AbstractJohn Gould is regarded by many as the father of ornithology in Australia. In 1839 he wrote of our parrots "no group of birds gives Australia so foreign an air as the numerous species of this great family each and all of which are very abundant."
This statement is largely true today with most parrot species being found in good numbers in the wild. However two species, the Night Parrot and the Paradise Parrot, do verge on the brink of extinction. Some would argue that the Paradise Parrot has already gone the way of the Dodo. Many of our Australian species have adapted well to European settlement and can now be found in and around our cities and towns.
Of the 330 parrot species found throughout the world, 60 or so occur in Australia. This diversity of species is not matched by the parrots from any other country. From our Cockatoos, both black and white, to the tiny fig parrots of the Queensland rain forest, the range of species is incredibly diverse. Habitat obviously plays an important role when it comes to the diversity of our many parrot species.
It should be noted that there is obviously a close affinity between the cockatoos, Eclectus parrot, lorikeets and fig parrots of New Guinea and the Islands to Australia's north and our own endemic species. However, many of the other Austalian species are unique members of the parrot family.
The history of aviculture in Australia shows that parrots have been kept and bred in captivity for at least 150 years. In the early days stocks of birds were easily replenished by trapping, however, in the last 30 years stocks have been maintained and increased by successful captive breeding. Wild-trapped birds were usually more difficult to establish in captivity than those that are (now) aviary-bred. The keeping of non-domesticated pet birds in single cages has decreased dramatically over this same period of time due to the implementation of wildlife protection laws. Unlike American and English aviculturists, Australians are fortunate to be able to keep native species in captivity under license.
Many species are now bred in such numbers that disposal of excess birds can be difficult. Some aviculturists now choose not to breed from the common species as there is no demand for youngsters bred. Ironically, species such as the Princess Parrot and the Scarlet-chested Parrot, which are two of Australia's rarest species in the wild, fit into this category.
With the large numbers of birds being bred in certain species the inevitable production of mutations has occurred. Many Australian aviculturists are now specializing in the breeding of color mutations in their various forms. In recent times, however, there seems to be more aviculturists expressing concern that some species are beginning to lose genetic integrity.
A concerted effort is also being made by some breeders to keep both species and subspecies genetically pure. For example, in recent years those keeping species such as the Port Lincoln Parrot or its subspecies, the Twenty Eight Parrot, have begun to carefully select birds that are true to type. In my opinion this augers well for the future of our hobby in Australia.
Intestinal worms have been a problem with aviary birds for many years. The high susceptibility of Australian parrots to this problem was first recognized in the 1960s. Most Australian species, with the exception of lorikeets and some cockatoos, are ground feeding birds. When kept in confinement (often in damp aviaries) the likelihood of worm infestation is very high. The popularity of Australian parrots worldwide in the 1960s and the 1970s probably stimulated the early veterinary research into this prevalent aviary disease.
Traditionally Australian parrots have been kept in open flighted aviaries with an attached shelter section. Fortunately the climate in Australia is mild enough to allow parrots to be kept out of doors.
In recent times lorikeet breeders realized the merits of housing their birds in suspended flights. Despite the fact that lorikeet breeders seem to be utilizing dry diets to a greater extent, these birds still have liquid droppings which are best suited to suspended aviary floors.
Apart from some of the small lorikeets and grass parakeets, an all-steel aviary is recommended to avoid the prob- lem of birds chewing aviary wood work. Double wire between flights is also required as most Australian parrots will squabble through the wire and in some cases injuries can occur. Half inch weldmesh is the most common wire used in aviary construction for all Australian parrots, as distinct from the cockatoos, which require heavy gauge wire.
Some aviculturists have been successful in breeding certain parrot species on a colony system. I have seen the neophemas, lorikeets and the Princess Parrot bred on the colony system. Rarely have I seen colonies work successfully when species are mixed. It is generally accepted that one pair to an aviary will produce better breeding results.
Chisholm, A.H. 1965. Bird Wonders of Australia.
Halstead Press, Sydney, Australia.
Forshaw, J.M., 1989. Parrots of the World (3rd rev. ed.). Lansdowne Editions, Willoughby, Australia.
Hutchins, B.R. & Lovell, R.H. 1985. Australian Parrots: A Field and Aviary Study, The Avicultural Society of Australia, Melbourne, Australia.
Sindel, S. 1986. Australian Lorikeets. Singil Press, Chipping Norton. Australia.
Reprinted from AFA Annual Conference Proceedings. 1994. ~