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Hal Vokaty Exclusive

This aviculturist shares what he’s learned over the years

By Dick Schroeder

This month, I travel to the wilds of southern Riverside County, California, to meet Hal Vokaty. I’ve know Hal since the early 1980s, when we both lived in the Los Angeles area — not far from the site of the famous Bird Farm in Palos Verdes.

Hal has some of the best aviaries I’ve ever seen in a private collection. His newest ones would even make some zoos proud.

Q: What do you believe makes the best diet for breeding birds or chicks?
A: The simplest diet possible that still provides all of the necessary nutrition for the species. There are many commercial diets available these days that make feeding much easier.

What are the biggest health issues concerning your birds that you have encountered over the years and what did you learn from them?
A: Rodents that spread diseases. They carry all sorts of nasty stuff from atoxoplasmosis to E. coli.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing bird breeders in the future?
A: Lack of new bloodlines and a lack of young people with an interest in the hobby to keep it going.

What species or genus of birds do you enjoy working with the most and why?
A: Shama thrushes because of their song, their color and their tame and confident personalities.

What species or genus of birds do you find the most challenging to work with and why?
A: The kingfishers because of their almost prehistoric manners. They do not accept change well even when they are domestic-bred birds. When moved to a new aviary they might not eat or they might suddenly show aggression toward a mate. They are extremely territorial and require a special type of nest site — an earth bank to tunnel into.

What species or genus are you most concerned about regarding its future either in the wild or as a pet bird?
A: The Bali mynah because there are no more in the wild, and they are losing ground in captivity.

POSTED: March 7, 2007, 5 a.m. EST

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