Jumbo and the Lady

By Marcus Pollard

Relax people Pete has not shifted his emphasis and this is not a porn story nor does it have anything to do with elephants!
This is just a short piece that goes to show that the two words "never" and "always" should be struck from any birdkeeping thinking!
Jumbo is actually a male Green rosella, Platycercus caledonicus, and not surprisingly he hails from the Apple Isle and is at this minute belting up and down his 5 metre flight. The Lady is also a Green rosella, but I guess you figured that out!

This is a strange love story but devoid of Shakespearean twists or Machiavellian plots! Yes, I have finished now!

 

The Boy Himself

  With Fat Hen

Amid The Foliage

 

Way back in the all too dim past I was an earnest University student and completed my Honours Degree on the social behaviours of Green Rosellas, Ok, Ok, so they would not let me keep and work on the Beautiful Firetail, Emblema bella, but that is another story suffice it is to say it was a study on social hierarchies within a group of birds and how that worked and how that structure could be manipulated.

Following that I always had a pair or two in my collection and was always breeding heaps every year mostly to prop up the wild population as nobody wanted them here in Tasmania and we were prohibited from exporting them. We watched the price climb on the Mainland while we could but wonder what if!

So as I turned to the finch idea more and more, I finally gave my breeding pairs to a mate in order to use their cage for more finches! Sad, but true!

So recently I had an empty aviary and decided I missed the Greens so I went in search of a pair and what I found was Jumbo, or rather what I should say was that he found me!
When he arrived the first thing that became apparent was his size, as he was the biggest Green rosella I had ever seen. Apparently he had been spoilt rotten and was carrying a bit of condition so out of his diet went any trace of sunflower for starters!
In case you are unaware the Green rosella suffers from chronic obesity in captivity and will try and exist on sunflower seed alone if you allow them. The result of this is all too fat birds and extreme feather loss when moulting. To overcome this I substitute safflower and plain canary and have had some success with this method.

 

 

Up Close With Fat Hen  

 Gum Branches A Plenty

 

The next thing that became apparent was that Jumbo suffered from an identity crisis as he appeared to think he was a Magpie, Cockatiel, Eastern Rosella or Miner bird depending upon how the mood took him! He was a mimic extraordinaire! The first time I heard the Cockatiel calls I thought there must have been a flock in the yard given the volume of the calling nope, just one confused Green rosella!

I now suspected that my search for a hen for him might be a waste of time or maybe I should just go to the pet shop and buy a hen Cockatiel, cheaper option!
Undaunted by this line of thought I located a hen and went to collect her mumbling something about bloody birds and dumber bird people! I must admit my first thought at the sight of The Lady was "My god, he’ll squash her, maybe Id better stick to the Cockatiel idea instead!" She was not the world’s largest bird and could have passed for an Eastern Rosella such was her diminutive figure.
Apparently she was the runt of a rather large clutch and was the "fish that John West rejected" and everybody looking for Greens too it appeared from a number of later conversations. Nothing like the statement "Gawd, you weren’t the poor sucker that bought that tiny Green hen were ya!" to make you feel like a million dollars!

Well, time went by as did the quarantine period and it was time to introduce her to Jumbo. Usually I would take the male from the cage and allow the hen to have a week by herself in there before re-introducing him but there was something about Jumbo that suggested this might not be necessary!
As an aside one thing that I found with my Honours work was that Dominance could be manipulated in such a fashion. Take around 7 birds and throw them together at the same time and usually the oldest biggest male will assume top bird in the dominance hierarchy. However, take the birds from the cage, separate them for around a week then reintroduce the sub-dominant into the cage first followed by the other members and you can completely reverse the dominance hierarchy. Big deal I hear you say but this method has been used to great effect to curb aggression within this species does it work for other species? Cannot honestly answer that one unless you are keeping small furry, hopping Potoroos!!

Upon release she was completely ignored by Jumbo. He showed her curt regard and didn’t fly over to say hello, I just fancied I could see him calculating what this new arrival might mean in regards her seed consumption! Also as long as she did not attempt to linger near the seed bowl his interest remained minimal.

During this "courtship" period the birds were fed apples, corn, fresh milk thistles when available and any sort of leafy foliage to destroy. The seed mix was Peppers Small Parrot Mix which was only replaced once weekly read somewhere that small millets are better nutritional value than many of the more recognised larger parrot seeds so I force my birds to "eat their greens" so to speak!

Winter months went bye and still very little interaction between the two birds ensued so much so that I must admit to losing interest and concentrating on getting the finches ready for breeding! Also, as they were sub adults, I had little expectations of them breeding before their first adult moult at around 16 months.
Then, lo and behold, there they were caught in an "amorous embrace" and my original fears for her life were compounded watching this feat of nature!
However, she managed to survive and then they settled back into their routine of ignoring one another until I noticed her absence every day for a week. Fearing the worst a trait brought about by far too many years with finches, I searched the aviary for her only to have her fly out of a nest box which revealed 6 eggs!

These duly hatched and 5 chicks were reared by a pair of birds, as mentioned, that were not even through the adult moult themselves! "Never" had them do that before they "always" bred following their adult moult see, I told you!!

 

Nest Box

"Box of Five!"

Up Close!

 

During the rearing phase they were fed oranges, corn, apples, even more milk thistles, fat hen (Chenopodium albumby) the bucket full and walnuts (a valuable source of omega three fatty acids I am told) and their usual component of gum branches and nuts.
At times it was very difficult to decide which ones were babies and which were the parents.

As new laws allow for the export of Greens to the mainland these days if they are close-rung I decided to ring them but was reluctant given that I had often found that Greens would tolerate little in the way of nest inspection and often deserted either chicks or eggs were this undertaken.

This pair could not have cared less and she was often back sitting on them before I had left the flight, or maybe it was the glint in Jumbo’s eyes that made her run for cover! Either way they were both diligent parents.

As I said earlier, a short piece just to let you know to "never" assume you know better and "always" be prepared for the fact that your birds know best!!!
Just goes to show that love finds a way and that there is always that pair of birds that will confound the experts!!

www.cliftonfinchaviaries.org    Copyright remains with author.



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