In their natural habitat, Poicephalus Parrots typically nest in tree cavities, often Oil Palms, 3-10 m above ground, in many cases taking advantage of previous nest holes of woodpeckers and barbets. They may reuse the same nest hole repeatedly.
Hens will generally be sexually mature by the age of 2 years, some even as early as 12 months. Males usually take a little longer. They may be ready to breed when they are about 3 years old. Again others may need more time to mature and won't start breeding until they are 6 or 7 years old. When breeding readiness takes longer than anticipated, one has to examine the type of accommodation and the birds' diet. But even if these factors are optimal, some birds simply need longer to mature than others.
In the wild, these parrots usually live 25 - 30 years. With proper care, captive birds live up to 50 years.
Breeding Poicephalus Parrots in captivity presents several challenges and is, therefore, best left to the more experienced breeders. These parrots are often nervous and may show aggression towards their mates and other birds - particularly during the breeding season. They tend to be erratic breeders.
This being said, some pairs present few problems. Breeding successes and challenges are likely linked to the level of experience of the breeder birds, their level of bonding and compatibility, as well as their general health and contentment with respect to their environment and care they are given.
Introducing / Pairing up Breeder Birds:
The process of pairing up breeder birds is a very delicate one. New breeder birds need to be introduced to each other very carefully, and this initially requires constant observation and patience. Poicephalus Parrots are likely to be aggressive towards newcomers potentially resulting in severe injury or even death. These parrots have to be gradually introduced to each other. Initially it's best to keep both birds in their own cages, but side-by-side and where they can see each other. Once they get used to each other, you may observe them sitting as close to each other as possible (but still in their own cages, obviously). Once they appear to be comfortable with each other, the caretaker then places them together in another NEUTRAL cage (a cage that neither one has previously regarded as his or her territory). Once they are together in one cage, it is important to observe them very carefully for any signs of aggression. When signs of bonding are apparent, such as mutual preening and one parrot feeding the other, the pair can then be placed into their new breeding cage or aviary. Even after they have been placed into their permanent home, careful observation has to be maintained to monitor for signs of aggression - especially in the beginning. If aggression occurs at any stage the birds need to be separated.
It is best to house one pair per aviary or suspended cage. A suitable flight size would be 6 foot long by 6 foot high by 3 foot wide or larger. An indoor / outdoor flight combination is actually preferred -- which would basically be an outside aviary connected to a suspended inside cage (heated in the colder climates). Providing the food dishes in the inside flight will facilitate clean-up, keep the food dry and uncontaminated and helps reduce problems with mice and other critters.
If birds are bred indoors, breeding cages should be at a minimum 4' x 3' x 3' - and birds should be provided out-of-cage time for exercise and mental stimulation.
Spacious accommodation is particularly important for this species as males can become aggressive toward hens, so there should be enough room for the female to get away from him, if necessary.
Non-toxic leafy branches should be placed in the aviary for the birds to chew up. This will entertain them, help minimize boredom and give birds some beak exercise. The birds will chew any flowers and fruiting bodies on the branches, which will provide added nutrition. Natural branches can be used for perches. These natural perches will be chewed by the birds and may need to be replaced regularly.
Poicephalus parrots need a variety of bird toys in the cage or aviary to keep them physically active and mentally stimulated.
These birds require more privacy than most other parrot species to breed successfully. The nest box should be at the highest possible point in the cage or aviary, and the entrance hole should be in a shaded or dark position. Light should not be able to enter the nest box.
Nest boxes are best positioned so that nest inspection can be carried out from outside the aviary. Nest inspections are best done when the adult birds are out of the nest for feeding.
Some breeders are successful with vertical boxes, others with horizontal boxes. Again others provide elaborate "L" shaped boxes or offer nest boxes that have tunnels with twists and turns towards the nesting chamber. The nest box preferences are influenced by the size and type of nest-box or log in which the parents were hatched and raised. Some use larger boxes and others smaller ones. In the wild, Poicephalus Parrots tend to nest in the most unusual size and shaped nesting holes. So it's trial and error in some cases.
A couple of sizes that appear to work well for numerous breeders are:
- 18" to 20" high and 8" to 10" square hung vertically -- if your birds don't appear to like a vertical box, try turning the box on its side (turning it into a horizontal box).
- 18 inches high and 8 to 10 inches square.
- Both logs and nests need an entrance hole/opening about 2.5 inches (or 70 mm) that is located about 4 -6 inches from the top. Most parrots prefer the entrance hole to be just big enough for them to squeeze through. Some other birds may enlarge the port by chewing the wood. Nest boxes should have secure side door to allow the caretaker to inspect the nest.
- A mesh ladder / climbing structure should be fixed inside just below the entrance hole to allow access up and down the box.
If space allows, offering a choice of sizes and types of logs or nest-boxes, placed in various locations within the aviary will allow the parents to make their own choice. Once a pair has chosen a specific nest box and are successfully raising chicks in that box, the others can be removed (they should be thoroughly cleaned before reusing them in other aviaries). It would be best to keep the preferred box for the parents' exclusive use.
As nest box litter, decomposed non-toxic saw dust or wood shavings work well about 2" deep works well. Don't put in more than that, or else your breeder birds will be busy removing litter rather than breeding.
Poicephalus Parrots are typically intolerant of nest inspections. If the set-up allows it, it's best to carry them out from the outside and when the parents are out of the nest box to feed. Of course, this requires the nest box to be positioned in a way that enables the breeder to inspect the nest box without entering the aviary or flight. A "reverse" nest box works well for that purpose -- one which can be attached to the outside of a cage or aviary with an opening through the aviary to allow the breeders to get into the box. A removable top or lift-off lid or a side-door to provide useful access points for inspections as well as for cleaning are also necessary. Of course, outside nest boxes are not recommended if wild animals could possibly open them up, or the breeders themselves might be able to escape. It would work fine in an aviary with a sheltered area.
Please visit this web resource for in-depth information on matching up pairs, setting breeders up and raising chicks. Also covers breeding-related problems, chick and breeder health issues.
Egg Laying / Incubation:
They usually produce one clutch a year. Each clutch consists of 2 - 4 white eggs, although sometimes as high as 6 eggs. The eggs are about 3 cm long x 2.5 cm wide.
The hen usually starts incubating the eggs after the second egg has been laid. The incubation period varies depending on the ambient (room or outside) temperature -- it can take 26 to 28 days. The young fledge when they are 9 to 10 weeks old.
Newly hatched chicks are completely dependent on their parents for warmth and feedings. They only have a sparse white down and won't open their eyes until about two to three weeks from hatching. The mother stays in the nest most of the time until the chicks are about four weeks old and have enough feathers to create their own heat insulation. During this time the male brings food for the female and chicks, and guards the nests. When the chicks are about 2 to 4 weeks old, the female also begins to collect food for the chicks.
The young leave the nest at approximately 9 to 10 weeks old and are independent at about 12 weeks.
Provide fresh drinking and bathing water daily.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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