BREEDING REPORT: NINE YEARS OF WAITING, BUT FINALLY SUCCESSFUL PARENTAL BREEDING OF THE GOLDEN PARAKEET/GOLDEN CONURE (GUARUBA GUAROUBA)
Photo 01: Guaruba guarouba: The Golden Parakeet is one of the world's most beautifully colored parrot species. A Golden Parakeet in top condition is the bird that visitors most often notice first in a bird collection.
The Golden Parakeet (Guaruba guarouba, originally known as Psittacus guarouba
and later known as Aratinga guarouba, but a few years ago transferred to the monotypic genus, Guaruba) is a South American parrot species characterized by its nearly completely shiny and saturated yellow
plumage. It is about 34 cm long and has a relatively large head and its bright beak is also large compared to the size of the bird. Its species name alone, the Golden Parakeet, alternatively the Queen of Bavaria's Conure, gives a clear impression that we are
dealing with a very special parrot species which can be said to have acquired an almost iconic status among passionate parrot lovers all over the world who otherwise can choose their favorite bird among the other more than 350 species and subspecies of parrots.
The Golden Parakeet has previously been proposed as the national bird of Brazil, but it ended instead with the much more anonymous "Rufous-bellied Trush" (Turdus rufiventris) being designated as Brazil's national bird on 4th
October 2002. With its breathtaking and imposing beautiful, brightly colored plumage, the Golden Parakeet would otherwise have been an obvious candidate to become Brazil's national bird. At the same time, it’s entertaining and playful behavior is reminiscent
of life-affirming and exuberant samba rhythms. Healthy Golden Parakeets are both lively and playful, and they can therefore be extremely fun to watch. In other words, the Golden Parakeet combines ultimate beauty with a curious creature and an entertaining
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The origin of the alternative species designation, “Queen of Bavaria” Parakeet/Conure, fades into the mists of the past: Somewhere, according
to World Parrot Trust - Forums and Experts, it is stated that a bird of this origin was given to the Queen of Bavaria (federal state in southern Germany) as a gift, hence the name. As far as finding out who exactly the Queen was at the time, this information
has not immediately been available. Elsewhere it is stated that "Queen of Bavaria" is said to be native to Brazil, and that the name came into play because the German naturalist, Georg Marggraf, as one of the first people in the world described the species
in 1638 while strolling through the Amazon region in Brazil. The Golden Parakeets beautiful bright yellow body and green tipped wings made them for sure look like Queens and Kings.
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In this article I will not use the species designation "Golden Conure", but instead "Golden Parakeet" in accordance with the most accurate and comprehensive taxonomic checklist of birds of the world, namely "The Howard and Moore Complete checklist
of the Birds of the World - Volume I Non-Passerines” (or just “Howard & Moore”), version 4 (2013) and latest version 4.1 (August 2018), “Errata and Corrigenda to Volume 1”.
The Latin genus
and species name, Guaruba guarouba, is adopted from the ancient Tupi language where “guará” means “small bird” and “yuba” means “yellow” which gives “small yellow bird”.
The Tupi people were one of the most important indigenous peoples in Brazil. Scientists believe that the Tupi people first settled in the Amazon rainforest, but 2.900 years ago they began to spread south and gradually settled along the Atlantic coast. The
Golden Parakeet thus belongs to one of the longest-known species which has been valued by the natives for its plumage color since ancient times.
Stamp with the Golden Parakeet Guaruba guarouba: Empresa Brasileira de Correios e Telégrafos (Brazilian Post and Telegraph Corporation), abbreviated as ECT, also known as Correios, is a state-owned company that operates the national postal service of Brazil since the seventeenth century. On 22nd April 2000 Correios issued a stamp with the Golden Parakeet as motif and stated the following: “Golden Parakeet is a medium sized golden yellow neotropical parrot native to Amazon basin of Northern Brazil”. This stamp was part of a stamp sheet issued to mark the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil. At the time of writing, 16 other countries' post offices have issued stamps with the Golden Parakeet as a motif, the vast majority of African states where the Golden Parakeet does not live, but you can earn foreign currency by selling stamps.
Although the Golden Parakeet is not at all as well known as the Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) or the Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus), there are still many who
know the Golden Parakeet, and once you have seen it, you will never forget its extraordinary striking beauty. A Golden Parakeet in top condition is one of the most beautiful parrot species in the aviary, it is simply an ornament to any aviary.
I bought my first pair of Golden Parakeets back in 2013, they were flawless younger birds of excellent quality, and over time several pairs have been incorporated into my bird collection. Unfortunately, a characteristic of most of these birds is
that they are hand-reared, and that in the first very long time after acquisition, they also in many contexts exhibit an unnatural humanized behavior. Regrettably, the trend has become such that certain parrot species, including the Golden Parakeet, can be
difficult to acquire as parent-reared individuals, so if you want to acquire this species, you usually have to buy the birds as hand-reared individuals.
For animal ethical and animal welfare reasons, I do not hand-rear parrot
chicks, so my challenge over time has been to get the right pairs together where the birds display an approximately biologically correct behavior and will be able to raise their eventual chicks themselves. It took a whole 9 years from the time I bought my
first pair of Golden Parakeets to the first time I managed to get fertilized eggs and then chicks on a perch from one of my pairs, but - as you perhaps already know - patience is a virtue, and what a reward to have waited for, a total of 4 big, beautiful chicks
in one clutch!
This article deals only with the Golden Parakeet kept as an aviary bird with a focus on biologically correct behavior and natural breeding, but does not address hand-reared Golden Parakeets kept as a single
tame pet bird in a cage. Sadly, the Golden Parakeet does make a spectacular pet that is very beautiful and affectionate. Being quite intelligent makes them easy to tame and train, but they can also be very loud. In my opinion, no parrots, especially not social
- and in nature so rare - creatures like the Golden Parakeet which is not a domesticated species, should be allowed to be kept as a single tame pet bird in a cage, but more on this later.
Photo 02: Guaruba guarouba: The Golden Parakeet is probably one of the most entertaining parrot species around. You can spend many hours in front of an aviary with a pair of Golden Parakeets where you, among other things, can experience the touching care that the sexes have for each other, as well as observe their entertaining, playful behavior that is part of their nature.
In the book, “Parrots of the World” (1st edition, 1973), Joseph M. Forshaw, the world famous Australian ornithologist and expert on parrots, describes the Golden Parakeet (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) as follows:
general plumage rich yellow; primaries, secondaries and outer wing coverts dark green; under-sides of flight feathers dusky yellow; beak horn-colored; iris brown; legs flesh-pink.
1950.25.1); cheeks and ear-coverts dark green; crown, nape, and upperparts strongly marked with dull green; breast lightly marked with dull green; upper side of tail feathers dark green margined on inner webs with yellow”.
Supplementary can following be added to this description: Bare periophthalmic ring whitish (pink/white) and the length of the bird is approximately 34 cm. The juvenile birds look like the adult birds, but the yellow feather color is not of the same
saturation and glow as is otherwise seen on adult birds. In general, they appear duller in color also because of the dark green areas on cheeks, ear coverts and in other places as stated above.
Compared to other parrot species
the description mentioned above is surprisingly short, but actually the bird only has two different feather colors. The Golden Parakeet's plumage thus forms a simple but incredibly beautiful color composition consisting of 2 different contrasting colors that
are sharply demarcated in relation to each other, and precisely this underlines the impression of an exceptional beautiful bird. The Golden Parakeet is probably the best example of a parrot species with a clearly defined color composition.
Depending on the light in which the Golden Parakeet is observed, the large yellow feather areas over most of the bird have a warm, almost orange-yellow glow. In more modest lighting conditions, the yellow color of the plumage can almost appear orange.
Males and females have identical phenotype (external appearance), and both sexes have relatively large heads and beaks. Still, the males may be slightly more heavily (bulkier) built, particularly with regard to the size of the
head and beak, even this is not true in all cases (two of my females are bigger than the males, and it's not because the males are small).
At birth, Golden Parakeets are covered in white down that eventually turns darker
within a week. By the end of the third week, the wing feathers start to develop. In the nest box the chicks are very lively, and the oldest chicks can be rather harsh with their younger siblings in the effort to be the first to get food.
Golden Parakeets most often get their adult-colored plumage at the age of approximately 18 - 20 months (it is believed that there is a time span for this from 17 - 27 months).
The Golden Parakeet is not an elegantly
built bird like the different species of wedge-tailed parakeets, which belong to the genus Psittacara which also comes from South America. In fact, it seems rather coarse and clumsily built compared to the species from the Psittacara
genus. The Golden Parakeet is thus not a streamlined bird, and it can almost seem a little bit clumsy in its movements, but make no mistake, the Golden Parakeet really knows how to move smoothly between branches and twigs in trees, and its flight is surprisingly
fast. I believe that - although it may appear corpulent built - it nevertheless is one of the most beautiful parrot species.
The description of the Golden Parakeet also includes the fact that it is a very noisy bird which
can go on - and on - making noise for a long time which can be very annoying. It is a vibrant, high-pitched note given singly or as many as 3 - 4 times per second and during courtship a long loud note is heard. Sometimes its voice can be experienced as directly
ear-splitting screams, but in general its voice is softer than the voices of species belonging to the Psittacara genus.
As stated earlier, the Golden Parakeet was previously considered a part of
the genus Aratinga, but recent scientific genetic analyzes (2004) have shown that the Golden Parakeet is more closely related (at the “sister genera” level) to the Red-shouldered Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis)
than it is to either of the genera Psittacara and Aratinga.
A Golden Parakeet typically weighs about 250 - 270 grams.
Photo 03: Guaruba guarouba: There are no immediate differences in the color of the plumage of the two sexes which is why a clinical DNA gender test often is performed. On the other hand, one often knows that males are usually bulkier built than female birds.
The Golden Parakeet is an endemic species native to northeastern Brazil where it lives in a limited area in the upland tropical rainforests towards the mouth
of the Amazon River. It is often associated with the dense part of the rainforest. Most sightings come from northeastern Brazil between the Tocantins, lower Xingú and Tapajós rivers in the Amazon Basin of Pará. There are additional records
from adjacent northwestern Maranhão where populations survive around Gurupi and the Rio Capim. It is described as "not uncommon" around the municipality of Paragominas. It was previously estimated to number fewer than 2.500 individuals, but more recent
information suggests the population is larger than this, see the section on "CONSERVATION STATUS" later. The largest known population with approximately 500 individuals, occurs along the Tapajós river in Pará.
The flock size has decreased over time, in the past these would normally be 4 - 30 birds, but nowadays very small groups of all the way down to only 2 - 3 birds are seen much more often.
Its range is estimated
by BirdLife International to be approximately 498.000 km2 which means that its distribution area has decreased by over 30 % over the past decades up to the year 2014. In other words, the Golden Parakeet has become extinct in the most northeastern and eastern
part of its original distribution area.
Map of distribution of the Golden Parakeet Guaruba guarouba: This map from BirdLife Organization shows the current status of the spread of the Golden Parakeet in its home country, Brazil, and at the same time the map among other things indicates the area in which it has become extinct as a result of habitat destruction etc.
The Golden Parakeet's habitat is typically rainforests, often along waterways.
has a somewhat nomadic behavior. In one of the rare field studies on the Golden Parakeet from 1986 it is mentioned that the species used two different habitats throughout the year: Outside the breeding period which corresponds to the dry period, the birds
inhabited high forest. During the breeding season, they left the high forest and ventured into open areas with e.g., cultivated crops at the edge of the forest.
It is also seen in humid lowland rainforest up to 500 m with
occasional forays into várzea forest. A várzea forest is a seasonal floodplain forest inundated by rivers that occurs in the Amazon. A várzea forest can also contain more open habitats such as grasslands, including floating meadows. The
Golden Parakeet also frequents grasslands with scattered trees.
Film 01: Guaruba guarouba: In summary, you can say that there are 3 characteristics that characterize the Golden Parakeet: 1) It is incredibly beautiful and brightly colored 2) it is by nature entertaining and playful, and 3) it is extremely noisy.
IN THE WILD
Although the Golden Parakeet is a very popular bird in many contexts, surprisingly little is known about the birds' way of life in the wild based on scientific
sources in the form of e.g., field studies.
Golden Parakeets are very social creatures, living, feeding, sleeping and even breeding together, and precisely being together with conspecifics is of great importance to them.
Gregarious at all times of the year, roosting and foraging in small or smaller groups. Golden Parakeets are somewhat nomadic since they tend to wander into different habitats depending on whether it is inside or outside the breeding season.
Outside the breeding season, it moves in pairs or small groups where it prefers treetops and often flies quickly from tree to tree. It uses its beak intensively when climbing around between the branches and twigs.
frequents tropical rainforest where both pairs and small groups primarily may be seen feeding in the treetops of the rainforest, and they may spend the whole day at the feeding sites, especially outside the breeding season. Several days in a row, the flock
uses the same route between breeding sites and feeding sites, and it forages in the same fruit-bearing tree until there is no more fruit to go after. It has a call that according to Joseph M. Forshaw is a shrill, metallic “keek-keek-keek” repeated
rapidly many times, and it is audible from far and also while feeding this voice can be heard. However, some Golden Parakeets feed quietly and are mostly unseen, in the dense foliage of the forest's canopy, but they can be noisy when they crack nuts and some
individuals let out their voices periodically, mainly before the flock leaves the feeding tree or if a bird of prey swoops over the treetop, or if they spot another threat. The plumage of wild birds can become stained and matted with fruit juices, particularly
on the underparts. While the birds are in the brood tree, the Golden Parakeets socialize with each other, grooming their own and other group members' plumage. It uses a warning system, as one or two birds usually can be found high in the tree where they vigilantly
keep an eye on what is happening while the other birds forage. They often associate with other parrot species when feeding.
It only reluctantly moves out into the open terrain, and this very reluctance has already had disastrous
consequences for the Golden Parakeet quite a few years ago. Large parts of the Golden Parakeet's natural habitat in the form of the rainforest were cut down, and the part that remains was cut through years ago by wide roads that act as effective barriers for
the Golden Parakeet's mobility. We are not talking about clearing 30 to 40-meter-wide road constructions, as we know it from Europe, but clearing several hundreds of meters wide and many kilometers long. In this way, the forest was divided into many small
pieces, by which the then considerable population of Golden Parakeets in many places was divided into such small populations that they were unable to survive in the long term, and this danger still applies to this day. It has been told that a single Brazilian
forest worker earned extra money by emptying the Golden Parakeets’ nests of chicks when the breeding trees had to be felled, after which the chicks then could be sold on the local market.
In the roosting trees, the
group of birds is extremely social and spends a lot of time interacting with members of the group, including allopreening (one individual preening another), play and other activities. Golden parakeets spend the night in natural cavities in trees in small groups
of 4 - 30 individuals, on average the number is probably 10 individuals. Although the Golden Parakeet seems to tolerate the presence of other birds and parrot species at its feeding sites, "mixed-species" roosting sites with Golden Parakeets are apparently
The breeding season lies from November to April and the Golden Parakeet often breeds in hollows in dead isolated trees approximately 10 m high where 2 - 3 (sometimes up to 5) eggs are laid. The female in particular
is very aggressive during the breeding season which is not so strange, as the small Golden Parakeet chicks in the wild are sought after by e.g., Toucans, which can also explain the social behavior of the Golden Parakeets, as the nests are eagerly defended
against intruders by several members of the group.
Only the female incubates while the male sits guard by the nest, but at night he lies next to the female in the nest. The incubation period is approximately 26 days, and
the juveniles are said to leave the nest at the age of 55 to 60 days. The family group remains together for several days after the chicks have left the nest, and subsequently seeks out the flock.
The way of life of the Golden
Parakeet is mostly similar to that of other parrot species. However, their social structure and breeding behavior appears to be unique during the reproductive period, because the Golden Parakeet engages in communal breeding where it remains in flocks made
up of family groups or clans during the breeding season. Most other large parrot species usually incubate and rear young in pairs. Already back in 2003 preliminary results from genetic tests indicated that all the birds within a breeding group were closely
related with the exception of a single young female.
The size of the Golden Parakeet’s family group or clan is one of the largest reported among the neotropical parrots ranging from approximately 4 to 20 - sometimes
30 - individuals and averaging about 10 individuals. At feeding sites, the Golden Parakeets may group into larger flocks of up to 50 individuals.
As already mentioned, strangely enough, very little is still known about this
species' movement and way of life in the wild in a scientific context. Although single breeding pairs are reported from the wild there is also much evidence that the Golden Parakeet really has a unique and very socially oriented breeding behavior, but this
has not yet been scientifically fully uncovered. In other words, the breeding biology of the Golden Parakeets is thought to be quite unique among parrots, as breeding pairs are thought to get assistance from one or more conspecifics i.e., communal breeding,
contributing to one large clutch with multiple attendants around raising the chicks. The Golden Parakeet’s communal breeding is believed to include the use of one or two uncommon reproductive strategies where the flock is either made up of:
Multiple related nesting pairs with reproductive helpers, or
A single leading pair with juveniles from different generations acting as helpers. Extra-pair paternity (where the female is fertilized by more than one male) has been documented
in captivity, but has not been confirmed in the wild.
This behavior is quite rare in human care where the parent birds are said to often abandon their chicks after 3 weeks which may be related to the collective brood
care known from nature.
After the breeding season, young birds can beg for food for several months, and apparently different birds in the flock feed them.
Photo 04: Guaruba guarouba: Golden parakeets, especially adult individuals, can be very aggressive towards other - and even significantly larger - parrot species which is why they should not be kept together with other species. When the birds have reached sexual maturity and come into breeding mood, the aggressiveness increases further, especially with the female bird who literally defends her nest, eggs and/or chicks with "beak and claws". You can be bitten quite so violently when nest inspections are carried out, so you should be very careful in such situations.
FOOD ITEMS IN NATURE
The Golden Parakeet is frugivorous and feeds on vegetation in both primary and secondary forests. The Golden Parakeet is not a food specialist, and
its diet appears to vary throughout the year and also across its distribution. When the Golden Parakeet forages, it is often seen together with other parrot species, and the food is found in the treetops and consists among many other food items of:
Fruit e.g., mango (Mangifera indica) and açai
Berries, e.g., Byrsonima crassifolia
Seeds e.g., seeds of Byrsonima and Croton matouensis
Nuts e.g., brazil nuts
(Bertholletia excela), cashew nuts (Anarcardium spp.)
Buds and flowers: Pinnate-leaved palms (Oenocarpus sp.), Symphonia sp., Protium and nectar of Leguminosae (peas)
Crops, especially maize, are also consumed to the annoyance
of local rural people.
According to Tony Silva, an American aviculturist and the author of books and articles about parrots, collected crop contents of wild chicks that has been parent-reared have shown an augment
of the fat in the food items. In other words, there was a distinct increase in the fat content of foods being fed to the chicks, an observation that also has been made in Macaws, so the birds obviously need this higher fat content during this period.
In the wild, the Golden Parakeet is particularly threatened due to intensive loss of habitats as a result of extremely
intensive deforestation (including illegal mahogany harvesting) and due to the construction of new roads and as a result of trapping for bird keeping, but the latter is no longer believed to have a significant impact on the wild stock. Locally, it is considered
a pestilence in many places, as it also feeds on cultivated crops. Therefore, the Golden Parakeet is also sought after to limit damage to crops, and in certain cases the Golden Parakeet is said to end up as human food.
International, on behalf of the IUCN (Red List), has categorized the Golden Parakeet as "Vulnerable" - i.e., an endangered parrot species - and thus a CITES certificate is required to be able to trade legally with the Golden Parakeet (it was
placed in Appendix I of the Washington Convention on 7th January 1975 according to Arndt, but according to another source, this took place already on 3rd March 1973). The population was originally estimated to number 1.000 - 2.499 individuals,
based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. Nonetheless, the Golden Parakeet has actually been down listed in 2013 from "Endangered" because its population was estimated to be larger than previously thought.
Currently, BirdLife International estimates the natural population size at 6.600 - 13.400 adult individuals, although with a decreasing population trend.
As stated, it is now a days listed as "Vulnerable"
(= still “globally threatened”) on the basis that it is estimated to have a small population and it is suspected that it will undergo a rapid decline over the next three generations owing to habitat loss and limited trapping pressure.
It is also considered “Vulnerable” at the national level in Brazil and is protected under special Brazilian law.
Concerning the conservation and threats of the Golden Parakeet according to the
US authorities (U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service), see the appendix that follows at the end of this article.
Photo 05: Guaruba guarouba: When you are an irrepressible parrot enthusiast, you have to go crazy every now and then, and I have done that with e.g., have a mug made with a photo of a Golden Parakeet printed on it ... and as I say to my wife, the coffee and tea simply taste even better from this mug.
The Golden Parakeet is mainly threatened by deforestation and faces significant risk from loss and degradation of its habitat from deforestation.
Drivers of deforestation include roads, human settlement, logging, agricultural expansion for soy cultivation (burning down forests in favor of cultivating the land), and cattle ranching. Additionally, infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric dams (by
the building of dams and the flooding of large areas of the jungle for the production of electricity), establishment of gigantic wind mill farms, and mining operations are growing sources of deforestation that also contribute to loss of forest habitat in the
range of this species.
As already mentioned, the Golden Parakeet comes from a northeastern area of Brazil where a great deal of jungle already several years ago has been cleared in order to build large motorways and their
accompanying road connections. For two motorways whole 1.775.000 hectares of forest was destroyed. The ecology of all the land within 50 kilometers of these motorways has undergone a change and has become unsuitable as parrot habitats.
Another example of the displacement of Golden Parakeets by habitat loss comes from the building of the Tucurui Dam, Pará, from 1975 - 1984. A unique habitat that was considered to be "among the richest and most diversified in the world" was
severely impacted since 2.875 km2 of rainforest were flooded and 1.600 islands were produced by the flooding, all of which were heavily deforested.
Furthermore, mining for minerals also contributes to deforestation
of the Amazon. To give an impression of the magnitude of mining in Brazil, it can be mentioned that it has grown from 1,6 % of gross domestic product in 2000 to 4,1 % in 2011 and is expected to increase by a factor of 3 to 5 by 2030 (according to Brasil Ministério
de Minas e Energia). In Amazon, mining leases, exploration permits, and concessions, collectively encompass 1,65 million km2 of land, with 60 % located in the Amazon Forest. One recent study quantified mining-induced deforestation between 2005 - 2015, and
estimated that it increased Amazon Forest loss up to 70 km beyond the mining lease boundaries and caused 11.670 km2 of deforestation. The study concluded that, in total, mining-induced deforestation has been 12 times greater than that
from the leases alone.
On top of all this is the projected effects from climate changes in Brazil’s climate and associated changes to the landscape are likely to result in additional habitat loss for the Golden
Parakeet. Across Brazil, temperatures are projected to increase and precipitation to decrease. The 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that by 2100, South America will experience temperature increases ranging from 1,7 to 6,7 °C
under the medium and high emission scenarios and 1,0 to 1,5 °C under a low emissions scenario. Projected changes in precipitation in South America vary by region with rainfall reductions in the Amazon estimated with medium confidence.
Sadly, deforestation, trapping, persecution and hunting of nestlings have even been observed within the Amazonia National Park region.
In eastern Pará, the species is heavily trapped and birds are kept as
pets locally or sold to illegal traders for resale in major cities since Golden Parakeets still are in high demand due to the attractiveness of its plumage.
The Golden Parakeet is also threatened by shooting by farmers who
want them out of their corn fields and illegal trapping of wild individuals for the pet trade, although the latter nowadays no longer is a main challenge.
Overall, the Golden Parakeet is affected by habitat loss at about
30 % over some decades which is projected to increase.
Concerning the conservation and threats of the Golden Parakeet according to the US authorities (U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service), see the appendix that follows at the
end of this article.
WILD LIFE PROTECTION MEASURES
The World Parrot Trust has actively been supporting conservation and studies with a number of researchers for the Golden Parakeet since 1999.
This work has to a certain extent included conducting surveys, mapping nesting trees, observing individual and flock behavior, including mapping of food preferences.
Field research undertaken in 2007 in the Western state
of Pará, Brazil, identified new food types used by the species, uncovered a unique flock dynamic and located new roosting and nesting trees.
An international effort led by the Brazilian government in partnership with
Parrots International, Lymington Foundation, the University of São Paulo and others has previously been suggested to raise young birds of Golden Parakeets in human care and reintegrate them to their natural habitat with support of locals in Northeast
A population is relatively well-protected in Tapajós National Park, and a remaining population may survive in Gurupi Biological Reserve. Jamari National Forest is poorly protected and suffers constant pressure
from occupiers, loggers and poachers. Conservation of Golden Parakeets in reserves tends to be problematic because of its apparent nomadism. It is therefore important to protect and manage land between existing protected areas to facilitate nomadic movements.
Surveys are conducted in order to search for previously unknown populations, especially in the south and west of its range. There are also efforts to enforce even more legal restrictions on trade, especially in internal markets
and to further develop a captive breeding program.
Photo 06: Guaruba guarouba: It is easy to distinguish between adult individuals of the Golden Parakeet and newly fledged chicks until they change color to adult plumage. The young birds are missing the warm orange glow in the yellow part of the plumage and are especially characterized by the dark greenish and green feather areas primarily on the cheeks and ear coverts, but also sometimes in many other places.
KEEPING GOLDEN PARAKEETS
In captivity the Golden Parakeet was first seen at the London Zoo (United Kingdom), in 1871 and was
subsequently seen in the zoos of Paris (France), Antwerp (Belgium) and Berlin (Germany). Until the Second World War, however, the Golden Parakeet was a very rarely imported bird. In modern times, it has been possible to experience the Golden Parakeet in several
other zoos e.g., Barcelona Zoo that for many years was known for having a very big and impressive collection of Golden Parakeets in a large aviary. In addition, it can also be seen in large bird parks e.g., Weltvogelpark Walsrode, Germany, and of course in
Loro Parque, Tenerife (Spain).
Once Golden Parakeets were very rare in human care, but nowadays - after the DNA gender tests became available - it is bred relatively widely and is hence seen more often in the aviaries and
as a pet bird, since it is one of the most playful and intelligent parakeets. The Golden Parakeet must still be considered rather rare in human care and is therefore still a somewhat expensive bird. It is a hardy bird that can put up with low temperatures
(WARNING: Do not experiment with the birds, let them gradually get used to colder temperatures and always have access to a frost-free heated, indoor space (Europe)), as long as they are able to spend the nights in their nest boxes. It is not difficult to keep
in good condition, unless it is kept under too small conditions where it apparently tends to become mournful. It should not be kept in aviaries of less than 3 meters in length where - in order for it to really thrive - it should be an aviary with good hiding
places, shrubs and undergrowth. In big aviaries the pairs will rarely utilize the flight space, instead they will quickly crawl from one end to the other in the wire mesh or branches. Very often Golden Parakeets prefer to climb or walk, and they only use their
wings as a last resort. It gnaws quite much and therefore needs continuous access to fresh (not contaminated) natural branches as this also contributes to continuous stimulation and distraction. In this connection, it should be mentioned that in some specialist
literature one can read that Golden Parakeets do not gnaw very much, but then its natural needs have not been understood, or it is a case of hand-reared individuals with an unnatural humanized behavior.
It likes to bathe,
although not all individuals like to bathe in water bowls, but when there is a good downpour, the Golden Parakeets like to hang from the wire mesh ceiling with inflated plumage and spread wings where they end up getting soaking wet. Some aviculturists have
installed a misting system over the aviaries that allows the birds to bathe daily. Low humidity may be a factor that is often overlooked by keepers of this species and may perhaps be a contributing cause of feather plucking among certain individuals.
The Golden Parakeet quickly becomes familiar after acquisition, and hand-reared individuals are in most cases completely tame upon purchase which can be problematic if the birds are intended for breeding, cf. later.
As already stated, Golden Parakeets are very social individuals, living, foraging, sleeping and breeding together. Even in human care it can be seen that the Golden Parakeet is a social bird that thrives best with conspecifics, but it is not immediately
advisable to keep the species in a group in the same aviary, as it often only may be a matter of time before quarrels may occur. Instead, you can place the birds in pairs in aviaries next to each other with double wire mesh between the aviaries, so that the
birds cannot bite each other's feet when a bird is sitting in the wire mesh which especially is a risk during the breeding season.
If you keep Golden Parakeets in pairs in aviaries, you will soon find that a strong bond
can develop between the sexes. Between the two sexes in a pair who show mutual sympathy, a great deal of interaction and care for each other soon often develops which i.e., expresses itself in the form of mutual feather preening. Their behavior can in many
ways be compared to the large Macaws when they e.g., show off or defend their nest box with raised, spread wings and lowered head. As is also known from the large Macaw species, the male Golden Parakeet often holds one of his raised wings over the female to
protect her which is a really touching sight.
The adult bird's threat display involves a wide range of expressive movements, such as beak tapping, beating of the wings, spreading the tail, swaying the head from side to side,
putting the head under the wing, walking back and forth along a perch, etc.
In human care, the Golden Parakeet can be experienced as being very noisy, read: "VERY NOISY", not least in the morning and in
the evening. The Golden Parakeet has a rather loud and by no means particularly melodious voice which it uses for very long periods at a time - in some cases it is experienced almost indefinitely. If you have several Golden Parakeets, and you approach the
first aviary, this will most often trigger a chain of screams from the different aviaries with Golden Parakeets. It's as if the various pairs just keep riling each other up until they end up continuing to scream in unison. The voice of the Golden Parakeet
is not as sharp and shrill as heard among the wedge-tailed parakeets (genus Psittacara), but the voice is so distinctive and is used for such long periods at a time that it makes it impossible to keep this species in densely populated
areas, as you will immediately get problems with your neighbors (and their neighbors).
Photo 07: Guaruba guarouba: The Golden Parakeet can have some very expressive poses. Here you can see a relaxed (cf. the inflated plumage) and well-satisfied bird resting in the autumn evening sun while it has spotted something somewhere in the aviary.
Already back in the 1920’s, the great bird lover, The Duke of Bedford (United Kingdom), learned that his two pairs of Golden Parakeets could not get along, not even with other parrots and parakeets, but they never
molested non-psittacine bird species. The Golden Parakeet can be incredibly cunning and ruthlessly aggressive towards other parrot species. Even bird species significantly larger size than itself (e.g., large Macaws), the Golden Parakeet can attack and even
at a young age before it has reached sexual maturity. I have once observed in an aviary over 10 meters long that the female of a pair of newly introduced young Golden Parakeets crawled in a zig zag course with her head downwards from the wire mesh roof of
the aviary all the way down to the other end of the aviary to ambush a young large Macaw which initially got its tail bitten, after which both birds like a "big feather ball" fell 3 meters to the bottom of the aviary where the female Golden Parakeet fiercely
continued to attack the Macaw which was lying on its back and trying to defend itself.
Kept individually, Golden Parakeets are usually peaceful even with a larger group of aviary mates, but in pairs they are very aggressive
especially towards other parrot and parakeet species.
The Golden Parakeet is in one way or another predisposed to plucking its feathers and therefore has a great need for distraction in human care; this applies not least
to hand-reared individuals for whom it is not natural to challenge and occupy themselves. Hand-rearing of Golden Parakeets can cause abnormal humanized behavior which not only affects the young birds, but also the parents when these are not allowed to live
out their normal behavior through a natural breeding process. It is probably also seen in this light that one must see a lack of well-being and negative behavior in the form of feather plucking among adult birds.
that the Golden Parakeet is a calm and somewhat mournful bird by nature, others the opposite, the former is probably the result of the more or less satisfactory conditions under which it is kept. Golden Parakeets are not suitable for sitting alone in a small
cage, but should instead in all cases be kept together with a mate and have a relatively spacious aviary as a home.
As Golden Parakeets actually prefer to walk rather than fly, they can be kept in outdoor aviaries of a minimum
of L: 3 m x W: 1 m x H: 2 m with free access to an indoor aviary of approximately similar size.
As already mentioned, Golden Parakeets quickly becomes familiar and are also experienced as both inquisitive and playful. In
fact, they are such inquisitive birds that they often are more interested in the activities of the other birds than in exploring the surrounding area. Even if you are lucky enough to have a pair of parent-reared Golden Parakeets together in an aviary, you
will find that they quickly become familiar with the person who interacts with them. And it is when the Golden Parakeet thrives, that you can experience its familiarity and playful behavior. If you as the owner find their favorite treat e.g., grapes or pine
nuts, you can quickly become a very good friend with these birds.
As the Golden Parakeet has been bred more frequently in recent years, it has also become popular kept as a single tame pet bird, due to its beautiful plumage
and entertaining, playful behavior, and because it bonds closely with its owner. Golden Parakeets can become very tame, but have no noteworthy talent for imitating human speech. Since the Golden Parakeet is by nature a social bird that thrives optimally in
the company of conspecifics, and because the species is endangered in the wild, it should in my opinion not be allowed to be kept as a single pet bird in a cage. The Golden Parakeet is not a domesticated species, so in human care one should strive to offer
it so natural surroundings as possible by keeping it together with a conspecific and giving them accommodation in a relatively spacious aviary that is naturally well-furnished.
In this connection, it can be mentioned that
I have heard from certain other breeders that the Golden Parakeet prefers to live in slightly darker aviaries which is optimally "covered" by vine tendrils, but it is also a bird that in nature inhabits dense forest for long periods during the year.
The Golden Parakeet can live 15 - 30 years in human care and is believed to be sexually mature at the age of 3 years.
Photo 08: Guaruba guarouba: It is important on a daily basis to keep an eye on whether your birds are thriving and otherwise appear healthy. All my birds are clinically tested for a number of serious infectious viral and bacterial based diseases. In addition to that, the birds get a rich and varied food added vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Even so, at least once a year you should capture each individual bird, weigh it, and stand with it in your hands and examine it more closely to make sure that it is healthy and fit.
SOME SPECIAL FEATURES OF THE GOLDEN PARAKEET
Here - for better or for worse - some of the special characteristics of the Golden Parakeet must be mentioned which you usually
don't have top of mind when you stand and are fascinated by its fantastically beautiful plumage and entertaining creature.
For probably several different reasons, the Golden Parakeet has a tendency to fall into feather-plucking
when feeling unwell, and this can happen very quickly. In the course of a single day, an otherwise perfect bird can completely change its appearance and come to look like “half a grilled chicken". Ongoing stimuli are, in all respects, absolutely essential
for the well-being of this species. Should the accident happen, and the bird starts plucking itself and/or its fellow bird, with which it lives together, you should discuss with a vet specialized in bird diseases how to stop it based on the causes of the problem,
alternatively symptom treatment. Some use a special acrylic neck collar in an attempt to stop feather plucking, but of course this does not help if it is the bird's mate that plucks it. In these cases, there are some aviculturists that e.g., spraying exposed
parts of the plumage with hartshorn oil which both smells - and probably also tastes - very nasty.
As is probably known to many aviculturists, the large Blue and Yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna) has
a very pleasant scent which is noticeable the closer you get to the bird and especially in warm periods. The situation is different with the Golden Parakeet, this species also has its own scent, or rather smell, because a Golden Parakeet can have a rather
unpleasant smell. This smell seems to be particularly prominent during the breeding season, and there is no doubt in any case when you open the lid of the Golden Parakeet's nest box.
When the Golden Parakeet's chicks become
approximately a few weeks, on the edge of the upper beak in the middle, you will see that there is an outgrowth along each side which I call, in for lack of another word, "flappers". I do not immediately know this phenomenon from other parrot species, and
they also disappear completely when the Golden Parakeet reach the age of 2 years. I have asked several very experienced breeders of Golden Parakeets what the significance of these "flappers" is, but no one has been able to give me an answer. It is both surprising
and thought-provoking that several of these breeders (most of whom hand-rear Golden Parakeet chicks and therefore thus are very close to the birds around the clock) have not even noticed the existence of these "flappers". If you as a reader of this article
know the purpose of these "flappers", please send me a message about this via my website www.birdkeeper.dk.
The Golden Parakeet's bare white skin around the eyes (eye ring) and the flesh-colored toes become distinctly reddish
in the lead-up to and during the breeding season itself. It will therefore often be possible to visually determine whether one's Golden Parakeet pair is in a breeding mood.
Golden Parakeets are unfortunately quite susceptible
to the fungus, aspergillosis, which is probably connected to the fact that when they have a nest box available, they also use it all year round for many hours a day. Therefore, it is important to keep both the nest box and aviary/cage as clean as possible
to avoid aspergillosis, since this fungus normally multiplies in dry feces and can make your bird ill if the immune system is weak for some reason. For the same reason, my Golden Parakeets only have access to the nest box during the breeding season, and I
also maintain a high level of hygiene in relation to the nest boxes.
The Golden Parakeet has a somewhat special mating act, they mate in the "South American"-fashion, as the male does not mount the female, as most commonly
known from various other parrot species. Instead, both birds sit on a perch with their front facing the same way, after which the female leans forward and raises her tail slightly whereupon the male puts one foot on her lower back and turns his under rump
(vent) against her corresponding under rump (vent) and rub them against each other. The act itself takes a few minutes.
Photo 09: Guaruba guarouba: The bird above is a few-month-old young bird, and here you can clearly see the so-called "flappers" in the middle of both sides of the lower edge of the upper beak - I have asked many aviculturists about their function, but no one, I have asked, knows. Young birds are also distinguished by the many green feathers in the yellow part of the plumage and by the fact that the yellow color does not have the warm glow with the slightly orange tone.
The most important thing when feeding Golden Parakeets in human care is to ensure that the diet plan is as varied as possible. This is not least important, as
it can seem difficult to get Golden Parakeets to change already incorporated dietary habits and get them used to new food items. If it has not been ensured in time that the birds consume varied feed, in times of supply scarcity (as experienced in some places
during the COVID19 pandemic) it may be fatal, as it then is too late to teach the birds greater versatility in the diet plan.
Golden Parakeets are by nature very dependent on fruit and vegetables, so the options for what
you can offer the birds in that area will largely depend on where you live, Europe, or on other continents e.g., South America where there is much more access to different exotic fruits. This section is based on a Northern European situation.
The diet can e.g., look like this:
Seed mix consisting of sunflower, safflower, various millets, oats, groats and hemp
Sunflower seed, oats and wheat - soaked or sprouted (be very careful and rinse with plenty of
clean drinkable water)
Pellets (not genetically modified and without artificial colors, if any, they must have been approved by the EU)
Plenty of fruit (alternating with the season) - particularly
in the breeding season, such as apple, orange, bananas, grapes, pomegranate, if possible, also rare exotic fruits such as e.g., kiwi, mango and cactus fruits
Cooked whole grain pasta and brown rice
Green food and vegetables
(alternating with the season), such as lettuce, carrot, celery, green beans, peas in the pod, cucumber, half-ripe maize, cooked beans, boiled corn
Berries, including dried rowanberries, rose hips, hawthorn berries, etc.
nuts, cracked walnuts and almonds
Egg food and biscuit for rearing
Regular vitamin and mineral supplements
Animal proteins e.g., dried shrimp.
The composition of the specific diet plan depends on the season and whether it is outside or within the breeding season. During the breeding season, a soaked or sprouted seed mix is given which is high in vegetable proteins, vitamins, minerals,
enzymes, etc. and lower in fat than the normal daily diet, but fat is still important.
Often the birds have some favorites among the fruits and vegetables offered. Originally imported birds were more interested in fruit
and vegetables than in dry seed mixes, but this has changed over the years.
Incidentally, I was once told by a knowledgeable person in parrot nutrition that parrots cannot taste the difference between different food items,
but in my opinion, this is not correct. Golden Parakeets have shown me that this cannot be the case: My Golden Parakeets simply love to get a treat in the form of sweet grapes and seeing a Golden Parakeet with its head tilted back while it squeezes the juice
from the grape down its throat with its beak while its eyes are closed and clearly enjoying it to the fullest, well that speaks for itself.
Photo 10: Guaruba guarouba: The bird on the right (at the back of the picture) is the same young bird from above (photo 09), just 2 years older, without any “flappers” and dyed to adult plumage - now you can also really see the saturated warm yellow color that the plumage has ended up getting.
I am not aware of any color mutations of the Golden Parakeet, and it would be impossible to imagine how a color mutation could surpass the beauty of the
naturally colored bird.
The Golden Parakeet is an intelligent, active and very social parrot species. It is therefore
very important for its well-being in human care to constantly stimulate this species with employment and natural challenges. If this is not done, the species is known to quickly degenerate into passing the time plucking itself and or conspecifics with which
it sits in an aviary. Too little stimuli and too little distraction in limited space in a cage or aviary, can cause them to become bored and leads to "preening" in this highly exaggerated fashion. It is a result of behavioral disturbance. The feathers often
seem to suffer from this excess attention, with primarily the flights and tail feathers being chewed. Only if the birds receive continuous enrichment, they will leave the feathers alone. So, keeping your Golden Parakeet busy can prevent unwanted feather plucking.
The most important form of enrichment is to keep the Golden Parakeet together with a conspecific (mate) in an environment that matches its natural habitat as closely as possible and preferably with several conspecifics in neighboring
aviaries. Here you will find them playing excitedly and constantly interacting. The social element is so crucial to the well-being of this species that it should not be allowed to keep it as a single tame bird in a cage. No human can replace a fellow species
mate 24/7 365 days a year. Pairs tend to be less vulnerable to feather plucking, but of course also need to be kept occupied.
Next, it is important to be able to provide overhead misters or - if this is not possible - shallow
water bowls for bathing. I have my own theory that adding water to the plumage can reduce the risk of feather plucking.
To satisfy their need for a certain energy level, I really strive to continuously supply my Golden
Parakeets with fresh natural branches, twigs, green branches, preferably containing leaves, flowers, flower buds or berries, branch swings, trunks, cut wooden blocks. I also hide certain treat items in different places in the aviary which will keep the birds
busy for some time. The birds will often consume the bark, fresh tips and flowers and then they spend hours chewing the remainder. Not all enrichment needs to be hung up, some breeders put a log placed on the aviary floor for chewing. One can also try to give
the bird a wooden puzzle toy with a treat inside as it e.g., seen among some animals in certain zoos. Golden Parakeets love to play in a swing made from a natural branch, which is replaced with a new one in a different shape at regular intervals.
Apart from natural rope, I avoid all kinds of factory-made colorful toys, as they do not belong together with birds with a natural behavior in an aviary.
Of course, none of the things that you give to your birds
in the form of e.g., natural branches, twigs, toys, etc., must be contaminated by pollution, toxins, disease pathogens or similar.
You can on a daily basis change one thing in the aviary to give the birds a sense of change
e.g., suspend a mineral block in a different place than usual. You can also carve out the fruit and vegetables that the birds need on a daily basis, in different ways from time to time. All kinds of changes count.
Photo 11: Guaruba guarouba: I would like to promote that more aviculturists purposefully work on natural breeding of Golden Parakeets, so that we can get more birds with natural behavior among serious breeders. That is why I have had this T-shirt made for myself with the motto: "Natural breeding, natural behavior", so that I can become a living "advertising pillar" for this important message as hand-rearing of parrot chicks for animal ethical and animal welfare reasons not is an option for me.
GENERAL ABOUT BREEDING IN HUMAN CARE
The first breeding success was in Sri Lanka back in 1939 (at that time known as Ceylon) in the aviaries of Dr. Osman Hill where two
young birds hatched about 21st March and left the nest on 3rd and 4th May. The first success in Europe occurred in Liverpool during the following year at G. Turner where two chicks hatched of which one died only 5 weeks old.
In Denmark, the first breeding of Golden Parakeets took place in Copenhagen Zoo in 1986 (described in the avicultural magazine, Dansk Fuglehold, vol. 13, no. 7 (1987) v/ Bengt Holst) and the parent birds were birds that were
seized back in May 1980 together with an illegal consignment of Hyacinth Macaws at Copenhagen Airport. Here the breeding trials started in a group of 5 birds which shared a nest already in January 1984 where a total of 4 eggs were laid, but they were all unfertilized.
Along the way, you could experience that up to 4 adult birds were in the nest at the same time without it causing any significant problems. It took several unsuccessful breeding attempts before it was possible to get 2 young Golden Parakeets on perch in the
summer of 1986. Already from the spring, the pair had shown a great interest in the nest box and one by one chased the other 3 Golden Parakeets away from the nest box, so that in the end they had to be removed from the aviary in order not to suffer nuisance,
after which the pair ended up being alone in it. After the fledging, it was noted that the nest was not used at all.
The Golden Parakeet is still known to this day to present even experienced breeders with a number of challenges,
partly because it apparently often has to be rather old before breeding is successful, partly because many hand-reared individuals do not display natural breeding behavior. For some reason the first few years of sexual maturity, Golden Parakeets tend to lay
infertile clutches until the age of six to eight years. In human care, Golden Parakeets often resume breeding when their eggs and/or chicks are taken from them, but this should under no circumstances be abused.
various challenges, breeding in human care is relatively often achieved, but not without bumps in the road which - as I have experienced - can be very, very long. Among aviculturists, Golden Parakeets are mainly kept in pairs in aviaries with breeding in mind
whereas communal breeding is rare to see among breeders. If you want to test this option, it is important to have many climbing trees and a lot more nest boxes than there are pairs, both outside and during the breeding season, but you must continuously observe
what is happening in the group (the group dynamics), so that individual birds do not suffer from other birds' aggressiveness.
When breeding, a nest box is used which should preferably be hung in a somewhat dark place in
the aviary. The Golden Parakeets do not appear to be so fussy when choosing a nest box in terms of size and shape. You can use vertical nest boxes e.g., in the size 30 cm x 30 cm x 46 cm or with the dimensions 30 cm x 30 cm x 61 cm and with a nest entrance
hole of 7 cm. Alternatively, you can also use a diagonal nest box, an L-shaped or a horizontal nest box. They like to sleep in their nest box every night and perhaps for this reason they accept them readily. They may end up gnawing quite a bit in the nest
box, so it's better to build it out of wood of a certain thickness which also provides insulation.
Photo 12: Guaruba guarouba: Photo from a nest box with one of my pair of Golden Parakeets where the female incubates 4 eggs and is "visited" by the male. During the day, the male usually sits and keeps watch on a perch outside the nest box, but in between he comes into the nest box to rest a bit, and in addition he spends the night in the nest box every night.
Breeding often begins in November/December (following the pattern from nature) which can be a challenge in the northern hemisphere and in these cases, it is important to provide sufficient heat (24 degrees Celsius). Yet,
you can manage the breeding period yourself without any problems, so that it instead falls in the summer in the northern hemisphere i.e., by not offering the Golden Parakeets nest boxes during the winter.
Once the Golden
Parakeets have got a nest box and taken it to themselves, they can become territorially aggressive, and when the actual breeding period begins, the female in particular becomes very aggressive where she defends her nest and she can even think of attacking
her keeper. In the same connection, certain accounts must also be mentioned that the aggressiveness can include the birds' own offspring, as there are examples of the Golden Parakeet killing its own chicks before they could become independent.
In addition to bottom material in the form of e.g., dust-free beech chips in the nest box, some breeders also use the opportunity to put fresh natural branches into it to encourage the birds to get into breeding mood.
social nature of the Golden Parakeet allows it sometimes to be bred in small groups. In Brazil you can find more collections that breed with two females to one male. I prefer to breed mine in pairs but house them collaterally which I strongly believe
has a stimulating effect, but more about that later.
If you insist that the Golden Parakeets must have a nest box all year round, then you can consider using a breeding nest box during the breeding season and a somewhat
simpler, dedicated sleeping box outside the breeding season which will also ease the wear and tear compared to only using one nest box all year round.
You should always select the birds for breeding that are the most typical
of the species and possess a certain size, and here you must also remember that the Golden Parakeet is a corpulent built bird and not a thin/slim one.
Photo 13: Guaruba guarouba: When nest box inspections are carried out, one must - as earlier stated - be careful, otherwise one can be bitten quite emphatically. The photo shows the result of one of my first nest box inspections a few years ago which resulted in a bloody finger. In addition to gloves, I have also learned to use a face visor when inspecting nest boxes, as certain Golden Parakeet female birds suddenly and very quickly can jump up the nest box without any thought for their own safety. I have previously experienced such a situation and been bitten in the throat by a female bird of another parrot species during a nest box inspection, and the bird continued to hang on. It was definitely not pleasant.
The female Golden Parakeet typically lays between 3 - 5 white eggs (24 - 25 mm x 34 - 36 mm), but the norm seems to be 4 eggs on average which hatch after approximately 26 days. The chicks are hatched with white downs with
a yellow hint. They develop a small secondary down, as they are rather naked. At a certain age the chicks can flip on their backs when startled, kick and then become stock-still like Macaws e.g., during nest inspection. The chicks are ready to fly and leave
the nest after approximately 10 weeks. Young Golden Parakeets are generally weaned 2 - 3 weeks after fledging, but some specimens are said to begin eating by themselves only three days after leaving the nest. They most often change color to adult plumage during
approximately the first 18 - 20 months and are assumed to be sexually mature after approximately 30 months. Some literature mentions that both the male and the female take turns incubating, but during my 9 years of work with Golden Parakeets I have only observed
that it is the female that incubates. I have continuously surveilled the nest boxes via camcorders and I have only seen that the male is roosting beside the female when she lies on eggs.
Since the sexes of the Golden Parakeet are not dimorphic (there is no visible gender difference), the availability of DNA-based gender testing technology has gradually been instrumental in improving the possibilities for breeding this species in
human care. Although DNA-based gender tests have of course been of great help, the Golden Parakeet is still not a widespread bird in the aviary. This is because it has been shown that even if you put a male and a female together who sympathize, you cannot
- cf. the introduction to this section - just expect it to produce a successful breeding result. There are a number of challenges linked to the breeding of Golden Parakeets, of which the following must be mentioned:
the Golden Parakeet is assumed to be sexually mature around the age of 3, as already mentioned, it can often take many years before the breeding activity of a couple starts, and then it can take further years before the birds' fertility shows. You can experience
that when a couple finally starts laying eggs, the clutches are typically unfertilized year after year. If you later find that fertilized eggs finally are laid, then you may be faced with the problem that the female either does not want to incubate the eggs
or at least not stable, and she may even end up abandoning eggs or the chicks during the process. Obviously, it must not be too straightforward to breed this species.
The lack of breeding success can of course be linked
to many different factors, but a significant part of the explanation may be that science has not yet fully succeeded in uncovering the apparently social breeding behavior of this species in the wild which can include up to several birds. Personally, I am also
of the opinion that the many hand-reared individuals of Golden Parakeets have lost a part of their natural breeding behavior, as the birds have instead become unnaturally humanized. In addition, inbreeding has often been mentioned as part of the explanation,
as there originally were reported some relatively few strains of Golden Parakeets in Europe, on which a population has been successively built up over the years. However, I don't believe that since I over the years have seen Golden Parakeets in many different
places and so far, I have not observed any of the classic signs of physical degeneration on the birds that otherwise can characterize inbred individuals. Furthermore, other and even more rare parrot species have succeeded in breeding from fewer individuals
without signs of inbreeding, so I do not immediately believe that this provides any explanation for the lack of breeding success in this species.
Communal breeding of the Golden Parakeet in human care was apparently first
reported years ago by a Brazilian aviculturist who had three hens that laid eggs in the same nest and ended up with a group of 11 chicks that fledged the nest. Hereafter this behavior has been reported among other breeders, often with the chicks remaining
with their parents until the following nesting attempt. Some breeders believe that the fertility will be highest in communal breeding compared to single pairs, given fact that the former opens the possibility of interaction between several birds.
When first reported, communal breeding among Golden Parakeets was viewed with skepticism. Afterwards scientific fieldwork has shown that wild birds often nest communally, with multiple pairs laying in the same nest or alternative a dominant female
are supported by other flock members to rear her clutch. Aviculturists that are willing to experiment (there is a risk doing this) with keeping a colony will be rewarded with the interactions of these beautiful parrots. On the other hand, you can just breed
this species in one pair per aviary where their beauty will not be less imposing. As is the case with all parrot species with a strong social behavior, keeping multiple pair of Golden Parakeets in close proximity to each other, but only one pair per aviary,
When the right time comes a pair of Golden Parakeets will often perform a short breeding display. The male will start by taking an upright stance on the perch, firmly gripping the perch and eagerly flapping
its wings for a short while. Between this scenery, he will rub the perch with the beak, first on one side and then on the other side. Golden Parakeets mate sideways i.e., the male retains one foot on the perch and placing the other on the back of the female.
Courtship feeding usually precedes the mating and sometimes continues afterwards. The females, and sometimes the males, often make a peculiar noise during the mating.
Photo 14: Guaruba guarouba: Ongoing stimulation and diversion are absolutely essential for Golden Parakeets to thrive in human care. One of the things that Golden Parakeets like is to sit and rest in a branch swing that can move. They also use it for a form of play where they can be 2 birds at the same time on the same swing, or where one sits in the wire mesh near the swing and "pushes" the other bird in it.
Unfortunately, it is significantly easier to find hand-reared Golden Parakeets than parent-reared individuals. Several breeders of Golden Parakeets give many more or less credible
excuses for hand-rearing the chicks rather than letting nature take its course, including:
"I can't get the birds to incubate themselves, so I take the eggs from them and put them in an incubator"
can't get the birds to look after their chicks, so I take them away for hand-rearing"
"The parent birds leave the chicks anyway during the process (here it is typically mentioned that this happens after 3 weeks), so I will have to take them
away for hand-rearing"
"One (or both) of the parent birds pluck the feathers of the chicks in the nest box, so I have to take them away for hand-rearing"
"The birds breed in the winter, and I don't have a heated bird house,
so I have to take the chicks into my house and feed them by hand".
For many years I have kept a number of smaller parrot species which have a significantly shorter life- and breeding-cycle than Golden Parakeets. This applies, among others, to the Lovebirds (genus Agapornis) where you also can encounter, to varying degrees, similar problems regarding breeding as those listed above. Here I learned that patience was the way forward for breeding pairs that did not breed successfully the first breeding season after they were a year old and definitely sexually mature. Here, pairs that had been a failure in the first breeding season could suddenly start breeding in the following season, even without changing anything. In other words, the birds were allowed to test themselves and develop. I have learned how to give breeding pairs with a poor breeding record time to learn how to become parents, so that a pair that initially did not lay fertilized eggs subsequently laid fertilized eggs, or a parent pair that on the first breeding attempt could not find out how to feed their chick themselves, they found out next time. Sometimes one or more parameters were adjusted, if the female in a pair did not take care of her chicks, then a remating could be carried out which perhaps solved the problem. Parent birds that plucked feathers of their chicks in the nest box were taken out of the breeding for a shorter or longer period and the "culprit" was replaced with another bird in the pair constellation. One could e.g., also try switching to a different nest box, or - if in a single case - you want to preserve a clutch of eggs/chicks that are not looked after by their parents, then you can try to put these under another pair of conspecifics that breed at the same time. In a large number of cases, it was thus possible to find sensible and balanced solutions, as money was not - and never has been - the driving force for my breeding. On the other hand, one might object that the Golden Parakeet is a more rare bird in the wild, so it is important to save the offspring, even if you have to use hand-rearing, but this does not apply compared to, for example, Agapornis nigrigenis (Black-cheeked Lovebird, "Vulnerable" according to BirdLife International with estimated 2.500 - 9.999 individuals left in the wild) or Agapornis lilianae (Lilian's Lovebird, "Near Threatened" according to BirdLife International with estimated 6.000 - 15.000 individuals left in the wild). In addition, one can ask oneself what is the point of saving the offspring of a rare species by means of hand-rearing which thereby acquires an unnatural humanized behavior and is subsequently relegated to being a lonely domesticated bird for the rest of its life in a small cage, alternatively it is attempted to be incorporated in breeding with a mate in an aviary, but where your starting point is a bird which may not have a natural breeding behavior.
Photo 15: Guaruba guarouba: One of my Golden Parakeets moves into my new bird house in 2017 where the birds are sitting in pairs in separate aviaries, but close to each other, as Golden Parakeets by nature are very social birds. The closeness with conspecifics is crucial for the well-being of this species and my theory is that it also encourages breeding, even if it took quite a few years before I managed to get the first natural breeding.
It is most surprising that even people who by virtue of their education and profession should know significantly better systematically carry out commercial hand-rearing of Golden Parakeets arranged as a form of "mass production"
in order to meet the demand for young Golden Parakeets to be used as single pet birds with a view to a future in a small cage and only with humans for company.
I am fully aware that a number of breeders who practice hand-feeding
parrot chicks defend themselves by saying that hand-rearing can be carried out in many different ways where the chicks are placed together with conspecifics or other so-called "comparables" bird species during the process. However, this does not change the
fact that to a greater or lesser extent, the birds are given an unnatural humanized behavior. Just as significantly, the hand-reared young birds do neither achieve the same natural resistance and robustness in their immune system that the parents possess and
could otherwise have passed on to the chicks.
I am also fully aware that hand-rearing has helped to save both certain species in human care and other species from extinction in the wild with the help of hand-rearing. When
hand-rearing is done with a non-commercial purpose and in a professional manner - and only on special occasions - such as in the event that a breeder once in a while has to resort to hand-feeding a bird when something unexpected has gone wrong during a breeding,
or when it comes to the activities in Loro Parque (the world's largest parrot park and gene pool for parrots), then I can see a higher purpose for it. However, the situation is different with certain private breeders who have practically put commercial hand-rearing
of Golden Parakeets (and in some cases also other rare parrot species) into a system where the birds are bred and raised almost like on an assembly line in a factory to subsequently leave the birds to an existence as single tamed pet birds in small cages and
only with humans as a company; I simply don't understand this way of treating your birds, this is only about making money, in any case it is not about looking after the welfare of the birds. After all, you don't see the same “aviculturists” hand-rearing
other significantly more widespread and cheaper parrot species in the same way. It gets really bad with those breeders who have taken the commercialization of hand-rearing to new heights and immediately after the first clutch of eggs are laid, then remove
these and put them in an incubator, so that the birds immediately hereafter can start all over again with laying eggs. In this way, these “aviculturists” can make the birds produce 3 - or even worse - more clutches during one season, with the result
that the female bird (even if she does not have to raise her chicks herself) does not get a break to recover and thus is exhausted, with the risk of a shorter life. It is not to have compassion - and love - for your birds, it is to prey on birds, and then
you do not deserve the term "breeder".
I think that the negative development with the increasing use of hand-rearing of parrots also can be connected to something as simple as that many breeders do not have enough patience
and do not make enough effort to try to get the Golden Parakeets to breed naturally (= parent-rearing), alternatively they might give up too easily. In advance, I had decided to succeed exclusively with natural breeding, and I was ready to give the birds all
the necessary time to develop naturally in order to succeed.
A completely different problem than the ones mentioned above (lack of breeding, inadequate hatching of eggs and insufficient care of chicks) is the problem with
the many unfertilized eggs which I address in a later section about my own experiences with unsuccessful breeding.
The Golden Parakeet has a reputation for being sensitive to nest inspection and it may even leave the nest
with chicks when it has been disturbed and no longer feels safe in the nest box. Conversely, you may also experience that some breeders photograph or film their Golden Parakeets’ chicks in the nest box in order to subsequently publish the breeding on
social media. It must be breeders who know their breeding birds very well and know that they can tolerate being disturbed in this way during the breeding process.
Like so many other South American parakeets, this species
also likes to spend the night in the nest box outside the breeding season, but with me, Golden Parakeets do not have nest boxes all year round, as there may be a risk of Aspergillosis.
Photo 16: Guaruba guarouba: I am not aware of any color mutations of the Golden Parakeet, but who would even think of changing such a magnificent and beautiful bird that nature itself has created?
MY OWN EXPERIENCES WITH GOLDEN PARAKEETS
In general, I see no challenge in buying well-established (and at that time very expensive) "guaranteed breeding pairs" of Golden
Parakeets since there is no sportsmanship in breeding birds that have already given birth to chicks with another breeder. As a starting point when I start working with a new parrot species, I therefore prefer to select the best birds among unrelated young
birds and then try to put together the best birds for an optimal breeding material; this is a far more exciting and satisfying challenge for me. Of course, this is also often a much more long-term strategy than buying breeding pairs, and it requires a lot
of patience, but it was also the approach I used when I started working with Golden Parakeets back in 2013.
My starting point was thus not to buy established breeding pairs, but exclusively flawless young birds that were
selected for the best quality. Unfortunately, it has only been possible for me to acquire parent-reared Golden Parakeets at one occasion, the rest of my birds are all hand-reared birds. In all cases I would have preferred to buy parent-reared young birds with
a biologically correct behavior as well as a significantly greater natural resistance that only the parent birds can pass on to their chicks with food from their roost.
As already mentioned, I bought my first pair of Golden
Parakeets back in 2013. They were two very beautiful birds which were hand-reared and which had a great interest in staying and sleeping in the nest box, but they did not show any signs of wanting to breed over the next few years. In addition, their behavior
turned out to be very unnaturally characterized by humanized behavior by almost being more interested in me - and my wife - as people than in each other. After 2½ years, the female died and after an autopsy by a veterinarian specializing in bird diseases,
the cause of death was determined to be aspergillosis possibly originated with the previous owner. After that the male went alone, while I in many places tried to acquire a new age-matching female, but I was not successful, so after more than 1 year as a widower,
during which the bird seemed to appear more and more sad, I saw no other way out than to sell the bird to another breeder who was in need of such a male. At this time, I had already acquired 3 other Golden Parakeets (2 males and 1 female) which were quite
young and which the lone - now sold - male first was tried to be brought together with but without showing any kind of interest in his conspecifics.
I later succeeded in acquiring a few more young birds, but along the way
it unfortunately turned out that some of these young Golden Parakeets, all of whom were hand-reared, also were feather pluckers. Alongside this, I had learned via a bird association that there apparently are a couple breeding stocks in Denmark which are known
to raise Golden Parakeets with these behavioral disorders.
Photo 17: Guaruba guarouba: Taxonomically speaking, the Golden Parakeet was given its own genus a few years ago after having been part of the Aratinga genus for many years, but scientifically it has been shown that there are a number of decisive differences which have meant that it has been placed in its own monotypic genus, Guaruba.
A partially plucked Golden Parakeet without a complete plumage is not a pretty sight, and since I only want to keep birds of prime quality, I very purposefully chose to replace
the feather pluckers with other young Golden Parakeets which have largely proven to be free of feather plucking. It has also been important for me to buy birds that originate from different places in Denmark and abroad in order - as far as possible - to avoid
any relationship and possible inbreeding.
I managed to put together a small handful of pairs who, over time, have developed a mutual liking for each other. When both birds in the individual pairs had reached the age of 3
- 4 years, they were offered nest boxes, but until this year - summer 2022 - all my breeding attempts have been unsuccessful, as the eggs continued to be unfertilized despite the birds with great certainty had become sexually mature. In the past 9 years, I
have thus only succeeded in getting the provisionally sexually mature 3 couples to lay unfertilized eggs.
I therefore share the fate of a number of other breeders of Golden Parakeets in spe who also have experienced that
this species can be difficult to breed. Throughout the years I have maintained that I only wanted to work with natural breeding i.e., the parent birds themselves had to look after the chicks and get them on a perch, but my challenge has been that I couldn't
even get the birds to lay fertilized eggs at all, so there have been no young at all for the parents to take care of.
When you acquire a young hand-reared Golden Parakeet which you intend to put together with a mate in an
aviary with an aim to - when the birds become sexually mature - try to breed the naturally way, it is often necessary to let the birds go through a long "naturalization period" during which the birds are "dehumanized" for their unnaturally humanized behavior.
This includes, among other things, greatly reduced human interaction with the individual bird, so that the birds instead can concentrate on each other and go through a "training" for a natural biologically correct behavior by learning to crawl and gnaw on
fresh natural branches, to fly, etc. If you start again frequently associating with such Golden Parakeets, they often revert to their original familiarity/tameness. However, even the tamest bird will become aggressive when nesting, and it will not hesitate
to attack any intruder.
Even if you acquire adult birds or parent-reared chicks, it does not take long before Golden Parakeets start to feel safe and become so familiar that they like to take treats from your hand or in
some cases even allow themselves to be scratched. Since Golden Parakeets by nature are very curious, even in relation to parent-reared aviary birds there will be some interaction with humans, as the Golden Parakeets themselves seek out this opportunity, as
they very rarely refuse to accept a treat.
It has never been an option for me to keep the Golden Parakeet as a single tame pet bird in a cage. As mentioned, Golden Parakeets are by nature extremely social creatures that
thrive in the presence of fellow species. As I value the mental well-being of my birds very highly, it has therefore always been my strategy to keep several Golden Parakeets together, not in the same aviary, but in neighboring aviaries (with double wire mesh),
so that the birds both can see and hear each other, but not damage each other.
Photo 18: Guaruba guarouba: Camcorder photo of my first 4 Golden Parakeet chicks, the oldest being 48 days old. This species grows at an incredible speed compared to a number of other parrot species. Although there was a big size difference between the oldest and the youngest of the 4 chicks, all chicks from the first day of life have proven to be extremely vital and have fought to get the necessary food. The parent birds have behaved completely exemplary throughout the process and provided more than ample food for all 4 chicks.
BREEDING HISTORY – MY FIRST 9 YEARS EXPERIENCES
Over time, I have read various articles stating that it can take up to several years before it is possible to successfully
breed Golden Parakeets, but without actually getting an explanation as to why this is the case. It is something that, on the basis of further research, etc., I have tried to give my modest opinion about in this article, although without being able to say with
certainty that my considerations are correct in all contexts. I had also heard from a very experienced breeder that even if you get a pair of Golden Parakeets to breed successfully one year, it is far from certain that the success will be repeated the following
year, but neither on this matter I could get any explanation.
Since I have had great success breeding other highly social parrot species that are difficult to breed in human care, I have focused on supporting the birds'
natural social behavior and allowing several pairs to breed near each other. It is important that Golden Parakeets both can see and hear each other in order to be able to encourage each other to breed.
All along the motto
for my efforts regarding the breeding of the Golden Parakeet has been "Natural breeding, natural behavior", as hand-rearing of parrot chicks for animal ethical and animal welfare reasons not is an option for me.
mentioned above, after the first 3 pairs successively had become sexually mature, I noticed at the beginning that the birds only rested and spent the nights in the nest boxes without laying eggs. Subsequently, the birds finally started laying eggs, but time
and again, year after year, it turned out that they all were unfertilized. In 2021 I had gradually started to become somewhat impatient, tending to desperate that I could not even get the birds to lay fertilized eggs, knowing that there later would perhaps
also arise other challenges, namely that the females also had to be a stable breeding bird in the incubation period and take good care possible chicks afterwards through an entire breeding process, etc. I was completely at a loss for the birds' lack of fertility,
but of course I didn't want to give up.
Film 02: Guaruba guarouba: In this short camcorder film from my first breeding of this species the oldest chick is 20 days old and it shows that all four Golden Parakeet chicks in the nest box are very lively. Although there is a large difference in size between the oldest and the youngest birds, the youngest birds have shown to be very vital and fully capable of fighting for food from the parent birds. It is incredibly touching to see how the female takes care of the chicks and already has started to groom the chicks' beginning feathers. No human being can ever replace the care of the chicks' own parents.
In connection with my long "desert journey" over several years, during which the birds as the highest only laid unfertilized eggs, several changes have been considered and many of these have also been implemented such as
e.g., changing the pair combinations, relocating to another aviary and the use of new nest boxes. At the end of the failed 2021 breeding season, I moved the 3 breeding pairs of Golden Parakeets from their respective south-facing and very sunny aviaries to
the north side of the aviary in darker and shorter aviaries, with a row of large trees creating shadows over the aviaries. The birds had already been fed food containing vitamin E which should benefit both breeding and fertility, but it was obviously still
not enough. In the summer of 2022, I was therefore determined to focus on more targeted measures that would be able to increase fertility in particular. So, I decided to give the birds an actual cure of vitamin E over several weeks, given dissolved in the
drinking water and replaced every day. Now, of course, it could be a coincidence, but actually, for the first time ever, something started to happen. Apart from moving the birds to darker aviaries ahead of the 2022 breeding season, the vitamin E supplement
was the only change I made. The 3 breeding pairs had already laid one clutch of eggs which were unfertilized and had been removed from the nest boxes after the end of the standard incubation period (+ several extra days). Now the 3 pairs were working on the
2nd clutch, and one day when I was feeding inside the bird house, I did as I usually do, I looked out through the flight hole between the inner and outer aviary in one of the aviaries where I saw a pair of Golden Parakeets actually mating on a perch.
I was almost ecstatic with joy, but would not believe in any breeding success until I saw it with my own eyes.
Film 03: Guaruba guarouba: In this little camcorder film where the oldest bird are 73 days old and already fledged the nest box, you see some of the siblings getting theirs feathers preened by the female bird. With up to four extremely lively young birds in a relatively small nest box means that space can become cramped as the birds grow. The chicks leave the nest box successively, but in the following weeks continue to return to the nest box as the safe place to stay. This is a contrast to what Copenhagen Zoo experienced back in 1986 when they bred this species for the first time and where the young birds did not return to the nest box after they fledged.
After mating, the female completed a thoroughly perfect incubation period where she lay very firmly on the eggs while the male sat and kept watch outside on a perch near the nest box, only interrupted by him coming in and
feeding her. The female lay so firmly on the eggs that it was very difficult to carry out digital nest box inspection during the incubation period. Via the wireless camera system in the ceiling of the nest box, I still managed on 15th July 2022
to see that 1 egg had been laid. This was followed by another 3 eggs every second days, a total of 4 eggs which for the first time ever for me could turn out to be fertilized eggs. On the 7th August, to my indescribable joy, I heard sounds from
a chick in the nest box, not an actual chirp, but a rather loud, somewhat hoarse, long sound. This happened after 26 days of incubation and in the following days 3 more chicks came out of the eggs i.e., "full house". All in all, the parent birds have proved
to be absolutely exemplary and have looked after and nurtured the chicks perfectly.
The first chick came already out of the nest box at the age of 8 weeks for 2 days in a row, but it must have been a mistake as they normally
fledge after 10 weeks and quite right, we saw it again after further 2 weeks whereafter the smaller siblings followed like "pearls on a string" every few days. In connection with the fledge from the nest box, the female bird defended her chicks with inflated
plumage and spread wings, while she hung at the front of the wire mesh. I have actually been quite surprised that over a period of several weeks the young birds have consistently returned to the nest box together with the parent birds in the evening. It is
quite clear that the young birds continue to regard the nest box as a "safe haven".
Along the way, the female has lined the nest box with feathers from her breast area, as well as lying and chopping up the fresh natural
branches and the beech chips that were used as bottom material, as is known from a number of other South American parrot species.
The breeding pair consists of a female bird that I bought 8 months old in 2018, and which
at the time of breeding (summer 2022) was 4 years and 11 months and a male bird bought as 2½ years old back in 2014 and which was 11 years old at the time of breeding.
As I have heard - and read - several times the
Golden Parakeet can be very sensitive to nest box inspection and can abandon both eggs and chicks, so I chose from the start to primarily replace manual nest box inspections with digital monitoring of the nest box via a built-in wireless camcorder which can
be monitored both from a pc and from a mobile phone. This was an excellent decision as I have been able to closely follow the entire breeding cycle. The most remarkable thing here was being able to observe the incredible care from the parents towards the chicks
throughout the whole process. No human can ever replace this through hand-rearing, and in my best opinion it is a great sin to remove chicks from their parents when the parents themselves are able to care for them. It is, among other things, absolutely touching
to see, when the chicks have got their first feathers, how over time the female increasingly takes cares of the chicks’ future plumage. The male has also taken part in feeding the chicks, just as he also participates in the preening of the chicks’
feathers and often has rested in the nest box together with the female and the 4 chicks during the day and always during the night.
Photo 19: Guaruba guarouba: This photo shows the three first fledged young birds characterized by the green and greenish feathers in the head region and different places on the body. All four young birds have a remarkably size and seem very vital. It has been hard work for the parent birds over the past several weeks to raise as many as 4 chicks which have now flown from the nest.
What is the future of the Golden Parakeet in the wild and - not least - in human care?
The greatest threat to the Golden
Parakeet in the wild today remains, as it also applies to so many other parrot species elsewhere in the world, man's reckless destruction and exploitation of the earth's resources. What will happen in the future to the Golden Parakeet's natural habitats which
largely include the Amazon jungle? Will the newly elected new Brazilian president (at the time of writing President-elect of Brazil), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, continue following the line of his predecessor and allow rampant logging and forest burning
in order to cultivate the land with various infra structure and crops instead? Does Brazil have plans for further expansion of the highway network throughout the Amazon with associated byways? Will the Brazilian authorities continue to set up large wind mill
farms in the habitats of endangered parrot species, such as it has happened to the Lear's Macaw (Anodorhynchus leari) in 2021? The questions are many, but unfortunately, I am afraid that there is only one answer, namely that the negative
development will continue, and we must therefore hope that new climate-, environment- and nature-protection-conscious generations of decision-makers to a much greater extent will try to secure the future framework for this species before it is too late. Nevertheless,
the problem is made more complex by the fact that Golden Parakeets have a nomadic behavior that extends over several habitats.
As for the future of the Golden Parakeet in human care what can be done to dampen the demand
for hand-reared young birds consigned to a fate as single tamed pet birds sitting in small cages for the rest of their lives? As tame single tame pet birds, they do not contribute to the survival of the species in human care and even if they were eventually
to be put together with a mate, the often abnormally humanized behavior can be destructive to the birds' ability to reproduce. What will actually happen to the large proportion of hand-reared single sitting tame Golden Parakeets when e.g., the owner dies,
becomes ill, or otherwise becomes unable to care for the bird himself, or simply loses interest in the bird over time? Will it be able to continue its existence as a single tame pet bird with another human, or will it have to be taken over by a possible breeder
who can then try to put it together with another bird at an advanced age, and how will it actually go if the single tame pet bird for many years has been exclusively relegated to the company of humans and not - what would be the most natural - has had any
association with conspecifics, does it perceive itself as a Golden Parakeet, and will it ever be able to live a meaningful existence?
Photo 20: Guaruba guarouba: Healthy Gold Parakeets in top condition are lively birds that have a playful behavior and always show great curiosity in relation to their surroundings which must always be investigated. You can spend many hours in front of an aviary with a pair of Golden Parakeets, it's exciting, it's entertaining, it's clearly the parrot hobby at its very best.
In my opinion, parrot species should not be kept as single tame pet birds when it comes to species that are threatened in the wild and certainly not when they are close to “the
brink of extinction”. This can push a trend towards more illegal capture and trade in such birds. Of course, you must under no circumstances - directly or indirectly - take or help to take - more Golden Parakeets away from the wild in order to meet the
demand for single-sitting tamed birds in human care. In addition to being illegal and punishable both in its home country and in a possible recipient country, it is highly unethical and immoral and can contribute to the extinction of the Golden Parakeet in
the wild. On the other hand, hand-rearing Golden Parakeets in human care has meant that the demand for tame pet birds has gone a long way to meeting the demand for “domestic” birds without having to hunt the birds illegally in their country of
origin, but perhaps unfortunately also at the same time precisely contributed to hand-rearing taking place to such a large extent. The serious aviculturists should only breed these birds from birds that have already been in human care for many years, but keep
the birds so that they are bred naturally and acquire biologically correct behavior. In this way, serious breeders in the long run can contribute to the creation of a gene pool for the future in case of possible controlled repatriation to its native habitat
I believe in the idealistic idea that serious aviculturists - read breeders - can help, through targeted breeding, to ensure a gene pool of Golden Parakeets with a biologically correct behavior that, if necessary
- and under orderly conditions under scientific auspices and in collaboration with relevant authorities - will be able to return to its original natural range in Brazil, should it ever come into question. If in the long term it turns out to be a passable path,
it is a challenge that in human care there are so many single-sitting, hand-reared Golden Parakeets as “domestic” birds that do not have normal, biologically correct behavior, including normal breeding behavior.
conclusion, this breeding report has hopefully shown that you can actually get very far if you are determined and believe that natural breeding can succeed and if you are very patient. Not all Golden Parakeets in human care need to be hand-reared, on the contrary:
“Natural breeding, natural behavior”.
Photo 21: Guaruba guarouba: The proud, but tired and worn-out female bird together with her first four young birds on a perch in their aviary. The four young birds are extremely lively and are already moving eagerly everywhere in the aviary, so you have to be lucky to get a photo of all four at the same time which I managed this time and even together with their mother. The father sat by himself in the wire mesh.
For the particularly interested readers, the following appendix is also attached:
GOLDEN PARAKEET - ABOUT CONSERVATION AND THREATS ACCORDING TO U. S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.
Conceived / Updated: 18.11.2022/18.11.2022
IT IS NOT ALLOWED
TO COPY PHOTOS OR TEXT FROM THIS WEBSITE WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN ACCEPTANCE!
www.birdkeeper.dk-Article on Golden Parakeet-APPENDIX
GOLDEN PARAKEET - ABOUT CONSERVATION AND THREATS ACCORDING TO U. S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.
About the Blue-naped Parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis)
A story about determining the right subspecies
THIS ARTICLE CAN ONLY BE VIEWED CORRECTLY FROM A PC, NOT A MOBILE PHONE.
My first encounter with the Tanygnathus genus
Already when I was a teenager back at the beginning of the 1970's, you could occasionally see some very special parrot species at one of the large bird traders in Copenhagen (Denmark), who were known for continuously importing many parrots from the various parrot continents. They were smaller medium to medium sized green parrots with a beautiful mosaic pattern on their wings, which is caused by the different colored wing coverts are being broadly marked with orange-yellow edges (in most of the subspecies) and with an impressive, disproportionately large red beak compared to the rest of the bird. These birds later turned out to be Tanygnathus lucionensis and Tanygnathus megalorynchos, and I remember that on the few occasions I saw them, it was usually just a single bird in the cage tucked away over in a corner of the shop premises, possibly because they were mistakenly included in a shipment from Asia along with a number of other far more popular parrot species.
At this time, nobody really knew anything about these birds, and at the same time they did not seem to have much interest among aviculturists. This has since changed quite a bit because nowadays many aviculturists are fascinated by these parrots.
But what is it that makes parrots from the Tanygnathus genus so fascinating?
Tanygnathus lucionensis lucionensis: The scientific Latin species name "lucionensis" means coming from Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. This is the nominate subspecies coming from the islands of Luzon and Mindore in the northern parts of the Philippines. The beautiful photo clearly shows the upper side of the nominate subspecies which is characterized by it is having a blue/bluish mantle, back, lower back and upper rump. Photo: Forest Botial-Jarvis-Bataan, Philippines-Macaulay Library ML560592651.
Brief introduction to the whole Tanygnathus genus
Before we delve into the substance and take a closer look at the main focus of this article, namely the determination of the Tanygnathus lucionensis subspecies, here is an overall and very short introduction to the entire Tanygnathus genus:
The Tanygnathus genus represents a group of parrots with predominantly green plumage that are smaller medium to medium sized birds with large - in several instances - very large, heavy mainly red beak (hence the Latin scientific designation, “Tanygnathus”, that means extended, long and beak/jaw, is well-deserved) and a proportionately short, wedge-shaped rounded tail, which is somewhat stepped and is shorter than their wings, giving them - according to the world-renowned Australian ornithologist Joseph M. Forshaw - a “top-heavy” look. There is no prominent notch in the upper mandible and the cere is naked. Sexual dimorphism is slight or absent, and young birds generally appear duller than adults.
The premise of this article is the world's leading, current nomenclature/taxonomy, “THE HOWARD AND MOORE COMPLETE CHECKLIST OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD”, version 4 from 2013 and newest version 4.1 from August 2018, ”Errata and Corrigenda to Volume 1”, (used by the world's leading scientists, researchers, ornithologists, curators, etc.) mentions the following species and subspecies belonging to the Tanygnathus genus:
Status in the wild according to BirdLife International: “Vulnerable”.
The members of the Tanygnatus genus are closely related to the Eclectus Parrots (the Eclectus genus). However, the most Tanygnathus species are much smaller and are less heavily built than the Eclectus Parrots and thus more elegant. Just as you see with members of the Eclectus genus, Tanygnathus females are also known to be quite aggressive towards males, but in fact some Tanygnathus males can also be aggressive towards females. It can even become so violently that the female's toes can be bitten off. As with the Eclectus Parrots, there is only limited interaction between the sexes in daily life and mutual preening is not something that I yet have experienced in the Tanygnathus species that I have kept for some years.
Genetic evidence has also supported close relationship to the Psittacula genus as it looked like up until 2019. For example, there are many similarities between Tanygnathus megalorhynchus and Psittacula eupatria magnirostris (nowadays Palaeornis eupatria magnirostris, in english Andaman Alexandrine Parakeet); if one abstracts from the fact that the former has a short tail and the latter has a long tail, just try to compare the enormous and amazing beaks of both birds.
This genus is native to Southeast Asia and Melanesia. The overall distribution area is mainly the Philippines, New Guinea, the Moluccas and Sulawesi (the world's 11th largest island, also called Celebes).
In nature, their food mainly consists of fruits (e.g., mangoes), seeds, berries, nuts and insects. Sometimes their food also consists of crops e.g., corn.
What particularly fascinates me about this genus is their disproportionately large beak, which in the vast majority of cases is large and red and thus very prominent, you can't help but focus precisely on it when you look at the bird. It cannot be said that the members of the genus Tanygnathus are brightly colored, but most species/subspecies have an incredibly beautiful mosaic pattern on their wings, which is caused by the different colored wing coverts are being broadly marked with orange-yellow edges (in most of the subspecies). Although some of the birds may appear a little compact, they are very agile and move incredibly elegantly in the branches of the trees.
Kept in human care, these birds appear very shy at first, but gradually they become calmer and, in some cases, they can become completely comfortable with human contact.
None of the four different Tanygnatus species have ever been common within the aviculture, which may be surprising, as they are rather quiet and low-voiced birds that you can become familiar with over time. Having said that, Tanygnathus lucionensis is the "most frequently" occurring species among aviculturists, whereas Tanygnatus megalorynchos and Tanygnathus sumatranus are seen even less often. Very remarkably, Tanygnathus lucionensis has the reverse status in nature where it has become a fragile species with a status of being "Near Threatened". BirdLife International has estimated that there are only 1,500 - 7,000 individuals left in the wild of this species with associated subspecies. Besides, the population development is also decreasing mainly due to logging of trees in its habitats. Neither Tanygnatus megalorynchos nor Tanygnathus sumatranus is nearly threatened in the wild, fortunately they are of the least concern. It is therefore very paradoxical that Tanygnathus lucionensis is the most widespread species among aviculturists in Europe.
Tanygnathus megalorhynchos sumbensis: This photo shows a subspecies of the biggest species belonging to the Tanygnathus genus, the Great-billed Parrot (Tanygnatus megalorynchos) which also have the largest and most impressive beak of these species. Tanygnatus megalorhynchos sumbensis, comes from the island of Sumba (Lesser Sundas). Photo: Mehd Halaouate.
Lack of reliable knowledge about the Tanygnathus genus
One thing is to have a scientifically worked-out taxonomy that lists and divides the Tanygnathus genus into species and subspecies distributed by geographical distribution areas, another thing is to find reliable sources (field studies, literature, photos, etc.) that describe all the members of this genus in detail and accurately. I have many parrot books, encyclopedias, etc., but I have never managed to find a book with accompanying photos that in a credible manner in detail describe all the various Tanygnathus species with its associated subspecies. At best, this genus is all too often referred to be only peripherally described in these books. Moreover, a number of these descriptions are only superficial, and it is of no use if you have to determine the subspecies of a species that has a number of very comparable subspecies (cf. later). The different parrot books contain almost no photos where one can really compare all the subspecies and see the differences between these. Up until now I haven't been able to find a book or another source of sufficient credibility and accuracy.
With this article, I will try to contribute to creating a little more clarification in relation to some of Tanygnathus lucionensis' subspecies, and that is the focus for the rest of this article. At the same time, it must be emphasized that the present article predominantly deals with taxonomic and morphological issues in order to try to determinate the right subspecies of the Tanygnathus lucionensis that I keep, to which comes some general information about the species in the wild. However, the article does not deal with topics such as keeping, feeding and breeding of Tanygnathus lucionensis in human custody.
A little about Tanygnathus lucionensis in the wild
Very summary, this is a smaller medium sized parrot, around 31 cm in length, primarily green except for a light blue rear crown and nape, pale blue lower back and rump (cf. subspecies later), shoulders with broad orange-yellow edges on black wing coverts, and blackish underwings with green underwing coverts.
As already mentioned, this species is listed as “Near Threatened” by BirdLife International because there are some indications that it has a moderately small, fragmented population, and it may be undergoing a continuing decline due to habitat loss (logging) and trapping. However, little is still known about the population size, population structure and threats to this species.
Tanygnathus lucionensis is present throughout the Philippines, where there are records from at least 45 islands, plus the Talaud Islands, Indonesia, and islands off north-east Borneo belonging to Malaysia (e.g., Kota Kinabalu, which is a very popular photo spot for tourists interested in this species) and it is therefore not a country endemic species.
It was common on most islands in the Philippines a century or less ago, but has suffered declines since on such a scale that it is now rare or extinct on many islands. However, it does survive in small pockets of habitat on the smaller islands, so that its status overall is difficult for BirdLife International to assess. Moreover, it is still fairly numerous in some areas of Palawan and on Tawi-Tawi, and high numbers should be present in a large tract of forest on Talaud. Intensive habitat loss and trapping have made this species scarce on most islands except Mindoro and Palawan, but still a local animal protection organization has raised concerns over the increasing illegal trade of this bird on Palawan.
It also occurs in urban areas such as several national parks within the Philippines: Bataan, Quezon and Minalungaw.
As previously stated, BirdLife International's current estimate of the number of Tanygnathus lucionensis (incl. subspecies) is 1,500 - 7,000 mature individuals, while the population development is described as declining owing to habitat degradation from agricultural expansion and logging pressures to which comes illegal trapping for the cagebird trade. It is a bird of closed and open forest formations, including secondary forests, coconut and banana plantations and mangrove, chiefly in lowland and coastal areas, up to 1,000 m. It is usually found in flocks of up to 12 individuals which roost communally and make regular dawn and dusk flights between feeding and roosting areas. Breeding takes place in a hole in a tree in from April till July.
Tanygnathus lucionensis lucionensis: When you see photos of these birds from the nature, you most often see them sitting in the tall tree crowns where they prefer to be. Although some of the birds may appear a little compact, they are very agile and move incredibly elegantly in the branches of the trees. Photo: Stephan Lorenz-Bataan, Philippines-Macaulay Library ML563667891.
The scientifically recognized subspecies of Tanygnathus lucionensis
“THE HOWARD AND MOORE COMPLETE CHECKLIST OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD” (see above) recognizes the following subspecies of Tanygnathus lucionensis:
Note to the above table:
I am fully aware that in the spring of 2023, Arndt-Verlag has issued a new - and final - complete version of the "Namensliste der Papageienarten und Unterarten" (Latin, German and English names). It states the existence of - in relation to Arndt-Verlag's poster with the Tanygnathus genus (“Großschnabelpapageien”) - four "other" Tanygnathus lucionensis subspecies, namely nigrorum, siquijorensis, koikei und paraguenus, without these being further described. These four 4 "other" Tanygnathus lucionensis subspecies are not recognized today by the leading scientific taxonomy, and the deviations that the designation of these subspecies has expressed in its time are today simply considered variance within the framework of the currently recognized subspecies. They are thus assimilated into the current range of subspecies.
So, these four "other" Tanygnathus lucionensis subspecies are ignored here, as the article is based on the world's leading taxonomy, which is based on solid scientific evidence as the basis for the division into species and subspecies (for example, the subspecies, siquijorensis, was in its time solely determined from only a single holotype specimen).
All of the four "other" subspecies mentioned by Arndt-Verlag, koikei and paraguenus, as well as nigrorum and siquijorensis, were all already mentioned as subspecies in the world's first large complete parrot book, called "Papegøjebogen" (in English "The Parrot Book"), which was written by the Dane, J. L Albrecht-Møller, with the assistance of another Dane, Aage V. Nielsen. J. L. Albrecht-Møller was approximately 30 years to write "The Parrot Book", which was completely published in 1973. Unfortunately, the book is only available in Danish and consists of almost 700 densely written pages spread over 3 volumes as well as a completely extra 4th volume filled with color drawings of a large number of species and subspecies of parrots of all kinds.
In fact, it was a third Dane, an internationally highly respected scientist, Finn Salomonsen (zoologist and ornithologist), who first described the subspecies nigrorum and siquijorensi. During an expedition to the Philippines in the years 1951 - 1952, he also did some research on this genus.
As mentioned, none of the above four "other" subspecies have found grace for inclusion in Howard and Moore's taxonomy. Nor does the world's second major scientific "heavyweighter" within bird taxonomy, "The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World", 6th Edition, that was published and released by Cornell University Press in June 2007 take these four "other" subspecies into account.
Tanygnathus lucionensis lucionensis: As a nest these birds use a hole in a tree where they during April - July are breeding. The nest is often found in secondary forest, at forest edges and in plantations at elevations of up to 1000 m. Photo: Bradley Hacker-Bataan, Philippines-Macaulay Library ML214490541.
My first purchases of Tanygnathus lucionensis did not go as hoped
From my first encounter with this genus back in the early 1970's, it was always in the back of my mind that when the right opportunity presented itself, I would like to acquire such birds, but almost a lifetime should pass before thoughts turned into action in autumn 2018. Here I acquired my first pair of Tanygnathus lucionensis from a foreign breeder who had guaranteed me a 100 % perfect and unrelated pair. As he himself only had one breeding pair, he had procured an unrelated female bird via another aviculturist in a neighboring country. The breeder informed me that the birds were of the subspecies Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis, which, compared to the nominate subspecies, that has a blue/bluish mantle, back, lower back and upper rump, instead has a pure green plumage in the same places. He further stated that it was the subspecies that was found most among aviculturists in Europe. After driving many hundreds of kilometers to collect the birds, it unfortunately turned out that the breeder's own male bird - in contrary to what he had otherwise promised - was not 100 % perfect, as it was basically missing half the length of the tail, which I had not been informed about before my departure from Denmark. Since I had driven so far, and because it was a rather rare bird, I chose, after consultation with my wife, who went along on the trip, to bring both birds home to Denmark, but my disappointment with this seller, who, after all, several times had guaranteed that both birds were 100 % in order, was great. At home in Denmark, the birds were placed in an approximately 6-week long quarantine period and different clinical disease testings were conducted both via PCR and serology, and all test results were negative for ABV/PDD, APV, PBFD, and CPS, etc. Already during the quarantine period, I had observed that the male bird, which unfortunately was hand-reared, had an abnormal behavior. Besides, the fact that it had a habit of plucking its own feathers, it was obviously also mentally disturbed, which resulted in highly unusual behaviour, where it, among other things, sat in the same place around the clock without moving, and it seemed almost terrified of e.g., natural branches, to which was added the fact that it had absolutely no interaction with the female bird. I contacted the seller to return the bird, but he refused to take it back, so as the bird's condition further deteriorated, in consultation with a veterinarian specialized in bird diseases, it was decided to euthanize the bird, so my first attempt at acquiring a pair of this species ended in failure. The female was subsequently sold to another aviculturist who was missing a female bird, as I was of the opinion that it probably would be easier to buy a new pair together.
I had not given up on my dream of keeping this species, but next time the acquisition should be made from a much more serious and experienced breeder of this species. During my search for such a breeder, I sometimes came across other aviculturists who also mentioned that the subspecies Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis is the kind that is most widespread among European aviculturists.
In autumn 2021 - after being registered with a new breeder for nearly 1 year in order to be allowed to buy a pair - I ended up buying a new pair. This breeder sold his birds just as being Tanygnathus lucionensis i.e., without being subspecies determined, but it was clear that even these newly acquired birds did not have the features known for the nominate subspecies in the form of a blue/bluish mantle, back, lower back and upper rump. Once again, these feather areas were completely green on the birds (as they also were on the two pairs of parent birds), so it had to be the subspecies Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis. These birds came from an aviculturist who generally maintains a very high level of hygiene and besides has a bird collection that has been clinically tested for the common parrot diseases. Even so, I always also have newly purchased birds re-tested for diseases in connection with the 6-week quarantine period during which they are physically isolated. All the various tests turned out to be negative, but already a few days into the quarantine period the male still seemed to be a bit lethargic and he sneezed once in a while. So, once again he had to be examined by a veterinarian specialized in bird diseases, who took renewed samples from the bird. After laboratory analysis it turned out that the bird had a special rod bacterium that caused sinusitis, so it was put on a penicillin cure with a targeted antibiotic, but it didn't help, the bird got worse and had to remain in quarantine. Another two cures of other and more extensive penicillin preparations over several weeks (with an intermediate period of rebuilding the intestinal flora in the stomach) took place, but nothing helped, it was a chronic sinusitis, and as the bird's condition now was really bad, it also had to be euthanized without at any point having left the quarantine station for several months. The female bird, which is a big beautiful bird in top condition, had no symptoms at any time (sinusitis is not contagious), so this time I decided to keep the surviving female bird.
In 2022 I had the opportunity to buy several young birds from different breeding pairs from the same breeder, who gave me a price reduction on one of the new birds, because I had lost the male that I had bought from him the year before. All these birds came well throughout the quarantine period and besides the fact that they all seem very vital, they also have a very natural behavior, and I have to say that they really make use of their large beaks to gnaw on the many fresh (and unsprayed/uncontaminated) natural branches with which they continuously are supplied. The birds are all, without exception, completely green in the plumage on the mantle, back, lower back and upper rump, and therefore - once again - it just had to be the subspecies Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis, cf. the information I had received from the various breeders I had spoken to around Europe. Besides, the birds also visually corresponded to a very lifelike drawing in Joseph M. Forshaw's magnificent book, “Parrots of the World” (1st edition, 1973), on page 189, where there is an absolutely excellent color drawing of Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis made by the outstanding illustrator, the late William T. Cooper (the drawing shows an adult male only with a blue nape (rest of the head is green) and with completely green mantle, back, lower back and upper rump).
The doubt about which subspecies arises
From 2018, I - as several other European aviculturists probably also have heard - were told the story that the subspecies we today have in human care in Europe mostly are the Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis subspecies, but over time I became more and more uncertain whether this was true.
After acquiring my birds, I later on bought the poster, “Großschnabelpapageien”, from Arndt-Verlag (Thomas Arndt) containing “all” the Tanygnathus species and subspecies, where a pair of Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis (see photo below) is illustrated with almost completely blue heads in contrast to the adult specimen of this species shown with only a clearly defined blue nape in the color drawing in "Parrots of the World" mentioned above (though Joseph M Forshaw mentions that “blue on crown and occiput variable”, which implies the possibility of a certain form of variance).
Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis: This photo shows an extract from Arndt-Verlag's poster, “Großschnabelpapageien”, where a male and female of this subspecies are illustrated with almost completely blue heads in contrast to the adult specimen of this species shown with only a clearly defined blue nape in the color drawing in Joseph M. Forshaw’s book, "Parrots of the World".
I was thereafter wondering if it was possible to find a trustworthy and competent person, who actually had been on the Talaud islands and seen how Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis looks like in wildlife, then it once and for all could be discovered whether the birds that I and other European aviculturists have bought in reality are of this species, or maybe a completely different one.
I then remembered that I during the COVID19-crisis was invited to attend in a Zoom meeting on Wednesday, 22nd September 2021 organized by The Avicultural Society of Australia. Here Mr. Mehd Halaouate held a presentation on the topic "Challenges and Rewards of a mixed Collection". It was an extremely interesting presentation, which included some absolutely stunning photos of wildlife birds from Indonesia including Papua. In many cases the presentation also contained photos of parrot species that we - the European aviculturists - only can dream of and read about in books. During this presentation Mehd Halaouate also showed some photos of birds from the Talaud Islands where he had followed the natural bird life.
In November 2021 I therefore contacted Mehd Halaouate, and asked him, if he during his visits to the Talaud Islands had observed the Tanygnathus lucionensis subspecies and maybe even had taken any photos of this subspecies during his stay. Mehd Halaouate got back to me and stated that he actually had observed Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis in its natural habitat and also had taken photos of the birds even though he didn't get many since it was challenging to find them and they weren't kept as pets on these islands. I was completely overwhelmed to see Mehd Halaouate’s photos of these birds from the wild and below you can see a couple of these photos of which one actually shows that a big part of the upper head of this subspecies is blue, not just the crown (nape or neck patch). According to Mehd Halaouate most of the birds in the Talaud Islands have heads where almost all the upper parts are clearly blue, and those birds whose heads not almost were entirely blue appeared to be uncolored fledging juveniles as he were there during the breeding season, August and September.
Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis: This is a photo of an adult, fully colored bird taken by Mehd Halaouate during one of his two trips to Krakelong which is one of the islands that make up the Talaud Islands. Mehd Halaouate was there doing some conservation work for the Red-and-blue lory (Eos histrio).
Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis: This is also a photo taken on Krakelong Island that shows that the intensity of the blue coloration on the head was not present in all birds. According to Mehd Halaouate it was probably because he was there during August and September which is the breeding season where he encountered many fledging juvenile birds.
Renewed contact with Mehd Halaouate
Time passed and I couldn't help thinking that now that my Tanygnathus lucionensis cannot be of the subspecies talautensis, what kind of subspecies is it then?
In the intervening period I had of course done my homework and made my own research and had come to the conclusion that my birds could probably be Tanygnathus lucionenis salvadorii, which, like Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis, is the only other (described) subspecies - approved by Howard and Moore - which has a complete green mantle, back, lower back and upper rump.
This subspecies also appears in Arndt-Verlag's poster, “Großschnabelpapageien”, and is shown in the photo below.
Tanygnathus lucionensis salvadorii: This photo shows an extract from Arndt-Verlag's poster, “Großschnabelpapageien”. Apart from Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis, this is the only other subspecies - recognized by Howard and Moore - which has a complete green mantle, back, lower back and upper rump.
So, in order to get a second opinion and be quite sure about the subspecies determination I decided to contact Mehd Halaouate again to ask him what subspecies he would judge my Tanygnathus lucionensis to be. I sent him various available color descriptions of the relevant subspecies as well as - not least - photos of my birds, all of which can be seen excerpted below.
Descriptions of the Tanygnathus lucionensis subspecies
As you know, the world's leading current nomenclature/taxonomy, “THE HOWARD AND MOORE COMPLETE CHECKLIST OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD” mentions up to 4 subspecies (hybridus, talautensis, salvadorii and horrisonus) in addition to the nominate subspecies, but unfortunately this work does not contain any descriptions of the individual subspecies. Instead, one has to look in different zoological museums around the world to find stuffed birds of the so-called "holotype specimens" for each subspecies, and this is quite an unmanageable task. I therefore had to find other trustworthy sources that contain color descriptions of the various subspecies:
Source 1 for color description: Joseph M. Forshaw
As already mentioned, it is very unfortunate that there is no credible, scientifically evidence-based literature covering the entire Tanygnathus genus, with correct and detailed descriptions of each subspecies. In the absence of this, I instead rely on the Australian ornithologist Joseph M. Forshaw's impressive book “Parrots of the World”, which however, only mentions 2 subspecies (hybridus and talautensis) besides the nominate subspecies, but the description of the two subspecies here is unfortunately not adequate. However, in the original edition of this book (1st edition, 1973), on page 189, there is an absolutely excellent color drawing of Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis made by the outstanding illustrator, the late William T. Cooper (an adult male only with a blue nape (not on the rest of the head) and completely green mantle, back, lower back and rump).
Source 2 for color description: Thomas Arndt (Arndt-Verlag)
In the well-known "Lexicon of Parrots" (version 3.0), Thomas Arndt mentions the same two subspecies as mentioned by Joseph M. Forshaw (hybridus and talautensis).
However, in his poster, “Großschnabelpapageien”, containing species and subspecies from the Tanygnathus genus, Thomas Arndt shows both the nominate subspecies of Tanygnathus lucionensis and 3 subspecies (hybridus, talautensis and a “new” one, namely salvadorii). If one looks closer at this poster from Thomas Arndt (see above), he has illustrated Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis - both the male and the female - with almost completely blue heads in contrast to the color drawing in "Parrots of the World" (also mentioned above) that shows an adult Tanygnatus lucionensis talautensis with only a blue nape patch and not a blue head. This corresponds to the photos Mehd Halaouate himself took of adult birds of this subspecies during his two visits to the Talaud Islands.
However, and very interesting, on the same poster from Thomas Arndt, he also displays the subspecies Tanygnatus lucionensis salvadorii that in particular deserves attention. This subspecies is shown with only a blue nape and completely green back and rump (and looks very much like the Tanygnatus lucionensis talautensis, that is shown in Joseph M. Forshaw’s book mentioned above).
Source 3 for color description: World Parrot Trust
What is very remarkable is that the World Parrot Trust, on its website - like Joseph M. Forshaw - only mentions the subspecies hybridus and talautensis, but when one read further in the text under the actual description of the two subspecies, World Parrot Trust actually also describes salvadorii under the description of talautensis (they mention that the two different subspecies look the same). How this is possible, I can't quite see through.
Summary overview of visual differences between the individual subspecies
Since there is no adequate and sufficient information on the sizes (length and weight) of the individual subspecies, only selected visual special characteristics for the plumage (color differences) of the individual Tanygnatus lucionensis subspecies are given below:
Note to the above table:
How the fifth subspecies - Tanygnathus lucionensis horrisonus, mentioned by Howard and Moore - looks like, I do not know in details. However, if you read “PEABODY MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, YALE UNIVERSITY BULLETIN 13, “Notes on a Collection of Birds from Mindoro Island, Philippines” by S. Dillon Ripley (Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University) and D. S. Rabor (Biology Department, Silliman University), which was published 31st December 1958 (New Haven, Connecticut), you can read on page 36, that the authors after carefully studies consider “horrisonus” as synonyms of “lucionensis”, which means that it must have blue mantle, back, lower back and upper rump, and my birds don't have these hallmarks. According to the newest version of Howard and Moore “horrisonus” is still recognized as an independent subspecies.
I therefore assume that my birds must be either Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis or Tanygnathus lucionensis salvadorii, as both of these subspecies have green backs and green upper rumps.
Personally, I strongly believe that my birds are Tanygnathus lucionensis salvadorii, as I have seen the various adult parents of the birds that I have bought and none of them have a nearly completely upper blue head, but only a blue patch on the nape.
Furthermore, my birds don’t have any blue coloration - nor bluish tinge - on the mantle, back, lower back and the upper rump, and to my knowledge, both the nominate subspecies, Tanygnathus lucionensis lucionensis, and the subspecies, Tanygnathus lucionensis hybridus, clearly have these hallmarks.
I rule out that my birds are crossed with other subspecies, as they have no blue at all on the back or rump, nor do they have more than a clearly defined blue nape patch.
Some of the photo documentations sent to Mehd Halaouate
I sent several photos of my birds to Mehd Halaouate and some them are showed below. All my birds are from last year (2022), except from the bird in front on photo 09 and 13, this bird is from 2021.
The photos of my birds are unfortunately not of the best quality, as they were taken with the zoom-function on my mobile phone and have become somewhat grainy. I should of course also have captured some of the birds and taken photos of them from the front and from the back with spread wings, but since these birds live in aviaries close to some other parrot species that already have laid and are incubating eggs, it was unfortunately not possible to take some better photos for the near future. Here are some photos of my birds:
After having read the above descriptions and studied the forwarded photos of my birds, Mehd Halaouate commented that my birds looked stunning and very healthy and furthermore mentioned that in his opinion they look more like Tanygnathus lucionensis salvadorii. At the same time, one must of course bear in mind that there are color variations among birds in the wild too that can make establishing the right distribution of the bird pretty impossible.
However, according to Mehd Halaouate most of the subspecies that were kept during his time as breeder in Europe, they were coming from Mr. Antonio de Dios in the Philippines (owner of “Birds International Inc.”, a large private parrot breeding farm in the Philippines), and they mostly were Tanygnathus lucionensis salvadorii. The for many aviculturists well-known Antonio de Dios exported a huge number of unique species to Europe especially to Holland and Belgium. Some of the other species he sent were species like Fig parrots, a big number of lories and lorikeet species, Great-billed parrots (Tanygnatus megalorynchos) and Moluccan king parrot subspecies.
Mehd Halaouate also mentioned that he had to search for some of his earlier photos of the Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis to definitively prove how the adult birds of this subspecies looks like in wildlife, some truly unique photos, a few of which can be seen below. It is photos of a pet bird taken at a bird trader in Sulawesi (since the local people in Talaud Islands don’t keep this bird as a pet) and it does INDEED have intensive blue head covering all over the upperparts of the head and even around the eyes.
Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis: I have never seen anything like it. This amazing close-up photo shows an adult and fully colored Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis. The photo clearly shows how most adult birds of this subspecies that live in the wild on the Talaud islands look like i.e., where the blue plumage does not just form a clearly defined neck spot, but instead is spread over most of the upper part of the whole the head. Young birds do not have the same distribution of the blue color in the head. It is a pet bird that sits with a bird dealer on the island of Sulawesi. Photo: Mehd Halaouate.
Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis: This equally amazing close-up photo shows the above pet bird of Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis, just seen from a different angle. For some reason, the local inhabitants of the Talaud Islands do not keep this species as a pet bird, so this individual is photographed on the island of Sulawesi, which is located southwest of the Talaud Islands. The Talaud islands actually make up the area that is called North Sulawesi. Photo: Mehd Halaouate.
According to Mehd Halaouate the poster, “Großschnabelpapageien”, from Arndt-Verlag with the color drawing of Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis is a bit exaggerated with the blue coloration of the head, throat and neck. Mehd Halaouate have never seen any bird with that much blue on the head.
Unexpected challenges in rewilding Tanygnathus parrots
During my dialogue with Mehd Halaouate, he also mentioned the following - for me highly surprising - problem, which is linked to the rewilding of the Tanygnathus parrots, which has been confiscated as a result of smuggling:
A factor which will make things even worse for establishing “the right ID” of many parrots in the wild in the near future is the fact that the forestry department in Indonesia does not have sufficient knowledge about differentiating between subspecies and in some cases even species. They tend to release confiscated parrots from the illegal trade in the wrong distribution area (habitat). As a former manager in World Parrot Trust Mehd Halaouate has had to stop a few of these releases because the parrots did not belong in specific islands they were meant to be released at. The authorities, unfortunately, had managed to do the damage thus these actions will cause the inter- or cross-breeding between the subspecies which will result in new colour variations. The worst result of this is that some subspecies in the nature will lose their purity.
This is an angle that I have not thought of before, and the authorities in the affected countries simply have to try to find a sustainable solution to the problem, so that before rewilding takes place, quality assurance must always be carried out to ensure that the birds are belonging to the birds' original distribution area (habitat), which presupposes a further educational and competence-related upgrade of the authorities' employees.
Also from this perspective, it is very important that we - the serious aviculturists (breeders) - are trying as much as possible to keep our birds pure as these hopefully one day will assist the wild populations. According to Mehd Halaouate the pace in which the illegal trapping and the wildlife trade is proceeding right now, many parrot species, for their survival, will rely on the captive populations, so we - the aviculturists (breeders) - must act responsible, professional and only work with pure birds at the subspecies levels.
I have on earlier occasions tried to initiate a dialogue about the issue of subspecies determination of this genus with some other European aviculturists who keep these birds, but up until now it had seemed that no one really was interested in getting to the bottom of this issue, so they generally just call their birds for Blue-naped Parrots (Tanygnatus lucionensis). I always try to keep my different parrots pure at the subspecies level (except from monotypic taxon) and I always only breed specimens of the same subspecies with each other, and I would strongly encourage other responsible breeders to do the same.
This was the story of not always believing everything you hear from other aviculturists/breeders. It is good to have a healthy skepticism and to try to form your own opinion about things. So, the next time I hear an aviculturist/breeder saying that the subspecies we have the most of in Europe is Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis, I can now for sure say that it is not true and instead tell them a completely different story.
I hope that interested readers have found pleasure in reading this article about an exciting parrot species that there is rarely written many lines about in parrot books and in avicultural magazines.
A great thank you to Mehd Halaouate for having contributed to this article with several unique photos and detailed information about the subspecies of Tanygnathus lucionensis.
Tanygnathus lucionensis talautensis: I could not resist ending up with showing this close-up profile photo of the magnificent pet bird of this subspecies. I just keep on turning back to study the photos of this very special subspecies with a nearly completely blue head. Photo: Mehd Halaouate.