Q & A: “Should the parrot nest be examined and if so how often?”

July 13th, 2016 | by Tony Silva
Q & A: “Should the parrot nest be examined and if so how often?”
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In 1978 I bred the Slender-billed Conure Enicognathus leptorhynchus, a species that had recently appeared in US aviculture and which had not yet been bred by anyone else in the country. In my excitement I called Dave West, a prominent aviculturist whose success with Asiatic parakeet mutations is registered in the annals of aviculture. He listened and then stated: “Don’t look inside the nest, or they will break their eggs or kill the chicks. If the eggs hatch and the chicks are healthy, they will fledge. If they are not healthy, they will perish. But above all do not look in the nest.”

I was 18 years old and curious. I was not about to let an opportunity to learn escape me. I looked and nothing happened. In fact I looked daily. I saw eggs, chicks and learned about the species by satisfying my curiosity. I have not stopped looking inside nests since then. Not only of birds in captivity but also wild parrots, as the nesting habits can shed considerable light on the biology of these birds. On very few occasions have I experienced problems and those problems I firmly believe were due to the pairs not being habituated to nest inspection.

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The question today is:  “Should the nest be examined and if so how often?”

Parrots are creatures of habit. This is why they like certain foods, certain toys, certain enrichment and certain procedures. They dislike change, but when accustomed to continuous changes they adapt as the unpredictable then becomes a habit. Because of this, a pair should be habituated to having their nest examined continuously. The nest door should not be opened exclusively during the nesting season, but throughout the year, even when the pair has not gone inside. The birds will see this and become adapted to the procedure; it then become part of the daily protocol. When they are nesting, they will aggressively defend the nest but they will not react by breaking the eggs or killing the chicks when you do look inside. They will accept the inspection as normal.

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My protocol is to look at my birds early in the morning. While making the rounds, I look inside the nests. I look at each nest at least twice weekly. The examination of the nest also provides information about the birds and aviary: has the pair gone inside, is the rodent control program effective (rodents will enter and breed inside nesting boxes) and are insects under control? I had a friend lose countless birds to Sarcocystis. The roaches were breeding inside the nests. When the birds started breeding, they ate the infected roaches. He rarely inspected the nests and thus was unaware that they were a roach breeding ground. By examining the nests I can detect if roaches are a problem. Once I also found a bee nest. The bees would have attacked the birds when they entered, but early detection allowed the bees to be removed.

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f4/Myiopsitta_monachus_-nest_-Brazil-8b.jpg/640px-Myiopsitta_monachus_-nest_-Brazil-8b.jpg?uselang=cs

Some nests are difficult to inspect. Typical case is the nest of the Quaker Parrot (Myiopsitta monachus). (c) Cláudio Timm. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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The nest door should not be opened abruptly. Rather the inhabitants should be informed of what is about to happen. I tap on the nest and talk to the birds. This is the means I use to let them know that I am about to look inside. This prevents the birds from being startled and the eggs being broken or the chick injured or killed. Also, the nest door should always be on the side and never on the top. A nest that open from the top will result in crushed eggs or injured young sooner or later, as the incubating bird will jump to try and attack. A side inspection door will allow the incubating bird to move away to permit the visualization of the nest contents.

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Finally a nest that is outside the cage is easiest to examine and the nest inspection is less stressful on the birds than a nest inside the enclosure, which must be entered. An intruder inside a cage housing a pair of parrots may well be attacked. In self-defense the breeder may injure the birds. Or the birds may jump inside and back out in a defensive posture, breaking the eggs or injuring the young.

As can be seen from the above, nest inspection is important and needs to be part of your daily protocol.

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Author: Tony Silva

Title photo: (c) TJ Lin. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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