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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.