Swift Parrot breeding in Australia. PART I

February 25th, 2016 | by Bill Boy
Swift Parrot breeding in Australia. PART I

Since I last wrote several articles about the swift parrot much study and examination has been undertaken. Many enquiries have been made overseas and much information gathered, particularly from Holland were this species is frequently bred and in good numbers.

The following is an update on information received from external sources as well as my own experiences.



Swift parrots will breed successfully at a very young age. Birds I bred in December 2000 (hatched 25/12/00, 2 cocks and 1 hen) nested in August 2001 at just over 8 months old !!! Two of these birds paired up as brother and sister although other unrelated young birds were available as choices. This nest contained 4 fertile eggs. One egg failed to hatch (dead in shell) but the other three hatched over a period of one week?? This seems to indicate that the hen commenced incubation with the laying of the first egg. The last hatched chick died at two days old probably as it could not compete with its much larger siblings. Of the other two, one died at 12 days as a leg ring was being placed on, apparently from shock or fright. The remaining bird fledged in due course and was very good quality hen.

Although this nest was not particularly successful it can be seen that 9 months old birds are at least fertile. The same birds reared 4 from 4 in 2002 and all hatched within 3 days indicating that inexperience was probably a factor in the previous attempt.



I would recommend that young birds be held over to their second year to at least gain more maturity but there is no guarantee that they will be more successful than first year birds (no experience) and some even older birds will still incubate early giving staggered hatching so close monitoring of their nests is advisable.

In Holland clutches of six eggs have been recorded several times but the normal clutch is three to five (usually four) as it is here.

In most available Australian literature the incubation time is given as 21 to 25 days, similar to most of the lorikeets but in my experience the first eggs always hatch at 18 days!!

Swift parrots are good parents and will tolerate any nest inspection short of outright vandalism. They feed the chicks well with the male usually entering the nest for the first time to feed the chicks when they are about 5 days of age. What is fed by the parents brings us to the next segment.



Swift Parrot chicks (c) Bill Boyd



Types of diet for swift parrots are many, with most Australian breeders opting for a lorikeet dry mix of some description supplemented with some seed and fruit. I feel that this basic diet is not variable enough and although swifts will breed on this fare it is far from an adequate diet.

The Swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) in the wild is basically a nectar and pollen feeder with some vegetable matter being consumed along with some live food. But in captivity the swift seems to prefer a diet that contains some seed eg, canary or sunflower but this should be rationed. So, having said that, I believe that the following diets should be adequate for the three separate stages in the year as set out below.


After the breeding season (January-July)

A good quality dry lorikeet mix.
Small amounts of both canary and sunflower seed fed in separate containers.
A wet mix containing a little calcium supplement once per week.
Green food in the form of spinach (silver beet) at least once per week.
Fruit, apple, pear etc, every second day.


Parrots and KakarikisNeophema Neopsephotus softgrass finches


Breeding season (August)
Feed as per above but the wet mix should now be increased to at least twice per week.
Feed seeding grasses if any are available as well as the above mentioned greens.
Feed fresh corn on the cob at the rate of one cob per pair every second day.


Breeding season (September-January)

Feed as per the above until eggs hatch. At this time the birds will be looking for something extra although there seems to be ample food.

Don’t increase the wet mix further but supply one slice of plain madeira cake cut about 15mm thick per pair per day.

Frozen corn kernels and peas can be placed in a suitable container and covered with a little water and micro waved for two minutes and fed every second day. These corn kernels can also be mixed into a commercial egg and biscuit mix to form a crumbly mixture as this also provides quick access for the parent birds to feed.



Meal worms although not a necessity will be taken readily even by birds that have never seen them before or have ignored them during the off season. Note, swifts seem to instinctively know how to handle a meal worm. The worm is taken with the beak, passed to the foot (my birds seem to be right handed) and the beak is then used to nibble along the length of the worm until all the internals are eaten leaving the shell which is then discarded. I would suggest the rationing of meal worms to two per chick and two each for the adult birds each day.

At this time I like to feed sprouted sunflower seed and most birds will ignore other foods to eat this so I suggest it should be restricted to about half a cup per pair twice per week when there are chicks in the nest.

So it can be seen that the swift needs a very varied diet and although birds will breed with much less fuss the above is not that hard to do and the results can be seen in the quality of the young.




author: Bill Boyd

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


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