Mixed Species Aviary Breeding


When I first started breeding birds, I built typical aviaries, rectangular in shape, perches at each end, and one pair of birds per flight. While this is still the best method for commercial and/ or large scale bird breeding operations for the hobbyist breeder, I have found that mixed species aviaries not only are as productive as single species flights (and in many cases more so), but they are infinitely more interesting to watch and enjoy, and I believe more "stimulating" for the birds. Combine this with a planted flight and you can bring the hobby of bird breeding and bird watching together in one! One problem most bird breeders eventually end up with is not enough space to build all the aviaries or cages they need. Mixed species aviaries is one solution to this by putting several pairs of birds in the same flight. This can only be done as long as the aviculturist practices the first cardinal rule of bird keeping, "using common sense and close observation"!

I have found over the years many books, magazine articles and conversations with "bird people" stating emphatically that you cannot keep this species with that species or more than two of this kind of bird in the same aviary. Sometimes they were right but, just as often, I have found them to be wrong. Common sense and close observation are the keys in mixing species! Also, if possible, I believe a planted flight helps as it distracts visually so that birds are not staring at each other across the length of the aviary where the usual configuration is one perch at each end.

I know some of you are saying that you can't put birds such as Scarletchested Parakeets in a planted flight because they chew the leaves off everything (I am sure central Australia was a rainforest before Scarletchesteds arrived and turned it into a desert), but I have found that by trying different plants and trees there are some they won't destroy.

Also, I use some fast growing plants such as the cape honeysuckle. The birds like to chew on it and I feel it provides them more natural environment and therfore more stimulus to breed. For the hookbills, chewing on leaves and branches is a natural activity and I believe utilizing live plants has nutritional as well as psychological benefits.

Let me share several examples of birds which many past authors have stated emphatically "cannot be kept with any other species" but which I have found will live and breed to- gether, of which I am sure there are many more. Two species of birds that virtually all references say are very aggressive and should not be put in with other birds or with their own kind except in pairs are the Australian Hooded Parakeet and the Blood (or Crimson) Finch, also from Australia and New Guinea. Often it appears the authors are repeating what they have heard or read and have never tried to verify the truth of these rumors but take them as "gospel" and pass them along.

I currently have three breeding pairs of Crimson Finches (white-bellied), one pair of which has been in a communal aviary for almost one year. One pair is in with a colony of Lady Gouldians, and the third pair is in an aviary with various neophemas and parrot finches.

The communal aviary is 12' x 12' x 8' high, planted with a ficus tree, bottlebrush and cape honeysuckle. The following birds are currently residing in this flight: one pair each of Blue Cap Waxbills, Peter's Twinspots, Yellow Turquoisines, Hooded Parakeets and Rosey Bourke's, three pairs of Lady Gouldians, and one pair of Crimson Finch. Young were raised from all pairs in this flight with the exception of Peter's Twinspots which were obtained after the breeding season. As of this writing, the Hoodeds fledged five young three weeks ago and the Lady Gouldians are currently fledging babies. As I write this article, the Blood Finch are going to nest with the male picking the molted small feathers from the Rosey Bourke's off the wire to line the nest. Their nest is less than two feet away from the nest where the Blue Caps nested and never has there been a fight.

The only aggression ever seen is when I put eggshells in for the birds. The female Blood Finch will try and keep all the other birds away from them while she eats, but since there are so many, while she chases one the others eat and, in fact, she probably ends up with the least of anyone.