HUSBANDRY AND BREEDING OF THE MOUNT APO LORIKEET Trichoglossus johnstoniae AT LORO PARQUE

By Roger G. Sweeney
First Published in The Avicultural Magazine Vol. 103 No. 1
Copyright © 1997 Avicultural Society, Published with Permission

The HusbandryMountApoLorikeetMount Apo Lorikeet Trichoglossus johnstoniae, also sometimes referred to as the MountApoLorikeetMount Apo LorikeetMindanao Lorikeet or MountApoLorikeetMount Apo LorikeetMrs. Johnstone's Lorikeet, is designated full species status within the genus Trichoglossus (Forshaw, 1989). Two races have been described (Rand and Rabor, 1959; DuPont, 1971), but recent taxonomic assessments (Forshaw, 1989; Sweeney, unpublished) suggest that no differentia exist. The length of this species is 20cm (8in) (Forshaw, 1989). Weights recorded for five adult birds at Loro Parque produced a mean weight of 56g (range 52-59g), with no noticeable differences in body weight between males and females within the sample. The main plumage is green, with the forehead, lores and chin rose red, with a distinctive purple brown band reaching from the lores to the occiput. There is some yellow on the underside of the secondaries and throat. The breast feathers are yellowish green at the base, with darker green tips producing a barred appearance. The tail is green above and olive yellow below. The bill is orange-red in adult birds. The irides are red and the legs are greenish-grey.

This species is restricted to mountain regions of the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The fact that this species is endemic to Mindanao has meant that it has rarely been seen outside of the Philippines. Its status in the wild is described as locally common, but its range is restricted and is being increasingly threatened by changes in land use. Very few historical records exist for this species in captivity. Almost certainly the first birds to be kept in captivity outside of the Philippines were those collected by Walter Goodfellow, who discovered this species in 1903, while on a collecting expedition for the English aviculturist, Mrs. Johnstone. Goodfellow gave this species the common name of Mrs. Johnstone's Lorikeet and three years after their collection from the wild, Mrs. Johnstone recorded the first captive breeding of this species when two chicks were reared in 1906 (Goodfellow, 1906). Since this time perhaps the only collection to have experience with this species before the 1990s was San Diego Zoo in Californiawhich has maintained and bred the Mount Apo Lorikeet for several decades. San Diego Zoo first bred the species in 1941, but no further breeding was achieved until the 1970s. From 1971 onwards, San Diego began to breed the Mount Apo Lorikeet more consistently and has in the last 25 years raised a large number of them. The Mount Apo Lorikeet started to become more widely kept in international aviculture in recent years as a result of successful captive breeding from 1990 onwards at the breeding centre of Antonio de Dios in the Philippines. This has allowed first generation birds to be sent to several collections in Europe, which have included both Loro Parque in Spain and Vogelpark Walsrode in Germany (Sweeney, 1994, 1996). At Loro Parque this species first arrived in the collection in 1990, but the first successful rearing was not achieved until 1994. Since this time further breeding has followed and is now becoming more consistent. During the 1996 breeding season for example, two breeding pairs reared five chicks between them, four of which were parent-reared without intervention, the fifth chick being hand-reared.

Husbandry

Husbandry guidelines for the Mount Apo Lorikeet at Loro Parque do not vary significantly from other Loriidae species in the collection - all receive husbandry similar to guidelines published on the care of this family (Low 1992; Sweeney, 1993). In more temperate countries the relatively small body size of these species means that extra care should be taken during periods of cold weather to ensure that they are not allowed to become chilled.

As with most Lorildae, Mount Apo Lorikeets normally roost inside the nest-box during the night, but in countries where the temperature may fall towards freezing point at night it would be wise to consider bringing these birds inside during the winter months or moving their nest-box in to a heated shelter if this has been included in the design of the aviary. As a guideline, Mount Apo Lorikeets, once established and acclimatised, should have a similar level of hardiness to the more familiar Goldie's Lorikeet Trichoglossus goldiei and Iris Lorikeet Trichoglossus iris.

One pair of Mount Apo Lorikeets at Loro Parque are housed in the exhibition area for Loriidae, while other breeding pairs are housed in suspended cages in the off-exhibit breeding areas of the park. Both types of housing used have produced successful breeding. The exhibition cage measures 250cm x 105cm x 215cm (approx. 8ft 2in x 3ft 6in x 7ft 1in). Both sides and the back wall are solid, with the front panel and front half of the roof made of wire mesh; the back half of the roof is of solid construction. The nest-box in the exhibition cage is secured against the back wall. The exhibition cage is furnished with two main horizontal perches and in addition a fresh branch of pine wood is always present as chewing/play material. The suspended breeding cages used in our off- exhibit areas are made entirely from wire mesh and measure 300cm x 95cm x 95cm (9ft 10in x 3ft 1½in x 3ft 1½in). They are suspended at a height of 125cm (4ft 1½ in), measured from the ground to the base of the cage, which means that the height of perching in the cage is slightly above the head height of the keeper. The front area of the cage, where food and water is supplied, is covered by a roofing sheet to protect against excessive sun, rain and possible contamination of the food by wild birds living around the breeding area. The cages are positioned with the length of the cage extending away from the service pathway at a right-angle, with the nest- box positioned at the back and secured on the outside, with a hole in the wire allowing the birds to enter the nest-box. The area surrounding the back of the cage is planted and rarely disturbed other than for brief nest inspections. The suspended cages are also furnished with two main horizontal perches, one towards the front and one towards the back of the cage. Additional chewing and play material is also provided, in recent years captive raised Mount Apo Lorikeets have accepted a varied diet. At Loro Parque in recent years the birds have been maintained and bred while receiving two different commercial brands of liquid nectar food, but they have also always had access on a daily basis to various fruits (which can include on rotation apple. pear, papaya, banana, prickly-pear, cactus fruit etc.), green foods (commonly alfalfa or lettuce) and a dish which contains small millet/canary seed and a pelleted food (Lory Select). The diet used since 1995 onwards has been as follows:

7.00am: Biotropic Lory Nectar (approx. 100ml per pair prepared to manufacturer's instructions); segments of two or more fruits and green foods as described above; dish containing small millet and canary seed and Lory Select pellets (approx. 15g of seed and 15g of pellets, but this is varied according to the appetite of each pair and additional pellets may be added).

3.00pm: The nectar dish is removed and replaced with another 100ml of freshly prepared food in a sterile dish and any remaining fruit is removed. Additional pellets are also given if the morning allowance has been completely eaten

Particular attention is given to monitoring the quality of drinking water for our Loriidae. This is mainly due to specific water quality problems which are endemic to Tenerife. We have also noted that the control of certain medical problems common in Loriidae, particularly enterobacterial infections and protozoa can be dramatically improved once the water supply is controlled. At present we first chlorinate our water supply, then pass it through a reverse osmosis filtration machine, followed by an ultra-violet light sterilizer before it is used in our food preparation or offered as drinking water. Water used in the showers and to clean the cages is chlorinated but not filtered. Medical problems which have so far been recorded in captive populations of the Mount Apo Lorikeet have included Protozoal infections (notably trichamonas), enterobacterial infections (notably E. coli, salmonella, enteritis etc,), fungal infections and occasional ectoparasitic infestations. Birds can be screened for these ailments whenever they are routinely captured or handled.

Breeding

To date at Loro Parque most of the decisions about the pairing of birds have been made for population management reasons (genetic/demographic considerations) rather than allowing natural mate selection by birds in a communal situation. This has been the case due to the relatively limited population of birds that we have to work with and the need to keep potential breeding pairs unrelated. Even though pairings made have not been from mate-choice selection, so far almost no problems have been experienced as long as proper care is taken when first introducing the birds. We have had no cases of aggression, although the breeding success of pairs does reflect on their compatibility. In cases of pairs with poor breeding success, we try to change the pairings if we have a suitable choice of alternative partner available.

Nest-boxes used by Mount Apo Lorikeets at Loro Parque measure 46cm high x 17cm x 17cm (18in high x 6¾in x 6¾in). The entrance hole is near the top of the front and measures 5cm (2in) in diameter. The boxes are constructed from thick plyboard except for the floor base which is made from several layers of fine wire mesh to provide better drainage. An inspection door is included on the left side panel of the nest-box, about 15cm (6in) up from the base to allow easy access for the observation of eggs or chicks. An interior ladder up the front facing panel is also included in the design of the box. Wood shavings are used exclusively as the nesting medium. A layer of about 10cm (4in) is placed inside the nest-box. The condition of the nesting medium is monitored regularly and changed when required, particularly when chicks are present in the nest-box. In recent years, three different pairs have bred and fledged young in the nest-boxes described. The clutch has always consisted of two eggs and the incubation period is 23 days. Newly-hatched chicks weigh 3-4g, and when parent-raised generally fledge after six weeks.

From a hand-reared chick I made the following observations on the chick's development (Sweeney, 1994). The skin is pink and is covered with long grey-white primary natal down. The beak and toe nails are black at the time of hatching, The primary natal down begins to thin out in the second week and is replaced by shorter, denser, secondary down. The eyes begin to slit at around Day 12 and are fully open by Day 16. The first pin feathers which begin to appear are those of the flight feathers which takes place at around Day 24 onwards, followed quickly by pin feathers on the head, tail and then the rest of the body. By Day 40 the chick is close to being fully feathered except for its flanks. By Day 47 the chick is completely feathered, is perching well and feeding itself from a food dish which is held up towards it. The chick was fully weaned within the next week to ten days. Once fully feathered and weaned the chicks are still visually identifiable as being immature due to their dark iris, black beak and pale grey coloration of the exposed skin of the pre-orbital ring and cere. The beak coloration begins to change towards orange after ten weeks of age onwards, but the dark iris coloration and the lighter grey coloration on the cere and pre-orbital ring remain for two to three months longer.

Artificial Rearing Guidelines

Parent-rearing is preferred for this species at Loro Parque, but hand-rearing has been successfully carried out both at Loro Parque and in the Philippines and the following guidelines have been prepared for the neonatal care of this species.

Incubation

Incubation temperature is maintained at 37.4°C (99.3°F) from the beginning of incubation until the time of internal pipping, from which time the temperature is lowered and maintained at 36.6°C (97.9°F). Humidity is maintained at around 55% for most of the incubation period then raised to 90% or higher once internal pip (or external pip) has been recorded. If eggs are being incubated from an early state, or if candling of the egg indicates an abnormal size of the air sac compared to the relative stage of embryo development, then closer management of egg weight loss can be implemented (Harvey, 1990; Sweeney, 1993). From the beginning of the incubation period until internal pipping has been observed, the eggs should be turned several times each day, but once pipping has taken place the eggs should no longer be turned (Harvey, 1990; Sweeney, 1993). Emergence from the egg should take place within 48 hours of external pipping being recorded.

Hand-rearing

Upon hatching the chicks remain in the hatching incubator for up to five hours to allow them to rest and dry. Once moved to an incubator they are initially maintained at a temperature of 36°C (96.8°F). After the first few days the temperature is slowly lowered by about one degree every two days, although this can vary depending upon the chick's reaction. The chicks are housed in small stainless steel containers which are easy to sterilise. The container is padded with kitchen paper towel for the first two weeks of the chick's rearing period, the towelling being shaped within the container to give support to the chick's body. From two weeks onwards, clean wood shavings are used instead of paper towels. The chick is usually ready to accept its first food around five hours after a normal hatch. The first food normally given to the chick after hatching is simply lactated ringers solution with a strain of psittacine-specific lactobacillus added. Depending upon the appearance of the chick, as to what degree it appears dehydrated after hatching, the first three or four feeds can also consist simply of lactated ringer solution to ensure the chick is correctly hydrated before normal feeding begins. Once normal feeding begins then the diet fed to the chicks throughout their rearing period is a commercial hand- rearing diet (Pretty Bird). This produce is manufactured with several levels of fat and for Loriidae species we always use the formula with 19% protein and 8% fat. The formula is prepared to dilution shown (Table 1). With all the Loriidae, once the food has been prepared as shown in Table 1, an additional 2g of Fructosa is added to every 100g of formula to stimulate appetite. The food is always fed at a temperature of 40°C (104°F), although this may cool slightly during the course of feeding. The feeding instrument preferred for Loriidae species is always a spoon. In the first few days after hatching, the chick is fed about every 1½ hours between 6.00 am -12.00 pm. As the chick grows and the food becomes thicker, then the time interval between feeds is extended as shown below.

TABLE 1. Food preparation and feeding frequency guidelines for T. johnstoniae

Age
(in days)
Percentage of solids
in food preparation
Number of feeds
per day
110%14+
212%14
315%14
418%12-14
520%12-14
7-1423%10-12
14-2123%10
21-2823%8
28-3523%6-8
35-4223%4-6
42-4923%2-4
49+23%2

From Day 35 onwards the rearing formula starts to have normal nectar food added.

Weaning, as with most Loriidae, is straight forward and normally is accomplished without problem in all cases before Day 60. In addition to the dish of nectar being provided inside the cage, segments of fruit such as apple, pear and papaya are also placed at perch height Once the chick has been identified with a closed leg band, it is always ideal when possible to then house the chick with other closely-related lorikeets of a similar size, this is particularly advantageous during the weaning period and afterwards. Once the birds are independent it is also good to house them socially for their first six months prior to future pairing decisions being made.

Sexing of Mount Apo Lorikeets

Slight visual indication of sex can be noted in the appearance of the birds, but sexing by DNA blood sample analysis or endoscopy is always recommended. Given the small size of this species, endoscopy is not normally undertaken before the birds are at least six months old.

Future Prospects for the European Population

During the meeting of the Taxon Advisory Group for Psittacines which took place during the 1995 EAZA/EEP convention in Poznan, Poland, the subject of European collection planning for Loriidae species was discussed and a proposal was put forward that the Mount Apo Lorikeet should be the subject of a European regional studbook. This proposal was formally supported by the EEP committee later in the same year (Sweeney, 1996). At present the small population which is registered in the studbook is held between three European zoos and a few private keepers. Several other aviculturists are known to keep and breed this species but they have expressed the belief that a studbook for this species is not in their interests. One letter I received from a private breeder complained that the creation of a studbook would mean an eventual decrease in the monetary value of the species, once more surplus birds became available and that the private breeder would encounter problems when trying to sell related stock. This is a very unfortunate side of aviculture, when financial considerations are placed so clearly above the long term welfare of the birds concerned. The breeder who wrote this letter has several breeding pairs and claimed that a studbook was not required because he is breeding the species so well. This same breeder obtained all of his founder stock from the breeding centre of Birds International during a period when only a few bloodlines were breeding in the Philippines. Therefore, the 50 plus young birds that have been bred and sold as pairs from his founder stock are without doubt very closely-related. Some aviculturists have the idea that a studbook is required only when a species does not breed well and that once it begins to breed freely this is no longer required.

For the Mount Apo Lorikeet the opposite is true. All of the founder stock from which the European population has developed has come from one breeding centre, meaning that the founder stock may already be closely related and the prolific breeding from some pairs, whose offspring has since been sold as brother to sister pairs, now means that the genetic base of the European population must be of some concern. The fact that the species is now breeding well from some pairs does not necessarily mean that the species has a good future in captivity, as a few breeders have bred and sold large numbers of closely related stock, meaning that a studbook is very much required to ensure that the population grows with a balanced genetic base. Anyone keeping the Mount Apo Lorikeet who is not already in contact with me is welcome to get in touch for more details of participation in the studbook.

References

DuPONT, J.E. ( 1971). Philippine Birds. Museum of Natural History, Greenville, Delaware, USA.
FORSHAW, J. (1989). Parrots of the World (3rd Edition). Blandford Press, UK.
GOODFELLOW, W. (1906). Notes on Mrs Johnstone's Lorikeet. Avicultural Magazine (new series), 4:83-87.
HARVEY, R. (1990). Practical incubation. Birdworld, Farnham, UK.
RAND, L.A. and RABOR, D.S.(1959). Three new birds from the Philippines. Fieldiana: Zoology; Vol 39:275-277.
SWEENEY. R.G. (1993). Handbook of Lories and Lorikeets. T.F.H. Publications, New York
SWEENEY, R.G. (1994). The Mount Apo Lorikeet (Trichoglossus johnstoniae) now looks to become established in aviculture. Lory Journal International Vol 2:33-35
SWEENEY, R.G. (1996). ESB Report of Trichoglossus johnstoniae for 1995. EEP Yearbook 1995.

Products Mentioned

Select pellet and Hand-rearing diet, Pretty Bird lnternational Ltd., The Mill. Elmsett, lpswich, Suffolk 1P7 6LR, England.
Biotropic Lory Nectar, Biotropic Verlag GmbH, Postfach 68, D-77834 Rheinmünster, Germany.
Fructosa, Ynsadiet, P°de Ia Estacion, 15, Getafe, Madrid, Spain.
Lactated Ringers Solution, B Braun Medical S Crta. de Terrassa, 121,08191 Rubi (Barcelona), Spain.

Roger G. Sweeney is Curator of Birds at Loro Porque, 38400 Puerto tie Ia Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.


Roger's website: www.rogersweeney.net


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