Interview with David T. Longo, the successful breeder and exporter of parrots. PART I

March 6th, 2015 | by LubosTomiska
Interview with David T. Longo, the successful breeder and exporter of parrots. PART I

Read also the second part of this interview:

Interview with David T. Longo, the successful exporter and breeder of parrots. PART II


What’s your relationship to parrots? You are a breeder, trader, both…?

I have had birds almost my entire life. I enjoy the company of birds more than some people, birds (like most animals) know how to be honest. I am an aviculturist/psittaculturist first and foremost. Agent to my clients is second, I only work for clients who order birds they are interested in acquiring. I work with as many zoological institutions as I do the private sector.

I do not like to be labelled as dealer or trader. I do not acquire mass amounts of birds and sit on them waiting for them to sell. It’s funny because many frown on dealers as only treating the birds as commodities with no sensitivity toward their individual needs. Even though I work differently, I still get tossed in the same category, to some it’s splitting hairs… It comes with the territory.

Do you have any education related to zoology?

My tenure was at the oldest Veterinary College in N. America, University of Guelph in the early 90‘s. I studied ornithology, herpetology, zoology, marine biology bud did not complete my BSc Degree as I saw it was not mandatory for my new future career, that and I was lacking finances so had lot of time to think about this decision.



The map of countries where David trades the birds.


Your breeding facility is located in Canada?

Yes, my main collection is here in Canada. I am currently under expansion building new facilities in 2 more countries to better facilitate international shipments foremost for myself, then clients.

Can you tell us more about your aviculture career?

I was that same boy who picked up partially feathered robins who fell out of the nests to bring them home after school and cut up insects to feed them. Bringing home frogs and catching butterflies was a close second. I starting keeping and breeding finches, budgerigars and cockatiels as young as 6 years and lovebirds by the time I was 18. This was when I began working at a well known pet store chain here in the Toronto area as this was the first line of exposure to be able to get hands on experience with all these wonderful species of large parrots.

During my time there, I was mentored by a now friend Conrad Hines who managed the bird department. I bought my first Yellow-naped amazon parrot when I was 20. I got to know many of the breeders that supplied the pet stores so I learned the real sources for these birds. At 23, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, At 26, I was invited to attend Tenerife for the Congreso de Papagayos and then was convinced after meeting the cream of the crop from around the world what was written for my life.

I have been deeply involved in every aspect of aviculture (sales, veterinary technical care, neonatal care, husbandry, management, I also sat on Board of Directors for a parrot related organization for 6 years. My work has taken me thus far to 26 countries and I have shipped birds to over 20 countries to date in 17 years. I enjoy documenting my successes and experiences, we have published over 20 articles and scientific papers all available on our website.

One extremely important project I am fortunate to be involved in was organizing the IV International Symposium on Breeding Birds in Captivity in honour of the late Dr. Jean Delacour. We have recently published the near 2“ thick hardcover Proceedings of this Symposium available on our website. We had delegates from over 30 countries attend. We have recognized and bestowed awards by the ISBBC to some of the greatest aviculturists in foreign countries for their work and involvement in our field.


David Crane

The vet examination of the crane.


Can you describe your breeding facility?

The facilities we had north of Toronto was on a 30 hectare parcel of forested land surrounded by farmland. We had 2 old renovated insulated buildings with majority of the aviaries being 1.2m up to 2.4 suspended. A few of these had indoor/outdoor access into 6.6 – 10metre flights. The new location we are in the middle of moving to will have state of the art indoor/outdoor 10metre walk in aviaries designed for flight. They will all have outdoor access for 8 months of the year.

We want to see our macaws and cockatoos fly at great lengths under the elements, not 2-3 wingbeats. I do not feel this is appropriate exercise or enough motivation to encourage flight and have good cardiovascular workout. The norm here in Canada and northern US states is that birds are kept in aviaries 2-3m indoors to endure winters. We have different challenges here and the typical EU or Australian facilities is not something traditionally seen here, I hope to help change this trend for the better suited quality of life for the birds.

What species do you breed now?

Some of my proudest accomplishments is reproducing the most difficult of all 17 species of macaws in captivity, Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilata), for 7 years with 3 different pairs. The other is being the only person in Canada to have reproduced any toucans and the most difficult ramphastid, R.tucanus (Red-billed Toucan) I have been priviledged and honoured of earning 3 Canadian first breedings, for P.l.xanthomeria, P.roseifrons (actually first in N. America) and R.tucanus. I have an immense passion for the genus amazona. We house over 25 species of amazons, bred 7 thus far, bred 5 species of macaws, 10 species of conures, 2 of Lories, raised over 100 species of psittacines and also bred some pheasants, softbills, galliformes etc.

Right now, we are rebuilding our collection as we have had some major life changes the past 5 years we parted with some of the more common birds and re-pairing some surplus and are now right in the middle of moving to a central tourist location to open our new built facilities to the public. Some parrots we should expect to produce this season will be Yellow-naped Amazon (A.auropalliata), Double Yellow-headed Amazon (A.o.magna), Blue-fronted Amazon (A.a.xanthopteryx), Lilac-crowned Amazon (A.f.woodi), White-fronted Amazon (A.albifrons), Vinaceous Amazon (A.vinacea), P.pfrimeri, P.dissimilis, E.roseicapillus, C. moluccensis etc.


David manilata

Arguably, the most challenging species of macaw to reproduce, Red-bellied Macaw


What’s your experience with the Red-bellied Macaw? Do you think that they are already acclimatized in captivity for different diet?

If they are wild stock and have lived this long in captivity from their country of origin on captive diet, they are certainly acclimatized. It is always wise to keep the same foods they were eating before you got them in their aviary and introduce new diets to compliment the foods they already know. In my experience, if they thrive for more than a year or two in captivity with the constant change in locations or environments, tolerating human presence etc. They should be comfortable to possibly reproduce.

The F1’s or captive bred birds should not have a problem reproducing as they grow into the environment so they do not stress, they are taught to be high strung, to stress and worry from the parents. With the wild caughts, there were days I swear if you looked at them the wrong way, they would drop dead on you.

Can you describe the way of feeding parrots in your facility?

Spring time for the amazons and macaws we feed a rationed seed and nut diet consisting of over 20 varieties of a custom mix I have refined over the past 15 years to gear the birds up for breeding season. 3 -4 weeks before season begins we take some of our chopped fruits traditionally cut for the toucans, touracos, eclectus, caiques and share with the amazons before breeding. Cockatoos we increase ratio of seed and sprouted beans for breeding.

We also give vegetables and sprouted beans with the seeds, we rotate every second day to give variety and enrichment. Lories, we give low percentage pellets, blended fruits so they lick their bowls clean and nothing goes to waste and commercial lory nectar and powder. Conures recieve sprouted seeds and dry seed mix as well with rice and legumes. During winter months, we feed higher percentage of maintenance pellet diet and offer rice, pastas with vegetables to all birds on rotating days.


File:Amazona collaria -Vienna Zoo, Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria-8a (2).jpg

David trades even the rare parrot species like this Yellow-billed Amazon (c) Alois Staudacher. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


Do you prefer hand feeded or parent raised parrots for breeding? Do you hand feed a lot?

I prefer parent reared birds without question. Only their parents can teach them to be birds, we can try but we will never replicate what the parents instincts tell them. The common species we reproduce are handfed and offered to the pet market here. Uncommon or rare species we encourage parent reared to offer other aviculturists for future breeding programs.

All other breeders in Canada try to reproduce everything en masse and handfeed, then the birds run the risk of being imprinted on humans and most of the time become terrible breeding stock. Perfect example are male moluccan cockatoos, they do not know what to do with the females and do not know how to behave or control their displaced aggression and injure or kill the hens. Then the country’s left with all these handfed males with identity crisis‘ and shortage of females, in essence, a generation lost of cockatoos who do not reproduce. End result, another species plummets from aviculture…

What law restrictions of breeders do you have in Canada? Just registration of CITES species?

None. We do not need to report to CITES or C.F.I.A. (Agriculture department) or anyone if we breed birds. The only regulations we have is the different forms of exotic animal by-laws in certain municipalities, what you can and cannot keep. The people who do live in these cities or areas are majority basement breeders, we cannot keep birds in backyards or neighbours will most likely complain of the noise. I simply moved far away from the city into agricultural or urban areas where there was little to no legislation restricting exotics.


David shipment

Shipment of amazon parrots ready to be shipped to Jordan.


Are there many breeders in Canada?

We do not have a lot of aviculturists per capita as in Netherlands or Australia in our huge country but there are some exceptional ones. One well known is the H.A.R.I. managed by Mr. Mark Hagen, has tours of his facilities all the time. I too welcome visitors from all around the globe, have had aviculturists from as far as Australia, to Phillipines and India to see our growing operation. There are one or two others that have ideal conditions with some interesting parrots I like to take my visitors to when they come.


Read also the second part of this interview:

Interview with David T. Longo, the successful exporter and breeder of parrots. PART II





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