Preventive measures for the management of parrots at Loro Parque Fundación

December 2nd, 2020 | by Rafael Zamora Padron
Preventive measures for the management of parrots at Loro Parque Fundación

In these days, when the planet and its inhabitants are facing to consequences of an extraordinary viral epidemic, the parrots in our latitudes are at the final of their breeding activity. Thus, it is convenient to remind sanitary rules and preventive measures. Most of the breeding centers do not perform tasks related to hygiene when birds are breeding to avoid disturbing of the pairs and their babies. However, this is exactly the moment when we should pay attention to cleaning of cages and hygiene maintenance. With this, future problems can be avoided.

At the beginning of the breeding season

There is a moment when males start displaying but the females are still not ready to breed. In this time, we can keep cleaning cages in the same way we do in the rest of year. Just shorten the cleaning period and focus on surfaces where the birds spend most of their time. It is important to use this time to observe behavior and feces of our animals as well. We can notice when the female is not eating well because her partner is chasing her from feces that are bellow the perch where she stays. Thanks to this simple routine we can find out whether she eats or not. Observing birds gives us immediate information about their condition, with that we can react in case it is necessary.

(c) Loro Parque Fundación

It is also important to observe condition of feathers on abdomen and tail. If they are dirty and untidy we need to clean them. This can be caused by intestinal parasites and can lead to infertility of eggs. What is more, such feathers lose its ability to thermoregulate and thus birds can suffer from hypothermia.

During the incubation period

If everything is going well and the pair is compatible, the female will start incubating the eggs. There is no doubt, that some species are especially delicate to get disturbed and can leave the nest as result. That’s why we can reduce our cleaning activities in these days. However, we should not avoid observing the birds. They have to receive fresh food and water as they are used to. When the female is incubating on regular basis, after the first five days we can start cleaning again. The feces get bigger than usually because the bird retains them when incubating and then release them at once when leaves the nest to go to eat and drink.

It is necessary to keep the cages clean if we want to avoid illnesses and parasites. The birds will accept this routine as long as we do it on regular basis, each time in the same way and according the same protocol. Following these rules, the breeder can get to part of the aviary where the nest is and the birds will get used to this process without being disturbed. This is also a good way how to prepare the birds for nest inspections. Later, when we need to check the eggs or babies, the parents will tolerate it.

(c) Loro Parque Fundación

At the moment, when we decide to go to see what is happening inside of the nest, the best thing is to put fresh food early in the morning before the nest inspection. When the females leave the nest, it is the right time to control it with no difficulties. In case of small sized species, it is always good to let the birds know before opening the nest door. It can be just a short scratching or soft knocking. Species like Forpus parrots or Australian parakeets will react quickly and leave the nest.

Remember that the nest inspection should be done early in the morning so the pair can get back to the nest. If we do this late in the afternoon the parents might not get back before the dark. With this, eggs can get cold.

Hatching of the babies

A couple of days after hatching is the most delicate period for the chicks. If we see dirty feathers or very wet substrate, that is typical for some species of lories and lorikeets, we should clean it one week before the chicks hatch. It is unlikely that the female would abandon the eggs in this phase, especially if we follow the rules mentioned above. Not all species keep their nest clean and tidy. What is more, different females of the same species can have a different approach. Some of them prepare the substrate very carefully while others throw everything out and leave the nest empty. The latter way is not very good for the eggs.

There are several situations which might occur after hatching:

Females that leave their babies

There are many reasons of this problem. One of them can be too frequent inspections of the nest. Sometimes we do changes and leave track inside of the nest. Slight change of position of the nest can result in aggressive behavior of the parents towards their babies. In this case, they can mutilate them (cut their fingers, beak or wings).

Very often it happens that female’s feathers get dirty and sticky because the interior of nest is untidy. As result, the eggs or babies can stick to these dirty feathers. Such situation can lead to a tragic end.

In this period, we can observe that females get nervous and do not want to enter the nest. This behavior can be provoked by presence of external parasites. If the nest is highly contaminated with the feather mites it can discourage the parents to get back into the nest. This is very common in case of second or third clutches when the nest is full of feces and dirt. We can resolve this having two nests in each cage. One of them is removed when being cleaned and the birds can start using the other one, if they accept it, of course. They might also wait until the other nest is ready and will use the same again.

Avoid the parasites before, during and after

To avoid feather mites we have to use repellents or insecticides, which are not harmful for babies or parents. Preventive hygiene and regular use of repellents is the best way to resolve this problem once it occurs.

In India, local breeders penetrate wood of the nest with Neem Tree oil before it is used. The results are very good and do not affect health of the parrots in case we follow the recommendations for use. On the other hand, in Europe there are many commercial products with repellent effect which interrupt the cycle of the parasites in a very efficient way. The best way is to use it at the moment we notice the problem or also as precaution.

(c) Loro Parque Fundación

For the parasites that live in substrate on the aviary ground and that affect especially the species of Australian parakeets, we use here in Loro Parque and Loro Parque Fundación slaked lime. If we sprinkle this product on bottom of the aviary on regular basis it will prevent growth of germs and worms which reproduce in the ground. Use of bleach and other disinfectants that are commonly available at the market will also save us from resolving future problems.

It is always necessary to avoid mice, pigeons or sparrows from getting in our breeding facility. Wild birds can suffer of many types of pathogens and can bring illnesses to our place. One single feather from wild birds that falls into our facility can rapidly contaminate our aviaries and animals living inside.

Author: Rafael Zamora Padrón, Scientific Director of LPF


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