Regarding the parrot-like query you answered on the Ask the Experts page (January 4): if you can keep 12 male rosellas in a group, would it be possible to add other male parakeets such as Princess of Wales, barrabands, or birds of the same size?
Colin O'Hara, one of the UK's top parrot breeders, replies: As I stated in my reply about a colony of male rosellas, I thought 10 would be the maximum that could be kept in the aviary as described. Barrabands and Princess of Wales are quite sensitive birds, and I do not think that they would be happy with the more boisterous rosellas.
It is much better for both birds and keeper to have happy birds. If overcrowded, the birds become depressed and never look good, which can spoil the enjoyment of the keeper. However, it is possible to breed members of the polytelis family, rock pebbler, Princess of Wales and Barrabands in a colony, which can be enjoyable.
I have a six-month-old African grey, which I got when it was 12 weeks old. For a while the bird would "step-on" to anyone who asked, and sit politely before coming back to me. However, now when the grey is not in the cage, it will attack anyone who isn't me – including my husband. I have regular visitors, so it would be nice if I could have the parrot out and it refrains from flying at everyone's head.
The bird adores me and I can do anything with it, but no one else can handle it. I don't know the sex of the bird or whether that's relevant, though I suspect it might be female.
Is there anything I can do to encourage polite behaviour with visitors, or at least towards my partner? Will the grey permanently be "my bird", and no one else will be able to do anything with it?
P.B, via Facebook.
Colin O'Hara, one of the UK's top parrot breeders, replies: This is not an uncommon problem, but it is more common in cockatoos than African greys. The sex of your bird is irrelevant in one so young. Fortunately as your bird is young there is (with patience) a chance that you can change its behaviour.
I assume that you are the person that looks after the bird's needs, so it has attached itself to you and is jealous of anyone that comes between you and the bird. Also I imagine that you are the one that supplies all the little bits of treats.Read more...
I have six magpies and would like advice on one in particular that I'm having trouble hand-taming. The problem with Chips (the difficult magpie) is not that he isn't tame – he's happy to land on you in the aviary and take food from you. The problem is trying to stop him stabbing you in the leg, or hanging off your hand trying to amputate your finger.
Even if you offer food from outside the aviary, he'll often go for your fingers instead and becomes fixated with trying to peck you through the wire. I'd love to hear of any tips to get him to calm down and be less aggressive.
M.C., via email.
Bob Baggs, foreign bird expert, replies: Birds can be individuals when it comes to behaviour, which seems to be the case if five of your magpies are hand-tame and one is not. I am not sure if they are all kept together, or whether they are young birds and much can depend on these circumstances. The best way to tame the difficult bird would probably be to house it on its own, this ought to steady the bird. Then begin offering it items of food by hand through the bars or mesh. Talk softly to the magpie while feeding and gradually introduce your hand. An intelligent magpie will recognise the advantages of being friendly!Read more...
I am searching for outlets that sell an array of birds, mainly parrots of different kinds, but budgerigars as well. I'm looking in the South or the London area.
I am a beginner, so are there any books on how to keep parrots in particular, and size of the cage needed?
Les Rance, secretary of the Parrot Society UK, replies: Over the past six years, since the ban on the importation of wild-caught birds into the EU and the UK, there has been a considerable change in the way birds are supplied and marketed in this country. This has eradicated the vast majority of larger-type petshops. In addition to this, there has been action by animal rights activists, who have given the larger chains of shops "a hard time" and now few stock birds.
To find breeders, you will need to continue to read Cage & Aviary Birds, and work at finding breeders that can supply the birds you need.
If you would like to contact the Parrot Society, I will suggest some books that may be of help to you. The Parrot Society can be contacted on tel: 01442 872245 or visit: www.theparrotsocietyuk.org
I am in a position to take up birdkeeping once again, since last doing so during the 1970s-1980s when I had both British and foreign birds.
Mentioning this to a friend, who happens to be a gamekeeper, he said that I could have as many hooded crows and jays that I wanted for free, as he would be happy to get these pests off his estate. Also, he said I could have some moorhens and coots. There are too many around his duck flight ponds eating the grain, which he puts out to entice wild duck into shooting range.
He explained that he uses only legal Government approved Larsen live catch-traps to catch crows, etc, and humanely kills them. However, if I wanted a few of these birds he would give me some, rather than kill them.
If I accepted my gamekeeper friend's offer, and have some legally wild-caught and unringed jays and moorhens, what would my position be if the RSCPA, RSPB and Scottish SPCA visited me? Would I be guilty of an offence? Would I need written paperwork from the gamekeeper saying that he had given me the birds free of financial charge?
Second, the gamekeeper's wife has a cat that occasionally catches the odd unwary wild bird. Some of these injured birds were nursed back to health by the gamekeeper, but they would be unable to survive in the wild if released. He had a pair of "repaired" blackbirds, which reared three youngsters of their own. These unringed youngsters were released into the wild around his house. Was it lawful to keep the injured blackbirds, even though they could not fl y properly and fend for themselves in the wild? Could my gamekeeper friend have legally kept the three young blackbirds after they were aviary bred?Read more...