Fig parrots are energetic and attractive little birds that are relatively uncommon in captivity, although their popularity is increasing. These active birds can frequently be seen fluttering about. They are social beings and should not be kept alone, even if you are not interested in breeding them. These little parrots need a playmate and friend to be happy. Like all parrots, they have a curious nature and require mental stimulation. (For tips to provide mental stimulation, please refer to: Foraging)
Fig Parrots as Pets:
The general opinion is that fig parrots don't make good pets as they can't be tamed. Even if hand raised, fig parrots are said to lose their trusting disposition after weaning. However, some opinions have been voiced that fig parrots can indeed be good companion birds - so there may be some individual differences based on either genetic disposition or different handraising methods used by breeders that would explain the different opinions. This being said, given a choice I am sure that any of these energetic beings would be happier in an aviary environment that allows them plenty of room to exercise rather than being confined to a cage.
These little parrots can be aggressive, which may present challenges when servicing cages as they will quickly bite the hand that comes into their cage to clean, or to change out their water or food dishes. They also get easily startled when someone approaches them.
Fig parrots don't learn to talk, but they make pleasant flute-like sounds.
The optimal environment for these active parrots would be a planted flight / outside aviary (with a shelter - heated in colder climates), where they can be watched, as they fly about, eat, climb around on the perches, or pop in and out of their nesting boxes. Fig parrots don't only use nesting boxes for breeding purposes, but also for privacy / sleeping; so these boxes should be provided to non-breeding birds as well. The minimum dimensions for a flight would be around 3 feet tall x 6 feet deep x 2 feet wide. Suspended aviaries / cages greatly facilitate cleaning and also maintain a more sanitary environment for the fig-parrots who are known for their messy eating habits that they share with all fruit-eating birds. Indoors, the cage can be smaller, but keep in mind that these are high-energy birds that like to move and flit about.
Fig parrots don't usually play with birds toys.
Branches: Fresh branches are eagerly accepted and provide them with the entertainment, exercise and nutrition they need. The birds peel the bark off the branches, and so get additional minerals, roughage and tannin acids, which have a dietetic effect. The birds may chew any flowers and fruiting bodies on the branches. Chewing on branches also keep their beaks trimmed. It is important to ensure that only non-toxic leafy branches be placed in the aviary for the birds to chew up. Natural branches of various diameters, and placed at various angles, can be used for perches. As these little parrots are heavy chewers, these natural perches need to be replaced regularly.
Water: These birds enjoyed bathing, particularly after feeding. Fig-parrots kept in outdoor aviaries enjoy rain and playfully slide down wet foliage in their aviary. Some breeders install overhead sprinklers for their enjoyment. Fig parrots will bathe in any water container (shallow dishes work best).
Aggression: Males can get quite aggressive and are able to easily take a chunk out of their caretaker's finger if given that opportunity. They are even more aggressive during breeding season when they are protective of the nesting site.
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 the dietary requirements of this particular parrot species. Provided fig-parrots are well acclimatized and maintained in appropriate conditions, they are pretty hardy and quite prolific. 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. The survival of some of the species may depend on captive breeding successes, therefore, it is important that fig-parrots be integrated into well-managed breeding programs with breeders who are experienced enough to be able to meet their demands and can address possible problems that are likely to present themselves. Artificial incubation and handrearing of the young may become necessary, as there are cases of captive-bred parents abandoning their eggs. This being said, generally spoken, fig-parrots make excellent parents and their parent-reared offspring may assist in the raising of additional clutches.
The best-known fig-parrots species:
- 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. They are relatively inexpensive compared to other fig-parrots who may cost several thousands of dollars. Salvadori's may be available for several hundred dollars - it varies depending on the region. Salvadoris are relatively rare and the future in their natural habitat is uncertain - so captive breeding may be the only way to guarantee the long-term survival of this species. Breeders insist that this particular species make wonderful pet birds. The general consensus is that fig-parrots don't tame easily or won't stay tame beyond weaning; so this little fig-parrot species may have a friendlier disposition than other species. They are sexually mature when they are 18 months to two years old - at which time plumage should be in full color. Salvadoris' chicks are born naked and light-skinned. Salvadori's hens typically lay two eggs, which they incubate for about 28 days.
- 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.
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.
Mostly, fig parrots are not picky about nest boxes; however, some individual pairs did not start breeding until the nest boxes and locations were changed several times. If possible, providing a choice of nesting boxes of different sizes and shapes, placed in different locations within the flight will enable the parents to pick a box and a location they feel most comfortable with. Pairs tend to have their own preferences as far as the type of nest box is concerned and it often depends on what they themselves where raised in. If you have the benefit of knowing your bird's breeder, this is one issue to discuss.
Some fig parrots prefer small boxes with one single entrance hole, while others prefer a nest box with two entrance holes at opposite ends. Some pairs like to chew an additional hole themselves while incubating. They use the extra opening to remove droppings and dirt that accumulate after the chicks hatched. Once a pair has chosen its favorite box, any extra nest boxes can be removed. If these boxes are to be moved to another flight, it's important to ensure that the log / nest box is cleaned to remove any mites, parasites and pathogens.
Possible choices are:
- Cockatiel / lovebird nesting box (with an enlarged opening)
- Budgie-sized nesting box are also sometimes accepted
- Hollow logs
Note: The nesting box or log should be sturdy enough to withstand the heavy chewing that they will be inevitably subjected to. Some nest boxes have spout entrances attached, mainly to protect the eggs from predators.
- Entrance hole should be around 2 inches; an inspection hole - square or around - should be approx. 4 inches
- A removable top / lid can be a useful access point for inspections and for cleaning.
- Location and height of log / nest-box: Install in a sheltered part of the aviary at about 5 feet (~1.5 - 1.8 meters) height, but not too close to the roof to cause heat problems in the hotter months.
- Nesting log / nest-box material: Options are decomposed non-toxic saw dust, corn cob, wood shavings (i.e., Aspen shavings) or other suitable materials. Please note that wood shavings - such as pine, cedar and redwood - give off aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and acids that are toxic and can cause dermatitis, allergic symptoms and irritation of the digestive tract. They should not be used in cages, aviaries, or nestboxes. The larger the wood chips the better, so the parents don't feed it to the babies or the chicks accidentally ingest it. Other options for nesting material include shredded paper and dried grass.
Other Important 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 abandon or even kill their chicks. This may not happen until days after the event. It is important to check 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 as this could stress them. If there is any sign of abandonment or parental abuse, it may be necessary to pull the chicks for handrearing.
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 pages. 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. 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.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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