Kakariki's have always been my interest. Before I fully focused on European culture birds, I mainly had parrots in my aviaries. They were housed in the basement of our apartment. Not ideal, due to the humidity and absence of natural light. In the 5 breeding boxes were Princess of Whales parakeets, Rosellas and ring-neck parakeets. I was also able to breed reasonably well with the last two varieties. Now the circle is complete again, I no longer have European birds, but again small budgerigars and kakarikis. No more breeding boxes, because breeding no longer comes first. Still, without the drive to get offspring, both species breed well. The birds are housed together. That gives some problems now and then. It sometimes seems that they do not allow each other to confiscate a nest block. Despite this, the urge to nest is large. The first kakarikis were hatched during Christmas . There were 5 eggs, 1 of which was unoccupied. The female seldomly showed itself during incubation. This of course also has to do with the fact that the temperature is not ideal. In their natural habitat New Zealand, it is now summer. The instinct to start breeding now is great, even though it is winter here now. The little budgerigars have made a few attempts, but after a while regarding the eggs the block disappeared mysteriously (Kakarikis?).
Blackcaps are found throughout most of Europe during the breeding season. In the Netherlands and Belgium they can be seen from April. However, blackcaps are also increasingly staying here. Especially in the western part of the Netherlands, where the maritime climate is less severe in winter. This does not apply to all blackcaps. The number who stay here may be in the hundreds, but the vast majority, tens of thousands of them, migrate to the Mediterranean and West Africa. Some of them even migrate to Ethiopia and East Africa via Italy and Egypt, just like the lesser whitethroats.
They are increasingly observed in our cities and towns. The blackcap is by no means picky about food and can be considered a kind of omnivore among the warblers. In the autumn they especially like many berries of hawthorn, elderberry and blackberries, which in itself is not so special, because many insect-eating songbirds switch to berries in the autumn when the supply of insects decreases due to the falling temperature. The high sugar content in the berries ensures that this is converted into fat, which serves as a food reserve during the migration. The number of breeding pairs in the Netherlands is approximately 70,000-120,000. The blackcap is not considered an endangered bird.
In the autumn I came into possession of a couple of blackcaps. Actually by coincidence. I had placed an advertisement for a pair of black-headed tits (gloss-headed or matte-headed). Due to a misunderstanding, I got a response, but these turned out to be blackcaps. Since I had given up hope of obtaining another pair of gloss or matte heads, I decided to purchase the pair. Also because the blackcap is considered a bird, which can be kept quite easily with other European insectivores. The couple was placed in an outdoor aviary together with a bluethroat female, which has to be kept separate from the male in winter because of the aggressive behavior of the male outside the breeding season. My insectivores are housed in an overgrown aviary about 4 feet wide and 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep. The aviary has a closed roof and is open at the front and back. The sides have polycarbonate plates. The soil consists of a layer of natural wood chips, which is occasionally topped up when the park service has pruned trees and chopped branches. Material is regularly removed where manure has accumulated. The aviary is divided into two parts with plastic mesh.
My insectivorous birds are fed with a mixture of homemade egg food, pinky's, buffalo worms and mealworms, at 1 teaspoon each per bird. All insects come from the freezer. In addition, some universal (pellets or standard) and insect pâté from Versele Laga. Fresh drinking and bath water is always available. This is achieved by an automatic water change system, which I have already described elsewhere on this website.
After placing them in the aviary, I noticed after a month that there was some loss of condition of the female bird. The wing feathers were a little tousled, but after catching it, I couldn't find anything special. It may have had to do with switching to a different type of feed, or putting on breeding plumage. Gradually the plumage tightened again. From the beginning of April, the male began to sing. It was less detailed than I was expecting. A change in behavior was now also observable. Male and female regularly flew back and forth through the aviary and they also occasionally attacked the bluethroat female, without this leading to serious skirmishes. In the aviary there is a recently planted pine tree, which had served its purpose during Christmas. I often saw both male and femalel scurrying around in this tree. Because I wanted to prevent a too loose nest being built in this sparse vegetation, I placed a metal nest holder with a secured coconut basket in it. The whole was firmly secured in the tree with iron wire. Soon this area was explored and quite soon the male and the female could sometimes be seen sitting on the nest for a few fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, the nest was also covered with coconut fiber. The blackcaps used only the brown fiber and not the white sisal. The strange thing was that staying on the nest for a long time also happened when there were no eggs yet. From April 27, male or female appeared to stay in the nest continuously. I could not see until April 30 that there were 2 eggs in the nest. The birds are almost constantly on the nest and I did not want to disturb them. The eggs are covered with brown-orange spots.
Sometimes it happens that the male and female sat together on the nest. Since there is no room for two, the male sat on top of the female.
The first egg hatched exactly after 13 days. The young is completely uncovered and has a flesh-colored color. I had been catching nighttime insects with the insectivoro device for several weeks now. They are a lot of small mosquitoes and flies. From this moment on I start to give these insects, which have been kept in the freezer. I give some in a bowl of water and some loose in a feeding bowl. I also cut the buffalo worms now, because they are too big to be able to give whole to the chicks. After three days the nest is suddenly empty. I have not been able to find the chicks again. The days after that I regularly see the male and the femalel scratching around the back of the fir tree. Apparently they have started building a nest again. I don't want to go into the aviary to view it at this stage as there is a chance that it will interfere with the process. On May 19 I only see one bird, either the male or the female. It Looks like they are breeding again. It took some effort, but indeed a beautiful bowl-shaped nest had been built in the fork of a branch. There are three eggs in it. The history of the first round repeats itself. Most of the time I don't see a black head anymore. There is also news on the other side of the plastic mesh in the same aviary. The bluethroat are also breeding.
After exactly 14 days, there were two young in the nest. The other egg was later found to be unfertilized. From that moment on I started to make the frozen insects a little bit finer with a mortar. I also gave insects again, which I caught with the insectivoro. In addition to many mosquitoes, these were also moths. The latter were also cut in smaller pieces. The young were still kept warm by the parents in turn. I performed a minimum nest check. I do not want to put the first experiences with these birds to the test too much. Because the planting in the aviary was growing fast, there was also too little light for the webcam after a while, so I had to move it to another aviary. All this time I have been able to establish that the young was well fed. This is also a bit of luck. A nest with only one young is often abandoned by the parents, because raising one young instinctively does not outweigh the energy required to do so. After a day at 16 I saw that the young had left the nest. It is not yet able to fly and for at least another 14 days it was hiding among the vegetation most of the time. The young looked like the female with a small brown cap. In the few breeding reports that are known about blackcap, I had read that the male often becomes intolerant once a young bird has left the shelter and moves freely in the aviary. So I was very alert to this, but I was never able to detect anything. The fact that the young was a female is certainly the reason for this. Because there was no problem at all, I just left the young with the parents. Hereafter, the black heads made two more attempts to produce a round of youngsters. The first nest had only one egg, which turned out to be unoccupied. After this came another attempt with two eggs. Both were unoccupied. All eggs were laid in the same nest and incubated alternately by the female and the female. It is remarkable that the nest is so clean. There is nothing to show that it has already been used three times.
It is September 1 at the time of writing this article. The breeding season has ended. Many birds are moulting. Gradually you start to prepare the aviaries for the rest period. Removing nest boxes, clearing moulting feathers, new sand, etc. It was also expected to be the case of the blackcap aviary. To my surprise, the blackcaps were breeding again now with four eggs in the nest, of which at least three were occupied. It is a dilemma, stop or let "nature" take its course. The birds did not show a trace of molting and look good conditionally. I decide to wait and see. When the eggs hatch, I can always decide to continue feeding by hand.. This time, the chicks were raised without any problem. They grew well and dispite of their late arrival, survived winter and moult. So far my first experiences with more insect eaters in the aviary. All in all, it has been a fair start and I have enjoyed the bluethroat and blackheads.
note: right the male bird and left the female. The male bird did not get any colourant in the food, hence its green colour
Breeding crossbills is a fascinating activity. They are not called European parrots for nothing. In the aviary they are true acrobats. They climb up on the mesh or into the bundles of fagots I provide. After I successfully bred the crossbill last year, this year, partly due to lack of space, I am taking it easy with only one couple. With crossbills it is important that there is a click between the partners. So having one couple entails a certain risk. If it doesn't click, then no youngsters will perch. The birds get into breeding condition by gradually increasing the share of Aleppo seeds in the menu. I don't do this overnight, because then, because Aleppo is a fat seed, the birds can get diarrhea.
I keep my birds in breeding boxes of 1x2x2m. The crossbill nests early, in nature sometimes even in January, when it can still freeze considerably. I paired the birds a little later in mid-February. Even then it can still be viciously cold, so it is important that a fairly deep nest can be made. The crossbill prefers to choose good insulating nesting material. Kapok and cotton wool mixed with soft cotton threadsare used to make a thick insulated nest. Building the nest is sometimes very special. After a fantastic construction has been made in a few days, it is decided to do it all over again in another place. I have been able to observe this several times now and I actually have no good explanation for it.
This type of basket is easy to make yourself. The advantage is that it can be covered with conifer twigs or artificial greenery. It is not absolutely necessary for crossbills. They also breed in an unlined nesting basket
hen collecting nesting material
Soon after pairing the birds, the female started to build a nest. Unfortunately, this was not a structure like I was used to from the birds in the previous year. In fact, all the nesting material was removed again and the eggs were placed on the bare bottom of the nest basket. Another complication is that the man suddenly does not look fit anymore. With crossbills it is difficult to determine if there is a disease. The birds are not really looking sick like other birds. Only by observing and taking in the hand can it be determined whether something is wrong. This man was clearly listless and at the end of the day he sat with his mouth open a little still on a branch. After examining the droppings andI had found bacteria, I started a cure with Baytril 2 ml in 1 liter of water. I did leave the male with the female so that the female also got the mediction. I was afraid that setting the man aside would break their bond. What I feared came true, all four eggs were unfertilized. I gave Baytril for ten days and the man fully recovered.
On March 25 the female had started a new round and again the eggs were placed on the bottom of the basket without any significant nest construction. Fortunately, this time three of the four eggs were occupied, all three of which hatched on April 8 and 9. The birds were ringed in the nest and were fed very well with full heads. As in other years, I provide good eggfood and sprouted seeds in addition to Aleppo. The latter are offered unmixed in a bowl. I now feed at 7:00 am, 12:00 pm, and 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm.
In the beginning the chicks are often only fed by the female, but there are "top males" who immediately contribute. When the offspring is about fourteen days old, the hen will start a new round. It is then an exciting moment for the crossbill breeder. "Is the man going to feed or not?" The role of the male is essential in order to get the chcks fully grown. However, some males refuse to take on this duty and a 14-day-old nest could be lost. So far no cause for concern as this aged man did a fantastic job last year too.
Young crossbills, well fed and now 12 days old.
The hen is flying around again with nesting material. As far as I am concerned, it may take a while before she starts a new nest. You cannot force this. Removing the nesting material makes little sense. The eggs are then placed in the bare nest. Removing the new nest is also asking for trouble. She could then safely lay the eggs with the young in the old nest.
Indeed, after a few days a new nest is built and the first egg soon follows. The hen has started incubating after about three days. The man takes over the feeding task completely and the young grow well. Only when the hen has left the nest to relieve herself or to eat something, it cannot resist the begging of the young and puts some food in the opened beaks.
The further course of this breeding cycle goes without problems and after exactly 14 days the first young of the second are lying around in the nest. The youngsters from the first round are not yet independent and are still being fed by the man. The hen is still on the nest most of the time, but I don't see them feeding much. When she is off the nest and has eaten the crop, there is a lot of competition from the "old" chicks. The new round is in the nest with fairly empty heads. After just one day I find a youngster on the ground. The crop is empty, apparently not fed. I fear the second round is likely to fail. This turns out to be all too true. I also find the two remaining youngsters dead next to the food bowl. It is now May 23rd and I still occasionally see a youngster begging for food from the parents. The hen also gets interested in the nesting material again, so that a third round is still iposible The three young are still with the parent birds. There is no rush now to set them apart. Looks like it is a male and two females, although I have doubts about one.
The pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) is slightly larger than a starling (20cm). The male, colored light to deep red, has brownish wings and tail and two white bands on the wing. His singing is melodic. In the female, the red has been replaced by an olive green. The bird is found in Northern Scandinavia and Central Siberia and in North America and is sometimes seen as a vagrant in the Netherlands especially in the Northern provinces.
The hook beak has always been a fascinating bird to me. I have always encountered very tame, friendly birds among fellow breeders., who immediately fly to the mesh as soon as you come close. They are also curious birds, always keeping an eye on you when you are near the aviary. In preparation for the breeding, I have searched the literature for what is known about the bird.
The couples already get in breeding condition in winter. If the birds are coupled too late, this can be the cause of unfertilized eggs. Male and female must therefore be placed together very early, even during the winter.
Food in nature: In nature the pine grosbeak feeds on insects, berries with young needles and buds of conifers. There is a lot of carotene in all of the foods described here. During breeding, the bird prefers foods that do not contain carotene such as sunflower seeds and hemp. Excessive provision of these seeds risks the bird becoming too fat, it is therefore necessary to provide such a varied possible seed mixture. The rearing feed is provided from the beginning of winter. To make it a bit more attractive, some crushed hemp can be added. As animal food can be buffalo worms and mealworms, cooked and frozen. These are then mixed into small pieces and mixed with the egg food. During the winter, the egg food is offered three times a week (one teaspoon per couple). It is provided daily during the breeding season. As the fry grow up, the insect camera can be replaced by germinated. Fresh fruit (apple) or a fir branch can also be provided. For a successful breeding it is necessary to house the birds in a spacious breeding box. There should also be enough perches to prevent the young from sitting on the edge of the nest while the female incubates again. This risk will be reduced if the nest is protected by a rod or a few twigs. I have decided to offer a number of nesting options, including the mesh basket, which I also used successfully for the crossbill.
Eggs are usually laid late in the morning (around 10 am). The eggs are large, so the provision of lime is very important (sepia is indispensable). The number of eggs varies between 3 and 5. The incubation period is 14 days. The male feeds the female on the nest. On hatching, the eggshells are usually eaten by the hen, with the exception of the latter, which is taken outside the nest by the pupa. The young are covered with a long gray down. They are fed by the hen almost immediately after hatching, who is assisted by the male. The hen can sometimes be aggressive and in that case the man must be isolated. The young are ringed with 3.5 mm rings on the sixth day. Regular supervision is necessary to ensure that the young are not thrown from the nest. The juveniles leave the nest around the eighteenth day. Remove the young from the aviary upon hatching of the new nest. A cure for cocidiosis is then recommended. I am going to use Baycox in a concentration of 2ml / liter of water for two days for this.
On December 2, I picked up the birds from a breeder friend. These are older birds that have been bred well for a number of seasons. Although this is of course a good starting point, it does not guarantee a good breeding for me. Birds are not entirely predictable in that regard. The pine grosbeaks are housed in a 2x1x2 meter (lbh) aviary
The food I provide consists of a bullfinch mixture plus a number of additives:
5 parts bullfinch mix
1/2 part Aleppo
1/2 part coarse pine seeds
1/2 part (extra) dried rowan berries (also included in the mix)
Furthermore, just like the others, the birds are given regular egg food in the winter and daily egg food at the start of the breeding season. The composition of the egg food can be found elsewhere on the website.
Pine grosbeaks are known for the fact that male and female can behave aggressively towards each other, especially during breeding time. The couple I bought has been together for a number of years. Still, the previous owner said that sometimes it went perfectly and the birds were very tolerant, but that there were also some problems. One time the female was the culprit, the other time the male. When I had picked up the birds they were separated for a day in a TT cage, because it was too late to put them in the large aviary. After they were put back together, skirmishes started almost immediately, while before they had sat together very quietly. Fortunately, this was limited to threats and no real fighting took place. This lasted a few days and then everything was peace and quiet again. The birds do not have the color they should have Due to circumstances, the female has received some red feed during moulting and the male has not. So the male has a yellowish / olive color and the female has more red than it should have. Of course this makes no difference to the breeding.
In early spring, the man begins to sing gently. First a few minutes a day, gradually more. The song is preceded by a sri sri. Apart from that, it doesn't mean much as a song. The man does always sing in front of the aviary. Perhaps this is characteristic behavior in order to achieve maximum territory. What is striking is that quite a lot of feathers are released. The female shows a little ruffle and the man also loses some small feathers. In mid-February I had already hung nest boxes covered with conifer branches. One is a bowl nest on a shelf. The other nest is a basket nest, as I have used for the crossbills in the past. They make short work of the conifer branches. First the greenery is removed, then the branches are lashed until almost all have disappeared. Both birds also try to get rid of the coconut nest completely. There is no real contact, no feeding and both birds are generally on different perches. Several times a day they "hunt". Not that the hen is attacked, but the man flies to the stick where the hen is, after which the hen moves to the other side. This can go on for hours. The birds, especially the male, get a bit fuller. The man also sometimes puts up his feathers. From mid-May, the pupa occasionally “visits” the nest. She then sits down for a while and turns her body in the nest. The male also visits the nest. The hen now also has bare conifer twigs in her beak now and then, which she drops into the nest and then takes out again. In the third week of May I see the hen presenting itself to the male. With twigs in her mouth she sits down next to the man with her tail up. The man is not really turned on by this and it does not come to fruition. The singing has also decreased and I see signs in this that it is not all going well. I have to go abroad for a few days on 20 May and because my wife is not there, my daughter takes care of the birds, which is quite a job because there are now young beards and bullfinches. When I have her on the phone she says that the female is on the nest.
Today 6 June the first egg hatched. Since I have not collected them I expect the second morning and the last day after tomorrow. One egg was unoccupied. Man and doll get along well. Once in a while when the pupa has left the nest, she lets the male feed herself. I now feed frozen mealworms and pinkies under the egg food. I leave the seed. Now just wait and see.
June 9 Unfortunately, things are not going as it should. Yesterday I found the male huddled in a corner. Looks like he had gotten quite a knock from the hen. The hen also did not allow him to sit on a perch and was chased to the ground each time, where he kept quiet until the aggression subsided. I considered placing it separately in a cage, but because I was at home all day and could observe the birds well, I left it in the box (for now). What was worse was the fact that the female suddenly stopped looking at the young, let alone feeding it. When I inspected the aviaries in the evening, the hen was not on the nest. It had become too dark to intervene and the young would not survive the night. Got up at 6 in the morning. The man was still hiding on the floor and the doll was sitting nervously on a stick. I took the young with the remaining eggs from the nest. When I had it in my hand, I still felt some life. After I had placed the youngster under the red lamp, it actually blocked and I administered some wet egg food with a syringe. The young was three days old. It usually doesn't work when they are so young, but I couldn't bear to kill it yet. The next day it was still alive and lived 4 more days. It absorbed food but did not grow. I gave squeezed mealworms mixed with egg food. I have never been able to raise seed eaters by hand. Maybe it is better not to start at all.
After a week the hen had laid another five eggs. Here too, three of them were occupied. Breeding went well for exactly one week. Suddenly the hen kept coming off the nest and started attacking the male again. Not that fighting really broke out, but the henwas clearly on the hunt. I watched that for a few hours, but still decided to place the male in a cage in the aviary. Unfortunately after this the pupa no longer went on the nest.
In the meantime, the grosbeaks couple is approaching each other again and after about five days the female is back in the nest for the first egg. I intend to separate the male when the hen is remaining on the nest. However, things are different. On Saturday morning there is still nothing wrong, but when I return to the box a few hours later it is covered with feathers and the man with a bald left side of his head is sitting pitifully on the ground. The eye is also completely closed and I fear that it has been picked out. Fortunately, that is not the case, but it was only very close or that I could have written off the man. Quickly put the man in a cage, after which he regains a little bit after a while. Fortunately, the eye appears to have no damage, but I think that is pure luck. The hen returns to the nest and then lays three more eggs. When I look at them, 3 of the 4 appear to be occupied. Apparently, the man did something else before the domestic violence ended their relationship. With the male apart, it seems that the female broods more peacefully than before. Yet this turned out to be too optimistic. After the doll has been brooding for a week, a terrible thunderstorm breaks out right above our house at night. When I come out at 7 o'clock, the hen no longer sits on the nest and does not go on it anymore. Probably the thunderstorm chased her from the nest at night and ended the breeding process.
Breeding hookbill is fascinating, especially since it requires a lot more insight and skills than other birds. The following season was more successful, but only raised one healthy chick. I do not recommend people with a busy job or other time-consuming activities to breed pine grosbeaks The behavior is far too unpredictable for this and one must be able to observe for a long time and daily to bring the breeding to a successful conclusion.
Below: female on the nest
only 1 young in the nest
Chick left the nest