Joining together individuals who share a common interest in breeding Carduelan species in captivity
It’s been 3 years since I last bred European Goldfinches,
last year I ended up losing the male at about the time the female started to gather nesting material to build the nest. It was virtually impossible to find another male in Sydney area, and when eventually I found a young uncolored bird at end of February, the breeding season was over. This year so far anything I tried to breed either bred, or is sitting on eggs for the second and some
species the third times, it’s an exceptionally good season.
Perfectly feathered indicating the diet was good
Update: 18 Feb 2009
The younger female made the nest in the exposed part of the Aviary but did not lay any eggs, she made another nest in the covered part op the Aviary, laid only one egg but abandoned the nest soon after. In the mean time the older female laid another two clutches of 5 fertile eggs, in both clutches the young died in shell because of the extreme heat we had in Sydney (46 Deg. C). Keeping in mind that the incubation temperature is between 37 and 38 Deg. C, it should not exceed this range for any considerable length of time. The younger female made another nest and laid 4 eggs, three young hatched, one egg was infertile. She fed the young very well by herself, they fledged 16 Feb 2009. Initially I was worried they might be hybrids with the Hooded Siskin but no, they were the real thing - pure European Goldfinches. Therefore this proves to me that in a larger Aviary it is possible to have two or more females with one male. However, I wouldn’t attempt this in a smaller Aviary or a cage. Some individuals can be by far more aggressive then others, those birds may not be suitable for this types of experiments.
Who would have thought that the Indigo Buntings could be bred in cages? Years ago I was virtually obsessed with the beauty of this specie and that was just before the Internet, I contacted any breeder who ever wrote an article about Indigo Buntings either directly using the “Snail Mail” or through the Magazines where the article had been published. Usually I did not receive reply but when I did it was suggesting they could not be bred in cages, aviaries were better option, the specie was problematic and difficult to breed even in an Aviary, etc. Most books describe them and that’s including my favoured in those days “Finches and Softbilled Birds” (ISBN 0-87666-421-4) by Henry Bates & Robert Busenbark also as being difficult to keep and breed. Reports on successful breeding achievement were few if any, and as I recall the only Bird Magazines that had articles on Indigo Buntings were the two British publications the “Birdkeeper” and the Cage and Aviary Birds” but not once did I see photos of their eggs or young being published and neither photos of so-called Indigo Buntings-Canary hybrids that were supposed to be beautiful indigo blue in colour. Probably not impossible but the odds of this happening wouldn’t be in anyone’s favour. If the hybrids between them ever occurred then other people would have reported it as well, so where are all those beautiful indigo blue Canaries? I’m not going to go into hybridizing but in my opinion better results would be obtain using the Blue Grosbeaks.
In Australia I doubt it very much if anyone is still keeping them; they were freely available at one point of time, according to the bird list from the Sydney’s Bird Shop in Chisholm Rd Auburn. An old article published in Newcastle an Aviculturist recalling keeping them and other now non available species. Lazuli Buntings were known in NSW in mid seventies and the Painted Buntings in SA in mid eighties. I have not heard anything since about these three Buntings so I assume they died out.
In Europe they are still available, I have seen them, but cannot say I know anyone that is breeding them. According to Jean Michel one of the breeders he knows is breeding them and that very soon he was going to try his luck with them and I know if he succeeds he will not forget the “Alamo”! Any news on Indigo Buntings is welcome!
An E-mail I
received a while back from the Netherlands, a breeder claiming that the
Rainbow Buntings can also be bred in cages, knowing the Rainbow Buntings
and what was written about them I would say in most cases it would be a
waist of time, but as in the photos I have received about the Indigo
Buntings nothing is impossible anymore!
There are 10 species of birds we refer to as Cardinals, distributed throughout the North, Central and South America. They all may not necessarily be true Cardinals and neither are they all closely related but we’ll leave that to ornithologists to sort out, in this article we’ll refer to all as Cardinals by using their common name. All of the 10 species are well known in Aviculture, breeding successes are reported regularly except for one, the least known the Crimson-fronted Cardinal.
Cardinals in general are easy birds to breed and care for in captivity, providing you know the basic requirements they need to be able survive and live in captivity, this is their diet, enclosure-environment and know their level of aggression. For Cardinals especially, but as well as for most other Carduelan species solving these three requirements is the first step that may lead to successful reproduction of these species in captivity. One of the breeders described them as “they are nothing more then small chickens” in other words they can often become very tame. With my Carduelan species I found that they quickly get accustomed to my presence and at times I think they feel more secure and comfortable when I’m around and that’s a good sign! Some begin to sing, some show a little aggression towards other occupants and others come to the wire waiting for seeding grasses that I always have for them, or simply when I'm near the Aviary my presence results in a instant flurry of activity. Sometimes they become to comfortable, the sitting hens will not budge when I go around inspecting the nests, every time I pick up an egg she slides back into the nest, this simple chore often takes twice as longer to complete. But this is common with many captive bred species. Cardinals are a little different, they know how to bite, and they bite hard! On the funny side, what we’re looking for is a relationship something like “You, Me and Dupree”, I’ll let you figure out who is Dupree! But if they don't breed it's definitely Dupree's fault!
In captivity nowadays, several
mutations are produced, off at least three species of Cardinals that I’m
aware off. Incredible as it may sound, they were bred in large cages, 'all-white' Red Crested Cardinal with red crest are the prettiest.
For Carduelan species to breed, it is best to keep them in an Aviary by themselves, especially so if we’re trying to breed rare or large more aggressive species like the Cardinals, this is the best way to minimize interruptions from other species. As always several nests should be attached to various parts and heights of the Aviary. It is always better that they use the nest we provide, then the nests that they build themselves, which often are not very secure, and that's because of the nesting material we provide may not be exactly what they need, to be able to support the eggs and the young for 30 days. Most of the successful breeders that I know provide wire nests with some pine (spruce) branches attached around as a camouflage. Those of you who have the book by Rob van der Hulst “Breeding American Songbirds”, on page 29, there is a perfect example of what I mean. An alternative would be to camouflage the nest with an artificial wine or drapes made out of shade cloth. As you can see, setting up an environment where birds feel secure and comfortable is of a great importance!
Aggression plays an import part of birds reproduction cycle, which is normal, both in the wild and captivity, when I see the birds becoming aggressive, to me that is a good sign. It indicated that the birds are settling down and that if separated and given an Aviary of their own they may start building the nest. Aggression is at its peak during the breeding season, and the level of aggression varies with species but also within the individual birds of the same species. Some pairs will attack and kill anything that moves, even each other. I had a pair of Hooded Siskins that attacked me every time I walked into their Aviary. Quails often attack and kill mice but also an unfortunate young finch that may fall onto the ground. From my experience I would say the aggression is the worst during the four days of egg laying period but once she starts to incubate they settle down a little. Some Carduelan species like the Cardinals, Siskins, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, and Grosbeaks will chase a bird relentlessly until the bird falls to the ground then the bird often gets mauled or scalped and dies from exhaustion and pain. Some of the injuries that I have seen are monstrous and I just hope they never happen again not only in mine but anyone else's Aviary. Small Softbills and even the little Hummingbirds are also known to be bloodthirsty killers. On the other hand Weavers will chase a bird from the vicinity of their nest or their immediate proximity but I have never seen them chasing a bird relentlessly like the Carduelan species do.
Most of these very aggressive species can be put together in a larger communal Aviaries, the best time to do this is after the breeding season, there will hardly ever be any problems. The birds quickly get accustomed to each other and as the new breeding season approaches they develop a peaking order and learn to keep the distance from the large and more aggressive species. There is very little doubt that if left together the only pair that may breed would be the most aggressive, the dominant pair. However, if there is another bird or birds of the same or closely related species they would be constantly harassed or killed. With the Carduelan species it is not a good idea to keep two pairs of the same species together, they do not tolerate other birds of their own kind. Also, under no circumstances should you introduce another bird of any kind, to their Aviary while they are breeding. The less aggressive species will abandon their nest or young and for the more aggressive species it can trigger tension between the breeding pairs as well as result in killing of the unfortunate introduced bird.
With some species, including Cardinals, aggression is often unpredictable, disaster can happen at any time, they often turn on each other or attack and kill all their young. It is best to remove the young as soon as possible, as soon as they are observed eating seeds. The moment the female enters the nest for another round, the young are in danger. Waxbill or Grass finches on the other hand breed better in a colony environment, aggression is hardly ever a problem even if kept with the very aggressive species like the Australian Crimson Finches, again I would not introduce a new bird to their Aviary during the breeding season.
Jimmy Fava Zammit
Has won 2 Gold medals
and a Bronze in the world show held in Germany. He came first and third in
individuals and first with the team, all of Greenfinches.
Another interesting bird by Jean Michel, this time a gray-winged European Greenfinch
An interesting information on European Goldfinches from Brian McMahon from Ireland:
John, at certain times of the year on the east coast of Ireland we get
an influx of goldfinches which are about ten mm bigger than our own
native birds, these birds also have very small moon markings on their
wings and lighter coloring on their legs. they are much brighter and have more
red about the face .I wonder would you or any of your friends have any
idea where these birds come from or what sub species they are. I really
enjoyed your site and wish I was able to get some of those colored Siskins
that you have. Good luck with your birds in the future. Brian
you Brian for this information I always thought that the only subspecies
known in that part of the world would be C.c. brittanica, the other
nearest subspecies from Central Europe are the nominate C. c. carduelis, a perfect
specimen can be found on Jean Michel's page
am still looking for the beautiful Goldfinch subspecies with all white fork of
the tail that I once saw and neither the Sydney Museum nor the Zoo could