Jim Van Reyk: Aviary notes on the Blue-cheeked Rosella. PART II

October 7th, 2015 | by Jim van Reyk
Jim Van Reyk: Aviary notes on the Blue-cheeked Rosella. PART II
Breeding
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Read also the first part of this article:

Jim Van Reyk: Aviary notes on the Blue-cheeked Rosella. PART I

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The fledgling to juvenile stage

Among our pairs young, it is noticeable that the Bluey is very slow to reach adult colour taking about 12mths and occasionally longer. Two males I had a few years ago took to about 18mths until I was happy with them. The red splotches on the head can be there for just as long and as juveniles they can look rather more than a washed out version of the parents. Certainly a more “dingey” complexion than the female. Young will frequently have quite a few splotches of pale yellow on abdomen and chest, the mantle is invariably black that is margined with a very pale yellow rather than blue, though a few blue margins can be seen soon after fledging. The blue cheek patches are also very feint though they are unmistakable as to parentage and sub-specie.

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jim2

(c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Attitude

Very pugnacious specie particularly to other Rosella and broadtails. Definitely best kept as pairs in a single flight with a preference for nearby occupants being anything but broadtails. I prefer Neophema/Lorikeets or the less aggressive Psephotus in adjoining or alongside flights. The Lorikeets are my preference as a “barrier”. The young birds are generally very skittish and take a while to settle into a new environment when removed from the parent pair. The skittish behavior can be an extended period of weeks to a couple of months. Similarly, adult birds that are relocated take some time to settle and need to be closely watched for any signs of stress related problems for a couple of months or so. Once settled they can become “friendly” and can be approached without a panic flight away from your approach, particularly when housed in a long (min of 3m) flight. I have a good breeding pair of the local variant who will actually approach me looking for a tit-bit. They are an exception to general behavior.

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They are a very sedentary bird that is active early morning and towards dusk. The “heat” of the day is definitely their quiet time. This is common with both aviary and wild birds.

They do get quite agitated/excited when spooked by larger birds that fly over or land on the top of the flights and when wild Rosella’s (Local Blue-cheeks) visit to feed under our suspended flights. This agitation can result in a bout of perch to perch flight and much tail wagging and scolding by both sexes but does not seem to get to the stage of blind panic. They soon settle when the threat has passed or the “visitors” retreat to the ground beneath the suspended flights. Hot humid weather does not affect them to any noticeable degree but I would imagine that they would take some time to acclimatise to colder regions.

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jim3

(c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Breeding

Once a bonded mature pair have settled, they will be ready breeders and will often double clutch. The season locally (Townsville region) is from late August through to about March and the mating ritual/habit is as for other Rosella’s. We can sometimes have an early clutch around the late April depending on the rain. They will readily accept a nest box or a suitably sized hollow log. My preference is for a log about 300mm dia by approx 400mm deep with a natural open top. A nest box approx 300mm square by about 500mm deep with a log spout of approx 75mm dia ahs also been chosen on occasions. I try generally, to DNA (blood) sex and ring the chicks at about fourteen days old. Clutches vary from three to five but most of mine have been two to three and generally all eggs are fertile.

Nest inspections are tolerated but I usually inspect when I feed late arvo so the hen is generally out at this time. Open top logs are obviously placed inside at the rear of the flight near a cage front. This makes nest inspections tricky but I use a digital camera held over the open top to take a picture for nest inspection checks. All my nest boxes are externally hung so there is minimal disturbance or time taken for the look.

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jim4

(c) Lubomir Tomiska

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We have hand-raised (out of necessity) a couple of times over the years and they are no problem to feed using either syringe or spoon. They remain tame but can get spiteful as they mature so I can not suggest that they would make a good hand-raised pet. They are great whistlers. We have an ageing cock bird that whistles the first few bars of the 1812 Overture (in two separate octaves), The Blue Danube and a variety of other whistle sounds. He will also occasionally mutter a few words.

A “trick” I have learnt to stimulate the breeding instinct in the hen is to place short lengths (200/300mm lg) of the local paperbark trunks (up to 50mm dia) in the box, as soon as I notice the hen inspecting/entering the box. She will spend a lot of time in there stripping/shredding the bark to form a nest generally shaping out a hollow in one corner of the box.

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jim5

(c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Feeding

Small Parrot/Peachface mix supplemented with a bit of extra Grey-stripe Sunflower and Racehorse Oats (not hulled oats) is a staple diet. I also add extra Safflower during the breeding season. Greens and Apples are enjoyed, as are sprouted seed particularly Mung Beans. I also feed green seed heads as often as I can and my better half Jenny, has a couple of gum trees growing that she uses to give them a special treat of fresh eucalypt leaves/bark/nuts. They do enjoy a bath so keeping up the water is a daily chore. Basically they are not fussy feeders and are easy to cater for. A few breeders I know have converted the Bluey’s to pellets but as with other species converted to pellets don’t forget the greens and fruit and soaked seed. I am a firm believer in keeping them (and our other birds) “lean and mean” to promote healthy breeding stock but pump in the tucker when breeding season looks like starting and of course, when there are chicks in the nest.

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Housing

I house our collection of the Aussie native Parrots and Lorikeets, and a few “foreigners”, in suspended flights that are made in banks of two or three adjoining flights. The flights are 1200mm of the ground on Koppers Log and “C” purlin rails, and have minimal sheltered areas to combat our hot/very humid climate. The flights are bracketed to the rails and have withstood the 170KPH winds experienced during Cyclone Yasi.

The larger Broadtails and the larger Rosella’s including the Pale-head/Bluey’s, are housed in flights that are 900mm high, 900mm wide and 3000mm long. The two flight suspended has two 900mm wide flights and the three flight suspended has a central 900mm wide flight, the outer ones being 450mm wide which allows me to keep Neo’s and smaller birds/Lorikeets as a barrier between the Rosella’s and other broadtails. Being the pugnacious critters that they are, they are best housed one pair per flight and not alongside similar species.

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jim1

(c) Lubomir Tomiska

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Conclusions

A great aviary specimen that is easy to care for, easy on the eye and generally (when available), relatively easy on the hip pocket. A species that seems to handle a fairly wide range (gets very cold on the northern tablelands) of climatic conditions. Good breeders once they settle but their pugnacious nature takes some thought when housing them. They have been our favourites for many years and when we made the decision to specialize on just a couple of the Aussie natives rather than have an eclectic collection. The Bluey’s (and Northern’s) were always going to be part of the change.

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e-mail:   jimandjennyvanreyk@hotmail.com

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Read also the first part of this interview:

Jim Van Reyk: Aviary notes on the Blue-cheeked Rosella. PART I

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Title photo: (c) Lubomir Tomiska

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