By Penny Corbett
I have an 18-year-old, female Amazon that I was thinking of breeding, but I don't have any contacts to do so. I was wondering if you have any information or contacts you could provide? I just acquired Kuny about 3 months ago. She won't let women touch her, but men can sometimes scratch her head or pet her. Could you point me in the direction of some good information regarding behavior and training, because she bites me and chews everything in sight. I believe that I will have her for only a few more months. Kuny's owner will be returning from out of the country, and I would like a bird of my own. That is why I want to get in touch with a bird breeder.
Verify the sex of the bird or birds in question as one of the first steps in any avian breeding program. Also, the proper subspecies identification will make it easier to search for an appropriate mate. For example, all double-yellowheaded Amazons are not the same, there are a number of subspecies to consider. Many Amazon breeders keep the subspecies separate and breed them accordingly.
There are many good sources of information regarding Amazons, as well as information on the training and behavior of and for companion birds. Other than magazines or books, you can contact experienced, quality breeders or a consultant on behavior and/or training. There are local bird clubs you can check out. [For a listing of bird clubs, check out: www.animalnetwork.com/birds/clubs.asp.] Some clubs are more geared toward breeding and some lean more toward the keeping of pets. There are some that are both bird breeders and pet owners, but many clubs will have more of one than the other. On a bit larger scale are national clubs such as the Society of Parrots Breeders and Exhibitors [www.spbe.org] or a more specialized organization such as The Amazona Society [www.amazonasociety.org].
Quality Breeding Stock Selection
Breeding any type of animal is a serious undertaking that requires a great deal of time and commitment. It is not for everyone, but for the right people there is little else that is more rewarding.
Birds destined to be breeders should be the best specimens of their species. They are birds with excellent conformation, color and temperament. Quality animals are not bred from underqualified or misfit animals that degrade the gene pool. They are bred from the very best available. The "problem" pet bird with undesirable traits produced by a questionable facility would not be a candidate for a breeding program.
Do not overcrowd breeding cages. Doing so greatly reduces your chances of success. Amazons are heavy-bodied birds and often have a tendency to be overweight. Provide at least a minimal cage size that allows them to fly to help prevent obesity. Amazons do not fly up and down. Do not supply a cage that is 6 feet tall, but only 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep.
A good cage design has appropriate bar spacing, permits ample room for extended wings during flight, ease of cleaning and access for servicing. The wire gage should be strong enough to withstand the strength of bird beaks.
Place visual barriers between breeding pairs to facilitate privacy. Little successful breeding and chick rearing can take place if the pairs are constantly defending their territory. Privacy is an issue not only on the sides of a breeding cage but across or behind as well.
Breeding birds can become very defensive of their cage during breeding season. The double-yellowheaded Amazon is right at the top of the list when it comes to guarding its area. These birds are often considered by many to be one of the mostdangerous or most likely to attack when they are nesting.
The construction and use of a feeding station can make life easier for the owner and less stressful for all. Bowls are slid into a compartment large enough to snugly hold the bowls. The feeding station is located in the front of the cage. Access is from the outside of the cage to allow ease of access for the caretaker and keep fingers and hands safe. The outside bowl access is less intrusive to the breeding pair. By no means am I suggesting the use of a service area is 100-percent safe from the protecting parents — it is not. However, it does make giving food and water to the pair more manageable.
All types of parrots enjoy chewing, and Amazons are no exception. The use of safe, natural perches (tree branches) provides a wide variety in perching surfaces and diameters, and fresh wood to chew. Natural perching can be discarded when worn or soiled and easily replaced. [Clean all branches before using. Never us branches of trees sprayed with any toxic chemicals, such as pesticides. — Eds.]
The use of 2 by 4s in addition to natural perching adds to the variation of perching surface and chewing material. The beak of a parrot grows continually throughout its life and requires constant honing to keep it in the proper shape and condition. Natural branches and 2 by 4s are inexpensive chewing materials and cheap entertainment.
Nest Box And Placement
Continual invasion of any bird's nest site area can have an adverse effect on breeding results. This invasion can include the everyday chore of feeding and watering the pair. Placing the nest box in the rear of the flight, opposite from the feeding area, can provide security for the nesting pair. Consider only going around to the back of the flight when necessary, such as for maintenance or nest inspection. Give the pair the feeling of a safe and secure nest site by providing privacy in the nesting territory.
Every bird breeder has his or her own ideas when it comes to nest box size, design and material, and I am no different. If the pair of birds has successfully bred in the past, duplicate the nest box used previously, unless of course there are issues with safety. Keep the nest box design as simple as possible, with the size being large enough to accommodate the hen and chicks. If the male of the species incubates and cares for newly hatched chicks, include his size. The design includes the ability to slide a sheet of metal over the entry hole to keep the parents out of the box during inspection. An outraged hen protecting her nest and/or babies from a human intruder will be a formidable adversary and may injure her chicks in the process. My material of choice is wood, mainly because parrots chew wood, and they can naturally excavate a nesting hole to their liking.
When the nest box is first provided, the entry hole is not full size. The size depends on the pair and conforms to the pair's history and personality. Generally, it is just about large enough for them to stick part or all of their head inside. To gain access, they will need to chew the entry hole. Success in breeding often comes down to the little things by a succession of small steps. Parrots often increase wood chewing prior to going to nest, which is related to a rise in reproductive hormones. I believe the act of chewing access to the nest helps to increase "claim on the nest" and may further increase the desire to nest, resulting in overall nesting success. This natural process makes sense to me and seems biologically logical.
When a client is having fertility problems with a pair of birds that are otherwise physically sound, I suggest that they close the nest entrance, leaving only a small hole as a starting pointfor chewing. The normal result is a nest of fertile eggs with chicks to follow.
Columnist Penny J. Corbett has been breeding birds for more than 25 years. She has experience showing and judging many species, including color-bred and type canaries, finches, and softbills. She currently breeds mainly hookbills.