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Joining together individuals who share a common interest in breeding Carduelan species in captivity


Updated Wednesday, 05 February 2014

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European Goldfinches

YGoldfinches2 7Dec08.jpg (53099 bytes)

      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.
Last year I had two pairs of Goldfinches but I lost the first male about a month before the breeding commenced and the second one as I mentioned above when needed him most. I still have the two females and thought this year (Dec 2008) I’d try my luck with one male and two females.

Is it possible?
The older female bred in my aviary about three or four years ago, she is an excellent bird, good sitter, good feeder and so far produsing100 % fertile eggs. She never hesitates to build the nest if I provide the condition. The younger female is much tamer than the older female. I could see she also wanted to breed and while playing the fiddle she would often chase the male around the aviary singing and wagging her tail but always been chased away by both the young male and sometimes the over aggressive older female. On the other hand the young male preferred the older female and they eventually built a nest and produced four beautiful young healthy chicks. In the mean time the younger female started with the same tricks romancing the Hooded Siskin male who already had his female sitting on eggs. The Hooded Siskins were the first season breeders and had only one fertile egg out of four. However, the Hooded Siskin showed absolutely no interest in her, when she got to close he’d chase her away. As of writing this article the Goldfinches have beautiful large well feathered three young out of the nest, the younger female started building the nest and appears to be more aggressive then the older female, chasing her away from the seeding thistle pods I provide to them every day to feed their young with. The younger female doesn’t appear to be harassing the male but will not tolerate the older female anywhere near her. Today (9 Dec 2008) I saw the older female kind of busy, flying from perch to perch indicating she is also just about ready to start her second clutch. Personally I think it’s a bad idea having two females with one male but this will be a good experience and as we say “nothing is impossible”, so we’ll have to wait and see. I just hope it doesn't end in disaster for one of the females. Goldfinches are not an easy bird to breed, providing the right environment and correct diet is the key. As they are getting ready for their second clutch I suspect there will be some aggression towards their young at some stage, they will be taken out of the breeding aviary the moment I see them eating seeds. 

EuroGoldfinches2 23Oct08.jpg (99644 bytes) EGoldfinch5 23Nov08.jpg (100959 bytes) EuroGoldfinch2 23Oct08.jpg (81493 bytes) MilkThistle3 5Nov08.jpg (63115 bytes) 
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Variety of seeding grasses and Thistles is fed
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One pair producing three healthy young, the fourth one must have been knocked out of the nest

YGoldfinches13 6Dec08.jpg (57819 bytes) YGoldfinches10 6Dec08.jpg (65788 bytes) 

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. 

EGoldfinchEggs2 3Jan09.jpg (72164 bytes) EGoldfinchOnEggs1 19Jan09.jpg (100741 bytes) YGoldfinches6 16Feb09.jpg (263767 bytes) YGoldfinches6 14Feb09.jpg (98784 bytes) 
These young fledged on the 16 Feb 2009  T

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Red closed rings for 2009

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Indigo Buntings

 

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! 
Check this out: http://www.passerina.eu/
We may see eggs and young Indigo Buntings in a week or two if everything goes well!

IndigoBuntings2.jpg (58955 bytes)           IndugoBMale.JPG (33132 bytes)         IndigoBuntings.jpg (50453 bytes)
       Female carrying nesting material       Male in full color         Female on nest              

PaintedBuntind1.jpg (91442 bytes)  PaintedBunting.jpg (43467 bytes)  
Painted Bunting male          



CARDINALS

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.

Crested_Cardinal.JPG (55549 bytes)  
Red Crested Cardinal
(Paroaria coronata)
Video

Paroaria baeri 2.jpg (32242 bytes) ParoariaBaeri4.jpg (98195 bytes)
Crimson-fronted Cardinal 
(Paroaria baeri)
Video

PdominicanaPair.jpg (54932 bytes)
Pope Cardinal
(Paroaria dominicana)
Video

carlos1.jpg (54962 bytes)
  Vermilion Cardinal
(Cardinalis phoeniceus)
Video


RedCappedCardinal.jpg (59661 bytes)
Red-capped Cardinal
(Paroaria gularis gularis)


RedCappedCardinal1.jpg (69150 bytes) RedCappedCardinal2.jpg (57416 bytes)
RedCappedCardinal3.jpg (66572 bytes)
A friend recently visited Roraima (Brazil) and took photos of Red-capped Cardinal feeding on some leftover boiled rice.

Red Cardinal 2Jan07.jpg (25047 bytes)

 Northern Cardinal male
(Cardinalis cardinalis)
Video

 ParoariaGularisNigrogenis2.jpg (73898 bytes) ParoariaGularisNigrogenis1.jpg (168042 bytes)
Masked Cardinal
Subspecies: (Paroaria gularis nigrogenis)
Video

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  Yellow-billed Cardinal
(Paroaria capitata)
Video



Pyrruloxia
 
(Cardinalis sinuatus)
Video

GreenCardinal.jpg (76475 bytes)
  Yellow Cardinal
(Gubernatix cristata)
Video

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Pygmy Cardinal
 
(Lophospingus pusillus)
Video

Paroaria baeri 3.jpg (35320 bytes) Paroaria baeri 2.jpg (32242 bytes) Paroaria baeri 1.jpg (33681 bytes)
This is the Crimson-fronted Cardinal (Paroaria baeri) 
The only other Web site that has a photo of this bird is www.cobrap.org.br
Photo by: Valter

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.

Environment:
                             The best environment can be created in an Aviary. Depending on space availability and our imagination, planted Aviary with small shallow pond or a series of smaller ponds so that water can circulate from one pond to another and be pumped out back up to the top one, simulating small stream. Do not add pebbles into the ponds; leave it simple, it will be easier to clean the ponds (and flush the pump), and cleaning would have to be done daily! Plant some seed or berry producing small shrubs or trees where birds can hide or build their nests and plenty of various seeding grasses and millets around the perimeter of the exposed part of the aviary. Aviaries that have large uncovered areas are not ideal, what birds fear most then anything is flying predators like Hawks and Butcher birds. By covering with the shade cloth half or three quarters of the exposed part of the Aviary will create a sense of security where birds if attacked can quickly fly under and not be seen by the predator. However, we must keep in mind that birds need some uncovered areas as well, where the sunlight is not filtered, where they can soak up both, direct sunlight and rain. Occasionally birds build nests in the exposed part of the Aviary, when that happens I have a small 1 m x 1m roll of perspex (plexiglas) I spread over the nest with a 400 mm square sheet of plywood over the top to keep the shade.   

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!   

 

Understanding Aggression:

                                                       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.

Food:
             Cardinals will eat almost anything, they eat: Half-ripe or dry seed mixes (small Parrot Mix is ideal), various greens (Lettuce, Broccolis, Cucumber etc), fruit (apples, pears, bananas etc), berries (currants, grapes, blackberries etc), soft food (egg and biscuits, dog food etc), live insects (mealworms, crickets, moths etc).
As the breeding season approaches, by offering all of the above, it will entice them to breed and raise their young to maturity. But a real spectacle  is  watching them hanging from branches while eating those juicy half-ripe seeds of seed producing plants like the Canola, Amaranth, Thistle or a Sunflower that are growing in the Aviary.  


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.

JimmyZammitFava.jpg (50475 bytes)

GreenMZammit1.JPG (37664 bytes) GreenMZammit2.JPG (29993 bytes)
Jimmy Zammit's Euro-Greenfinches the 2005 first price winners published in the 
Alcedo one of the leading European  Finch Magazines.


Another interesting bird by Jean Michel, this time a gray-winged European Greenfinch

Grey-winged Greenfinch1.jpg (51281 bytes) Grey-winged Greenfinch2.jpg (65520 bytes)


 

An  interesting information on European Goldfinches from Brian McMahon from Ireland:

Hello 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 McMahon
macbird@eircom.ie

Thank 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
http://www.members.aol.com/cardueline/CHARD1.JPG   these birds are a little larger and with  more white feathers than the C. c. brittanica. Other nearest subspecies are C. c. parva but they are smaller and lighter (some times darker) than the C. c. brittanica. I know that the C. c. brittanica can be found as far South as Portugal at certain times of the year but I have never heard of C. c. parva   being  observed  anywhere pass Southern France
http://www.fortunecity.com/petparade/labrador/247/images/SpanishGoldfinchMale.JPG     

It would be interesting to compare those two subspecies side by side, if anyone in your area owns both subspecies could you take photos of  their wings, tail, back and the photos of the birds perching on a branch (side view preferably). I am sorry this may be asking too much but I am sure other breeders would like to compare those two subspecies as well. 

      I 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 identify them.
I've been trying to find out anything at all about them  for the past 10 years, no one has ever heard about them. If I hadn't seen the 15 pairs myself I wouldn't have thought twice, of saying that there are no such birds. I guess it is just like trying to convince your friends you saw Mary Poppins.

 

 



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