Breeding the Great-billed Parrot


The Great-billed Parrot (Tanygnathus megalorhynchos) is, without a doubt, a visually striking, yet neglected avicultural species. Of the three Tanygnathus species that are aviculturally known (others being the Bluenaped and the Blue-backed Parrots), the Great-billed Parrot is the largest and most physically impressive. In appearance, the Great-billed Parrot is typical of Tanygnathus, being predominantly green in plumage except for the back and rump which are light blue, and the wings, of which the median coverts are black with delicate golden edges. The most striking visual feature is, however, the proportionately large and bright orange bill. Sexual dimorphism can be seen in the larger size of the male's bill, but with eight sub-species being recognized, the aviculturists seeking to distinguish the sex of this species by this method must ensure that the birds in question are of the same race.

The natural range of the Great-billed Parrot extends across several Indonesian Island groups including the Moluccas, Tanumbar, Lesser Sunda and Papuan Islands. While still recorded as being locally common in many areas of its natural range, as with many psittacine species from this region of the world, concern needs to be expressed about its future prospects and the establishment of a viable self-sustaning captive population must, of course, be considered advantageous.

In its behavior, the Great-billed Parrot is normally a nervous and secretive bird although particularly tame birds can be encountered as an exception to this rule. The pairs accommodated in the B.1.1. (Birds International Incor- porated) collection show little interest or behavior between each other for most of the year. In the case of the pair which has now bred at the Center, the first indication of breeding behavior was the disappearance of the hen from the main aviary into the nest box. The Great-billed Parrot has been known in aviculture since the start of the century, but only in relatively small numbers. The late 1980's did see an increase in their availability but this, to date, has not led to the species becoming established in captivity. There is little debate that it is considered to be an extremely difficult avian species to breed in captive condition. At the Research and Breeding Center that is operated by B.I.I. in the Philippines, a number of pairs have been captively established in the collection for a period of six years or longer with, until recently, no breeding activity being initiated by any of the pairs. This, in spite of the near perfect climatic conditions and exceptional husbandry facilities which have been provided by the center. Now, at last, success has been achieved with the successful breeding and rearing of the Great-billed Parrot having taken place.

The adult pairs of Great-billed Parrots maintained at the Research and Breeding Center are housed in a series of individual, free standing portable aviaries. These aviaries measure approximately 150 cm x 90 cm x 120 cm (5' x 3' x 4') in their internal dimensions. These aviaries are known as "portable" aviaries because the base of the aviary is situated above ground level, being comprised of wire sides, top and bottom, with the aviary being supported above the ground by....