I have a few Irish fancy canaries, which are not closed-ringed, and I would like to put into an open show. My question is, if the show is not patronised by the Irish club, can the birds be put in to the show without rings, and which class? Also I'd like to know more on show cage plans, classes and requirements. As a newcomer to the hobby, this seems to be something of a closed-book.
Brian Keenan, current president of the Yorkshire Canary Club, replies: Different canary varieties require closed rings in order to compete in the unflighted classes. That said, the birds can often be exhibited in the any-age classes, if they do not possess closed rings. This is a local matter for the show-promoting society, together with any specialist societies providing patronage for the show. I suggest you contact the show secretary of the show you wish to participate in, and ask his advice.
Regarding show cage plans, these are readily available through the specialist societies that promote the individual canary breeds. Again, it is simply a matter of contacting the club concerned. Contact details of various leading canary clubs can be found at: www.thecanarycouncil.co.uk
Could anybody tell me the correct dilution of Carophyll Red for my goldfinch mule, please?
R.M.R., via Facebook.
Bernard Howlett, eminent breeder of British birds, replies: The dilution of Carophyll Red to water is outlined in the literature that accompanies the product.
Each breeder has his/her preferred recipe. Those with a large stud will use a mustard spoon as a measure, pouring its contents into a half pint mug. This is then filled with boiled water and left overnight. The volume is then transferred to a larger vessel (one holding two or so pints), this then is topped up with cold water ready for use and repeated until the required colour had been achieved at the end of the moult. Others use cold water only.
Only having one small bird to colour you would need substantially less, perhaps just a pinch of colour food to a small amount of water would suffice, at any one a time. I do not advocate preparing more than can be used in a few days. The mixture can be kept in a fridge, but must not become stale.
I keep millet as a treat and as an enticement to get my birds back in the cage. I bought several sprays of millet and kept them in a plastic container. There seemed to be small black bits falling out of the spray as I was taking it out of the box. They look like tiny insects, what could this be, and should I throw the rest of the millet away? What's the best way to keep millet spray fresh and free from bugs?
K.S., Leighton Buzzard.
Dave Herring, former Budgerigar Society president, replies: It would certainly be better if we knew what these "mites" were – if mites they be. There is, of course, a danger if they are likely to be parasites that feed on the birds, which are always to be avoided.
It is very unlikely that they would have rendered the millet sprays themselves unpalatable, or in any way harmful if ingested. I have not experienced this problem with my budgerigars – however, if I did, I think that I would be inclined to scald the sprays immediately before I offer them to my birds.
As plastic containers can provide an ideal environment for mites, etc – which may be carried in with the sprays, even as eggs – I think the best plan is to find an alternative storage facility for your millet sprays.
I have a pair of diamond doves in my outside aviary, and they share the space with finches and canaries. I built a large night-box for them all, which has plenty of space for roosting on bars and baskets. There is also a heater with a thermostat. The box has a Perspex front for light, and two holes with perches on both sides to aid entry and exit.
I'm concerned that the doves don't roost in the box, whereas all the other birds do. The doves don't go in the box at any time, day or night. The holes are plenty big enough, so that can't be the problem. On one occasion I caught them both and put them in the box, but I can't do that every night when a frost is forecasted. They just don't seem inquisitive enough to explore the box for a safe haven.
S.L., via email.
I'd like to start keeping and breeding Japanese waxwings. I would like some information about breeding and feeding. Do they need heating during the colder weather? Can they be housed with other birds?
Bob Baggs, foreign bird expert, replies: If birds are in perfect health when obtained, the best advice would be to continue feeding and caring for them in a similar manner to their previous owner. Any additional items thought to be beneficial can be included over time. They need some shelter in which to retire to and be fed, but they should not require heating.
The rarity of Japanese waxwings (Bombycilla japonica) demands that a pair should have a spacious, planted aviary to themselves. In the wild they nest in the upper branches of coniferous trees, so an aviary with a high shrub may encourage them to build a cup-shaped nest. Material may include rootlets, coconut fibre, slender twigs, animal hair, and moss. Eggs are incubated for about 14 days, with young leaving after a similar period.
They can be offered an insectivorous food, eggfood, and sweet fruits, although they are partial to various berries, such as those of the rowan, viburnum, cotoneaster, pyracantha, blackberry, juniper, hips and haws. They will take a few mealworms, but for birds that are often inactive in an aviary, they are thought to take midges in flight.