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Date Posted: 16:28:16 08/30/04 Mon
Author: David Pace
Subject: Re: Welcome
In reply to: David Pace 's message, "Re: Welcome" on 16:26:49 08/30/04 Mon

>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.
>David Pace
>PS It is in two parts as it exceedes the maximum
>number of words. Here is the second part.
6.1 Season
Breeding can occur at any time of the year depending on local conditions. (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93). I have found the most favoured time in Melbourne seems to be between November and April. In Queensland the preferred time of the year is March to May and August to November (Stossel '93). In northern Australia it is between December to January while in Western Australia it seems the cooler months are favoured (Shephard '89).

6.2 Nesting requirements
Pictorellas will build their own nests, which are "untidy" (Roland '96) or "neat and tidy" (Baxter '59), rather than utilise artificial receptacles and so therefore require dry brush to be hung on back and side walls. In conjunction with brush, Pictorellas will benefit greatly from live plants growing in the aviary. Low-growing saltbush, grass tussocks and prickly shrubs attract insects and provide ideal nesting sites. Although Pictorellas nest close to the ground in the wild, they will nest at varying heights in captivity. I have had these birds nest in low grass tussocks, only 12cm from the ground, and in brush up against the 2.4m aviary roof.

Wilson documents that his birds would build a roosting nest and then build a separate nest for breeding (Wilson '60). However, Kingston records that roosting nests are not constructed (Kingston

'94). Pictorella nests measure 250mm long, 120mm high and 120mm wide (Queensland Finch Society '87). The nest is dome-shaped with a small side entrance and no bottle-neck entrance (Harman '74).

Pictorellas on average can breed from the age of 12 months. Both sexes are involved in the selection of the nest site (Queensland Finch Society '87). Manwarring records observing the male bringing grass to the female who did the constructing of the nest. Manwarring further records the unusual behaviour of a male Pictorella that would take bird droppings into the nest and rub them into the internal walls of the nest as if it were using a "trowel" (Manwarring '77). Francis, however, records that it is the male that does most of the nest building (Francis '60).

Coarse grass should be supplied for nest construction and the nest should not be inspected as this species does not like human interference (Vujovich '92, Stossel '93 & Kingston '94). The nest is not lined with feathers (Stossel 93 & Queensland Finch Society 87), however Roberts and Harman record that "Sometimes feathers are used in the final lining" (Roberts '71 & Harman '74). The nest is often built from green grass in preference to dry grass (Phillips '61 & Baxter '59).

Pictorellas will not nest in close proximity to other species, but on occasions will nest near other Pictorellas - as close as 600mm (Queensland Finch Society '87). Vujovich, however, has had a pair build a nest upon the nest of Red-faced Parrot Finches (Vujovich pers. comm.).

6.3 Diet changes prior to breeding (e.g. trigger diets)

6.4 Diet changes while breeding
Once eggs have hatched the diet of Pictorellas changes dramatically. Live food is consumed in copious quantities. During the second week after hatching, the parents move more towards sprouted and soaked seed (Stossel '93 & Francis '60).

6.5 Incubation period
The incubation period is 14 days with both male and female sharing the duties (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93). The female incubates the eggs alone during the night (Francis '60).

6.6 Clutch size
The number of eggs laid ranges between 3 and 7. The fertility rate has been recorded at 65% (Kingston '94).

6.7 Fledging period
Both sexes are involved in the feeding of the young (Schorer '80). Four to five days prior to fledging, the young are covered only at night and usually this is done by the female (Baxter '59). Fledging is thought to occur at 22-23 days (Stossel '93). The young are frightened from the nest easily, especially at 18 days of age. It is

important to disturb them as little as possible at this point. (Phillips '61 & Roberts '71). The highest recorded number of young fledging from the one nest is seven. This was experienced by Western Australian aviculturist John Alers who fed his birds predominately on termites (Breeding & Research Sub-Committee '93). Vujovich documents that in one season 6 pairs produced 79 young. These pairs were restricted to a maximum of 4 clutches per season.

The young leave the nest at approximately three weeks of age and are led back to the nest each night for up to a week (Kingston '94). The young rely on the parents for a further three weeks before becoming independent (Baxter '85). However the Queensland Finch Society, in its Finch Breeders Handbook Vol 1 The Australians, states that the young develop slowly and fledge at five weeks of age (Queensland Finch Society '87). Young can be left with the parents for a further 4 weeks by which time they will have matured enough to be placed into another aviary (Baxter '85 & Kingston '94).

The young obtain the white breast markings by 3 months of age, at which time the sex of the birds can be determined. Young attain adult plumage in about 4 months (Schorer '80) but may take as long as 9 months (Shephard '89).

6.8 Egg weights and measurements and species specific coefficient
Due to the fact that Pictorellas resent any form of nest inspection, data on egg weights and measurements and specific coefficients were not available on captive species in the resources used (Vujovich '92 & Stossel '93).

In the wild, Pictorella eggs are white and measure about 16mm x 11mm (Rowland '96).

6.9 Young weights, measurements, developmental notes and photos
The young are a dull brown with unmistakable fluorescent dots on both corners of the beak. The young initially spend a great deal of time huddled together on the aviary floor, flying vertically into the aviary roof when disturbed in a quail-like manner (Stossel '93).

6.10 Age of removal from parents (min and max)
Young can be removed from their parents between 5 and 7 weeks (Stossel '93). Vujovich removes young 14 days after fledging (Vujovich pers. comm.).

6.11 Use of foster parents
It has been documented that Pictorellas show no interest in other species or their young and could not be considered as foster parents (Queensland Finch Society '87).

Some breeders have had success with other species rearing Pictorella eggs and young. These have included, Yellow-rumped Lonchura flaviprymna, Bengalese Lonchura domestica, white-headed Lonchura maja and Spice Lonchura punctulata Finches (Kingston '94).

Stossel records an incident when a pair of Stars Finches Neochima ruficauda fledged 4 young, one of which was a Pictorella. It was assumed that the stars had taken over the nest from a pair of Pictorellas or that a Pictorella had simply laid the egg in the Star Finch nest. Stossel reported that this individual preferred the company of Star Finches rather than that of other Pictorellas (Stossel '93).

7. Artificial incubation N/A

8. Artificial rearing N/A

Others as Applicable
Kingston notes that crossbreedings with this species are a rarity (Kingston '94). Schorer, however, states that Pictorellas should not share an aviary with Chestnut-breasted Lonchura castaneothorax or Yellow-rumped Lonchura flaviprymna Finches as they will readily hybridise with these two species (Schorer '80). The resulting hybrids from a Chestnut-breasted Finch and Pictorella mating are infertile (Queensland Finch Society '87). Steven Wilson, Keeper in Charge of Birds at Melbourne Zoo, confirms seeing the young of a Pictorella cock x Yellow-rumped hen in a private aviary. (Wilson pers. comm.)

I would like to thank the following for discussion and input into the many drafts that have been undertaken in the compilation of this husbandry manual: Greg Pyers, Steve Wilson, Richard Hudson, Mario Vujovich, Russell Kingston, Charles Hibbert, Graeme Phipps, Sandra Muratti and the Bird & Design Departments at Melbourne Zoo.


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Pace, D. The Status of Australian Finches in Victorian aviaries. September 1995. Australian Aviculture, Vol 50 (5), pg 118 - 119, 1996.

Queensland Finch Society. Finch Breeders Handbook. Vol. One, The Australians. Queensland Finch Society, Woolloongabba, 1987.

Phillips, A. The Pictorella Finch. Australian Aviculture, Vol. 15 (7), pg 99.

Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, Threatened and extinct birds of Australia (Edited by Stephen Garnett), Moonee Ponds, 1992.

Readers Digest. Complete book of Australian birds. Readers Digest, Sydney, 1976.

Roberts, C. The Pictorella Finch. Australian Aviculture, Vol. 25 (10), pg 162 - 163, 1971.

Rowland, P. Edited Strahan. Finches, Bowerbirds & other Passerines. The National Photographic index of Australian wildlife. Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1996.

Schorer, J. The Pectorella Finch. Australian Aviculture, Vol. 34 (12), pg 241 - 242, 1980.

Shephard, M. Aviculture in Australia. Black Cockatoo Press, Victoria, 1989.

Shephard, M., Pyle, J. & Fairlie, S. The status of Australian Finches in South Australian aviaries-A five year comparision (1986-1991). Bird Keeping In Australia, Vol. 34 (12), pg182-185, 1991.

Stossel, A. The Pictorella Finch (Lonchura pectoralis). Bird Keeping In Australia, Vol. 36 (3), pg 40 - 45, reprint by permission from Finch News, Queensland Finch Society Inc. December 1992.

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Wilson E.L. The Popular Pictorella. Australian Aviculture, Vol 14 (9), pg 121 - 122, 1960.

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