Month: August 2014

Cuban amazon (Amazona leucocephala)

Cuban amazon (Amazona leucocephala)

The Cuban amazon (Amazona leucocephala) also known as Cuban parrot or the rose-throated parrot, is a medium-sized mainly green parrot found in woodlands and dry forests of Cuba, the Bahamas and Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. The Cuban amazon is a medium-sized parrot 28–33 centimetres (11–13 in) long. It is mainly green with some blue feathers in its wings. The green feathers are edged with a terminal black rim. Its lower face, chin and throat are rosy pink, and its forehead and eye-rings are white. The extent of the various colours of the head, the extent of the rosy pink on the upper chest, and the extent of the dull red on the abdomen vary between the subspecies. Its irises are pale olive-green, its beak is horn-coloured, and the feathers over the ears are blackish. The legs are pink. The juvenile has little or no red on the abdomen, less black edging on the green feathers, and some of the feathers on the top of its head may be pale yellow rather than white.
The Cuban amazon lives in different habitats on different islands. It was once found throughout Cuba, but it is now mainly confined to the forested areas of the main island and Isla de la Juventud. There are about 10,000 individuals in Cuba including an estimated 1,100–1,320 on Isla de la Juventud.

On the Cayman Islands the parrot lives in dry forest and on agricultural land. The population living on Grand Cayman numbers about 3,400 individuals (2006 survey), and the population on Cayman Brac consists of 400–500 individuals. The population on Little Cayman was extirpated in the 1940s.

The populations were estimated at about 3,550 individuals on Abaco and 6,350 on Inagua in 2006. The population on the Acklins and Crooked Islands was extirpated in the 1940s, while it, based on fossil remains and archeologicalfindings, historically also has been present on several other islands in the Bahamas (e.g., New Providence and San Salvador) and on Grand Turk Island.

The breeding season is from March to September. Cuban amazons nest in tree cavities throughout most of its range, the only exception being that the parrots living on the Abaco Islands nest underground in limestone solution holes, where they are protected from pineyard wildfires. Two to four white eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female for 26–28 days.

Due to ongoing habitat loss, occasional natural disasters and trapping for the wild parrot trade, the Cuban amazon is evaluated as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is protected with a listing on Appendix I of CITES, which prohibits international trade of listed wild-caught species.

The Cuban amazon was seldom-seen in aviculture outside of Cuba and Florida (where it was bred in captivity by Cuban immigrants) until the 1980s and is considered one of the more difficult to breed amazon parrots, with aggressive behaviour from cock birds towards their mates and their own chicks a relatively common occurrence. Despite increased availability in recent times, the Cuban amazon is still one of the highest-priced of all amazons. Several colour mutations have been observed in captive-bred stock.

Pacific Parrotlet (Forpus coelestis)

Pacific Parrotlet (Forpus coelestis)

The Pacific Parrotlet (Forpus coelestis), also known as Lesson’s Parrotlet or the Celestial Parrotlet, is a species of small parrot in the Psittacidae family, native to Ecuador and Peru. Its natural habitats are subtropicalor tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, and heavily degraded former forest.

Parrotlets are the second smallest group of all parrots. Pacific Parrotlets are between 4½ to 5½ inches long. They come from the South American countries of Peru and Ecuador. There are seven species of Parrotlets in the genus Forpus. Only three of these species are kept as pets. Of these, the Pacific Parrotlet is the most common.

The Pacific Parrotlets have olive green and grey bodies and lighter blue streaking back from their eyes. It is a dimorphic species. The males have a striking cobalt rump with blue patches on their wings and lighter yellowish green faces. Females are mostly green with much less brightly colored blue patches behind the eyes and no cobalt rump or blue in their wings. These dimorphic color variations are true of most of the color mutations as well. They are from 10 cm – 14 cm long.

This species is not very common in pet stores in the USA and is valued by breeders. Its normal price range is 150-200 USD. This price is much lower than other species because since 1930 the US has had an established breeding population in captivity, before the CITES laws preventing importing wildlife from foreign countries. Some of the color mutations in aviculture include blue, American yellow, American White, European yellow and white, fallow, dark factor green and lutino. Captive bred Pacific Parrotlets can be expected to live between 10 and 15 years with good care and regular veterinary examinations, although individuals may have shorter or longer life spans.

secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius)

secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius)

The secretarybird or secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is a very large, mostly terrestrial bird of prey. Endemic to Africa, it is usually found in the open grasslands and savannah of the sub-Saharan region. Although a member of the order Accipitriformes, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as kites, buzzards, vultures, and harriers, it is given its own family, Sagittariidae.

It appears on the coats of arms of Sudan and South Africa.

The secretarybird is instantly recognizable as having an eagle-like body on crane-like legs which increases the bird’s height to as much as 1.3 m (4 ft) tall. This bird has an eagle-like head with a hooked bill, but has rounded wings. Body weight can range from 2.3 to 4.6 kg (5.1 to 10.1 lb) and height is 90–137 cm (35–54 in). Total length from 112 to 152 cm (44 to 60 in) and the wingspan is 191–220 cm (75–87 in). The tarsus of the secretarybird averages 31 cm (12 in) and the tail is 57–85 cm (22–33 in), both of which factor into making them both taller and longer than any other species of raptor. The neck is not especially long, and can only be lowered down to the inter-tarsal joint, so birds reaching down to the ground or drinking must stoop to do so.

From a distance or in flight it resembles a crane more than a bird of prey. The tail has two elongated central feathers that extend beyond the feet during flight, as well as long flat plumage creating a posterior crest. Secretarybird flight feathers and thighs are black, while most of the coverts are grey with some being white. Sexes look similar to one another as the species exhibits very little sexual dimorphism, although the male has longer head plumes and tail feathers. Adults have a featherless red face as opposed to the yellow facial skin of the young.

Unlike most birds of prey, the secretarybird is largely terrestrial, hunting its prey on foot. Adults hunt in pairs and sometimes as loose familial flocks, stalking through the habitat with long strides. Prey may consist of insects, mammalsranging in size from mice to hares and mongoose, crabs, lizards, snakes, tortoises, young birds, bird eggs, and sometimes dead animals killed in grass or bush fires. Larger herbivores are not generally hunted, although there are some reports of secretarybirds killing young gazelles. The importance of snakes in the diet has been exaggerated in the past, although they can be locally important and venomous species such as adders and cobras are regularly among the types of snake preyed upon.

Prey is often discovered by the secretarybirds via stomping on clumps of vegetation, which then flushes prey for them to capture. It also waits near fires, eating anything it can that is trying to escape. They can either catch prey by chasing it and striking with the bill and swallowing (usually with small prey), or stamping on prey until it is rendered stunned or unconscious enough to swallow. Studies of this latter strategy have helped reconstruct the possible feeding mechanisms employed by the gigantic ‘terror birds’ that lived between sixty and five million years ago.[19]Larger or dangerous prey, such as venomous snakes, are instead stunned or killed by the bird jumping onto their backs, at which point they will try to snap their necks or backs. There are some reports that, when capturing snakes, the secretarybirds will take flight with their prey and then drop them to their death, although this has not been verified. Even with larger prey, food is generally swallowed whole through the birds’ considerable gape. Occasionally, like other raptors, they will tear apart prey with their feet before consuming it.

Young are fed liquefied and regurgitated insects directly by the male or female parent and are eventually weaned to small mammals and reptile fragments regurgitated onto the nest itself. The above foodstuffs are originally stored in the crop of the adults. In hunting and feeding on small animals and arthropods on the ground and in tall grass or scrub, secretarybirds occupy an ecological niche similar to that occupied by peafowl in South and Southeast Asia, roadrunners in North and Central America and seriemas in South America. Secretarybirds often use kicks to incapacitate and kill their prey, with the bird’s sharp claws piercing the victim’s body. Their kicks are incredibly powerful; they are capable of shattering a human’s hand with a single kick.

Narrow-billed Tody (Todus angustirostris)

Narrow-billed Tody (Todus angustirostris)

The Narrow-billed Tody (Todus angustirostris) is a typical tody: a small, short-tailed, chunky bird with bright colors and a long, flattened bill. It is found on Hispaniola, which is the only island on which more than a single species of tody occurs: the Narrow-billed Tody tends to occur at higher elevations on the island, above 700 m, while the lowlands of Hispaniola are occupied by the Broad-billed Tody (Todus subulatus). The two are similar in plumage – bright green above, with a red throat and paler underparts – but the Narrow-billed Tody is whiter below, and the red mandible usually has a dusky tip. The two species also have different vocalizations, and different foraging behaviors: the Narrow-billed Tody consistently forages lower near the ground than does the Broad-billed Tody.

The species primarily exists in the dense, wet jungle and forests at higher elevations on both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. However, it can occur locally at lower elevations and its distribution can overlap that of the Broad-billed Tody (Todus sublets). Resident on Hispaniola. Primarily occurs at higher elevations (Raffaele et al. 1998). Elevational range 900-2400 m (Parker et al. 1996).

The primary food eaten by this species is insects, and consequently this species like all Todus species is classified as insectivorous (Kepler 1977). Kepler (1977) identified fourteen insect orders and 49 insect families that todies will eat (See Appendix 3, Kepler 1977). The Narrow-billed Tody has not been found to prey on large butterflies and catepillars, which are included in the diet of the Broad-billed Tody Todus subulatus(Latta and Wunderle 1996).

Hispaniolan Trogon (Priotelus roseigaster)

Hispaniolan Trogon (Priotelus roseigaster)

The Hispaniolan Trogon (Priotelus roseigaster) is a species of bird in the Trogonidae family. It is the national bird of Haiti. It is found on the island of Hispaniola shared by Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montane forests and what is now heavily degraded forest. It is threatened by habitat loss. It has been sighted in the upper altitudes in the forests of Haiti’s mountain ranges and is confined to several areas in the country’s protected areas.

The Hispaniolan Trogon, is the only member of the trogon family that occurs on the island of Hispaniola. This also is one of only two trogons found in the Caribbean. The Cuban Trogon (Priotelus temnurus) is the only other member of the genus Priotelus which is confined to the Greater Antilles. The Hispaniolan Trogon is unlike any other species known to occur on Hispaniola with it’s metallic green upperparts, gray breast, red belly and dark blue tail strongly marked with white.

This species occurs from sea level to the highest peaks, although it only rarely occurs at lower elevations. The introductory paragraph of the account of the Hispaniolan Trogon by Whetmore and Swales (1931) provides a good description of an encounter with this strikingly beautiful bird: “In travel along the wilder trails through the hills of Hispaniola there may come to the ear a curious cooing call suggesting the note of a pigeon but at the same time differing from the sound produced by any of the familiar species of that group. The call is ventriloquial and seems to arise first from one side and then from another. Finally there is a glimpse of a bird in black silhouette, resting in shadow on some open limb, with body erect and tail hanging straight down. No color is visible and it is a pleasurable surprise when one of the birds pitches to a lower perch or is brought into closer view by the aid of binoculars and the colors of the plumage flash out brilliantly, the clear red of the abdomen sharply marked from the gray of the breast, and the back a shimmering green.”

Japanese paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone atrocaudata)

Japanese paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone atrocaudata)

The Japanese paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone atrocaudata), also called the black paradise flycatcher, is a medium-sized passerine bird. It was previously classified with the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae, but the paradise-flycatchers, monarch flycatchers and Australasian fantails are now normally grouped with the drongos in the family Dicruridae, which has most of its members in Australasia and tropical southern Asia.

The Japanese paradise flycatcher is mainly migratory and breeds in shady mature deciduous or evergreen broadleaf forest of Japan (southern Honshū, Shikoku, Kyushu and the Nansei Shoto islands), South Korea, Taiwan (including Lanyu island) and the far north Philippines. It is a non-breeding visitor to mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Sumatra, Indonesia.

Habitat: In Jeju-do of South Korea, Gotjawal Forest, a forest formed on a rocky area of volcanic AA Lava, is one of the important breeding sites of Japanese paradise flycatcher[2]

There are three subspecies, the nominate T. a. atrocaudata which breeds through most of Japanese/Korean range, T. a. illex which is resident in the Ryukyu Islands, and T. a. periophthalmica restricted to Lanyu Island off southeast Taiwan.

The Japanese paradise flycatcher is similar in appearance to the Asian paradise flycatcher but slightly smaller. Mature males have a black hood with a purplish-blue gloss which shades into blackish-grey on the chest. The underparts are off-white to white. The mantle, back, wings and rump are plain dark chestnut. The tail has extremely long black central feathers, which are shorter in immature males. Unlike the Asian paradise flycatcher there is no white morph. The female resembles the male but is duller and darker brown on the chestnut areas. It has black legs and feet, a large black eye with a blue eye-ring, and a short blue bill.

The song is rendered in Japanese as tsuki-hi-hoshi, hoi-hoi-hoi, which translates to Moon-Sun-Stars and gives the Japanese name of the bird サンコウチョウ (三光鳥) sankōchō (literally, bird of three lights, i.e. moon, sun, star, from san three + kō lights + chō bird).

A recent survey detected a steep decline in part of the Japanese breeding population which has presumably occurred because of forest loss and degradation in its winter range.

Peach-fronted Conure (Eupsittula aurea)

Peach-fronted Conure (Eupsittula aurea)

The Peach-fronted Parakeet (Eupsittula aurea), more commonly known as the Peach-fronted Conure in aviculture, is a species of parrot in the Psittacidae family. It is widespread and often common in semi-open and open habitats in eastern Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, far northern Argentina and southern Suriname (Sipaliwini savanna). Both its common and scientific name is a reference to the orange-yellow forehead, although this is reduced in juveniles.
The Peach-fronted conures average 10 inches (25 cm) in length and weigh around 3.7 ozs. (105 g). They have a greyish-green back with a lighter green color on the breast. The forehead and part of the crown are bright orange. The rest of the crown is blue-green. There are black tips on the wings and blue tips on the tail. The beak is black.

Peach-fronted Conures are easily available on the pet market and are popular pets that love to play and climb. Natural branches and lots of toys are recommended. Half-moon Conure can be very noisy and destructive as they like to chew on things. Providing them with toys and / or non-toxic wood / branches is a good way to stop them from chewing on items you would like to keep whole (like your furniture :-). Like most conures, they are wonderful sentinel (watch) birds alerting you to anything they feel should not be there. They do like to chew on things and should be given lots of toys to keep them happy. Like most conures, Peach Fronts love to bathe. Some like their water dishes, others learn to love spray baths.

These small birds become quite partial to their owners, may be taught a small amount of speech and can make wonderful pets. Since they have a low-pitched sound, they would make a great apartment bird. They are relatively inexpensive compared to other conures.

They are relatively easy to breed. The recommended nesting box should be 13″ x 10″ x 10″ in size, with an entrance hole about 3 1/4″ in diameter. The hen lays 2 to 4 eggs, which she incubates for about 26 days. The nestlings fledge after about 52 days.

Below are the dimensions of nesting boxes generally used for these birds. But the dimensions can vary widely, as they are influenced by the previous owner’s and conures’ preferences – the latter is often guided by the size and type of nest-box / log in which the bird was hatched and reared.

If the breeding birds don’t appear to accept their given nest boxes, the solution is often to offer them a choice of sizes and types of logs or nest-boxes, and place them in various locations within the aviary. This way, the parent birds can make their own choice. Once a pair has chosen a specific nest-box/log and been successful in it, offer that one to them each breeding season. Once a pair has chosen its log or nest-box, the other ones can generally be removed. If the “spare” boxes are to be removed and moved to another flight, ensure the log / nest-box is cleaned to ensure the receptacle has the minimal contamination of mites, parasites and pathogens.