Tony Silva: Hand raised parrots can become excellent parents if we treat them well. PART II

April 5th, 2016 | by LubosTomiska
Tony Silva: Hand raised parrots can become excellent parents if we treat them well. PART II
Tony Silva NEWS

Read also te first part of this interview:

Tony Silva: Understanding parrots is my obsession. PART I


You have collected data on differences between parent raised and hand raised parrots in regard of their future breeding skills. What did you find out?

Europeans have this great adversity to hand-rearing, believing that the birds produced are inferior or will not breed. This is not at all the case if the birds are reared in groups, introduced to enrichment and allowed to develop social and behavioral skills like their parent reared counterparts. I have multiple generations of amazons, macaws and African Greys that were hand-reared and have no problem rearing their young when given the opportunity.

It is not the act of hand-rearing that produces poor birds but rather the way they are treated from weaning through adulthood that is the critical phase. We rear them in groups, preferably of their own kind or a similar species; introduce the young to enrichment (branches, seed pods, split green coconuts, etc.) from a young age (when they begin to perch), this to develop chewing skills; and fly them in groups, which experience enrichment continuously, this to develop social interaction skills, flying and foraging. The chicks never have the wings clipped.


blue and gold macaw babies hand feeding

Blue and Gold Macaw babies (c) Tony Silva


What happens with parrots after a few generations in captivity? (body size, inbreeding, sexual maturity, …)

I have many generations of several species. Inbreeding is not as deleterious as was once believed. It should be avoided but is not the demise of a species when it must happen. We have a group of Bonaire Conures that emanate from two individuals. No more could ever be acquired, Today we have 7 generations of inbreeding. The only effect this has had is that some develop a crest. We cull these individuals and find them homes as pets. In other species, generations of captivity produces birds that mature earlier, tend to be slightly larger and are hardier, especially when compared to the the many species that were very delicate when wild caught.


In the past you have published many books including the recent new edition of Psittaculture in Czech. What publishing activities do you plan now? Is the new edition going to be published also in English and other languages?

The English edition of the new Psittaculture will be out this year. It will be the most complete parrot book published in decades, with hundreds of contributions and references. The book will also contain a huge array of new images. The German and Spanish editions should follow. The Czech edition received glowing reviews and I am sure the same will apply for the English, German and Spanish versions. My goal is to provide a manual for the beginner, intermediate and advanced breeder. I have condensed more than 40 years of parrot breeding knowledge in the 1500 page manuscript. I am sure there is new information for everyone.



The version of new edition Psittaculture (in Czech: “Pruvodce chovem papousku”)


You were one of the co-founders of the Spix’s Macaw project. Today, after more than 20 years it seems that this species will come back to the wild again. What do you think about current conservation plans and what is the future of this species in captivity and the wild?

The Spix’s Macaw was saved through tremendous foresight. I was at Loro Parque and with their backing, Juan Villalba Macias of the then TRAFFIC South America, Obdulio Menghi of the CITES Secretariat and myself, we created a framework to save the species. Today Al Wabra, ACTP and others are taking the project to a new level. Eventually the species will be released ito the wild and this will show that aviculture can work together on a worldwide scale to save a species. I think that all breeders should understand that aviculture has become globalized and that we need to cooperate, exchange information and participate on a global scale and never on a local scale.

Lear’s Macaws were at the edge of extinction a few years ago with the last few hundreds of individuals in the wild. Today, they are being reproduced well in captivity and they are doing well also in the wild. Do you believe that such rare birds like Lear’s Macaws, St. Vincent Amazons or St. Lucia Amazon will get to more private collections one day?

I think that the Lear’s Macaw’s greatest threat was hunting for food. Jose Tella and his group in Spain, whose research on this species has shed considerable light, encountered many villagers who recall having eaten the macaws. Captivity was initially seen as a means to keep the species from extinction. Today the wild populations are safe and larger than originally thought. The captive population is responding brilliantly. The next phase should be to allow private ownership to keep some of these birds legally. The same for all other endangered parrots. Private breeders have a tremendous success record in aviculture and allowing these species to reach breeders, as long as these understand that they must participate in a broader conservation program, is a positive step.


Spix's Macaw baby

The first Spix’s Macaw chick bred in Loro Parque when Tony was there (c) Tony Silva fb page


What do you think about releasing of parrots to the wild in general? Some aviculturists believe that it’s just wasting of sources as we can’t stop the devastation of natural habitat as well as poaching.

Captive bred, hand-reared parrots adapt readily to the wild if they are properly conditioned. The work of Chris Castles in Costa Rica has amply demonstrated this. The key is protecting the environment and involving the local community, which must live with the birds. Blanket bans as encouraged by conservation groups rarely prove effective. This is because the individuals who live with the parrots, who tolerate their depredations on their small, subsistence agricultural plots, who contribute to a meager income when trapped and sold, or whose flesh is a source of protein must never be overlooked.

Indeed I think that the ban on trade in the USA and EU have done nothing to protect the myriad of Indonesian and African species whose populations have spiraled towards extinction. The local people must be involved and they must perceive a benefit in order for them to protect the forest and parrots. If you fail to do this, then the forest and parrots will also fail to survive.


Do you think that aviculturists can and will play an important role in active parrot conservation?

Yes, I believe the work that Daniel Gowland is doing with the Orange-bellied Parrot in Australia is illustrative. Daniel is showing that private breeders have a huge acumen of knowledge that must be tapped. Breeders worldwide can also contribute towards the preservation of parrots. As an example, many Indonesia lories face imminent extinction in the wild. We as breeders must establish sustainable captive populations to prevent their disappearance. There are already more Swift Parrots in captivity than there are in the wild. Breeders started with a small genepool or delicate birds and today have a sturdy aviary bred strain that is a guarantee towards extinction. There is no reason why this cannot be done with the vast array of doomed species.


Title photo: (c) Jan Potucek



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