In the September 2009 issue of BIRD TALK Magazine, you learned about softbills as pets. Now learn about softbills for the aviaries.
If you want a softbill with a nice song, but not necessarily as a pet, I suggest a bulbul, such as the white cheek. Sometimes you can even find hand-fed white cheeks, and they make nice little pets as well. The larger, louder, singing species, such as the beautiful Shama thrushes, or the lovely Hwamei or Melodious laughing thrush, from China, require the addition of live food to the diet. These last two species are so well prized for their complex songs that competitions are held in various cities in Asia to judge which bird is the best.
The Softbill Aviary
If you want a small, indoor, mixed-species aviary, it can be done, but in this type of aviary, bigger is certainly better, as far as space goes. Perhaps you have an indoor aviary that is 30-inches or 3 feet deep by 6 feet long, by 6 feet high. In something this size, with fake and/or real plants for cover, you could house a maximum of three pairs of small softbills. Any of the honeycreepers, except for the highly aggressive green honeycreepers, would work, along with a pair of the Neotropical tanagers, like blue-gray or turquoise tanagers, but only a single pair of tanagers. I would try to add a pair of Euphonias or Dacnis as well, but only with a watchful eye in case someone didn’t get along at first. Lots of cover would be the key to this working out. They all have the same basic diet: fruit, tiny pellets, a bit of nectar, and maybe an occasional small spider or tiny mealworms or crickets. A shallow bowl of water for bathing is essential.