Joining together individuals who share a common interest in breeding Carduelan species in captivity
Flies and Mealworms
Here is one my designs and description on how to build and assemble a simple “fly breeding cage”, although after a little bit of research on Internet I think there is a room for improvement, one side could be made removable. However, since the whole cage can be disassembled within a few minutes this may not be necessary but can be included as an added option. My cage is made out of Melamine Particle Board approximately 500mm x 500mm x 500mm, the assembly sketches are pretty much self explanatory, and the dimensions are optional. Good air circulation is necessary as well as some heat above the maggot food (breeding) containers. The medium I use is a mix of Bran, Powder Milk and Water, four parts Bran one part Powder Milk and one part water. The flies will lay eggs in this mix; the maggots when hatch will feed on the Powder Milk. You may have to add a little bit more of the same mixture in a couple of days when the mixture dries up a little and turn brown, for the Maggots to continue growing. The Flies in the cage also need some food; I dissolve two table spoons of Sugar in a cup of water, pour it in about a cup-sized container, and put a paper tissue over it so the Flies can land on it to drink. When I see the Maggots wiggling on top of the dry mixture (couple days later) I remove the containers and empty them into a bigger container from which the birds feed in the Aviary, the birds will eat maggots or pupae or the “red heads” (newly hatched flies). The flies after hatching cannot fly for an hour or so, birds like Wrens or Weavers are picking them up with ease. However, I always leave one container in the cage to maintain the numbers of Flies in the cage, since their life-span is only short, about five days.
Most of the
Australian Grass Finches, Parrot Finches, Weavers, Wrens etc will feed on
Maggots, Pupae and Flies; but I haven’t seen Siskins, Redpolls nor the
Goldfinches feed yet. Here are some of interesting links should you like to
read up on other people’s technique:
Many articles on Internet say you don’t need a lid on the Boxes but believe me if you are a beginner try it my way first then try it the other way if you like! I had anything from Mice, Birds, Moths, Flies, and Spiders etc getting into the Box either laying eggs or eating the Mealworms. Unless you have a special room or a cabinet made to keep out the pests, a Box with a lid is the best option. Just make sure the opening is large enough to provide good ventilation, I use metal fly wire but a 6mm mouse proof wire is OK if insects are not a problem.
Preparing a box is simple, just add about 50mm of Bran, then couple of sheets of Newspaper or cut a two or three layers of Hessian and put it on the trop. For moisture I give them a slice or two of Sweet Potato or few slices of Carrot, sweet apple, Cucumber peels, Slices of Potato etc. The slices are placed on top of the Hessian, just remember to remove and replace them every day. During the summer months here in Sydney the Temperature ranges from 20 to 30 deg C so heating is not necessary but if necessary maintaining the cultures at 25 deg C is recommended.
As the Mealworms turn into pupa then into beetles, keep collecting them and put them into freshly prepared new culture to minimize Mealworms eating eggs or the pupas. The dimensions of the boxes are W350mm x D250 x H220 mm but you can make them any size you like. The reason why I made them 220 high is I roll up couple of sheets of newspaper into bolls and place them on top of the hessian; the beetles like to squeeze in and lay their eggs in it. Anyhow, most of you already know enough about it so I don’t have to go into details, if not read up couple of article on Internet, some people are better qualified then I am when it comes to breeding Mealworms. Here are some links:
and aviaries for Carduelan
If the aviaries are too large the birds are very difficult to catch for any necessary check up, daily medication or ointments, generous amount of space is all they need. If too much given they can be often neglected rather then having to be chased all over the aviary, and this is not uncommon. When building an outdoor aviary a concrete floor is a must (to stop the rodents from burrowing in) or a deep footing around the perimeter, and a thought should be given about the slab slope and how is the water going to drain. Indoor shrubs are not necessary but some breeders prefer to use them, I guess it’s OK, providing they are replaced regularly otherwise they become good hiding place for mites and airsac mites, plus they collect droppings and make the aviary look dirty. In an outdoor aviary birds often prefer to nest in an exposed part or the aviary that’s why it is best to put something over the nest to protect the sitting female from heavy rain or a hot direct summer sun. As for the aviary wire type, it is best to use the 6 mm bird wire, it will stop small mice from squeezing through. Twelve mm (half inch) will not stop the mice, even large mice can squeeze through it. Below are some very basic designs, I didn’t draw the wire because it takes up too much of my computer’s memory but it will give you an idea of what is required.
deep to stop the rodents from burrowing. Each compartment is
one meter wide two deep and 2.2 meter high.
temperatures does not fall bellow zero for any considerable length of time.
But can be used as the breeding aviaries from May to about September
if covered with plastic sheeting.
birds. Each half is about 850mm wide, the boxes are 400mm deep
and 500 high. Each double cage is only used for one breeding pair
anything falling down on to the floor tray. Cage fronts should also
easily removable for easy cleaning.
around the nest will make the sitting hens more secure. Some kind of cover
when trying to catch the birds. Use only nests that can be
for Carduelan Species
Let’s examine the type of Aviaries we build, why we build them that way, do we think and plan or do we just build them without too much thinking and planning. Are the Aviaries built keeping us in mind (less maintenance) or considering the birds (larger, with some plants) or is it considering both, us and birds, highly maintained garden type of setup with flowers and plants that produce large amounts of seeds! I tried to examine myself first, and most times I built Aviary, it was because I needed an Aviary and “quickly”! In my early days of keeping finches it was always communal Aviary, I used whatever material I had available at the time, made a sketch to help me with the dimensions and started building. Often it was one weekend job. I knew nothing about the Carduelan species keeping, but in those days who knew? I kept mainly our native Grass finches and African Waxbills, they always bred well in a mixed environment. Any Carduelans that I might have kept were treated same, but they never bread. Canaries always built nests but their young for whatever reason never survived.
Other times I bought a pre-built Aviary and it only takes about an hour to assemble! Through the years of keeping finches I also had a chance to visit many excellent Carduelan breeders from all parts of the globe and see their breeding establishments. I visited many Wildlife Bird parks, Zoos and Sanctuaries, especially so if I heard they had rare finches that I might have been interested in at the time. They all had something in common when it comes to keeping and breeding Carduelan species; they all used two types of Aviaries, the keeping Aviaries and the breeding Aviaries. Some breeders bred Carduelan finches in large Canary type breeding box-cages, but they also had some type of larger Aviary where the young are moved to when the breeding pairs started their new clutch.
of those breeding Aviaries are approximately same in size, anywhere from about
1.5 and 2.5 meters in either depth or width and usually about 2 meters in
height. Aviaries of this size give birds a chance to use their wings, and this
is important for their physical and psychological well-being. As we now know
there is no “ifs or buts” Carduelan species are territorial, each pair must
be given their own breeding enclosure otherwise you’d be wasting your time.
Both, the dominant males and females will and do chase other Aviary birds
relentlessly, sometimes to the point that some birds just fall of the perch and
die. Some of you may disagree because most Estrildids are non aggressive. In a
larger Aviary they can be kept with the Carduelans, and the Carduelans don’t
seem to chase Estrildids as much as other Carduelan species. I agree with that,
but the problem with Estrildids is that they can be nuisance in an aviary,
especially if you’re trying to breed some of the rare Carduelans. Estrildids
are very disruptive, they will still the nesting material and occupy their
nests. Most importantly when the Carduelan young hatch, any precious amount of seeding
grasses that you can offer as well as other food will be consumed by the Estrildids, therefore it is best
to breed the Carduelans on their own. With some Carduelan species like the Red
Siskins, just a presence of another bird in their Aviary can deter them from
breeding; Red Siskins will and often do abandon their nests, eggs or their young
just because of presence of another bird in their Aviary.
any Aviary built, we must provide good shelter from winds, rains and the hot
summer sun. Never ever put the birds in to the Aviary before installing the
roof. I’m speaking here from my experience, I lost some of the rarest species
in Australian Aviculture due to stupidity, reasoning that birds in the
wild do not have roof over their head and that it was OK to put the birds in, I
was going to install the roof in a day or so! That night we had one of the
heaviest downfalls in a long while. The following morning I found most of the
birds dead on the floor. During the hot summer months, heat can kill young and
older birds as well, thick shade is important. This means the Aviary must be
partly covered and built in a shady place preferably under a tree but at the
same time must be exposed to a full direct sunlight for at least the first 4 to
5 morning hours. In winter, cold
winds and extreme cold can do the same, and I’m not talking here about the
tropical finch species.
aviary complex setup at Loro Parque Tenerife, one of the worlds leading bird conservation establishment, is surrounded with beautiful garden settings and I
often like to use their setup as a standard for any outdoor breeding aviaries
for Carduelan species. At the Loro Parque, they mostly have Parrot species. I
haven’t seen finches. Most Parrot species are territorial, so are the
Carduelans, and that’s where I first realize the importance of keeping only
pairs per Aviary. Being larger then Finches, Parrot enclosures were also a
little larger but a formula I like to use for any species breeding aviary is: the minimum, 20
times the bird’s length for at least two dimensions (eg. width & depth) and that’s generous for
any ‘breeding’ Aviary for most species of birds.
Now, the Keeping Aviary, Communal Aviary or a Display Aviaries are simply what the name implies, they are not meant for breeding. They are larger ‘walk in’ type of Aviaries usually outdoor where young birds or odd birds are kept. Depending on how one prefers to keep their birds, you can let your imagination go wild; you can have the most beautiful flowering plants in the world, together with flowering seed producing plants. Anything from the small seed producing grasses to a very large 2.5 meters Amataranths, Large and small Sunflower, various Thistles etc. You can also install all kinds of waterfalls, evening lights etc. Certainly there is a rule or a pattern you’ll have to follow, if you don’t know anything about gardening it will be ‘trial and error’ for the first couple of years or you can get the professionals to do it for you. Some of the tricks here are: there has to be a perfect balance, you cannot have to many birds, you must choose if possible species that will not destroy your new garden and knowing when to add or remove birds from the Aviary to allow plants to regenerate and reestablish. One of the most impressive small Aviaries that I have seen was the Humming bird Aviary at the San Diego Zoo. They had few species of Hummingbirds and some Chlorophonias actually breeding at that time. We could see the Chlorophonia sitting on eggs inside a Weaver type of nest at about shoulder level height. Pair of Hummingbirds had their tiny nest built totally exposed on one of the 25 mm pipes, 2.5 meters above the ground. Again' the compatibility is the key; there are species of Hummingbirds that can’t be kept with other species because they are highly territorial. The ‘walk in’ Hummingbird Aviary at San Diego was a big attraction; visitors could walk in, sit down, enjoy the birds and the beautiful flowering plants. That was an Aviary I though would satisfy people who enjoy both, gardening and birds and I decided that when I got back I was going to build one exactly the same.
I designed an Aviary that
comes in a kit form, that is extendable and is easy to assemble, all out of 50 x
50 powder coated square tubing, it will never ever need painting again. Only the
trusses that support the Aviary needed welding. Once they’re made then you
just keep adding, 5 trusses per year if you like, and you can make your Aviary
1000 meters long if you like, add as many dividers as you like! The distance between trusses has to be whatever
the width of the roll of wire is, and the braces between the trusses had to
allow the width of the wire to reach about the halfway of each 50 mm truss. Three
sides and one third of the roof are covered on my aviary. The side panels are
pre assembled on the floor and just slid into position and fixed with four
screws to hold the panels into place.
in mind this is a planted Aviary, I would recommend you sketch first where you’re
going to put each plant. Remember, larger plants go first (up against the wall)
then the smaller and so on. The reason for this sketch is to help you plan where
to make the pathways, where to install the perches, they should never be installed
over the plants and the reason is obvious, leave enough space for the
droppings to fall on the ground. It is best to mix seed producing plants with pretty
flowers. The flowers being only for esthetic values, can be almost
anything from Orchids to Roses to Marigolds etc. Do not plant the more toxic
variety, but I found that if birds are given an ample amount of leafy greens,
seeding Grasses etc, they will not nibble on something that doesn’t taste
good, but how careful should you be is definitely your own decision. My favored
seed producing plants are Milk Thistle, Canola, Amaranth, Sunflowers (small
and larger varieties), Corn, Dandelion, Shepherd’s purse, Sow Thistle,
Marigolds, Spray Millets, Japanese Millets, etc. Use caution with Milk Thistle,
make sure you cut off the sharp needles and do it regularly as the plant grows.
I have 10 plants growing in my aviary and never had problems getting in and out
of the Aviary. Some of the plants attract insect like Aphids, these are:
Canola, Sow Thistle and Roses. Young birds are often seen foraging for hours
searching for insects.
you can see with just a little bit of planning and imagination it is easy to
create beautifully planted Aviary. Try to establish the plants and then put
the young birds in, whenever they’re ready to leave their parents, this usually
coincides with the time when the seeds are ready for consumption. Young
Goldfinches are the best, they quickly learn where the seeds are located and how
to open up the pods, other birds learn from them. Even the tiny Red Siskins make
a stand against larger finches when there is dispute over the claim to whom a certain seed pod
is essential that all Aviary plants receive good soaking on regular basis
otherwise some will wilt and die, or one thing for sure; ‘there will be no
flowers and no seeds’. You also need to apply some fertilizer, I only use
liquid fertilizer and the best time to apply it is during the heavy rainfall, I
admit that I am not a fully-fledged gardener, I’m still learning, some of you
may know more about it.