Care

Quality: Speaking aboud quality means mostly the quality of the birds. Birds of a good format, vitality, colour, and good breeding results.But we can speak about quality in another way. The quality of the healthcare for our birds, quality of the diët, housing, prevention of diseases, etc. Whith a modern term we speak about quality management. It is important to give a critical look to our volieres. This I will promote with the help of some lists, named checklists. It is about reminders, not full developed themes. The purpose is to improve the quality of healthcare. This first list is an example how to develop such a list from our own experience, from articles about the subject, from discussions etc.

For health care I took the original habitat as a startingpoint. We have to know someting about the live of birds in the wild to understand how the bird is adapted to the environment, to understand the typical behaviour of the species, social behaviour, habits like fouraging, breeding etc. Of course the aviculture is very distinct from the original habitat. The domestic bird is adapted to it, but a lot we recognise as adaptions to the natural surrounding. In this way we can discover the needs of our Bourke's and the best way to care for our birds in the aviary.

Temperature and moisture: The natural habitat we can typify as a dry savanne landscape. A warm climate with low moisture, only a little rainfall, hot at daytime cooling down in the evening and sometimes cold at night.

The Bourke's live in an area where all plants and animals are adapted to the during draught. The Bourke's are flying sometimes several miles to find a well to drink before the night falls. THey drink elate in the evening and early in the morning. The travel around in pairs or little groups. The Bourke is semi-nomadic. Sometimes they are years in a distict area, than they part and find another livingplace.

One of the adaptations is that the Bourke is able to exploit very efficient the moisture of seeds. Not only birds must adapt to the aridity but trees, shrubs and grasses also. In the area where Bourke's occur the mulga grow (Acacia aneura). This Acacia has narrow, twisted rather hard thumb. Water, which is caught by thumbs and branches arrive dense at the trunk. In dry periods the tree is using its water in the ground. Another example is spinifex. Spinifex has been well adapted to dryness. Spinifex is a type domestic grass which is not to compare with grass from moderate climate areas where it rains frequently . The blades of grass are narrow and sharp. The spinifex grass forms clumps. Sometimes very large scope. Also small animals live in it.. Spinifex seeds form an important food source for animals and birds. They are rich to proteïne, poor to fat. They tried in Australia to introduce grass types from moderate regions i.v.m cattle-grown. This was no success because of the warmth and dryness.

Diët: The seed mixture given to the Bourke should not contain too much fat seeds. A good Neophema mixture is needed. This contains no sunflower seeds and only few saflour seeds. Feeding with lettuce or other very moist vegetables the Bourke has rapidly problem with bowel impairments and diarhee. Introduction of greenness fodder must be carefully, with small quantities. Germinated seeds are useful but not too much and not to wet. The Bourke are counted to the "grass parrots" because their food exist from all kinds of grass seeds and tree seeds.

Variety in diët is needed. In our aviculture we give a good Neophema seed mixture to the Bourke. We can put on halfripe seeds. My Bourke's are fond of it. Especially in thebreeding season and during the moult. A lot of weeds and seeds are eaten by Bourke's. Par example: the characteristic formed seed boxes of the capsella. Red - and white clover we find in pastures and ditch sides. They are fond of curly dock but we give it in small quantities. Chickweed is to be found everywhere. The advantage of chickweed is that we can find it to from spring till the end of tthe year. I composed a checklist with all kind of seeds and plants. Weeds seeds are an important supplement on the menu. Collection must take place at places, which are not polluted. Just for plough land where a lot of weed killers are used.

Activity. Also here we find adaptation with the original habitat. The Bourke are especially active in the early morning and afternoon and evening. They keep a long siësta! They sit on a perch in shrubs and low trees seeking protection against the bright sunlight. This is again an adaptation to endure the heat of the day. Also in the avicultuur the Bourke will be less active tin the middle of the day than in the morning and and the evening. By day they can sunbathe sitting, with extended wing. If it is too hot they hide in the shadow. My volieres are situated on the west side of our garden. I think this is ideal. 's Morgens are there much sun possible. But by the afternoon the sun no longer stop on voliere's stands. This is especially important when birds are breeding. The Bourke is ideal for people, who work by day. In the morning the Bourke is active already. In the evening even if it is already twilight I can enter the voliere still without disturbing the birds. The Bourke can see well in twilight. Their large eyes are are indication. The Bourke is called night parakeet also.

Activity is also dependent of the equipment of the voliere. Two perches in front and at the back of the voliere only is limiting the activity . A bundle of willow tree branches and branches of fruit trees hanging in the voliere is very useful . The birds gnaw to the bast and eat the buds. If these become refreshed regularly they will be also more active by day . Especially for young birds the branches offer much possibilities for development. They need a variation of thin and thick branches to learn necessary practice inkeeping balance, climbing, avoiding obstakels at flying, etc.

Impairment and stress: In the wild Bourke's will just fly if someone is approaching . They fly away a bit to settle again. In the avicultuur the Bourke's are quiet, tame and confidential with the attendant. Catching causes stress, but is sometimes inevitable. To catch and put them in a box to bring them to the market are stressful events. The male is more vulnarable than the hen. The hen will bite to defend herself if she is taken in the hand. This behaviour she also shows in defending the nest. Not particular. The man is seems to be quiet. The male flies away of its observation seat on top of the nest or on a branch in the immediacy of the nest. Pay attention to the heart rate. A male Bourke's can be so agitated that he gets a coronary. Especially when the action is unexpected or carried out roughly a shock can occur. If the man that he flies to the ground, shaking with the shoulders be very careful. Disappear and let him rest during half an hour. The excrements in a stress situation are wet and thin. This is not a sign of disease but of stress only. For this reason it is necessary to provide for drinking water.

During the breeding season nest control is necessary. This is generally well endured if handling the nest is done carefully. The hen frequently continues sitting quietly on the eggs. But there are individual differences. Birds which are rapidly disturbed it is better not to control before well to the youngsters are about fourteen days old and the hen leaves the nest for the night. Later on it is necessary clean the nest. Sometimes excrements are too wet.

An important form of impairment is the presence of vermin such as house mice and shrews. Moreover mice contaminate water and fodder. Adequate control is absolutely necessary. Also cats can cause trouble. Fright wire can be necessary.

Visitors of the avicultuur can cause stress. Talking is important. Birds recognise the voice of the attendant. Restrict the interventions such as catching birds to show them and inspektion of breeding results up to necessary minimum. During the visit the birds do not show their normal behaviour. Also tame birds will fly and interrupt their activity.

Birds like crows and magpies who fly above the aviary cause panic. All Bourke's are startled and try to escape in panic. Cats that clime against the aviary can provoke the same reaction. Electric fence is a good help to keep cats away.

Food and hygiëne: Also in the voliere they are fouraging frequently on the ground. For this reason the floor of the aviary must be dry and clean. Moulds are sickness procreators. They must get no chance. Pollution of food and drinks buckets must be controled by giving frequently clean buckets. The Bourke is a bird, who does it from the perch. The excrements are easy to collect by scattering wood snip or laying a counterfoil paperboard under the perch. Young Bourke's must learn eating from the fodder barge and find the drinking water. To the young birds I offer water in a small oval bucket so that they cannot drown. But you must pay attention still that they do not die sitting in the bucket and die because of cooling down.

Besides a good seed mixture and rearing food they need mineral chalc. There are breeders, who use cuttle bone or mineral blocks. Clean the sepia regularly. Pollution can be cut away simply with a sharp knife. Some breeders prefer mineral blocks. These are simple to make yourselve. I always use fine grit on the floor also. For the health and the development of the legs mineral chalc is absolutely necessary. I visited a breeder who neglected this. I had to make him attentive, that the birds were nibbling the chalc on the wall in a circle around the affirmative of the perches . Lack of chalc can be also a cause of feather picking. A bit of clean sand on the floor provides the bird the little stones they need for grind the seeds.

Flying: Bourke's are used to fly long distancies. They have a long tail and sharp pointed wings. When they seek food they fly low but when they depart for watering holes they fly much higher. The white parts of the outer vanes of the tail feathers gives a good orientation to follow the flock. Of course the Bourke in in aviculture should have the possibility to fly around. This is a condition for good breathe and health of the bird.

Safety: Bourke's don't gnaw so much like other parrots.A wooden aviary or cage is suited to them.We have to be careful for nails, screws, broken wire mesh etc. Too large-meshed gauze can be dangerous when young get stuck with there head in it. They can't escape and die.

Social behaviour: The Bourke is a social bird. In the wild we see the Bourke in pairs or in groups. They are breeding in hollow trunks or branches. Sometimes very near to each other. I place the pairs in seperate volieres next to each other. In wintertime I house groups of 6-10 birds in one aviary. This simplificates my work.

Sometimes a cock accepts more than one hen. Most of the time I pair them by placing one male with more females. When a pair is formed I replace the other females. But sometimes a male accepts more hens. When the hens are not agressive to each other is it possible to give more nestblocks and breed as a group.

Most of the time the young can stay with theire parents till young of the second clutch are about fourteen days. Sometime longer. But it is possible too that the cock is chasing away the young cocks.

We should always be alert for agression. The Bourke has a very sharp bill and can wound the other bird deadly. As another bird is chased from the fodder bucket or sitting place replacing can be necessary.

Breeding behaviour: Bourke's are breeding in nestholes in hollow trees and branches. Usualy an acacia or casuarina, from three to ten feet above groundlevel. A pair stays together for years. The cock is inspecting the holes and is choosing the best place for breeding. Only the hen is brooding, the cock is always sitting close to the nest to warn against intruders and defend his territory. The hen is defending the nest by biting and making a lot of noise. The hen usually lays four or five eggs. Every other day. Incubation lasts about eighteen days. While breeding start after one or two days after the first egg is layd the age of the young is very different. At fourteen days the eyes are opened and the first feathers develop.

In the voliere we use different wooden nest boxes, size: high 30cm, wide 25 cm. with a hole a diameter of 6 cm as entrance. It is usefull to make little ventilation holes in the backside. The hen stays sometimes in the opening for hours when the young are older. The sides and bottom of the nestbox have to isolate the nest. Otherwise the nesthole is cooling down to fast. Don't place the nestbox against a cold outside wall or a place exposed to full sunlight. Hanging high does not mean against the ceiling because the cock prefers to sit at the top of the box.

The hen sits very closely she leaves the nest box only for a brief period in the early morning and late evening. The hen is fed regurgitated food by the cock. This is the time to inspect the nest if needed. When the young are older they produce a lot of excrements. They build a wall of it against the sides.If the nest is to wet we have to clean it and give more wood-snip. Sometime we find a little brown moth in the nestbox. He is laying eggs in the shit. Afterwards we find little white worms in the nest. More problematic are lauses which are sucking blood of the young and hen. Desinfection with halamid before the breeding season is enough to get rid of it.

The hen is feeding the young. Sometimes the cock does the same. The young are well protected to cold by the grey down. But the moment that the hen sleeps on the perch outside the nest a problem can be arise. Especially when the temperature outside is very low. When there are more young they keep warm each other, but when there are only one or two young they will not survive. In such cases we can use a little warming up with a warming plate under or behind the nest box.

When the young are about four weeks old the start to use their wings. The last days before fletching the hen is stimulating the youn to come out by feeding them in the entrance of the box or let them begging for food without feeding directly. Because of the different age of the young we have to observe if the youngest become enough to eat. There are breeders who take the youngest out of the nest when the older young were fletched and are placing them at the floor in a little bucket and they will survive. Remind that the young can drown in a watercan when they are fletched.

Moult. In about four month the juvenile moult comes. After one year the firs moult of the grown up young. THe Bourke's is moulting allway s inthis way that flying in possible. First the feather coverts are moulting. Later the bigger contour feathers. Last the tail and wing feathers. During this time giving grit, egg food ad sepoia is absolutly needed.

Starting point of this checklist is our knowledge of the habitat and the behavior of the Bourke's. I got questions of breeders who want to start with this species about caring and housing. The list is based upon literature and own experience. The list is never complete but when you use it you can expand our list.

Checklist - health care

1. Moisture

2. Diët

3. Safety aspects and protection

4. Stimulation of activity

5. Prevention of stress and disturbances

6. Food

7. Social behaviour

8. Breeding

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Copyright Bob Fregeres

E-mail: fregeres@bourkes-parakeet.nl

4/6/05