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Date Posted: 16:26:49 08/30/04 Mon
Author: David Pace
Subject: Re: Welcome
In reply to: Craig Gardner 's message, "Welcome" on 04:52:59 08/26/04 Thu

Hi to all those interested in the Pctorella. I have attached here a complete compy of a husbandry manual I wrote in 1977 dedicated to this species. I hope it is helpful and may help generate discussion.
Cheers
David Pace
PS It is in two parts as it exceedes the maximum number of words. Here is the first part.


Pictoralla Husbandry Manual

Introduction
With the cessation of legal trapping of wild birds in the mid-eighties, aviculture has succeeded, in the majority of cases, to preserve its stock through captive breeding. The challenge for the future is to continue to maintain viable numbers of each species, particularly those that are either held in low numbers or whose wild population are threatened. The Pictorella Mannikin Heteromunia pectoralis, falls into both of these categories.

In captivity, the Pictorella Mannikin has been kept for more than a century, first arriving in Europe between 1870 and 1880. Immelmann records that it was less frequently offered than the Yellow-rumped and Chestnut-breasted finches (Immelmann '65). In 1987, 850 Pictorellas were held in South Australian aviaries, of which 413 birds remained by 1991. (Shephard et al. '91). As recently as 1995, this species was still held in low numbers, with only 202 birds held in Victorian aviaries (Pace 96 & De Graaff 97). No doubt Pictorellas exist in other states, but nevertheless, this species would rank as one of the rarest of Australian grassfinches in captivity, along with the Crimson Finch, Yellow-rumped Finch, Red-eared Firetail and Beautiful Firetail, of which the later half are almost nonexistent. De Graaff records a personal observation regarding the longevity of the Pictorella Mannikin, Chestnut-breasted Finch and Yellow-rumped Finch, stating, "..the three species of mannikins are relatively long lived for finches. (I have owned Chestnut-breasted Mannikins that have exceeded ten years of age.) Does this mean we have an ageing population that could stop breeding soon if not carefully managed?" (De Graaff 97).


In a recent edition of Gouldian, a publication of the Wildlife Research Unit, Environment Australia, formally ANCA, figures were released that suggest wild populations of Pictorella were infected with air sac mite. Estimates 62% of the population are thought to be affected. Although the Pictorella population is currently defined as secure, the presence of this parasitic mite may impact upon their future numbers.

This husbandry manual has been developed in an attempt to provide the avicultural community with some guidelines to the keeping and successful breeding of this species. The information contained is primarily based upon literature that has been published in popular avicultural texts and journals dating back to the 1950's. The experiences of the author, as a breeder of this species, have also been drawn upon, as have the experiences of other breeders that the author has had the privilege of speaking with directly.

The aim of this husbandry manual was to collate as many experiences as possible and in doing so, it is interesting to note that some information between different breeders is in conflict. This illustrates the point that there should never be only one way of achieving success in the breeding of birds and highlights the point that the information in this husbandry manual should not be deemed as definitive. The experiences of others may contradict some of the experiences contained and it is the aim of the author to supplement and revise this manual in the future.

This manual may also serve to generate interest in the Pictorella Mannikin and encourage finch breeders to specialise in a species that some believe is dull, boring and difficult to breed - nothing could be further from the truth!



Pictorella Mannikin
Heteromunia pectoralis

ASMP Category 4

IUCN Category - not listed. The Pictorella Mannikin has recently been recorded as being susseptible to Air Sac Mite, Sternostoma tracheacolum, with an estimated 62% of the wild population being affected (ANCA '95). Garnett lists the Pictorella Mannikin in Taxa of special concern, proposing that overgrazing, particularly of rank grass along watercourses and the increase of late dry season burning, as possible threats to this species, which is not yet threatened but should be monitored (Garnett '92).

Band size and special banding requirements
No. 3 size Australian Bird Banding Scheme plastic colour band.

Sexing
Adults: Sexes are similar, however females have broader and narrower white barring on the breast, with more black on the breast visible. Males' white barring is less defined and thicker, covering most of the breast.



Immatures: Young lack any of the white colouration and are a general dark brownish to grey, being a little lighter on the underparts. The bill is brown black and the black face is evident (Shephard '89 & Immelmann '65).

Adult weights and measures
length: 109 - 120mm
wing: 58 - 62mm
tail: 35 - 41mm
bill: 13 - 14.7mm
tarsus: 14.4 - 16.2mm
weight: 13.5 - 15g
(Rowland '96)


Natural History

1.1 Distribution
The range of the Pictorella fluctuates due to its nomadic nature. This species occurs in northern Australia, from the Kimberley range, Western Australia, to Normanton and Cloncurry, Queensland (Rowland '96).

Garnett suggests that the distribution of this species may have contracted in north-western Queensland, however the Pictorella is still widespread between Cape York Peninsula and the Kimberley region of north-west Australia (Garnett '92). Garnett lists the Pictorella in Taxa of special concern, proposing that overgrazing, particularly of rank grass along watercourses and the increase of late dry season burning, as possible threats to this species, which is not yet threatened but should be monitored. Garnett does concede that the Pictorella is still numerous in areas that have been grazed for over a century (Garnett '92).

1.2 Habitat
The Pictorella has adapted to arid life better than any other mannikin (Rowland '96). The average temperature of their range varies from 20˚ C through to 40˚C. The annual rainfall throughout their range is between 400mm and 1000mm (Kingston '94).


The Pictorella inhabits open grassy plains that are sparsely dotted with acacia. They prefer to remain in the vicinity of creeks and waterholes, but can be located far from any surface water. Immelmann describes how F. L. Whitlock observed birds in the western Kimberleys in true spinifex country, a habitat typical for the Painted Firetail Emblema pictum (Immelmann '65).

1.3 Habits
Pictorellas, being nomadic, can suddenly arrive in places where they have not been observed for years and disappear just as quickly. During the wet season Pictorellas can be scattered throughout their entire range, coming together in flocks of up to several hundred in coastal areas during the dry season, where they can be seen with Chestnut-breasted Lonchura castaneothorax and Yellow-rumped Lonchura flaviprymna Mannikins (Immelmann '65).

When in large flocks, the Pictorella usually maintains only loose aggregations and lacks any strong social structure. Pictorellas, unlike other Australian grass-finches, do not indulge in mutual preening (Queensland Finch Society '87). During the breeding


season they are usually found in pairs or in small flocks of up to 12 individuals (Rowland '96).

The nomadic nature of the Pictorella was documented early in the twentieth century when Rowland, quoting a remark by Frederick Berney to Gregory Matthews stated, "This is an uncertain visitor. One year or another I have seen them during all four seasons, but they generally pick the good times." (Rowland '96)

1.4 Feeding Behaviour
Pictorellas tends to drink only once or twice a day, where they drink water through sipping in rapid succession. This is done much faster than most finch species, minimising the risk of exposure to predation at an open waterhole (Rowland '96).

Russell Kingston witnessed a remarkable incident in Broome, Western Australia, when a small group of Pictorellas landed on a beach, moved to the water's edge and proceeded to drink sea water! Can Pictorellas survive during times of drought by drinking salt water? (Kingston pers. comm.)

Pictorellas, like other grassfinches, are able to climb up and down grass stems in search of seed, however they are usually observed feeding on the ground. The diet consists of fallen and half-ripe grass seeds, supplemented by invertebrates during the breeding season, such as spiders, beetles and in particular, flying termites (Immelmann '65).




1.5 Breeding
Breeding occurs between January and May in the Northern Territory and April and May in Queensland (Readers Digest '75).

Pairs move inland with the advent of the wet season. Courtship takes place on the ground with both birds making pecking gestures on the ground and picking up and dropping small twigs and rocks. The male, with body feathers fluffed and tail fanned, usually holds a piece of grass in his up-turned beak and hops in a semi-circle in front of the female. This motion increases in speed as the semi-circle becomes smaller. Eventually, the male is left hopping directly in front of the female.

The male, with tail still fanned, drops the piece of grass, if used, and moves around the back of the female and delivers a deep bow. This may be repeated several times until the female reacts with the quivering of her tail, which results in mating taking place.

The bottle-shaped nest is an untidy construction that lacks an entrance tunnel and is situated in a low bush or grass tussock. Nests are often recorded at only a few centimetres from the ground, with records of nests over 60 centimetres being rare (Immelmann '65). The nest is composed of dried grass, rootlets and small twigs and is lined with a few feathers.



Four to six white eggs measuring 16mm x11mm are laid. Both sexes are involved in incubation with only the female sitting over night. The incubation period in the wild is unknown and fledging occurs between 20 - 24 days. The young return to roost in the nest for the first few nights and become independent two weeks after fledging (Rowland '96).

1.6 Lifetime reproduction
In the wild: Unknown
In captivity: This species is reported to have been bred as young as 7 months and as old as 7 years. It seems though that 3 to 5 years is the most productive period (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee, '93). Mating activity after five years declines dramatically (Queensland Finch Society '87). Vujovich has bred from a female that was seven years old when she produced three clutches of six, four and five young in her final year (Vujovich pers. comm.).

1.7 Longevity
In the wild: Unknown
In captivity: 7 years with an average life span of 4 years (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee, 93). Harman records birds living up to an average of eight years (Harman '74). It is recommended that when acquiring new birds, preference should be given to semi-coloured birds so to ensure they are young (Stossel '93).



Captive Husbandry

Preferred Housing Requirements
2.1 Shelter
Considering the wild distribution of this species, it is not surprising that the Pictorella does best in aviaries that are kept draft-free and dry (Queensland Finch Society '87). John Alers from Perth houses his birds in aviaries that are completely protected on all four sides, with one third of the aviary roof open to the elements. In Melbourne, I have housed this species in aviaries that are fully covered with clear fibreglass, allowing added natural lighting for both birds and plants. These aviaries were protected on three sides and a clear blind was utilised on the fourth side to provide extra protection during Melbourne’s changing weather conditions. Plants in these aviaries were watered with a drip system, ensuring the general aviary floor remained relatively dry.

Stossel, in Queensland, records success with aviaries that face north, and even success with an aviary that faced south, and advises against keeping Pictorellas in breeding cabinets or small aviaries (Stossel '93).

The floor should be as dry as possible as Pictorellas spend a great deal of time on the ground. Ideally, planting should occur in clumps, leaving open areas for the birds to stretch out and sunbathe (Stossel '93). Close plantings will provide Pictorellas


with the required privacy in order to feel secure (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93).

In comparison, John Cameron from the very wet area of Ferntree Gully, Victoria, has had success in a large open aviary that measured 10m x 4m, with a 3m x 3m shelter at the rear. Only the shelter and a small section of the flight was covered. The flight was planted with a “jungle of weeds and grasses... , which was 1.25m high which covered 80% of the entire flight". The shelter section was dry and “desert-like all year round. " Feeding was done in the shelter and the Pictorellas utilised the floor, foraging for fallen seed and mealworms that lived in the layer of seed husks (Cameron '90).

Kingston, in Queensland, records greatest success in large planted, open aviaries (Kingston '94).

2.2 Water
Fresh water should always be available as Pictorella Manikins do bathe. Water can be supplied in an earthernware dish that keeps water cool in summer, or be provided in the form of a natural-looking pond. Vujovich uses inverted bottles that supply birds with a drip system. This keeps the aviary floor drier and makes servicing aviaries easier (Vujovich per. comm.).





Pictorellas require dry aviaries and so it is important that vegetation in planted aviaries is watered by a drip system. This ensures that the general aviary floor is kept as dry as possible. This is particularly important in winter, as wet foliage and floors can prove to be a lethal combination.

2.3 Aviary furnishings
Flooring:
Washed river sand, particularly the coarser varieties, allows good drainage and helps keep aviary floors dry. Vujovich utilises hay on cement floors, replacing the hay once a year (Vujovich per. comm.).
Rodent proofing:
Aviaries for the Pictorella should be rodent-proof. As Pictorellas will nest close to the ground, they are more vulnerable to being disturbed by rodents than many of the other grass-finch species. I have found that in aviaries that were not vermin-proof, many nesting attempts low to the ground in grass tussocks failed, while nesting attempts in brush or taller vegetation usually resulted in success.
Aspect and lighting:
Orientate aviaries away from prevailing winter winds and bad weather. In Victoria, Vujovich has installed artificial lighting that supplies his birds with an additional three hours of winter light between 4:30am and 8:00am. Vujovich argues that this is important considering the fact that the Pictorella is a tropical species, adapted to longer days (Vujovich '92).


Cat proofing:
In areas where cats may be a problem, Stossel recommends that an electric cat-proof fence is vital, reducing the loss of young when parents are frightened from their nest in the middle of the night (Stossel '93). This may also apply to areas that have possums in residence.

2.4 Spatial (size) requirements including State regulations. Also include possible display/off limit differentiation
I have found that a single pair of Pictorellas fared best in aviaries 1.2m wide x 3.6m deep and at least 1.8m high. Vujovich equally has had success in indoor aviaries that measured 1.2m wide x 2.4m deep and 2.4m high. In contrast Cameron has had success in a large aviary that measured 10m x 4m. Do not keep Pictorellas in breeding cabinets, boxes or small aviaries (Stossel '93).


Health requirements
3.1 Routine worming
Vujovich records that deworming and treatment for coccidiosis should be carried out upon acquisition and then every three months (Vujovich '92). Stossel from Queensland worms his Pictorellas using Systamex (90.6g/l Oxfendasole) at a rate of 2ml per litre of water for 7 days. He then follows up a coccidiosis program, Amprolmix-Plus at a rate of 3ml per litre for 7 days then 1.5ml per litre of water for a further 7 day (Stossel '93).
Stossel recommends the use of 90.6g/l Oxfendasol every four months for the eradication of all worms, including the roundworm egg. This treatment, to the best of Stossel's knowledge, is harmless to a bird's fertility and does not put young in the nest at danger (Stossel '93).

3.2 Heating
Heating could be utilised in very cold climates, however many successful breeders have not used any form of heating in cool temperate climates (Cameron '90). In areas where extreme winter temperatures are experienced, artificial heating would be an advantage.

Kingston cautions against subjecting Pictorellas to temperatures below 8˚ C for extended periods (Kingston '94).


3.3 Cleaning
Stossel cleans aviaries thoroughly every 3 to 4 weeks. Every six months the top 15mm of gravel is sieved to remove husks and dust from the floors. Once a year birds are removed and the aviary receives an entire clean down. This includes the washing and sanitising of walls, feeding stations, perches, rocks, logs and floor, the replacement of brush and finally a spray of Coopex to help in the prevention of black ants and cockroaches. New gravel is laid and the birds are returned as quickly as possible (Stossel '93).

3.4 Nest hygiene
Old nests should not be removed as a pair will utilise the same nest over again (Vujovich '92), however Francis records that his birds would build a new nest about three weeks after the young had fledged (Francis '60). Other sources suggest that the nest is not used once young have fledged and should be removed and burnt to reduce the possibility of mite and lice infestation (Queensland Finch Society '87).


3.5 Known health problems
The Breeding & Research Sub-Committee of the Avicultural Society of South Australia, after comparing the breeding experiences of several breeders, concluded that the Pictorella, if housed adequately, was a hardy species that did not seem to have a common ailment (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93).


In contrast to the findings above, Stossel details several health problems common in Pictorellas:

• Gizzard worm infestation that results in birds consuming large amounts of live food even when they are not breeding. Stossel suggests that this is caused by the bird having difficulty in digesting hard seed and so finds it easier to gain energy from soft, live food. If the bird is not treated, it will soon begin to pass whole seeds and loose condition rapidly. Stossel treats this with 1ml of Systemex (90.6g/l Oxfendasol) with 9ml of water and administers, by crop needle, 0.1ml of this mixture per bird (Stossel '93).

• Candida, a fungal disease caused by excessive moisture, has similar symptoms to gizzard worm infestation. Birds suffering from Candida however, display a small amount of white froth at the edges of the beak. Stossel suggests administering a nizarol and placing the bird on an antibiotic program with consultation from a veterinarian (Stossel '93).

• Mosquito bites on the legs of Pictorella can lead to infections that cause severe and permanent damage to feet. Stossel believes this is caused by the fact that desert species, such as Pictorellas, sleep with their legs exposed unlike other species that keep their legs tucked under feathers. Stossel notes that there is no known cure for this problem other than prevention by the eradication of mosquitoes (Stossel '93).


• Coccidiosis can be avoided after prolonged wet periods with Amprolmix-Plus at a rate of 3ml per litre of water for seven days. Sodium Sulphadimidine B.P. or Sulpha drugs are more effective but have a short term impact on the fertility of birds. However, the latter can be utilised for young or non-breeding birds (Stossel '93).

• Air-sac mite, Sternostoma tracheacolum, known to infect wild and captive Gouldian Finches, also has been discovered in wild populations of Masked Finches, Budgerigars and the Pictorella. The incidence of infection for the Pictorella has increased dramatically over the last decade with an estimated 62% of the population affected. The implications for Pictorella populations in the wild is unknown (ANCA '95). It would be logical to assume that Pictorellas in captivity could be as susceptible to air-sac mite as are captive Gouldians. Caution should be exercised, particularly if Gouldians are housed with or near Pictorellas.



Generally speaking, it seems female Pictorellas are more delicate and prone to ailments than are males. Consequently spare hens are difficult to come by (Cameron '90). A practice of some aviculturists is to keep young females and introduce young males from different blood lines (Vujovich '92).

Kingston records that egg binding is common in very young and very old female Pictorellas (Kingston '94).

Overgrown toenails can occur if Pictorellas are maintained in confined quarters (Kingston '94).

In summary, chills from damp conditions and the overstocking of aviaries are stress factors that would contribute to many losses (Queensland Finch Society '87 & Stossel '93).







Behavioural Notes
4.1 Social structure
Pictorellas form very loose social structures and tend to move around the aviary in pairs. The only preening done is on themselves. Even mated pairs do not preen each other. They are the only Australian grass-finch that do not indulge in mutual preening (Queensland Finch Society '87).

4.2 Aggression
Aggression between Pictorellas is quite common with territorial disputes occuring between individuals. This is most evident prior to breeding and during nest building (Stossel '93, Vujovich '92 & Pace '93). When housing this species in a colony of three or four pairs, I have found that one dominant breeding pair will monopolise the feed stations and nesting areas. Breeding results from all pairs can be enhanced by housing this species as single pairs in a mixed collection and placing pairs in aviaries that allow them to hear each other (Vujovich '92 & Pace '93).

It is important to note that aggression towards other species has not been recorded. Cubans Finches Tiaris canora, Green Singing Finches Serinus mozambicus and Diamond Firetails Emblema guttata have been recorded as exhibiting aggression towards Pictorellas but not to any great degree (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93).


4.3 Habitats
Pictorellas are generally a ground-dwelling species, utilising open sunny areas to sun themselves and forage for fallen seed. They will retreat into low scrub for privacy. Young spend a great deal of time huddled together after fledging and if disturbed will fly vertically into wire netting in much the same way as quail (Shephard '89).

4.4 Courtship
The courtship display, as described in the wild (1.5 ), has been observed in captivity, (Stossel '93 & Manwarring '77), however many other breeders have not witnessed it in their aviaries (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee, '93).

4.5 Bathing
Many breeders have reported that Pictorellas bathe frequently (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee, '93). Consequently a shallow, broad dish or pond should be provided.

4.6 Drinking
Fresh water should be available at all times and located in an area that has adequate drainage to ensure the surrounding area remains dry (Queensland Finch Society '87).

4.7 Common captive behavioural problems
n/a


4.8 Handling requirements
Pictorellas can be caught up with a standard butterfly net, preferably with a padded rim to prevent injuries, or better still an automatic finch trap could be utilised. These traps reduce the stress on other birds in the aviary but can take considerably longer to secure the bird required. I have found adult birds soon learn to avoid these traps, while young birds are usually caught quickly.

4.9 Transport requirements
As with all finch species, Pictorellas should be transported in standard carry boxes that should be well ventilated but dark to reduce stress. The availability of dry seed is important as a natural reaction to stress is to feed. Water should be available in a small container filled with cotton wool. This ensures that water does not splash out and wet the floor of the cage, creating damp conditions that could be lethal.
Amprolmix-Plus, at a dose of 5ml per litre of water, is beneficial when transporting birds as it helps them cope with the stress involved (Stossel '93).


4.10 Mixed species compatibilities, including mammals and reptiles
Pictorellas have not been recorded as being aggressive to other species and could be housed in mixed collections with species such as the Gouldian Erythrura gouldiae, Red Strawberry Amandava amandava, Plum-headed Aidemosyne modesta, Masked Poephila


personata, Cordon bleu Uraeginthus bengalus, Long-tailed Poephila acuticauda, Parsons Poephila cincta, Red browed Emblema temporalis and Red-headed and Blue-faced Parrot Finches Erythrura psittacea and Erythrura trichroa. (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee, Vujovich, Stossel & Pace). Neophemas such as Scarlet-chested Parrots Neophema splendida could also share an aviary, however considering the shy nature of Pictorellas, aggressive species or large flighty species such as doves or parrots should be avoided if possible.

Being a ground-dwelling bird, the Pictorella would be best in an aviary without other ground dwelling species such as the Painted Firetail Emblema picta or quail species such as the Painted Button Quail Turnix varia. These could interfere with the courtship activities of the Pictorella and also compete for food items that are on the ground (Shephard '89 & Pace '93).





Bird keepers at Taronga Zoo recorded problems associated with keeping Inland Bearded Dragons in a mixed bird exhibit as two Painted Finches Emblema picta went missing without a trace. Meikle and Atchison record, "The lizards were seen to stalk the birds as they ate seed on the ground and were noted to run at the birds when they took flight...it is cautioned that the mixture of Inland Bearded Dragons with small finches and larger bird species may result in predation of the birds. The Shinglebacks, though less active, had no apparent effect on bird behaviour." ( Meikle & Atchison '93).

Pictorellas, like Painted Finches, spend a great deal of time on the ground and so could also be at risk if kept with this dragon species.



No records with reference to Pictorellas being housed with mammals were located. Nocturnal and/or terrestrial mammal species would certainly not be compatiable. The inclusion of a mammal species would need to be considered carefully.

4.11 Behavioural enrichment activities
Pictorellas, if housed in a planted aviary with seeding grass tussocks, thick areas of vegetation to provide privacy and nesting sites, open sandy areas in which to sun bathe and a compost heap to pick through, will require little else in the way of behavioural enrichment.


Feeding Requirements
5.1 Diets and supplements
Dry and soaked seed:
The major seeds to feed Pictorellas include Japanese millet, white millet, red panicum, plain canary, niger and Canary tonic mix. Non-breeding Pictorellas are very much dry seed eaters (Stossel '93).
Soaked seed is always eaten and so it is recommended that a vitamin and mineral supplement be added at least every third day. Seed should be soaked for between 12 and 48 hours and fed every day of the year (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93). Soaked seed mixes must be cleaned each day as they can easily sour, with fatal consequences (Stossel '93).

Seeding grasses:
Seeding grasses such as wild oat, panic and winter grass should be offered when available and are eagerly taken (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93 & Kingston '94). Baxter records that his birds relished seeding grasses and notes, "...it is quite possible to rear broods if an abundance of this nutritious food is available and supplied regularly to them." (Baxter '59).
On the other hand, I have found that even though Pictorellas were given seeding grasses every day of the year, they failed to feed on it, preferring dry and soaked seed. When breeding, live food in


the form of mealworms is relished. Pictorellas do utilise seeding grass heads for nesting material (Stossel '93). Due to this apparent lack of interest in seeding grasses, many breeders recommend the addition of a vitamin supplement such as Sulovete (Vujovich '92 & Pace '93 ). This is sprinkled and mixed into soaked seed prior to feeding.

Live food:
During the breeding season live food is of great importance. Successful breeders utilise mealworms and/or termites, vinegar flies and gentles (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93). Vujovich records that his Pictorellas “were not keen on termites.” (Vujovich '92).

I have found that Pictorellas would not take live food until the young had hatched. In fact, this was the main indicator of establishing the progress of a nesting pair. Due to the secretive breeding nature of this species, it is important always to ensure a supply of live food all year round in case a pair are about to hatch eggs unknown to the aviculturist.

Stossel notes that the live food requirements were not specific to the species with some pairs preferring whole mealworms, while others preferred white ants. Other pairs only ate the heads off mealworms and so consequently had to provide large quantities (Stossel '93).



A compost heap to attract live food is recommended by many breeders (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93).

Softfoods:
Vujovich provides his birds with a daily softfood mixture consisting of:
• 5kg commercial egg and biscuit mixture,
• 500g each of arrowroot biscuit, Heinz Baby cereal, semolina, wheatgerm, soya bean flour, ground sunflower kernels and ground cuttlefish bone. The cuttlefish is an excellent source of calcium.

Four eggs are boiled for 20 minutes to kill bacteria, placed into a blender with the shells left on, and mixed with 13 tablespoons of the above mixture. This is fed at the rate of one tablespoon per pair of Pictorellas (Vujovich '92 ).

Stossel provides an alternative softfood mixture that is combined and mixed into a fine powder that lasts up to six months in an air-tight container in the fridge. The ingredients consists of:
• 1200 g egg and biscuit mix,
• 150 g Farley's Farex - Rice Cereal (one packet)
• 150 g Farley's Farex - Blended Infant Cereal (one packet)
• 150 g Farley's Farex - Junior Ground Muesli (one packet)
• 500 g Arrowroot Biscuits (two packets)


• 375 g Vita Brits (one small box)
• 800 g Granivore Mix (Wombaroo)
• 400 g Insectivore Mix (Wombaroo)
• 400 g Queensland Finch Society - Vitamin and Mineral mix (Stossel '93).

Supplementary foods:
Other important components to a healthy diet include medicated shell grit, dry calcium mix, cuttlefish bone, baked eggshells, fine river sand and semi-powdered charcoal (Stossel '93). Charcoal is an important component in the diet of the Pictorella as it has the ability to cleanse the crop. Charcoal is also placed in the nest chamber and acts as a moisture absorber (Queensland Finch Society '87). Pictorellas are not particularly interested in fruit, however they will accept cooked apple (Queensland Finch Society '87).

5.2 Presentation of food
If more than a single pair are housed in the one aviary, several feed stations should be employed as this reduces the chances of aggression occurring. Food stations can be presented either on the floor and/or on a raised feeding table. Seed is best fed separately. This allows monitoring of preferred seed types at different times of the year and reduces wastage (Pace '93 & Stossel '93).



5.3 Frequencies - feeding schedule
Pictorellas should have access to dry and soaked seed all through the year. Seeding grasses and live food should be provided whenever available, especially during the breeding season, when morning and afternoon feeds of live food should occur.

Establishing a feeding pattern is as important for Pictorellas as it is for other finch species. A good, varied diet supplied on a regular basis is an absolute necessity (Stossel '93).

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