Nonpareil Parrot Finch
|Of all the twenty seven birds in
the mandate of the A.F.S. the one that captures my interest and attention the most, is the
Pintailed Nonpareil Parrot Finch (Erythrura prasina). It is a truly beautiful bird.
The male as described in the A.F.S. 1990-91 Handbook is described thus " Underparts grass-green, rump and tail bright crimson, forehead, face, chin and throat blue, rest of underparts bright buff with an area of bright crimson on lower breast and abdomen. Bill black with legs and feet flesh coloured and eyes black. The female upperparts duller, with little or no blue on the face, rump and tail dark crimson. Underparts buff and greyer on throat plus breast with a yellowish buff on the abdomen. Its tail is approximately half the length of the males."
There is a natural mutation which comes occasionally into the country and I had one in an importation a couple of years ago, which is a colour phase where the red parts are replaced by a golden yellow. Goodwin suggested approximately 8 to 10% are of this naturally occurring mutation.
The birds distribution is Western
Its habitat is rain forest, edge of rain forest, bamboo thickets and open paddy fields. Mike Fidler reports that due to pressure of population in many of these areas the birds have been driven away from the rice crops and the birds are rarely if ever seen. Despite this many are s till imported at prices half that being charged five years ago when £50-£60 was the going rate.
When the birds are first imported into the country they need to be weaned off paddy rice and persuaded onto a wider variety of seeds. Dobbs and Kozica recommend (Grassfinch Vol 19 edition 6 1995) the following protocol for newly imported birds. "On first acquiring Pintails we recommend you keep them in a separate quiet place as they are extremely nervous and "flighty" birds. If your pintails are wild caught imports it is very important to quarantine them separately from your other birds, for about six weeks, as many come in with diseases. It is also necessary to worm them. We use Biozine on day one, repeating on day eighteen. Cages or the aviary in which they are kept should be thoroughly cleaned between treatments to stop reinfestation. Imported birds will need to be fed on groats and paddy rice (dry) initially, they are very slow to try new foods, so we add plain canary with the paddy rice. It takes them about six weeks to start taking the canary seed and many more weeks to eat foreign finch seeds."
Despite considerable success by a few bird keepers they remain difficult birds to obtain consistent results with and once again Dobbs and Kozica lead the way and they describe their success in the same article thus:- "Our first breeding success was about ten years ago. At this time we had a colony of four pairs in an indoor flight with access to an outdoor planted aviary. We bred sixteen young but unfortunately only from one pair. They laid five eggs into a round straw basket of which three were fertile, two chicks were reared under Bengalese. Mean-while we replaced the eggs with plastic ones for twelve days to make the pair sit the round. If this is not done the pair tend to go into moult. The second round produced five fertile eggs but two chicks died in the nest. We allowed the parents to rear the third round but unfortunately they again lost three chicks in the nest but reared two. Once the chicks fledged, the parents demolished the nest and went straight into a heavy moult."
Mike Fidler has had a certain amount of success and has come to similar conclusions to Jean and Bill.
I have kept these birds for several years with no success at all in breeding them and after reading all the literature I can, talking to Jean and Bill in the past and more recent conversations with Mike I have formulated a plan which I hope may bring about my successful breeding of these birds.
I intend to give the birds access all the summer to an outside planted flight, Tony Moore kept his birds in a thickly planted outside flight and the birds were and looked immaculate. I then intend to bring them in at the end of September into a heated (70ºF) and fairly high humidity, single specie indoor flight. The high temperature is necessary with parent reared birds because they stop brooding at night after only a few days. The provision of a number of nesting sites ranging from about 18" to about 6" from the floor plus plenty of nesting material should give them the opportunity to nest. Some one described this process in an earlier Grassfinch and had birds nesting enthusiastically "all over the place"
The provision of a large variety of foods again ranging from foreign finch to egg food and Bogena type soft bill food will replicate the sort of food materials which Mike Fidler observed in their native habitat whilst on a RADS expedition. I am aware that birds need introducing slowly to changes in diet as they will reject any thing new.
The success or failure of this experiment will be reported in Grassfinch, if successful I will rejoice, if a failure I will attempt to analyse and try again next year.