs laid eggs and produced three clutches the first year. With this species the male sings continuously throughout the season and always in his graceful perfect feather formation, displaying with his wings drooping down a little and never missing the opportunity to attack the birds in the adjoining aviary. The females are perfect mothers when it comes to feeding and keeping the young warm. The males do not tolerate the young for to long after fledging, he is interested more in romancing the female, and often they will start driving the female hard into nesting while she is still caring for one week old young in the nest. If he is allowed to do this, the female will lay another clutch but then if he doesnít feed the young they will perish. When I see the Greenfinches driving the females while the young are still in nest I immediately move them to the adjoining aviary, the female then continues caring after the young by her-self. The fertility is excellent about 95% and she lays 5 eggs per clutch but very often the youngest, smallest donít always make it. If they are not fostered to another nest with less competition they often die within a day or two. Yellow lutino mutation birds could easily be mistaken for Canaries if it wasnít for their unique head shape, larger bill and red eyes. Breeding mutation and hybrids is not to be encouraged in aviculture if we are to be environmentally friendly however a desire to keep and breed pure specimen would make people proud of their country's aviculture with their strict view on wildlife and the preservation of species even while in captivity. So let's promote environmentally friendly aviculture, wouldn't that be something.
I could happily branch into breeding only the European Greenfinches; those who kept and bred them know what Iím taking about.
It is twenty-three years ago since I bred this species of what I though then were the pure Madagascar Weavers. In comparison to these new birds I bought this year, those birds were much larger; their tails were also longer. Another thing is that the red color in these new birds covers entire body except the wings and tail, whereas the birds I kept years ago, the under parts were grayish-brown. In Australia I only saw two similar species and they are the Madagascar Weavers and the little larger Comoro Weavers. I can only say that itís a miracle that I found these that appear to be 100% pure Madagascar Weavers, since most birds that are available nowadays are hybrids between the two but sold or referred to as the Madagascar Weavers. The Comoro Weavers, from what I recall from the birds I saw in Europe, the red stops at about the breast level, the rest is more sparrow-like. I donít remember I have ever seen birds of that purity in Australia but according to other aviculturists I spoke to they claim they are still bred and available. Then again nothing surprises me any more after seeing species I thought had died out long time ago!
Weavers in general are not cage birds, small aviaries are essential if intending to breed them and breeding them is not difficult. I bred them in a small 3m W x 1.2m D x 2.2m H aviary, together with 2 pairs of Zebras, one pair of Longtails and a pair of Societies.
As for compatibility, I cannot say I had problems. The male did display a lot, there was lots of vocalising and bluffing, and the Grass finches never posed any threat or made any challenge in any way so I cannot say they are aggressive. However, do not take my word as the rule, other breeders tell me they were blood-thirsty killers in their aviaries and that theyíre best kept by themselves or with similar larger species.
These new birds, as far as aggression goes are the same as the ones I kept years ago. The male will chase away any bird that landed in the vicinity of their nest and that's about all. There is none of that persistent chasing as with the Carduelan species. The only worry was ďthe heroĒ Golden Song Sparrow, with his persistence trying to romance the Madagascar Weaver female, he kept on landing onto the sitting femaleís nest and immediately been chased away by the mean looking male.
Their normal clutch consists of three eggs, occasionally four, fertility rate is usually 100% but most times only two out of three young survive, the last to hatch Ė the smallest often canít compete for food and dies within the first few days. I do not remember experimenting with their eggs but if itís possible to take out each egg laid, putting them all back after the last egg had been laid, that would give all hatchlings equal chance of survival. The young grow fast, being fed only by the female. During that time a variety of live food is important, also some soft food like egg and biscuits and some green food. I offer lettuce, cucumber and seeding grasses. As for live food, I only give Mealworms and occasional Fly or a Moth that I can catch. I tried Maggots but breeding and collecting them is just not what I consider to be a joy of keeping Finches so I relay only on Mealworms. But the best joke I heard about insects was from an old aviculturist about 15 years ago who said:
need insects! Just hang a dead cat above the Aviary and
every time you walk past hit that Cat with a stick couple of times!Ē
While caring for her young, females become very tame, they will come to the wire and snatch a Moth or a Fly from my hand, quickly fly off to the nest and fly back for more. The young jump out of the nest very early, from about 16 days of age and for the next 7 days I pick them up in the evening put them in a holding cage for overnight, the following morning I release them at about 5 Am. A Full water dish can spell a disaster at this time, it is best to half fill it and place a flat rock so if they fall in they can easily climb out. The young are taken out of the breeding aviary as soon as I see they can eat seeds. Young males do not colour up until the following season.
In mid 70ís I once saw canary yellow Madagascar Weavers and often heard others talk about this so-called mutation. Nowadays there are orangey-yellow birds around, referred to as the yellow Madagascars but I havenít seen the canary yellow birds since. For those of you who remember, that was at Allenís ďOzy BirdsĒ first shop, corner of Sackville and Station St in Fairfield. That could have been a hybrid between the Madagascar Weaver and the Sakalava Weaver, (another, closely related Madagascan specie) or some of their outcrosses, that's how the mutations are obtained in aviculture, but most unlikely I havenít heard of anyone keeping Sakalava Weaver in Australia.
They're almost identical to the Madagascar or the Comoro Weavers except for the colour. Today, in the Queensland Finch Society prices list the yellow Madagascars sells for $900 a pair. Normal red Madagascar sells for $150. To anyone with a planted Aviary, who wants a little bit of challenge as well as colour, I would recommend to try Madagascar Weavers.
In larger Aviaries, Madagascars will build their own nest in trees or shrubs from about one to 2 .5 meters in height but also they will occupy any open front nests boxes or baskets. My first pair took over large basket nest intended for Grass Finches. The birds I bred this year built their own nest in a Milk Thistle shrub about 1.2 meters from the ground and to my dislike right next to the entrance to the aviary. Fortunately, that didnít cause problems; every time I walked in she flew out of the nest and the moment I stepped out of the Aviary she would fly back into the nest resuming her incubation.