The Mixed Collection.

I guess when I first started considering what species to include in some advice to those wishing to start a mixed species collection a number of factors rattled around in my brain!
The first and perhaps the most important one was the size of our proposed aviary. If you are intending to go with a lawn-locker type aviary, throw in a heap of different species and "see what happens" then maybe you should reconsider as the chance of aggression being manifest in just such a situation is high indeed!
So, in an ideal aviary world, let's for the sake of this article assume that we are building a 'nice' flight of around 3 metres in length by 2 metres width. It is into this that we are looking at introducing a birds from the parrot, finch, dove and quail families just so that we can find where our true 'calling' in bird breeding lies - are we destined to become "hookbeakers" or "finchaholics"! Perhaps we may hear the calling of the pigeon or even the softbill - as the keeping of the latter becomes more and more 'demystified'!

So over the next few issues we will take a tour through the different members of each group that are out there and which ones might suit our initial budget and compatibility rating.

I have mentioned the aviary size and design as our starting point as I remember way back that that was how I started myself. My initial aviary held King Quail, Zebra finches, Diamond doves and Cockatiels and these co-existed quite happily. Yet the size difference between the Cockatiels and the Zebbies always worried me up until the Zebbies built their nests over the top of the sitting Cockatiel hens that was!
However, the doves always remained flighty while the other inhabitants were docile and this factor again was a major reason for the exit of the doves despite their demonstrated breeding prowess - but there is one exception to this 'rule'!! So again we have a second consideration to enter into our thinking - that of the nature of the birds we wish to put together for if our mixed aviary is to work we must not have birds in there that will disrupt other birds. As many people as there are that have ever kept birds will all have there own opinion on the nature of birds so I must stress that this is based on my own experience. So take that as you will!
For example my first pair of Cuban finches was docile in a mixed collection of finches until they bred. They produced one baby, a hen, who subsequently killed her mother, mated with her father and raised 17 youngsters! They were fine in a mixed collection for 18 months then one morning they decided to give every Chestnut-breasted manikin in the aviary a Mohawk and would have killed all had I not intervened! Yet I have seen colonies of Cubans breeding happily and not worrying other birds. Personal experience!
More? I have kept and bred Golden song sparrows for years and had seen no examples of the aggression that some breeders have reported. However I agreed to 'baby-sit' a pair for a fellow breeder who was moving and this pair was fine until they brought out their own young. They then systematically slaughtered 19 Orange-breasted waxbills, 3 Oriental greenfinches and a young Grenadier weaver in one day - not much you can do when you are at work!

So you see the nature of your birds must be considered. Certainly wouldn't contemplate putting Blue-bonnet parrots or a Rosella in with finches, doves or quails. A bit of common sense is needed when stocking our flight and not the rule of what's available locally at the time!

The environment that we wish to establish in our flight should also be considered. Will we be content just to have a flight with a perch at each end and nothing in between? Might be Ok (I say Ok with a shudder though!!) for a number of parrot species as are commonly seen in suspendeds and traditional flights but this is totally unsuitable for finches and doves. Quail will need to have some shelter provided on the floor for them to hide and breed in. How does this sit with our aviary design? Does that mean we need a dirt floor? Of course not but a concrete base is preferred for rodent and cleanliness reason but it is easy to place soil and/or shell grit over it and give the impression of a dirt floor for aesthetic reasons. Easy matter just to remove the top layer when necessary.

We'll have to have regions of brush for the finches and doves to hide and nest in - our plain flight plan is looking a tad shaky I'm afraid!! You can add nest boxes and the likes but some brush is better looking and allows the birds more environmental enrichment anyway!
However, if a fully planted aviary is required our mixed collection might err towards finches, doves and quail and away from parrots or canaries as the latter are great chewers and destroyers of vegetation!

Whew, what a list to consider before we even look at birds! Damn near worn out before our species list is completed.

Just goes to show that there are many essential considerations to be contemplated about the set-up of our aviary before pen and paper are needed for our species list!

Next time around - What Finches??