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Killer in the Cage

I get letters and calls all the time from people who have purchased "guaranteed breeder birds," only to end up with a "killer" bird.

By Robbie Harris

I purchased a single male Amazon parrot at a bird mart. The seller said he was a good breeder, but they just lost their hen. I have tried this bird with a few different hens that I have, and all he wants to do is kill any bird I try to put with him. The bird is fairly tame to people, but wants nothing to do with any of the extra hens we have. Do you think this bird still misses his original mate? Why are we unable to pair this Amazon with any of the birds we own? From what the people told us at the bird mart, it has been more than six months since he lost his mate. Now what do we do?

Photo: Robbie Harris
Grey-cheek parakeets are becoming increasingly rare in aviculture. This baby grey-cheek parakeet is about 8 weeks old.

It could be the bird misses its mate, but this reaction to a new mate, especially after six months, is very rare. Any bird we have ever owned that was a good breeder bird, always accepted a new mate (when properly introduced). Most birds that have been paired with a mate, and are alone in a cage for some months, will usually and eagerly accept a new mate, if introduced in a neutral cage. Most birds that have been paired prefer to live with a cage mate. Once a bird realizes that his or her mate is truly gone, after a few weeks or months, they usually take to a new mate.

What may have happened is the bird you purchased lost his mate because he killed her. He may have never been a good breeder bird, and when the people you got him from tried to pair him up with a hen, he might have chased her down or attacked her. He might have been someone's ex-pet, and preferred to live in a cage on his own. What you are going through with this bird is not uncommon. I get letters and calls all the time from people who have purchased "guaranteed breeder birds," only to end up with a "killer" bird.

Care in pairing birds is always a must. Recently, we went to the local bird mart and, without knowing, purchased a "hen-killing bird." I told the seller I was looking for a breeder male for my egg-laying hens. He told me he had a good breeder male. I took the chance and purchased the bird. I came home to find calls on my answering machine, warning me about the bird I purchased at the bird mart. Apparently, the owner told people that I had purchased his "hen killer" for breeding. He may have thought this was funny, but other people did not, so they called to warn me. After taking quarantine precautions, we tried, very carefully, to introduce this male bird with some of our older hens in a large flight. He immediately attacked and tried to kill any hen we put him with. Fortunately, the bird seller was using a space in a large, well-known company's booth, so I had some recourse. I called the owner of the booth who investigated and found it was sold to me without warning about the bird's character. He told me I could get my money back if I returned the bird. I told him I would be there in about a week.

However, after some thought, my husband and I were reluctant to return this bird to the seller. We suspected he would sell it to someone else who would end up losing their hen. We are very careful setting up birds. We watch them and keep surveillance cameras on them, so we know what the birds are doing. Someone else may not do this. Because we were not told the truth about this bird, most likely the next person also would not be told. So, instead of returning the bird, my husband tamed him and he turned out to be a nice pet. We sold this birdto someone as a pet only, not for breeding.

It is a real shame that too many people only sell to make money and do not truly care for the well being of birds. So, be aware that what people tell you when they are selling birds, may not be the truth at all.

Grey-Cheeked Parakeet Question

I have a pair of grey-cheeked parakeets, but they have not bred. I decided to start looking for some more grey cheeks, because I really want to raise these birds, and have found they are disappearing from the pet market. I wanted to purchase only very young birds. Recently, I found a grey cheek at a bird sale. The person assured me the bird they had for sale was a baby, only 3 months old. His feathers were not all that good; he seemed to be plucking a bit on his chest. The bird only cost $150, so I bought him. He looks just like my pair, same coloring in feathers and feet and beak. How do I know if it is really a young bird? I thought grey cheek babies had dark beaks, but the person told me no. What do you think, is it really a baby, or did I get taken?

I would say it is an older bird just because of the price, not even counting other matters. A real baby grey cheek will easily bring a breeder more than $300, with stores selling a true baby for $600. A true baby grey cheek, at 3 months old, has a black beak. The bird cannot be mistaken for an older bird. The dark beak usually stays with the bird for the first nine months, sometimes even longer. Have the bird checked by an avian vet to ensure that it is healthy. If so, you got a good price for the bird. Grey cheeks can go much higher then $150 now, because they are hard to locate and becoming quite rare. Keep looking for more and have this one DNA sexed so you can hopefully locate a mate. I suggest DNA sexing because some grey cheeks do not do well with surgical sexing. I have lost some to that type of sexing.

Younger birds raise better, having large clutches and quite a few clutches per year. As the birds age, more than 10 years, they slow down on the nesting habits. Some grey cheeks only lay and raise every other year and usually have much smaller clutches. But anything, even one chick a year, is better than none. So, get that bird a mate and put him or her to work!

Robbieharris.com
Robbie Harris has a Web site so people can easily get in touch with her. She will post things she learns that may be of some importance to others, such as hoax e-mails. Questions for her Bird Breeder column can be sent through her Web site: www.robbieharris.com . She will answer questions that seem to be the most frequently asked and those that will help many.

Robbie Harris raises a wide variety of exotic birds at her home in Southern California. She has written two books, Breeding Conures and Grey-Cheeked Parakeets and Other Brotogeris, and owns and raises a large variety of African parrots, including greys, Jardine's, Capes, Senegals, red bellies, brown heads and Meyer's. Harris has received seven U.S. First Breeding Awards for various types of psittacines.



3-1-2004


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Killer in the Cage

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Reader Comments
some people who sell birds are just evil.
Qing, Rochester, NY
Posted: 2/25/2011 10:34:02 AM
I am looking for a pair of grey cheeks not for breeding just to have but I cant find any. I live in Bend, Oregon and will pay for shipping. Can some one help me?
Vivian, Bend, OR
Posted: 12/20/2010 5:47:47 PM
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