Green Avadavat (Amandava formosa)


Though never commonplace, this was a familiar species in cagebird literature, so it was rather shocking when it was officially listed as Threatened (Collar & Andrew, 1988).

It is not clear if this is actually a vanishing bird. It does have a scattered range in Northern India and parts of Pakistan, and some of these disjunct populations may have been reduced (or eliminated) by commercial trapping. At any rate, India has not allowed their export for some time. It was thus a mystery as to where the ones reaching the . U.S. (through Europe), over the last several years, originated from. I was told in all seriousness by one source that they came out of China. However, the shipments arriving in 1997 quite definitely came from Pakistan (Danny Gonzalez, pers. comm.).

All that aside, after an absence of some years, quite a number were commercially imported from 1994, up to the September, 1997 ban on imports due to the Wild Bird Conservation Act.

To my knowledge, there have been few breedings of the Green Avadavat in the U.S .. I am not aware of an official first U.S. breeding record, nor am I aware of any published account from American private aviculturists.

When the American Zoo and Aquarium Association's North American Regional Collection Plan for Passerines was drafted in Seattle in 1995, the only U.S. zoo breeding records were for the Minnesota Zoological Gardens. The International Zoo Yearbook (Zoological Society of London, 1982, 1986- 7) reports Green Avadavat breedings at Minnesota for three years. In 1980, six hatched, but all died. The only one hatched in 1984 died. However, in 1985, one of the six hatched survived to independence. All this took place in a somewhat crowded, not terribly large aviary, right along a public path inside the Tropical House. Cagemates included various Asian and Australian finches, as well as some small softbills. Jimmy Pinchner, former Curator of Birds at Minnesota Zoological Gardens, told me a number of the juvenile mortalities were due to chicks leaving the nest and being trod upon by Roul Roul Partridges.

At the same time, from the Minnesota birds, it appeared this species was susceptable to cool temperatures, and needed to be maintained at temperatures above 60°F. From these experiences the Passerine Taxon Advisory Group (AZA, 1997) suggested that the Green Avadavat "is a delicate species most suitable for small indoor enclosures of 'semi-desert climate.' " However, this report goes on to state:

"Further research may dispute this theory as it appears to have been maintained successfully outdoors, year round to near-freezing winter temperatures."

This, in fact was the case, as documented by the South African aviculturist F.C. Barnicoat 0975). He presents a detailed account of the successes of H. Steyn, near Johannesburg. Mr. Steyn was a specialist in Australian Finches and small psittacines. In front of a 65 foot long range of breeding aviaries, he constructed a safety aisle eight feet wide and six feet high. "To prevent this flight from proving an entire waste of aviary space it was attractively planted with shrubs ... There is no shelter to this aviary whatever, and apart from the protection of very limited overhead cover provided by some green fibreglass sheeting, the birds are fully exposed to the elements. Of course the aspect of the aviary on a north-facing slope is favourable and the aviaries behind provide considerable protection. None the less, during our highveld winters, temperatures frequently drop to zero at night..."

F.C. Barnicoat (1975) goes on to relate: "It was into this flight that the original pair of Green Avadavats was liberated eight years ago. This pair bred five young in the first season and in each subsequent years between five and nine have been reared to maturity. From time to time, some of the stock has been sold... Mr. Steyn has tried to keep the number of pairs ... down to one or two. This has been a dicey position as losses do occur from time to time, hut so far the breeder has been lucky and he considers this procedure better than overcrowding. Detailed records have not been kept, beyond that Green Avadavats have reared young for eight consecutive years; probably to the seventh generation or nearly that. An interesting fact is that no new blood has at any stage been added and the present little flock is descended from the one original pair. There has been no attempt at selective breeding, the birds being allowed to choose their own mates. They have not deteriorated in any way however. [Rand Avicultural] Society members were recently able to compare the latest generation with some newly imported specimens and they appeared to be not only steadier, but slightly larger than the fresh imports and equally well coloured. It is well known that featherplucking among this species is frequently a problem. This has never occurred among the aviary-bred birds, whose smooth plumage has stood them in good stead on the show bench ... "

Bamicoat 0975) continues: "Feeding has also been simple. No live food of any kind was used to supplement their diet, though doubtless ... the birds have been able to find a certain amount of aphids and other insects... The only supplement food the Green Avadavats have taken to is the moistened brown bread and 'ProNutro' pushed through the wire of the adjoining aviaries for the parakeets... As...



American Zoo and Aquarium Association (1997) Passeriforme, Apodiforme, Colliiforme, and Trogoniforme Taxon Advisory Group - North American Regional Collection Plan.

Barnicoat, F.C. 0975) An aviary-bred strain of the Green Avadavat (Amandava formosa). Avicultural Magazine LXXXI, 188-90.

Collar, N.J. & P. Andrew (1988) Birds to watch - The ICBP world checklist of threatened birds. Smithsonian Institution Press.

International Species Information System(1997) ISIS bird abstract as of 31 December, 1996.

(1997) ISIS Bird abstract as of 30 June, 1997.

Ring, W.B. 0981) Endangered birds of the world. The ICBP Bird Red Data Book. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Lindholm, J.H. 0996) Breeding Southern Gold-breasted waxbills at the FortWorth Zoological Park. Finch Breeder II (No.I)

(1996) Reproduction of Asian Passerines in American Zoos. Annual Conference Proceedinqs, 1996. American Federation of Aviculture.

Zoological Society of London (1960- 94) Species of birds bred in zoos and other institutions 1959-92). International Zoo Yearbook 1-XXXIII.