Article kindly provided by Glenn Johnson
A change is as good as a holiday, the saying foes. As we all get on in life we are always looking for new things, something to spice things up, raise the excitement. Aviculturists are no different.
We may have mastered the secret in breeding species that we have kept for years, its great to have a holding pen full of healthy youngsters at the end of the year. However, if these species are the same each year, the challenge lessens as well as the sense of achievement. Many aviculturists turn to mutations, that is fine. The challenge is there to reproduce or improve that mutation. Others turn to rarer sub species; this can also be a huge challenge, both in locating the birds as well as breeding them. Others look for the real rare ones or difficult to breed species for their challenges. White bellied Blood finches, Beautiful Firetails, Lesser Redbrows, Purple Grendier Waxbills and Violet-eared Waxbills are just some that come to mind.
I keep a mixed collection of both native and foreign finches, as well as mutation and sub species. Some I’ve had great success, some so-so and others no luck at all.
In the past six years, I’ve been building up a collection of cup nesting species. That is, birds that build a cup nest like canaries. Maybe I’m a closet canary man. I’ve found these to be a challenge to breed and have has done in trying to succeed with them. Certain species I’ve found to be easier than others. Two species in this group I have found to be reasonably easy and have had good success with is the Green Singing Finch (Serinus mozambicus) and the South American Siskins. The Black-Hooded Red Siskin and the Black-headed Yellow Siskin. I recently sold my Red Siskin due to the frustration of them not rearing their chicks. They nested well and hatched the young only to loose them around five days old; this became frustrating after many, many nests. The two pairs of Red Siskins I had must have been used as egg layers and then fostered out to canaries. I wasn’t interested in this, so I rehoused them with a canary breeder I knew.
The Black-headed Siskins, commonly called Mexican Siskins, breed well and raised their young with little problems. The Green Singing Finches proved to be trouble free as well. I keep my Siskins and Singers separate from each other and only keep one pair per aviary. However, I do know of breeders who have had also fly two hens Siskins per cock.
A new species that I have only purchased in the past year is the Saffron Finch. These are another cup nest builder; however, they will readily build their nest inside a nest box. So far I have only one pair of these and haven’t bred them yet. Many articles written about this species warn you about their possible aggressive nature. The pair I have, however, are very quiet and are mixed with Cordons, Parrot Finches, Painteds and Plumheads and are causing no problems. I will however keep a close eye on them when they begin to breed.
All the following species do act much like canaries. They show a preference for canary seed and canary tonic seeds. They love egg and biscuit and soft food mixes. When feeding greens, these species will show preference for broad leaf greens, such as silver beet, Endives, Chicory and Dandelion. Many will use the same type of nesting material particularly teased Hessian, coconut fibre and cotton wool. These birds will also use canary nests, especially the cane ones.
The species I keep at the moment are Green Singers, Mexican Siskins and Saffron Finches. I house these separately from each other and haven’t had any problems mixing them with smaller species.
Down the track I will purchase some more Black-hooded Red Siskins, hopefully birds that have been parent reared this time. I also have ideas of trying to get some Red polls and Purple Finches, and maybe some Yellow Hammers.
The birds appeal to me, and are giving me the challenge to try and breed them, so give them some thought maybe they might be your cup of tea as well.