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Parrot family birds

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Copyright 1950

All-Pets Magazine

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

First Edition June 1950

Revised Second Edition March 1951

Revised, Enlarged Third Edition March 1953

Library of Congress

Catalog Card Number:



Their Training, Care & Breeding


Chapters on Talking Birds:




By Julien L. Bronson

Dedicated to the propagating and keeping of Talking and Parrot-like Birds in cages and aviaries, by the bird fancier.


Introduction 5

Taming 7

Teaching Birds to Talk 9

Breeding and Housing in Captivity ... - 11

Feeding of Parrots, Macaws and Cockatoos - - - 18

Parrots 21

Hill Mynahs 26

Lorikeets and Lories 34

Loriquets or Hanging Parrakeets 39

Lorilets or Fig Parrots 41

African Love Birds 42

Pigmy Parrot 51

Magpies 52

Cockatoos 55

Cockatiels 63

Macaws 65

Australian Shell Parrakeets 70

The Larger Parrakeets 79

Hawk-headed Caiques 86

Caiques 87

Cpnures 88

Parrotlets 91

Brotogerys Parrakeets 94

Dwarf Parrots 94

Eclectus Parrots 94

Crow Family 95

European Starling 99

Diseases and Health Problems 101

Regulations 110

All bird drawings, unless otherwise specified, were done by R. A. Vowles, well known English artist.

Audubon Painting of Carolina Parrot. (Psittacus earolinensis. Linn.) Top

two birds females, next three males, next young and bottom bird female.

Photo by American Museum of Natural History.


Parrots, and other Psittacine Birds, have been kept as pets for centuries; since the days of ancient Rome, Greece and other civilizations before them. The African Grey Parrot was the best known in Europe during those times, and was brought in by the merchant galleys. In India and China, which had older civiliza­tions, the Alexandrine and other Asiatic Parrakeets were kept by the natives. Back in South America, the Incas and other Indian nations kept Macaws and the var­ious species of Amazon Parrots.

The most recent and most beautifully colored Psittacine Birds known to man are the Parrakeets and Cockatoos of the Australian Continent, of which 59 species are known to science. Australian Birds were introduced in Europe only about 200 years ago. Some of these Parrakeets are now rare and in danger of extinction due to the encroachment of civ­ilization. During this time the Lories, Lorikeets, and new species of Cockatoos, Parrots, and Parrakeets were discovered in many South Pacific Islands. Many of these are extremely local species and deserve man's full protection. Some Psitta-cines are now extinct within the space of only a few hundred years. Some rare species are being bred in good numbers by English aviculturists who deserve much credit. The best method of preventing the extinction of birds would be to encourage aviculturists to breed and sell them. In their na­tive habitat government protection should be given, with a specified number permitted to be trapped and sold to bird breeders and fanciers each year. Between this natural and artificial breeding, a species' continued existence would be assured. Another aid would be artificial insemination of birds, which has been practiced with success by scientists on small birds like the Canary and the Pigeon, as well as on Finches.*

* References:

The Artificial Insemination of Farm Animals — E. J. Perry, Rutgers Univ. Press. $3.50.

A Method of Obtaining Spermatozoa from the Domestic Fowl. Poultry Science, Vol. XIV, No. 4, July, 1935.

The Collection of Spermatozoa from the Domestic Fowl and Turkey. Poultry Science, Vol. XVI, No. 1, Jan­uary, 1937.

Artificial Insemination of Pigeons and Doves. Poultry Science, Vol. XX, No. 5, September, 1941.

Poultry Science—450 Ahnaip St., Menasha, Wis., @ 50c ea.

Mentle or Back-, Neck -N ' Nape

Crown -,V\ SuperciliaryZ//7e'\\\ Forehead -N {Mandibles \ \Lower-Upper\

^-Scapulars Redrices ■' .-Rump

(Tail Coverts / \ilpp,er-Lower

Secondaries Primaries

\Median Coverts ^LesserCoverts ~ Spurious Wing


Chin ''

\vv V"~- -Secondary Coverts \s '"Primary Coverts

Throat—''' Ear Covert-'' Breast -----Flank Belly Thigh * Tarsus

* Actually the heel, but usually callecl the thigh.

Drawing, showing the main points in the structure of a bird. This glossary

can be applied to all birds except Oil usual specimens like

ostriches, penguins, etc.


Psittacine Birds are different from all other birds, in that they have strong hooked beaks, and all have two toes behind and two in front. During their evolution, these birds all preferred climbing to hopping from branch to branch. A species such as the Hanging Parro-quets, have a locking joint in their legs which enables them to hang from a branch and sleep upside down, their favorite position at night.

Before training a bird to talk, it is first necessary to tame it by winning its confidence, and getting your presence and that of others acceptable to the bird. The larger Psittacine Birds, Hill Mynahs, and the Crow Family, become very tame and attached to their owners, especially when obtained at a young age, 2 to 6 months. When an older bird is purchased, more patience and understanding are required of the owner, particularly if the bird is very wild or has been mistreated or neglected. Full-grown Parrots, Macaws and Cockatoos can bite hard and should be approached slowly, and not making any quick, sudden motions or loud noises. Offering a tidbit from the hand (not candy or cake), or scratching their head for them gently, are winning suggestions. Various nuts, grated hard-boiled egg yolk, celery stalk, a small piece of fresh corn on cob, etc., make tempting offerings for the large Psittacines. Treats with very strong appeal to Hill Mynahs, Magpies, Crows and English Starlings, which they will take from your fingers, are red colored fruits such as cherries, a piece of tomato, various berries, and they love a drink of milk from the bottle cap. Grapes are irresistible and some go for mealworms. Fruit cake is the only kind that should be offered, dipped in milk for an occasional treat.

8 Parrot Family Birds

Hunger, one of the strongest instincts, should not be over­looked as a good method to use in taming any animal. I soon tamed a flock of ten mixed Finches and Grass Parrakeets flying about in a room, by withholding all seed for a couple of hours. I would then sit down with a large seed pan on my lap and remain still. Before long the boldest would fly down to the edge of the bed and sidle over to the dish. Then, with a flurry of wings, the rest of the flock would follow suit. Soon there would be a bevy of jittery birds on my lap busy filling their crops. With nervous glances at their surroundings, they would all fly off if I made the slightest move. I wouldn't advise this unless you have an hour and patience in which to relax with your birds.

Another way of taming a wild bird, is to place the cage right beside you while reading, writing or sewing. A nervous bird will eventually take your presence for granted. Birds kept alone, tame more readily than when in company of other birds. Some of the larger birds enjoy a little roughing up from their owner as they like attention. This doesn't mean teasing, which would make a bird vicious. They do enjoy having their head scratched and back stroked. With the larger Psittacines, a towel or glove should be used at first in handling them till they get used to their master. They will eventually expect this attention from persons they know who are near them.


I always believe in a thorough examination of all birds, going over them by hand once a month. Wings, tail and body should be looked over, as there is always the possibility of finding some minor or major condition in your pet which could be corrected. This may be an ingrown feather, toenails or beek needing trimming, a swollen or dark abdomen indi­cating egg-binding or liver trouble. The vent should also be examined. The legs, if rough and too scaly and encrusted with droppings, need washing in warm water, then anointing with either mineral oil, castor oil or vaseline, to soften the scales and kill any scale lice if they are present.

Teaching Birds to Talk

You may find that your bird is plucking its pin feathers. Suggested remedies for bird disorders will be given later in this book. This is also the time when looking your bird over, to apply the proper insecticide powder with a small rubber bulb blower under the feathers close to the body where mites would be found. Even if your bird doesn't have any mites, a once-a-month delousing is a good preventative. This is best done in the evening, so that the powder will remain among the feather shafts overnight. In the morning, when the bird is uncovered, it is best to let it bathe in tepid water to remove most of the powder adhering to the feathers. If the bird won't bathe it should be sprayed with lukewarm water to make it preen itself. When handling the larger Psittacines for examination and necessary administrations, two leather gloved persons should handle the bird, one to hold the head and legs, and the other to look it over and hold the wings. Polly might object to this treatment, but it should be done for your bird's continued good health.


Which ever species of bird is selected for training, it is preferable to buy young, and if possible hand-raised birds between 2 and 6 months old. A bird's learning abil­ity is not as rapid, the older it becomes. It is much more difficult to teach a wild or untrained adult bird, as its own calls or whistles will have been firmly implanted in its memory. However, a grown bird still can learn, but the owner will have to use more patience in teaching words to it.

There is much variation in their ability to imitate the human voice, whether hand-raised or wild, young or adult. This faculty depends on the species selected, the owner's teaching technique and patience, and most important, tame-ness of the bird itself. Half the success is assured with a bird which is calm and gives you a bold look when you approach

10 Parrot Family Birds

it. In talking ability the African Grey Parrot is said to be the most proficient among birds. However, by careful compari­son it seems that the Greater Indian Hill Mynah and the Javan Hill Mynah, which is the larger, are more distinct in pronunciation, with more human tonal qualities than African Grey or Amazon Parrots. Hill Mynahs don't seem to need as much prompting as Parrots do to start talking. They will answer words or whistles in a few seconds. Some have lived over 30 years with proper care. Parrots on the other hand take longer to get started, and although their tonal qualities aren't as human, a Parrot's memory is able to retain a greater vocabulary than the Hill Mynah.

The different species of Amazon Parrots from the Ameri­can Tropics are good talkers, some better than others. Cocka­toos can also be taught to talk. Ravens, which are really big black Crows, will talk. Young ones are sold very reasonably. Less proficient talkers are: Macaws, Cockatiels, Conures, Magpies, the Lesser or Malabar Hill Mynah, Grass Parra-keets, English Starlings, Love Birds and the larger species of Parrakeets.

To teach a bird to talk, constant repetition of a word or short phrase is necessary. This can be done at different times, such as before removing the cover from the cage in the morn­ing. In the dark with no distractions, a bird will concen­trate on listening and answering back. Repeating words at feeding time, or when giving it a preferred tidbit helps also. At times, when you may be out of sight, you may hear your bird trying to enunciate some word or phrase. This is a good opportunity to repeat what you want it to learn, or if the bird seems to be attempting a different expression from what you are teaching it, fit in words or a short phrase to go with the bird's vocal efforts and make them clear. Meanwhile keep out of sight and don't approach the cage.

Still another excellent method of teaching your bird to talk, whistle or sing a tune, is by having a phonograph record made with a few words or short phrase on it. If your own voice isn't clear and distinct, some friend of yours could oblige by repeating in the recording machine for you. The

Breeding and Housing in Captivity 11

clearest voice is that of a child, next a woman's and lastly a man's. When the record is made it should be played at dif­ferent times during the day, and it will surely drill the lesson into your bird. Let's hope that you can stand hearing the sound of your own voice frequently. It is important when making a record, to limit it to a few words or a phrase only. If you change over to different words or sentences, your time and money are wasted. Birds have a small brain capacity and cannot assimilate too much at one time. If you wish to teach it more make another record. The second record can have the previous lesson partly incorporated into it; however, emphasis should be placed on the new vocabulary. A criti­cism of some records sold ready-made is that they contain far too many words or sayings, which makes them worthless for teaching purposes. Therefore, to build up a good vocabu­lary in a bird through the use of records, have a new one made for each lesson. The previous sayings may be repeated in parts of each successive record, till the last one contains everything the bird has been taught to say or whistle. Science has made another task easier to accomplish.


An outdoor breeding cage for the larger Parrakeets would have to be about 20 ft. long x 6 ft. wide x 6 ft. high. For Parrots and Cockatoos the length should be from 25 to 30 feet, for Macaws a little longer. Six feet of the top and sides of these aviaries should be solid, to act as a shelter in wind and rain, and to keep their food dry. When constructing a breeding enclosure, length is the most important consideration. Plenty of wing exercise and the proper food are necessary to keep them in top breed­ing condition and in good health. Perches should be placed only at each end of the enclosure with clearance from the sides for the tail. To compel the lazy larger Psittacines to


Parrot Family Birds

use their wings more often, it is advisable also to build a solid 2 or 3 foot wall from the ground, all around the cage, instead of using netting in this part of the construction. Par­rots, Cockatoos and Macaws use their wings as little as pos-


Flight Door/


Flight Door/


Flight Door /


FLIGHT Door/0'

Layout of a row of breeding pens.

sible in captivity, and this wall forces them to fly up or down to their food dish, rather than to crawl along the netting. By attaching 1 1/2 to 2 foot sheet metal sections to the sides of the pen thru the center of which you place your perch ends, Polly has to fly to get anywhere.

The site for the enclosure should be considered before any construction is done, and this should be in a sheltered spot, out of strong winds, draughts or dampness. A south-east exposure is good, as birds like morning sun and bright quar­ters, especially in Winter. In Summer the aviary may be partly shielded from the sun's rays with vines. Some Psitta-

Breeding and Housing in Captivity 13

cines won't touch growing vegetation, but most will destroy it. In that case color and shade may be created around your aviaries by growing attractive vines, such as the various species of Morning Glories, Clematis, Thunbergia, etc. In the South, Bougainvillea, Allamanda and many others are suit­able. Kudzu Vine, Dutchman's Pipe and the Ivies furnish dense shade but insignificant flowers. These vines may be trained over wire or string stretched across and fastened a foot from the cage netting to prevent their destruction by the birds.

A year-round outdoor aviary should consist of a closed dry shelter opening into a wire flight. The breeding en­closure with shelter previously described was a simple open type for use during mild weather or in the South. The di­mensions for a year-round enclosure may be the same, with the closed shelter 6 feet square. This should be constructed with tongued and grooved boards, which will give a draught-proof wall. For snug insulation, the inside walls and ceiling may have a half-inch diameter sheet of composition board, after which the whole interior should be whitewashed. Whitewashing should be done at the beginning and end of each breeding season to keep the place spic and span, free of mites and disease. Finishing the outside depends on how much you care to spend. The cheapest method is to paint or creosote the walls and tar-paper the roof. The outside may also be entirely tar-papered or, if you wish to make a neat, attractive building, you may use the many styles, designs and colors of imitation brick or shingle siding which are available.


If you build the solid 2 to 3 foot wall from the ground all around the outside aviary flight, your birds will be protected from cats, rats, mice and snakes above ground. However, you won't keep the enclosure free from intrusion with this wall only, as mice and rats burrow underground. It is necessary to dig a IY2 foot deep trench all around the outside flight. Y4 inch gauge wire netting tarred or painted should be placed around the flight cage base lx/2 feet into the ground. One edge of the netting should be nailed along the base with

14 Parrot Family Birds

double pointed tacks (staples), or else embed this end in the cement flooring. A better method is to fasten the netting with laths. The other end of the netting should be bent at right angles away from the aviary and laid along the sides of the trench. The reason for bending it in this manner is that a mouse, burrowing down the side of the aviary, is discour­aged when it encounters the mesh leading away from the direction it wants to go. The specification of 1/4inch mesh is made because a very young mouse can actually go through the more commonly used 1/2 inch mesh. This has actually happened in aviaries where the baby mouse got in. It couldn't leave the same way, as its full tummy couldn't go through the % inch mesh. Many birds, even small ones, are not afraid of mice, however, their droppings are poisonous to birds and they will kill and eat nestlings. Thin galvanized or corru­gated sheet metal may also be used instead of % inch netting.


Another method of protection against underground bur­rowing vermin, if you have a dirt or sod flooring, is to cover the whole enclosure floor with 1/4 inch netting embedded a few inches under the soil. It will be too expensive to do this if you are building several breeding pens, and won't be neces­sary if you have the more desirable concrete flooring. The netting laid along the trench outside, should be used in either case to make your aviaries absolutely vermin-proof.

A floor of earth, even though turned over regularly, can be a breeding place for avian diseases which will wipe out your flock. The excreta of a sick bird remains in the soil. It is a fact that Turkeys are so susceptible to fowl diseases that they are raised in pens well off the ground, unless they are on an open range. Turkeys are kept well away from the hardier chicken, which should apply to cage birds also.

Concrete flooring should extend below the frost line, by being partly filled with a layer of gravel or cinders. In your locality, you may find out how much or how little you have to excavate so your cement floor won't heave or crack in cold weather. For easy cleaning and quick drying, a few drainage holes should be made around the enclosure with 1/4 inch net-

Breeding and Housing in Captivity 15

ting over them. At the spot where the holes lead into the ground, fill in a square-foot hole with stones for drainage. An occasional sprinkling of chlorinated lime powder will keep this hole free from odors and germs.

Whether you are building one breeding enclosure or sev­eral, a quick and thorough cleaning of the pens may be fa­cilitated through the following suggestions: The concrete flooring may be graded in three ways to enable water, ex­creta, etc., to flow off freely and dry quickly. It may be either slanted slightly from a raised center down to the side drainage holes, or else the floor may be raised slightly on the sides and rear, and graded to a depression in the center form­ing a groove leading to a drainage hole. Still another method would be to raise the flooring in the rear and grade it down slightly to the front, where water will run into a groove lead­ing to a drainage pit. Where a row of breeding pens are laid out, all the flooring may lead to a single groove for drainage.

Using a hose either alone or with a broom once or twice a week is sufficient to keep the above laid-out cement floors clean and quick drying. You may also sprinkle sand or saw­dust on the floor to absorb droppings.

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