2003-03-10 - 3:14 p.m.
HUMMINGBIRD REPORT: Male and female Ruby-Throat Hummingbird fighting or courting? They circled up together in a spiral, at one point with bellies knocking together briefly as they scuffled.
This is my Peachfront Conure breeding diary beginning in 1988 which I have decided to type up and place online for anyone who is curious about the delights and heartaches of breeding small parrots.
Conure DiaryOct. 14, 1988. Purchased 3 adult imported peachfronts in excellent feather. Single $45. Surgically sexed pair $175. Male is supposed to be tattooed on right wing, female on right wing, but I couldn't find the tattoo. They are untame adults of breeding age.
One member of pair is somewhat smaller, with less of a contrast between upper breast (olive) and lower under parts (yellow-green). Sexually significant?
Arthur, bought in summer 1982, as an imported juvenile, is sexually mature, very affectionate, shows courtship behavior towards me.
Oct. 17, 1988. Guinevere, the singlet, has a missing toenail, with the toe healed over in a clublike shape.
I clipped both wings and trained her about 30 minutes by sitting close to open door, some stick riding. She had to be captured with towel for wing-clipping and return to cage. She is shy but not terrified, no panicked squawking, etc.
The pair is quiet and sticks close together. They make a few soft grumbles when there is noise. Some squawking at Gwen and Arthur.
Oct. 31. The pair has destroyed 2 perches.
Have prepared long cage for them with cockatiel nestbox with cork glued on with school glue -- cork interior and front face.
Nov. 2. Nest half filled with nesting material pair placed in cage this morning. At night I saw them perching on dowel at entrance to nestbox, apparently getting ready to sleep.
Nov. 3. Found chips (chewed off cork) under cage.
Nov. 4. Morning: some chewed cork in nestbox. Noon: one bird was in nestbox, came out on perch when it heard me, was chewing.
Nov. 14. Gwen moved into bird room. Some squawking from Arthur, however, I petted and coddled him out of it.
Nov. 15. Pair moved into bird room. I half-covered their cage with cage cover to give them more privacy. They have chewed off about 1/2 of the cork lining the inside of their nestbox.
April 27, 1989. On Monday April 24, I put Gwen and Arthur together after gradually moving their cages closer and closer. The new cage, including nestbox, was built by Roger.
It was so cute when I put them together. Gwen kept trying to preen Arthur (both are molting) for about 10 minutes. He nipped at her and tried to drive her away. Then he realized it felt good. In 20 minutes, he was grooming her back. They were inseparable the rest of the day.
By Tuesday, they were perching on dowel at entrance to nestbox. By Thursday evening, Gwen was inside chewing.
Note: Beethoven, the Pekin Robin, found a way into their cage Thursday. We found him sitting inside, calmly eating a piece of carrot, as A. and G. watched from nest box perch. I could not believe that they hadn't squawked or tried to hurt him.
May 25. A. & G. get along beautifully, almost always sitting or playing in close contact with each other.
My beautiful pair: The stockier one took sick and died today. They both seemed so healthy and "glowing." At first, I thought egg-binding since he was squatting and I wasn't sure if it was the male or female. However, the situation quickly got worse and worse. Roger had the truck and I had no $, so I borrowed $5 from the neighbors and dumped out the change jar to take a cab to the Bird Hospital. Dr. Rich gave him emergency treatment (Valium) since he had a fit in the cab and another in the emergency room. Then he put him in an incubator while running tests. But it was too late, I guess, because when I called back at 4:00 he had died. They are going to send him to LSU for a necropsy. I am heartbroken and also worried about the other three, especially his mate. And of course Arthur.
I am stunned by the swiftness of this stroke of bad luck -- and they do not have any idea of what was wrong except it had to be serious because he was having fits. I don't know what to do.
At least the others are making noise and showing spirit. It is so sad to see the one bird by herself who has always been so close and loving to her mate.
June 2, 1989. The necropsy said the bird died of "visceral gout," which is not contagious -- however, it indicates to me that the pair was older than I realized. Sigh.
But I am so glad that Arthur and the rest will be OK.
June 6, 1989.. The Texas A&M report arrived, and Dr. Rich called me about it. The cause of the gout is still undetermind, but there was no sign of contagious disease. The cause is a mystery. For some reason he may have stopped drinking water. The bird who died was the male. The vet says that the males are usually dominant1, so he probably wasn't being kept from the water.
I'm bringing Morgana, in to be looked at on Friday.
Undated note: P.S. Morgana, the female, was healthy.
Feb. 24, 1990. Gwen didn't come out of the nestbox, and I was worried. Roger and I moved Pekins outside so I could lower conure cage and check nest box.
Gwen was all right, and there were two white eggs in the box!!
Feb. 25, 1990. Gwen incubates and Arthur sits nearby. He goes to bed early (5 or even earlier) to be near her. Still 2 eggs (checked in A.M. when Gwen came out to eat).
P.S. Morgana, Gwen, and Arthur all healthy.
March 12, 1990. Eggs infertile -- mostly air space. Shell seemed soft when I cracked them open after candling. Lack of calcium??
March 18, 1990. Twice seen birds mating side by side to press vents together. I don't know if that position will work to fertilize the egg.
3-20-90. A second egg this morning.
3-22-90. A third egg!!
3-24-90. 4 eggs!
4-16-90. Returned from vacation. 2 eggs had hatched, 2 infertile.
4-27-90 Gwen and Arthur still caring for chicks.
5-29-90. Both chicks can fly a little. The bigger one ("Ronnie") is sleek and pretty, the little one ("Courtney") still has prickles on its neck.
7-30-90. Purchased male $75. Surgically sexed at LSU. From Lori and Wayne, LaPlace. A calm, big bird I named Sheldon.
Courtney and Ronnie still doing well.
May 12, 1991. Arthur and Gwen had 2 chicks, 1 hatched 4-7-91, 1 hatched 4-9-91.
A. & G. seemed to be feeding well. Today I pulled the 2 chicks at midday to finish weaning.
At 5:45 I went out and saw A. on the floor, picked him up and took him in. He appeared unhurt and also very fat and full, however, he couldn't grip and within a few minutes he started to breathe with a clicking sound, let out a small cry, opened his wings, and died in my hands in the seizure. I didn't even have a chance to find the Vs in the phone book.
May 19, 1991. Roger took Arthur to Dr. Rich next day who took tissue samples. Said it could be Pacheco's. We had to give anti-virus medicine (Zovirax) to all hookbills for 4 days. I watched anxiously but so far the others are playful and healthy. Of course, A. seemed healthy until the last minute but this is how Pacheco's works.
We had to pour chlorine bleach where we buried him. Very upsetting!!!
I gave babies back to Gwen so that she could give them medicine in food. Gwen hates me. She gives me dirty looks and tries to bite me and pull on my clothes. I know she thinks I have Arthur and could give him back if I wanted. It is so sad.
Dale tried to fly Saturday. I took him out and played with him, giving him eggfood and letting him rest on stand, for about 1-1/2 hour. Then I put him back in the nest when he got sleepy.
I took out both babies for about 45 minutes today. They are very quiet and patient. I hope they are OK. Harry, the younger, does not have a very strong grip.
Ronnie and Courtney are always playing together. They cry if they are separated. They yell at mockingbirds.
June 6, 1991. Arthur died of a protozoa (malaria)2 that went out of the blood, where conures usually have no symptoms, into his liver. When the babies hatched all at once in his liver, he died. Probably came from a mosquito bite, can't be transmitted bird to bird except by an exchange of blood.
Oct. 11, 1991. Babies: Dale & Harry are big, healthy, tame. Bigger than Courtney and Ronnie. Have to be kept separate because sometimes they quarrel.
I forgot to record it, but the "ghosts," Sheldon and Morgana, hatched out one baby named Beep. He was very timid at first -- sat back on his tail and screamed, but now he squawks to come out and play. He loves elbow noodles to eat!
June 24, 1992. Sheldon and Morgana: May 9, 1st conure hatched, May 10 or 11th, 2nd chick hatched. June 18, fully feathered chicks banded #1 & 2 with my AFA/MER bands.
Harry broke out to be with Gwen. Their first nest of 3 eggs was infertile and I removed it. Gwen lay 3 more, and I expected nothing because of Harry's age. But today I found a chick!!!
July 24, 1992. Harry and Gwen hatched 2 chicks. The one which hatched five days after the first soon died, probably couldn't compete. I worry about this one. He will not keep band (#3) on, and I'm about to go on vacation.
Note: #1 Alex found dead approximately 7:30 tonight. Apparently couldn't feed self as well as I thought. Timmy (#2) very thin. I'm putting him back with parents while I'm gone. Hope and pray.
4-6-93. Timmy fine!
Although Harry and Gwen's chicks died, perhaps due to inexperience or heat, they are still acting as a pair, and I look forward to eventual success.
One egg in Ronnie and Courtney's nestbox. Ronnie laid it. Hopefully Courtney is male. He is so cute, he pulls at my sleeve when I bring food, etc.
2 eggs in Sheldon and Morgana's box.
Nothing yet from Gwen and Henry.
Dale and Beep are not acting like a pair.
Undated note near end 1993. No babies fledged this year, however. I do not know if heat, loud "airplanes," or suspected rat bothered them.
2-13-94. Gwen has an egg and is sitting. Harry very protective.
Courtney and Ronnie very protective of each other.
Beep continually does "vampire bat" display to me and Dale.
2-25-94.. Gwen sitting too tight to see.
Courtney very aggressive, bit me yesterday while feeding.
Dale and Beep have 2 eggs.
April 18, 94. Alas, Gwen's eggs fragile and break easily. Harry mating with her roughly, causing bald patches in nape. I thought about separating them but thought problem would go no further. Unfortunately, I was wrong and Harry killed Gwen, cannibalizing her somewhat.
April 19, 94. I was wrong. Harry did not kill Gwen. I found him dead and partially eaten today. Apparently there is a rat in there trying to kill and eat my birds.
Also today I found Morgana dead in nest box. I am very upset at the loss of both of my proven pairs. Somewhat in despair.
Cleaning off porch, putting out more rat poison, and trying to figure out what to do next. Removed possible vulnerable cages off porch.
June 7, 1996. Ronnie is female (laid eggs) so I have put her with Sheldon. Timmy now with Courtney. Dale and Beep have eggs also.
March 10, 2003. The record ended there because I began to have to travel a great deal for the blackjack business, and I did not want to encourage my birds to breed when I couldn't be here for them. Eventually, I put the two affectionate siblings, Courtney and Ronnie, back together, because they cannot bear to be apart, even though I strongly suspect that Courtney is also female, causing Ronnie to lay infertile eggs each year.
Timmy and Sheldon, the two most timid of the birds, are together in a big cage with two tall, opaque sides, for maximum privacy. Beep and Dale continue together, also occasionally producing infertile eggs.
Courtney and Ronnie will be 13 years old in a couple of weeks. Sheldon was fully adult when I bought him almost 13 years ago. Dale and Beep are almost 12, and Timmy is almost 10 years old. Courtney, once a runt, has filled out beautifully in his (or perhaps more likely her) middle age, and Dale and Beep have never experienced a day of sickness. Ronnie's only health issues are her current eye problem, which seems to be healing apace, knock on wood. While I am no longer seeking to breed baby birds, the experience meant a great deal to me, and I hope that my now-mature babies will keep going strong for many years to come.
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1Note from 2003: I am still unconvinced that males, rather than females, are dominant in this species. My females have been an awfully assertive crew. Either way, I never saw any sign of spouse abuse in this apparently loving and affectionate pair. The cause of the gout remains a mystery.
2I later learned that many birds imported from Bolivia in the early 1980s carried these hidden malaria infections.
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