Breeding Fig Parrots in Aviculture


Nesting Boxes:

In general, a budgie or cockatiel-sized box with an enlarged opening is suitable for breeding. The entrance hole should be about 2 inches (50 mm) in diameter. Australian parrots generally breed in hollow logs.

Dimensions of the nest box or log can vary widely, influenced by the owner’s preferences and the birds preferences.  Some prefer to breed in small boxes which have just a single entrance hole, others use boxes which have an extra opening on the opposite side to the entrance hole, and some pairs prefer to gnaw a second hole in the nest-box while incubating the eggs. Parent bird’s preferences can also be influenced by the size and type of nest-box / log in which the bird was hatched and reared.

In cases, where pairs are not accepting the nest boxes provided, it is recommended to distribute nest boxes / logs of various types and sizes throughout the flight. This way the pair can choose the nest box and the area they feel adequate for nesting activities. Once they settled on a nest box / log, all the others can be removed, cleaned and used in a different flight. The nesting box should be sturdy enough to withstand the heavy chewing that they will be inevitably subjected to.

The nest box floor should be covered with decomposed non-toxic saw dust, wood shavings or other suitable materials.

Orange-breasted Fig Parrot Nest

Fig parrots typically lay two eggs, which they incubate approximately 28 days (incubation duties shared by both parents).

When the chicks reach about 14 days old the parents use the extra opening through which to remove the chick’s droppings, which is a great help in keeping the nest-box clean and dry.

Breeding:

Fig-parrots are rare in aviculture and have a reputation of being delicate and dieing without apparent reason. However, a lot of the breeding failures are traced back to breeders’ ignorance pertaining to their dietary requirements. Provided fig-parrots are well acclimatized and maintained in appropriate conditions, they are pretty hardy and quite prolific. Careful attention to their diet and hygiene is needed for successful breeding program. Artificial incubation and handfeeding may become necessary, as there are cases of captive-bred parents abandoning their eggs. On the other, generally, fig-parrots make excellent parents and their parent-reared offspring will often assist in the rearing of additional clutches.

Fig parrots are rare and if their special dietary needs aren’t met are likely to die maturely. Because of this, they have the reputation of being “delicate.” However, provided they are carefully acclimatized and maintained in correct conditions, they are pretty hardy and rather prolific. Still, these colorful little parrots are not recommended for the beginner or half-hearted aviculturists as they do have special demands caused by their special diet and messy eating habits.

Because of their special reqirements, they are not recommended for inexperienced breeders — also as they are so rare and the survival of the species may depend on captive breeding successes, it is important that fig-parrots are integrated into a well-managed breeding program with breeders who are experienced enough to be able to meet the demands and can address possible problems that are likely to present themselves.
 

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    More Fig Parrot Information

    The best-known fig-parrots species in aviculture:

    • Edwards’ Fig Parrots – a species that can be found in avicultural collections. The males start to show typical male coloration at about ten months at the earliest. Chicks hatch naked (unfeathered, without any down) and have a dark color.
    • Red Browed as well as Desmarest’s Fig Parrots are successfully bred. The chicks of the Desmarest’s fig parrots are also born naked, but have a light skin color.
    • Salvadori’s fig parrots are also recommended for breeding programs, not only because they are relatively inexpensive compared to other fig-parrots who may cost several thousands of dollars compared to several hundred dollars for this special little parrot — but Salvadoris also are relatively rare and their future uncertain. Captive breeding success may be the only way to guarantee the long-term survival of this species. Also, breeders insist that this particular species make wonderful pet birds — while the general consensus is that fig-parrots don’t tame easily or won’t stay tame beyond weaning. So this little fig-parrot may have a friendlier disposition than other species. They are sexually mature at 18 months to two years old, when the plumage is in full color. Salvadoris’ chicks are born naked and light-skinned.
    • The Coxen’s Fig Parrot is unknown in captivity. Some speculate that it is indeed extinct, but some stories of captive breeding are circulated. If anyone can get hold of a Coxen’s and breed it successfully, this would be a real achievement and huge success story for all of us.

    Until about two years of age, male and female fig parrots look the same, then the male begins to color out on the head and bib. Some species / individuals may start breeding as young as 12 months, others may not commence until they are 3 years old. The breeding season in their natural habitat may commence in August or September, and may continue to December. In the United States, the breeding season begins in March through May.

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      Fig-parrots usually produce one clutch a year consisting of two to three white eggs. Fertility has been consistently good, in fact, close to 100%. The hen and sometimes the male incubate the eggs for about 18 up to 26 days – duration and male incubation pattern vary with each sub-species.

      During brooding, the male feeds the hen and once the chicks hatched, he participates in raising the chicks. The young fledge when they are about 6 to 7 weeks old and are independent another two weeks after that, at which time they can be separated. The young should be kept in a quiet area, as they are initially rather timid.

      Things to consider …

      Outside the breeding season, fig-parrots can be kept in a flock environment; however, during the breeding season, aggressive behavior towards other males (specifically) can be observed, potentially injury-causing or even resulting in death. It’s best to keep fig-parrot pairs separated during this time.

      When several pairs were kept in large aviaries, it was noted that the young of the dominant pair survived to the age of fledging, while the other young died. The reason for this may be that the dominant pair prevents the other parents from properly caring for their young, and also there were instances of the dominant pair injuring / killing the other pairs’ chicks.

      If they get spooked or stressed during the breeding process, they may abando or even kil their chicks. This may not happen until days after the event.

      Captive fig-parrots are known to abandon their chicks, thus checking on the chicks frequently when the parents are out of the nest (do not upset the parents by checking while they are sitting on the young, which may cause them to inadvertently kill the chicks. If there is any sign of abandonment or parental abuse, it may be necessary to pull the chicks for handrearing.

      Diet / Feeding Your Fig-Parrots


      Many hours went into researching this topic – however, the most important message I would like to convey is: Don’t rely solely on information published on this and connected page.

      Your situation, and the condition / requirements of your birds may be different. Too little is known about fig-parrots, and if you are considering breeding this species – and, therefore, be part of a crucial conservation effort – I would recommend you discuss with breeders who have a successful track record with these species and consider any recommendations they may have pertaining to diet, housing and general care.

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        Their experiences may be different and they may have the benefit of additional knowledge / research data not covered on any of these pages. Ideally, you would work in concert with those who have been successful with these species and a qualified avian vet who will be able to identify and remedy any problems before casualties occur.

        A better understanding is continuously gained with these species, and it’s important to keep up on developments and new discoveries to ensure the health, well-being and, in fact, continued existence of the magnificent fig-parrots.

        Breeding Fig-Parrots in Weltvogel Park Walsrode:

         

        Walsrode Vogels Park

        With Calmness to Success!

        By Anne Hoppman, Norbert Neuman

        Deutsche Version: Zucht von Zwergpapageien im Weltvogelpark Walsrode: Mit Ruhe zum Erfolg!

        Orange-breasted Fig Parrot - Male

        Double-eyed Fig Parrot

        With a maximum size of 20 cm, fig-parrots (Tribe Cyclopsittacini) are among the smaller species within the Order Psittaciformes.

        Weltvogelpark Walsrode houses four of the five known species of these small parrots (Genus Cyclopsitta and Psittaculirostris). During the 2012 breeding season the Orangebreasted Fig-parrots (Cyclopsitta gulielmitertii) as well as the Double-eyed Fig-parrots (Cyclopsitta diophthalma) successfully parent-reared their young. Germany-wide, both species can only be seen in Weltvogelpark Walsrode.

        All the seven recognized subspecies of the Orange-breasted Fig-parrot inhabit rain, monsoon and swamp forest in lowlands and hilly regions up to 1100 m on New Guinea and surrounding islands.

        This species has eight recognized subspecies which are found on New Guinea and on the northeast coast of Australia.

        Double-eyed Fig-parrots inhabit lowland and montane forest, mangroves and more open woodland up to 2000 m.

        Diet / Feeding

        A special feature, alluded to in their name, is the diet of these small parrots – in the wild they mainly feed on fruits of various fig trees, preferring the seeds rather than the flesh of the figs. Additionally, a variety of other fruits and berries, nectar and also insects and their larvae are taken.

        Double-eyed Fig Parrot Juvenile (after fledging)

        Orange-breasted Fig Parrot - Female

        Breeding / Nesting

        The main breeding season occurs between March and June in New Guinea, while in Australia the birds mainly breed between August and November.

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          In the wild the main breeding season is between December and June. These fig-parrots nest in a hole that they excavate themselves in an arboreal termitarium. In contrast, the Double-eyed Fig-parrots nest in existing cavities in a hollow of a high tree or in a rotten tree trunk or limb.

          In captivity experiences have shown that fig-parrots are very sensitive to disturbance, especially during the breeding season. Changes in their direct surroundings as well as at the nest box can unsettle them. It is very important to deal with the birds very carefully in order to breed them successfully.

          To encourage our breeding pairs of Orange-breasted fig-parrots to start breeding, we construct nest boxes with a size of 30 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm (length x width x height) that are placed in the enclosures behind the scenes. These nest boxes are made of waterproof particle board. An entrance hole with a diameter of 4 to 6 cm is provided on both sides of the boxes. The boxes are entirely filled with natural cork tiles. The cork is scratched a bit at the entrance hole to provide the birds with a starting point to begin excavating their nest cavity in the cork tiles. Digging the cavity together stimulates the pair’s breeding instinct. Once the nest cavity is approximately 8 to 10 cm in diameter, the female lays her eggs – normally two, but one or three eggs are possible. The young hatch after an incubation period of about 20 to 22 days. The parents adjust the size of the nest cavity to the size of their growing offspring. These birds are tidy by nature – the chicks deposit their faeces directly out of the nest box so that the interior stays clean.

          Orange-breasted Fig Parrot - Male

          In contrast to the Orange-breasted Fig parrots, the Double-eyed Fig-parrots are provided with a natural wooden trunk as nesting box. The cavity is approximately 20 cm x 25 cm (width x height) with a diameter of about 15 cm. The entrance hole is about 4 to 6 cm in diameter and situated 20 cm above the nest floor maximally. The nest floor is lined with wood shavings.

          As soon as a pair of fig-parrots has eggs, the birds are left in peace until the approximate hatch date of the chicks. Shortly afterwards, the nest box is inspected, but only when the female has left the box to feed. When there is proof that there are small chicks inside the box, the diet of the birds is adjusted. The standard fig-parrot diet at the park consists of germinated seeds, a fruit mixture made of blue berries, grapes, apples and papaya as well as dried figs which are soaked at least for 24 h in water. Additionally, one table spoon of Versele Laga and tropical pate are added. The birds also have ad libitum access to millet. After the chicks hatch the standard diet is supplemented with a mash made of three parts of Versele Laga NutriBird A21 and one part Verse Laga Orlux Lori. When the chicks are about 14 days old, recently moulted, white mealworms are added to the food.

          Generally, the birds are disrupted as little as possible during the incubation period as well as after the chicks hatch. Only a few keepers that the fig-parrots know well care for them. After 35 to 42 days the offspring leave the nest box for the first time, but they regularly return to their nest during the first days after fledging. At the age of 60 to 70 days the young are separated from their parents and put together as a juvenile group per species in an enclosure adjacent to the enclosure of the parents.

          Because these fig-parrots are known to be very sensitive to disturbances at their nest boxes and the immediate surroundings, the young are not banded with closed rings (in consultation with the ministry). Instead, they are banded with open aluminium rings when separated from their parents.

          After the separation of the first fully grown offspring, both breeding pairs of the Orangebreasted
          Fig-parrots began with a new clutch. One chick already left the nest box of the first breeding pair in the beginning of September; another chick of the second breeding pair hatched in September. The Double-eyed Fig-parrots also seem to be getting ready for their next brood!

          Orange-breasted Fig Parrot - Parents with two Juveniles

          Orange-breasted Fig Parrot - Juvenile

          Conclusion

          Breeding of fig-parrots at Weltvogelpark did work out quite well this year – two breeding pairs of the Orange-breasted Fig-parrot have successfully reared four chicks in total so far. Two pairs of the Double-eyed Fig-parrots have reared one chick each. In the year of its 50th anniversary Weltvogelpark Walsrode is very excited about this great breeding success of the fig-parrots! And we are looking forward to many more beautiful young…

          References:

          • del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds (1997). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
          • IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1
          Orange-breasted Fig Parrot - Juveniles
          Photo of author

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