By Roger G. Sweeney
First Published in The Avicultural Magazine Vol. 104 No. 1
Copyright © 1998 Avicultural Society, Published with Permission

Parent RearingPesquet's Parrot Psittrichas fulgidus remains an uncommon species in zoological collections with records of captive breeding being comparatively scarce. Successful breedings have during the past 20 years been recorded in a number of collections including Loro Parque, PalmitosPark, Bronx Zoo. Los Angeles Zoo, Jurong Bird Park and that of Antonio de Dios in the Philippines. Despite these successes the captive status of Pesquet's Parrot is still fragile and breeding can not be described as consistent in any of the collections which have reared this species. The majority of birds which have so far been raised have been hand-reared. The reason why more breeding pairs have not been given the opportunity to rear their own young is unclear. Los Angeles Zoo has recorded some success with parent rearing.

Pesquet's Parrots have been kept in the collection at Loro Parque for many years and successful breeding has taken place in the past. The male of the pair which is currently on exhibition was reared at Loro Parque. In recent years, however only clutches of infertile eggs had been laid. Two pairs with the potential to breed are currently housed in the collection, each of which laid two clutches of infertile eggs during the early and middle pail of the 1997 breeding season. In November both pairs laid a third clutch, and the eggs of one pair proved to be fertile and resulted in the hatching of a chick in early December. \When first seen the chick appeared strong and had food in the crop and therefore was left with its parents. Intervention with the view to artificial rearing was considered unnecessary so long as the chick was observed to be developing well in the care of its parents.

The pair of Pesquet's Parrots which hatched the chick are housed in the new off-exhibit breeding centre. Both parents were bred in captivity and were hand-reared and so it was particularly pleasing to see them rear their offspring successfully. The male was reared at Jurong Bird Park and the female was reared at Bronx Zoo. They were introduced to each in 1996. in one of the older breeding centres, and at the beginning of 1997 were relocated to the new breeding centre where they are currently housed in an aviary which measures 12m long x 1.5m wide x 2.5m high (approx. 39ft long x 5ft wide x 8ft high). A nesting log was prepared from a segment of the trunk of a Washington Palm, and placed towards the rear of the aviary. We partly hollowed out the nesting cavity, but left the main part of the excavation to the birds. The aviary is furnished with three main horizontal perches which extend across the width of the aviary at the front, middle and rear of its length. Smaller perches are positioned in front of the entrance to the nest and at the front of the flight. The birds are fed twice-daily oil a special liquidised diet, the ingredients of which include apple, pear, papaya, banana and carrot. In addition segments of fresh fruit arc attached to the perches and a feeding dish of Prettybird Lory Select pelleted diet is provided. Clean drinking water is available at all times and once a day the birds are given a ten minute shower from an overhead sprinkler system.

The pair in the breeding centre began their first clutch of 1997 on 1st July, when two eggs were laid. These were removed later when they were overdue and were considered to be infertile. A second clutch was laid on the 10th September. On this occasion the first egg was laid in the nest and the second was found on the front feeding tray and was taken for artificial incubation. The egg in the nest was removed when it became overdue, and like the previous eggs was considered infertile. However, the egg which was artificially incubated was suspected of having been fertile and that the embryo had died early in its development.

This led us to suspect that some of the eggs previously thought to have been infertile might in fact have been fertile and had suffered a similar fate due to poor incubation behaviour by the pair. When they began nesting again, this time in November; we left them undisturbed for the first ten days, until the 19th November when the nest was inspected and a clutch of three eggs was seen. They were left undisturbed until we expected them to hatch and on the 8th December we checked the nest and found a chick which appeared to be two or three days old. The remaining two eggs did not hatch. The chick appeared in good condition and had food in the crop, therefore it was not disturbed. On the 28th December, I briefly removed the chick from the nest so that one of the staff veterinarians could check the bone development, which appeared perfect. We decided against the use of a closed leg hand as Pesquet's Parrots have proved susceptible to leg problems, particularly Hyperkeratosis which can be problematic with metal leg bands. Instead the local CITES officials were informed about the chick soon after it hatched and were invited to observe the chick and its development. The preferred method of identification marking for this species is to place a micro-chip in the breast muscle once the chick is fledged.

From the third week of February onwards the chick could be seen each day looking out from the entrance of the nest, but it did not fledge until 14th March, when it left the nest in the morning and joined its parents perching in the aviary. From the first day out of the nest the chick looked strong and confident and seemed comfortable in flight and when landing. Within a few days it was seen feeding by itself and by April was regularly taking food directly from the food dish. On the 2nd April the chick was captured for a veterinary examination and so that a micro-chip could he placed in its breast muscle in the presence of the local CITES officials. The chick had good body condition and is now independent and looks strong. This success is especially-pleasing because Pesquet's Parrot is very much in need of more consistent breeding in captivity, and also because the chick was reared by its parents. This point is even more significant when one remembers that both parents are captive bred and hand-reared. This new breeding pair are comparatively young and so it is to be hoped that Loro Parque can look forward to many more successful years ahead with this pair, now that they have registered their first success.

Roger G. Sweeney was Curator of Loro Parque from March 1994 until May 1998. He is now curator of the Tracy Aviary.

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