In the wild, Vasa Parrots build their nests in hollow trees, and the courtship season usually begins in February.
There are some surprising and very unique reproductive differences compared to other parrot species.
If a breeder has several pairs of Vasa parrots, a hierarchy establishes in which the alpha pair is the first one to breed. The other pairs may breed later, if time allows.
Vasa parrots reach sexual maturity at 3 to 7 years of age.
Nesting / Incubation:
In captivity, the hen will lay two to five eggs in a standard boot box or Z box and sits very tightly. Some hens lay their eggs very consistently every other day. However, delays of up to seven days in between eggs have been noted.
Lesser Vasa parrot (Coracopsis nigra )
- Average Clutch: 2-5 eggs; Incubation days: 14 (shortest for any parrot)
Greater Vasa Parrot (Coracopsis vasa)
- Average Clutch: 2-4 eggs; Incubation days: 17
Female Vasa Parrots have been observed burying their eggs and chicks in nesting materials, as typically seen in reptiles.
The female hardly exits the nest during the incubation and early chick development. When she does exit, she calls continuously and loudly for the male to feed her.
While the female tends to the eggs and young chicks, the male stands guard and provides food to the hen during incubation and during the feeding of the chicks.
Vasa chicks are known to hatch after only 14-20 days of incubation, which is highly unusual as parrots of the Vasa size range tend to take up to 30 days to hatch. It’s difficult to imagine that this parrot hatches its eggs in less time than a budgie.
Vasa chicks develop incredibly fast because of the great quantity of food they consume. The amount of available food for the babies may affect the actual age of fledging. Greater babies fledge in 45 to 50 days, while cockatiel babies fledge in 40 days and African Grey babies fledge in about 84 days.
During the breeding season the males and females undergo remarkable physical changes. The males’ beaks may turn white during this time. The hens loose the feathers on top of their heads and the skin turns yellow (please refer to the top photo to the right). The skin on the male’s head turns a very dark grey-black and he develops a deep saffron to orange wattle under the lower beak.
Another interesting feature of the females breeding physiology is when her feathers, which are usually black to grey, turn brown without a moult. This is caused by the redistribution of melanin, which is the pigment that makes the Vasas’ feathers black.
At the beginning of the breeding cycle, the hen’s ovary begins to grow in size. The cloacas of both hens and cocks also enlarge. The male cloacas actually evert when they are ready to breed.
The males have some control of the amount of eversion and can retract the cloaca back into the body. A fully extended cloaca on a male greater is about the thickness of a hot dog and can be up to 2 inches long. Hens do not normally evert, but can do so when defecating.
Aviculturists report that breeding is sometimes done by joining cloacas while in a side-by-side position. Others observed the male mounting the hen in a more normal position.
Female aggression towards their mates has been noted in the breeding season – to a point where females even kill their male partners. The size of the space the pair is kept in could be a factor in female aggression – this species requires (and deserves) spacious housing to thrive and do well. However, ornithologists in Madagascar believe that the female Vasa Parrot actually equires more than one male to raise a family.
Breeders use outdoor cages for vasas in California, Washington, Georgia, Florida and a few other states. Vasas also do well in indoor/outdoor cages in colder states. Large flights with many natural components they would enjoy in their natural habitat are, of course, the preferred set-up.
Breeders / Aviculturists:
- Florida: Phyllis Martin – Faunalink Foundation, Plant City, FL 3