Zdenek Vandelik talks about his large collection of South American parrots. PART I

August 29th, 2016 | by LubosTomiska
Zdenek Vandelik talks about his large collection of South American parrots. PART I

Read also the second part of this interview:

Zdenek Vandelik: successful breeding comes with passion, not desire for profit. PART II


At the beginning of this summer, we visited a well known Czech aviculturist Zdenek Vandelik. Zdenek keeps many rare South American parrots in amazing facility. Read following interview which we have made at his place.

Zdenek, tell us more about beginning of your aviculture career.

In 2000, my friend came to me and said that we could start breeding birds. At the very beginning I had common finches like Zebra Finch, Society Finch etc. In total it was seven species and I have bred them all. After three years, it became quite boring and I needed a new challenge. At that time, I started with parrots. My first species was the Maroon-bellied Conure. In the next year, eleven chicks were raised from two pairs. This was a huge motivation for me and therefore I decided to set up a collection of Pyrrhura parrots. I achieved to have 12 species and one of them, Sulphur-winged Conure, was bred by myself for the firt time in the Czech Republic.

Today, we do not see any Pyrrhura parrots in your collection. You are well known as Aratinga conures specialist.

You are right. I stopped breeding Pyrrhura many years ago and started with Aratinga conures. After a visit of a large breeder of South American parrots in Slovakia, Zdenek Pichlik, I fell in love with these birds.


Zdenek Vandelik with his Hyacint Macaw

Zdenek Vandelik with his Hyacint Macaw (c) Lubomir Tomiska


rare Aratinga mitrata alticola (c) Lubomir Tomiska


One of the reasons you breed South American parrots is the fact that you have seen them in the wild. Can you tell us more about your expeditions?

I have visited South America twice. For the first time, it was eight years ago with the Czech travel agency Primaroute which arranges expeditions for bird breeders. We went to Peru and saw many species of macaws, Amazona, Pyrrhura, Pionus, Pionites parrots etc. In the last year, friends from Slovakia asked me to go to Bolivia with them. Florent Pichon who lives there arranged the whole tour for us. In total, we had visited about five interesting areas where we saw many rare parrots like the critically endangered Blue-throated Macaws. According to local people, there are last 250-300 birds living in the wild. These birds captivated me and therefore I bought two pairs when I got back home.

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Pantanal is one of the most popular biotopes for parrot watching when people go to South America. Have you visited this place, too?

Of course! We were lucky and saw flocks of Hyacinth Macaws. These birds eat palm nuts. Nuts fall on the ground where cattle eat it. After it goes through their digestive system, Hyacinth Macaws consume nuts from cow feces. It is amazing to observe such symbiosis in situ.

Let’s talk about your facility. You are a fan of wooden aviaries which is not usual in breeding of South American parrots. Can you explain why?

Firstly, this is because I run a carpenter workshop. Therefore, I can get plenty of good quality material. Inside aviaries are wooden but the construction of outside flights is metal. Another reason why I use wood is it‘s insulating quality. In the Czech Republic, temperature can fall as low as -20°C in winter and it is not cheap to heat the facility then. Besides that, there is totally different microclima in a building made of bricks or wood.



Zdenek Vandelik and inside part of his facility for large macaws (c) Jan Sojka


Ara militaris mexicana (c) Lubomir Tomiska


How many aviaries do you have now?

I do not know exactly but over 50 for sure. There is one large finch aviary at the end of my facility which reminds me of the time I started breeding birds. At this moment there are common species like Gouldian Finches, Canaries, European Passerines etc. Unfortunately, due to lack of space I  have to replace it with parrot aviaries soon. I’m planning to extend my collection of Caiques. So far I have been quite successful in breeding of the Green-thighed Caique (Pionites l. leucogaster). Now, I would like to buy more pairs of another subspecies – Yellow-tailed Caique (Pionites l. xanthurus) and also Pallid Caique (Pionites m. pallida).

Can you describe how does your facility look like?

The first part is for breeding of small macaw species. There are about 20 walk-in aviaries with outside flights 3 m long and inside part 2 m long. All cages are separated with polycarbonate. The second part of my facility is for large macaws which need larger flights, of course. The last third part is for Aratinga conures and Caiques.

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Do you think that breeding pairs of the same or related species should be in visual and acoustic contact?

According to my experiences, I believe that they should be in acoustic but not visual contact. When the partitions were not plastic but meshed, males were fighting all the time. As result, most of clutches were infertile. When I prevented visual contact of pairs, my breeding results improved significantly.


golden capped2

Aratinga auricapilla (c) Lubomir Tomiska

Aviaries for Aratinga conures

Aviaries for Aratinga conures (c) Lubomir Tomiska


Temperature in the Czech Republic can go deep bellow zero. Many breeders discuss if it is necessary to heat their aviaries or not. Do you heat your facility?

Of course. Some breeders say that it is good for birds to get chilled in winter so they are stimuled for breeding in spring. I have simple answer for such people – I would leave them at -20°C for several days. I guess that their breeding results would not be improved at all. When we decide to be parrot breeders we cannot forget that we are responsible for our animals. It is necessary to provide them basic comfort which means to heat the aviaries!

How successful are you in breeding of small macaw species?

The most prolific species is the Blue-winged Macaw without any doubt. They started at the age of two years and raised 5-7 babies each year which is a lot when you consider that I do not hand feed them.

What is your opinion about hand feeding?

I prefer parent raised babies. Firstly, I do not have enough time for hand feeding. Each day, I wake up at 5:30 AM and get back home in the evening. Another reason is the fact that artificial rearing can affect natural behaviour of the bird. On the other hand, my pairs of Green-thighed Caiques always care only for 2-3 babies so I take the rest for hand feeding. My friend helps me with it.


Offspring of Mitred Conure, Military Macaw and Golden Conure

Younger of Ara militaris mexicana, Aratinga mitrata and Guaruba guarouba (c) Lubomir Tomiska


Pionites l. leucogaster (c) Lubomir Tomiska


You are also quite successful in breeding of Red-shouldered Macaws…

I breed 3-4 babies each season. Closely related species, the Southern Red-shouldered Macaw (Diopsittaca cumanensis), was also part of my collection. I had them for six years with no result. Therefore, I put an advert to one bird magazine and people started calling. A few days after that, birds laid a clutch but it was infertile as well as the second one so I decided to sell them anyway. Instead of them I bought two young couples of Yellow-collared Macaws.

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There are more young pairs of macaws which you have bought recently…

Yes, there are two pairs of Blue-throated Macaws, two pairs of Red-fronted Macaws, a pair of Buffon’s Macaws and a pair of Hyacinth Macaws. Except of the Buffons, all birds are at least three years old so I expect some breeding results in the following years.

On the other hand, your Military Macaws are a proven breeding pair.

Curiously, they lay four eggs each year but always, the first egg in the clutch is broken. They choose the outside nestbox and therefore I prevent any visits after they lay eggs.



Ara rubrogenys (c) Lubomir Tomiska

Severe Macaw

Ara severus (c) Lubomir Tomiska


How do they tolerate nest inspections?

I check the nest for two to three times. I always have to wait until parents go out and such inspection does not take more than a few seconds.

How many Military Macaws have you bred so far?

In the last 9 years I have bred over 30 babies.

The biggest jewel of your facility are Hyacinth Macaws…

Definitely. It has been always my favourite parrot species. Both are three years old now and come from Loro Parque. They were supposed to be hand fed but I am not sure about that. I know that some of Hyacinth Macaws are raised naturally under Green-winged Macaws at La Vera breeding center. The female was very tame just after the import. However, the male was shy and started to communicate with me after 3-4 months. At this moment, both birds take nuts from my hand.



Hyacinth Macaw pair (c) Lubomir Tomiska


Aratinga solstitialis (c) Lubomir Tomiska


Is there any difference in diet for Hyacinth Macaws and other large macaws?

They receive more nuts than other macaws, especially those with higher fat content. In total, I provide them nine kinds of nuts.

Let’s talk about Aratinga conures. Which species do you keep?

Well, I keep and breed Golden Conures which used to be classified as Aratinga but they are not anymore. Red-fronted Conures are not any expensive parrots but I still consider them to be difficult to breed. At this moment I have two couples. I’ve always tried to have at least 3-4 pairs of each rare species. Besides that, I also have six pairs of Orange-fronted Conure, I keep and breed Aztec Conures and a colony of Cactus Conure.


Title photo: (c) Jan Sojka


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