GARDEN BIRDS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Malurus_cyaneus_PM.jpg)PARK BIRDS Photo © Janet MacphersonWATERFOWLGAME BIRDSPARROTS - Photo © Colin MorganGRASS FINCHES Photo by JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com)  (Courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stagonopleura_guttata_3.jpg)EXOTIC FINCHES (Photo courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cucullatamachocolombia.jpg)SOFTBILLS Photo © Janet MacphersonSPECIALISED BIRDS Photo by JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eudyptula_minor_Bruny_1.jpg)
Taronga Conservation Society Australia Featherdale Wildlife ParkAustralian Wildlife Conservancy
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King Parrots (Alisterus scapularis)

(ASNSW Meeting - December 2013)
(Printable Version - PDF file - Free Adobe Reader download)

Joe Habib interviewed by Sarah Evett

Sarah Evett

 

 

 

 

Hello everyone again.  If you didn't meet me at the last meeting my name is Sarah Evett, I'm a new member and I haven't met Joe before.  

(Sarah is the Species Co-ordinator for the Koala at Featherdale Wildlife Park.  Sarah also has quite an interest in learning about bird species and other species as well.  Featherdale Wildlife Park at Blacktown has the largest collection of Australian Animals in the world and a fair amount of that is made up of birds.)

Hi Joe, I'm Sarah.

Joe Habib

Hi Sarah.

(Joe is a past President of the Society and currently holds the position of Vice President.  Joe is a long time member having grown up with birds and the Society from a very early age.)

Sarah Evett

Well now that we have the formalities out of the way, let's talk birds!

How long have you been keeping birds Joe?

Joe Habib

Pretty much my whole life, about 34 years.  Mostly Australian natives and a few exotics along the way.

Sarah Evett

I hear you are a bit of a fan of the King Parrot Joe. Is this the main species that you have been keeping?

Joe Habib

No, it is a species that I have been keeping for the last four years.

Sarah Evett

What is your particular interest in keeping King Parrots?

Joe Habib

Mutations.  

It is a beautiful looking bird in its normal state, especially the cock bird.

King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis). Hen bird (left) & Cock bird (right).King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis).  Hen bird (left) & Cock bird (right).
Both photos taken of wild King Parrots.

Their distribution in the wild is along the east coast of Australia.  There is a smaller sub species up the top near the coast.

Australian King Parrot range
(red: all-year resident)Map of Australia showing the distribution of the Australian King Parrot(File Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Sarah Evett

In your collection at the moment do you just have King Parrots or do you keep other birds as well?

Joe Habib

No.  I keep all the Australian Lorikeets, most of the Black Cockatoos, Rosellas up until last week, Conures...

Sarah Evett

Conures... do you have any problems with your neighbours?

Joe Habib

No, I don't have any problems with my neighbours.

Sarah Evett

How do you house your King Parrots?

Joe Habib

I had them in these larger aviaries in the photo (below) on the left but now they are all in these smaller aviaries in the photo on the right.

Sample of Joe's King Parrot aviaries.

Sarah Evett

Does that still allow them some flight?

Joe Habib

Yes.  I find that I have had more success breeding them in the smaller aviaries than I have in the larger aviaries.  The smaller aviaries are 2.4 metres long x 1,200mm x 850mm wide while the larger aviaries are 3 metres long x 1,200mm x 1,200mm.

Sarah Evett

What sort of next boxes do you use for them?

Joe Habib

The nest boxes that I am currently using for my King Parrots is the nest box in the photo (below) on the right; a Z-style nest box.  Other people say you need to use the next box style in the photo on the left; the longer grandfather clock style nest box, but I prefer to use the Z-style box.

Examples of nest boxes for King Parrots, the grandfather clock style nest box on the left and the Z-style box on the right

Sarah Evett

In the wild do they to tend to find huge tree trunks but nest down the bottom of a hollow?

Joe Habib

Yes.

Sarah Evett

Have you ever found them to nest on the ground?  

Last month we had Nick Atchison mention his experience with a pair of Macaws that nested on the ground with no cover.  (See article from our November 2013 meeting:  St Maarten Zoo in the Caribbean presented by Nick Atchison.)

Joe Habib

No. I've never had them nesting on the bottom of the cages but all my birds are kept in suspended aviaries, except for a couple of pairs of blacks.

Sarah Evett

Are they housed just as pairs?

Joe Habib

Yes.

Sarah Evett

So you don't keep mixed species in your aviaries?

Joe Habib

No.

Sarah Evett

Are King Parrots monogamous?  Do they have just one mate for life?

Joe Habib

No.  You can swap mates.  There are no problems with that especially if you keep mutations.  I haven't been keeping mutations but friends of mine have and they swap them with different partners to get different colours, etc.  

Sarah Evett

That was going to be one of my questions - mutations and hybrids, etc.  Is that at dollar thing, are they more expensive?

Joe Habib

Yes they are.  They are a lot more expensive.  The cheapest mutation that you would probably get on the market at the moment is the Grey/Green which you would pay for at about $5,000 per bird.  For a Blue, which is probably the top of the line at the moment, you would pay about $20,000.

Sarah Evett

What do you cross breed them with?

Joe Habib

You would put them with another Normal breeding bird, the Grey/Green is a dominant mutation which would breed Grey/Green mutations and Normal birds.  Other mutations like the Cinnamon which is a sex link, depending on the male that you have, if you put him with a normal female they will breed all Cinnamon hens and all the cock birds will be splits.

Sarah Evett

Are you hoping to breed mutations?

Joe Habib

Yes. I am saving up for that.

Sarah Evett

In preparation for breeding do you change anything, like their diet for instance?

Joe Habib

All year round, along with dry seed, I feed them sprouting seeds, endives and apples.  Coming up to the breeding season I give them more calcium and multivitamins, I use a powder which I add to the sprout mix and veggie mix.

Sarah Evett

Do you get them any branches from the wild vegetation such as the Wattles (genus Acacias), the native fruits and nuts and things like that?

Joe Habib

Luckily enough on the property we do have a fair few gum trees and Casuarinas and other native trees, etc., so every few weeks we cut branches and put them in the aviaries for them.  It is extra nutrition which is good for them.

Sarah Evett

Are you finding that with King Parrots their parenting is pretty good or are you having to hand rear any of them?

Joe Habib

I have hand reared them. They can get a little bit funny sometimes and come off the eggs. Hand rearing, they are probably the funniest bird I have ever hand reared. The way they throw their heads around and carry on, it is pretty funny. It is pretty heavy going.

Sarah Evett

So the parents are looking after them themselves?

Joe Habib

Yes.

Sarah Evett

Do you have any problems with them overeating?  I suppose that some people who keep them sitting in a cocky cage might have problems with them overeating but is that problem that you have with your birds?

Joe Habib

Feeding them too much dried sunflower seed in their diet can cause a bit of obesity especially if they are not getting enough flight.  With the diet that I feed them I limit the sunflower seed so they have a balanced diet every day.

Sarah Evett

Do you have much of a problem with wild King Parrots coming around your aviaries?

Joe Habib

In my area luckily enough no, I don't have any problems like that.

Sarah Evett

Some people who have King Parrots have wild birds coming down to their birds in the aviary.  Do you have any health concerns with any other wild species coming down to your aviaries?

Joe Habib

Sometimes the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos come down and the birds get a little bit ratty with them.

Sarah Evett

Do you quarantine any new birds that you bring in Joe?

Joe Habib

All birds are quarantined.  I've got a separate area to keep any new birds away from the rest of my birds for about a month.  Sometimes I have been a bit slack when I've got a bird off a mate and I know he is good with his birds, that does happen from time to time, but I try to keep them away from my birds to start with.

Sarah Evett

What preventions do you take to your birds from becoming infested with parasites and worms?

Joe Habib

In my suspended aviaries I used to worm my birds once a month but now I worm them once a year.  I set the date to worm them as the June long weekend and keep to that.  In the suspended aviaries they don't have access to the floor and their droppings so in my opinion I think that it is not necessary to worm them any more than that and they seem to be okay.

Sarah Evett

Would you encourage people who keep King Parrots to worm them?

Joe Habib

Yes.  King Parrots are pretty prone to worms if they are in a conventional aviary.

Sarah Evett

If someone was looking to buy a King Parrot as a pet bird would you encourage them to do that?  

Joe Habib

It depends on the person. I haven't met too many people who have them as pet birds because they don't talk and most people who keep pet birds like them to talk back to them.

(Sarah invited others to ask Joe any questions they may have about King Parrots.)

Question

Do they spend much time on the ground?

Joe Habib

If they are in a conventional aviary they would.  They like to forage on the ground if there are leaves or anything else on the floor.

Question

Have you ever kept them with other parrots?

Joe Habib

No.  Most of my birds I keep in pairs on their own.  At the moment I have a couple of young birds in a mixed aviary together, some Conures and a couple of Eclectus.  They are alright; there hasn't been any problem with fighting or anything else with them.

Question

Joe a lot of King Parrots that you see in the wild have yellow feathers scattered over their back, have you seen that with any of your stock?

Joe Habib

I have seen some of that.  One odd feather here and there or a few together.  I have seen birds in the wild with large patches, like pied markings.  It could be Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), I'm not sure.  The last bird that saw like that was when I went up to an AVES Convention (not last year, but two years ago), an aviculturist I went to see his collection and there was one flying around in his backyard.

Sarah Evett

Joe if you look at them under ultra violet light do the feathers look almost yellow?

Joe Habib

I don't know.

I've got a couple more slides.

In the photo on the right, that is a view of one of my nest boxes and that is a clutch that I have at the moment.  That is a clutch of five now.

Sarah Evett

Joe Habib

 

Sarah Evett

Joe Habib

How many days apart to they lay?

Two days apart.

That is my older breeding pair.

What age are they?

To be honest I don't know.  I bought them as mature birds.

I have the log and feeders and water bowl in there.

Joe had a few more slides of King Parrot mutations which he showed and commented on at the meeting.  These were photos taken of birds belonging to other aviculturists that keep Australian King Parrot mutations or from the internet.  

They included:

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