Parrots in (and out of) cages

My bearded friend Ian Fraser has posted about a subset of parrots (my shorthand - Ian includes cockatoos in his post)  in which a genus contains a single species.  As part of this he expresses a very reasonable but negative view about keeping parrots in cages.  I suspect he is particularly against keeping such birds on their own in small cages; I am right there with him on that.

His post catalysed a number of thoughts about caged Psittacoids in my experience, which I thought worth bringing together in a post.

The most recent of these as a tale about some friends going for seasonal drinks and finding another couple had brought their pet Macaw along. It was allowed to fly free and perched on top of the host's Christmas Tree.  You may take that concept where you wish!

Back in the day, I was Coordinator of the COG Garden Bird Survey.  One of the issues that arose was how to treat various species not native to Canberra, which had obviously escaped from cages or aviaries.  These included:
  • various Lovebirds (mainly native to Africa);
  • Rose-ringed Parakeets (native to India);
  • Ringnecks (native to the drier bits of Australia); and
  • Princess Parrots (native to the centre of Australia).  Here is the eBird distribution map (it is roughly 2400kms from the natural range to Gilmore in the ACT where one was recorded in 2002):
As Princess Parrots sell on Gumtree for about $125 a bird one would have thought aviculturists would spend about $5 at a hardware store for a lock on their cage!

Thus far it appears that none of those species have become established in Canberra.  However, Little Corellas ...
... have become a regular feature of the local avifauna as a result of birds escaping from the Mugga Lane Zoo (or being released when that facility closed).  I shall return to zoos further on in this post.

Going well back down memory lane (not quite round the bend I hope) I recall an outing with the Mayland WI (Womens Institute - sort of a Pommy version of the CWA) to the stately pile of a woman who raised hundreds of Budgerigars which flew freely around her garden in Western Essex.  Apparently they had a homing instinct and all returned to their aviaries each night.  Hmm: I haven't heard of them becoming established in the UK but that must be a matter of luck (or indolenceI on behalf of the budgies.  As far as I am aware none of them were smuggled:
When visiting Amsterdam in 1999 I was astonished to find a large flock of Rose-ringed Parakeets ...
... in a park.  Apparently they have become established as a result of escapes from cages.  I believe they are now common, from the same cause, in the UK.

When we lived in New York (2005-06) there were a number of sites in parts of Brooklyn where (former pet) Monk Parakeets had become established.   They are a problem because they nest communally.  I can't find a photo of them in that Borough, but this one from Stamford CT gives the idea.
Having a heap of sticks like that around electricity seems a worry!  Apparently in NYC there have been a number of instances where the nests on power poles have caught fire!

So its seems that even apart from the avian welfare considerations of caged birds, bad situations arise when they escape.  And I have no idea what impact the escapees are having on the native birds in areas where they have escaped.

I promised to get back to zoos.  As will be obvious from some posts about the National Zoo in Canberra I quite approve of these places if well run.  However, with parrots there have been a few stories recently about endangered species being placed in zoo-like situations as 'insurance' against the few remaining wild birds failing to survive.  The stories have been about deaths in captivity - in one case due to rats getting in to the cages, in the other case respiratory disease, although the jury is still .out on where the disease came from.  So it seems that even with the best intentions bad stuff can happen


Ian Fraser said…
Thanks Martin, interesting approach and thoughts, as usual!

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