The Fledging of Kiku


On March 5, 1994, Kiwani and Kaya were observed beginning to work on the inside of their 24-in. long eucalyptus log - the 4 in. thick "tunnel" was mounted horizontally outside their cage with an entrance through the wire. The 6 ft. cage was attached into the limbs of a tree some 15 ft. off the ground (see KIWANI Part I, WATCHBIRD June '95).

At this time the pair of Sun Conures' daily schedule included one or two regular free flights totaling half hour to three hours duration. One cup of course bark and rotten wood was introduced into the nesting log as dry eucalyptus can be quite hard and we chose to give the Suns a head start in creating padding within the cavity. They had been sleeping in it for roughly two months when breeding season commenced.

For over a week, the two Suns, predominantly the female Kaya, worked on the prospective nest site. Shortly after this activity began, their normal day's free flight time was curtailed at their own choosing. Even their favorite activity of feeding on twig, leaf and plum buds in the nearby treetops interested them little.

On March 12, Kiwani and Kaya were seen copulating on a thin swaying branch 30 feet up in the plum tree. Mating activity increased within and without their cage the ensuing week. March 19, Kaya laid her first egg of the clutch; eggs two, three and four were laid thereafter at 36 to 48 hour intervals. Kaya began sitting with the third egg laid on March 23.

Kiwani's guard in and about the cage increased with his hen in the box. He would still take brief daily flights outside in the woods but seldom stayed abroad more than five minutes. The majority of his time was spent in just sitting! This is a common occurrence with male parrots whose hen is sitting in a captive breeding situation where plenty of food is immediately at hand. It is difficult to get the male to exercise and work off excess energy. On April 4 when I climbed up and opened the


cage door, Kiwani flew over and bit me!

Kaya was not seen out of the log, nor would she take a flight during the first critical 14 days of embryo incubation. All her nourishment was received inside the log from regurgitation by the cock. She could occasionally be seen at the opening to the log for early morning defecation. The third week she would come out to sample afternoon seed feeding, but never had the inclination to leave the cage for a flight with her mate.

On April 12, Kiwani would not come out to fly and was exceedingly aggressive. At this point we left the cage locked as Kaya was due in about eight days. She was seen "belly-bathing" during the last week of incubation - immersing her chest and lower abdomen in the large water dish and returning to the nest with wetted feathers to resume incubation. Obviously this hand-raised Sun hen knew that added humidity in the nest chamber was necessary just prior to the hatching process - a factor which has led us to recommend large bath bowls in cages, particularly during nesting cycles.

April 23, we heard feeding noises inside the log; but it is the policy in all our aviaries to open and monitor our nest boxes as little as possible and observe behavior from a distance as much as possible. With certain pairs we even use binoculars! We checked the hollow log eight days later by removing the round plywood cover on the end farthest from the cage wire. Success! There were three well-fed Sun Conure chicks and one dried out infertile egg pushed off to the side. It was removed and composted.

Increased raw greens were provided since many parents start infant birds out on a significantly greener diet than they normally prefer. Our Suns have also been seen gorging on rotted log material and returning to standard nest boxes to feed it to youngsters - a fact which led us to change to true log nest sites for this and other pairs.

At this time we offered Kiwani and


Kaya their afternoon free flights which they enthusiastically took at one or two o'clock when babies were freshly stuffed and quiet. Once when we could not be around to open the door until near dusk, the two Suns rushed out of the cage, flew to their favorite plum tree, then immediately turned around and returned to the nest as darkness fell. On other occasions, Kaya would retire for the night as the sun's rays sank low, while Kiwani lingered on his favorite lookout limb just outside the aviary as darkness crept through the woods. This is a tendency with all my aviary pairs - males will perch in front of or just outside the box opening as evening falls and "guard" the vicinity well after the hen has gone inside. Whether this activity is a cause or one of the effects, I find my male parrots have better night vision either at dusk or if startled out of the box in the middle of the night (at which time I awake and go to the aviaries with two flashlights to help the birds get off the cage wire and return to the box or a stable perch). Perhaps this is mere confidence and protective behavior which can sometimes be observed in males of other species (humans included) in times of crisis.

May 8, three baby Sun Conures were taken out of the log while the parents sat in a nearby tree calmly watching the noisy screwdriver gun efforts at the raised aviary. All were close-banded and replaced in comfort. Kiwani and Kaya, who were out in the woods well over an hour, showed subtle aggression to the babies when they were held up close to the parents. Neither Sun has even chosen to recognize their own babies pulled from the nest box. The hen especially seems to lay, sit and raise offspring in a near trance-like concentration which does not include comprehension of her own babies once they are pulled fromthe sound and feel of the nesting cavity. It seems that for Kiwani and Kaya, a pulled baby is a foreign object. We know of instances of Amazon babies who are taken from parents and kept in a holding tub by the aviculturist then placed back in the birds' cage every morning to be fed by the "daddy," but we have had no such experience.