Friday, April 30, 2010

New Temporary Home

Our three baby Bourkes being hand fed are now able to fly...not well maybe, but they can leave the table and end up who knows where. 

They still need to be fed and still want to hide away during the day. But, their previous shelter/box was no longer safe. It was time to move them into a cage, but still give them a place to hide. The small cage I had available has small doors and the box they were in wouldn't fit.

The answer? You see it here. A Puffs tissue box turned on its side. Paper towels in the bottom are changed each time the babies are fed.  They can go in and out as they please, so they are free to roam and practice their flying as they please. They can also try to eat on their own as there are several easy-to-eat choices available.

I put tame Rosie and Flame in with them to see how they'd do. Rosie has already taught the smallest one to eat spray millet, or at least try to. When I reached into the cage this afternoon, the oldest flew onto my arm next to Rosie who always gets there first. Granted it was time to feed the babies so he was motivated, but it was a first for him and pleased me.

The two tame older birds are setting examples for the babies. Interactions between the young adults and the youngsters are cute to watch.

Be careful if you decide to do this, however. Adult breeding Bourkes might try to chase the babies away and could harm them. These two tame birds are very gentle and still very young themselves. Still, I watched them closely until I was certain they wouldn't "bully" the younger birds.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Incubation Observation & Other Thoughts…

(Watch for Comments at the bottom of each Blog; there may be one or two. The one added to yesterday’s blog, "Splendids," is particularly interesting. There is a Comments button at the end of each blog and it tells you how many, if any, comments there are).

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll recall our attempt to incubate two Bourke eggs. We were successful right up to the point where the eggs were even piping. It was very disappointing to lose the little chicks after getting them so close to hatching.

The cause, we had decided, might be that we didn’t have enough humidity present toward the end of incubation. More humidity is needed just before hatching. A dish of water was present, but we heard a recommendation to hang a wet washcloth near them in the last few days and keep checking it since it would dry out from the heat lamp.

Maybe that would have made a difference, or maybe not. Sugar, the hen who abandoned those eggs after becoming egg-bound with the 3rd egg, recently laid three eggs. It took her a while to recover from the ordeal we put her through to help her release the over-sized egg. At least she survived.

Sugar kept the three eggs from this clutch warm right up to the point of hatching, but these did not hatch either. After 21 days I was concerned, but left them under her for over 30 days. I wanted her to abandon them herself, but she was more persistent than any other hen I’ve ever had and remained on them – she was very determined, but in the end it did her no good.

Once the eggs were removed from her nestbox, I opened them. One was infertile, but the other two held dead chicks, fully developed and ready to hatch, but apparently they could not. Was it genetics, or something else? Unless she succeeds with another clutch someday, I may never know.

After talking to Bob Nelson, Bird Specialist extraordinaire, he said that the problem of “dead in shell” can sometimes be caused by low iodine in the parents’ diets. His solution has been to provide rabbit salt blocks which contain iodine. I was concerned about the salt intake, but Bob says they won’t consume more than they need. He warned about attaching the salt block to the side of a metal cage or the salt will damage the metal.

Eleven of my cages now have a small salt block available. We attached them each to a perch with small plastic ties (cable ties used by electricians). Getting them tight enough required pulling with a pair of pliers. So far, the birds are ignoring them.

As I sit here typing, I see Sugar and Spice mating again. Spicy’s picture is in the column at the left. He’s the very tiny, newly hatched baby being hand fed. At the time, his mother was mated to a much younger male (the only one available), and he wasn’t very good at helping feed the young. To compensate she was only willing to feed the first two eggs that hatched. When we lost the third baby, I paid close attention. Realizing she wasn’t feeding the fourth baby, I removed the newly hatched Spicy and hand fed him. He was my first experience at hand feeding. By the way, his father grew up the following year and the pair successfully raised three or four babies in most clutches thereafter.

Just Because It's Cute

Wanted to share some cute photos. Rosie is the sweetest bird I own. She's not the darkest pink or the prettiest, but her personality is fabulous. She's playful and affectionate and always flies to my finger when I call her. If I reach into her cage, she is on my hand or arm every single time. Rosie loves to be fed treats and usually shares a muffin or bagel with me each morning. I admit to spoiling her, but she's worth it. Others are sweet, but she's the best!  Smile.

The babies are temporarily in a plastic container while I clean their box. These three are being hand fed. Although I think Rosie might like to help!

Flame is also free flying here (for a little while), but his interest in babies isn't as intense as Rosie's.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Since my Splendids haven't hatched any eggs in many months, I've not been blogging about them very often. To make up for that, here's a photo of our last clutch of youngsters taken quite a while ago. All look like hens, but all developed the typical scarlet chest ... all were males.

As with my Bourke book, I don't often find books about Splendid parakeets. However, I found this one on Amazon. I don't own it yet, but I'm tempted to order it. If you are too, here is the location: 

Splendid Reflections: 40 Years of Grass Parrakeet Husbandry

Tomorrow:  Recent insights on egg incubation


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Baby Bourke Personalities

The three babies currently being hand fed are from two different clutches. The two largest with the most down and fewest feathers are siblings. They shared their nest with the pink-eyed albino baby previously discussed. They're very healthy.

One is outgoing and likes to wander. The larger of the two is very timid. He's no longer afraid of us, but likes to hide under a hand in preference to exploring.

The photos with me in them were taken early this morning. My tame birds like to investigate and mooch some of the Exact baby formula.

The third bird has a sibling too, but that one is being parent fed. This bird was much smaller and slower to develop than his sibling. I began to worry whether he was being pushed away and not fed enough. So, I pulled him to hand feed. He's at least a week older than the other two, but not any bigger than they are. He is very affectionate and nibbles on fingers. As I've gotten to work closely with him I realize he simply won't eat as much as the other baby birds do. When his crop is about half as full as the others, he's finished. Consequently, he needs to eat more often ... that's a nuisance! However, he's growing fast and seems to be catching up.

The photos of the two birds in the cage are a mother and her youngster. Notice that the adult's tail is longer. This is the sibling of the baby I'm hand feeding. It has been out of the box for about a week, so it's very far ahead of its brother. The hen laid four eggs and hatched two. Since Bourkes lay and hatch every other day, the second baby can only be 6 days younger than the other, at most.  It has developed much slower and I'm convinced it's because its crops is smaller. It will make a fine pet bird, but probably would not want to make a breeder out of him since he would have to store food to regurgitate for his/her offspring.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kids & Birds

I couldn't resist posting these darling photos from the internet. I wish I could say Katie, in the photo, is my granddaughter. She isn't – although I wouldn't hesitate to adopt her as one.

Where do her parents find the time to feed all these baby birds? It must be their full-time job! That said, I envy them and wish them well.

If you are interested, here's where I found her photos:

We expect to have two of our five granddaughters visit this summer and I'll post pictures of them with tame Rosy Bourkes when they visit ... although there are other photos on this site of them with our birds. The other three girls are too young to travel on their own yet, and live far from us, sigh. Our grandson is also far away and when he'll visit again is as yet undetermined. He's in a photo holding a "bowl full of budgies."

How wonderful it must have been for my ancestors who had all their family nearby. I wish it was that way for us.

A non-birding friend of ours looked at the first photo and didn't realize that all the birds shown are youngsters. He thought the blue and gold macaws were the parents of the green Hahn's. It surprised me that anyone wouldn't recognize a "baby" bird when they see it. I guess growing up with them, I take a lot for granted.

I got up early this morning to hand feed three baby Bourkes and let my tame birds out to fly around. They were so cute investigating the babies. I wished my husband was out of bed to take pictures. Tomorrow he will be! ;-) So, I'll have some pictures to post of them – hopefully cute ones. 

An interesting book about Macaws. Perhaps you can find other copies besides those at Amazon if you're interested. A Guide to Macaws as Pet and Aviary Birds (Guide to...) A Guide to Macaws as Pet and Aviary Birds (Guide to...)

Peace & Blessings.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


My last two posts have comments that you may want to open and read. Click on the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post. The "Comments" link shows how many comments (if any) are attached to each post. Feel free to add your own comments on any of my posts as well. Peace & Blessings to all.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


UPDATE, Sept., 2011: This year this hen produced seven babies in two clutches and one healthy baby has pink eyes.  Also, her daughter and granddaughter have produced beautiful, healthy pink-eyed babies this year. Go to Sept. 2011 posts for photos of them.

August, 2010:
Sad news. The pink-eyed baby did die.

His parents have raised many, many healthy clutches, but the three they've had with pink eyes have never survived past two weeks.  All the dark-eyed chicks have done well and became adult birds.
He was found dead in the nestbox yesterday morning. His two dark-eyed siblings are both doing well.

This photo shows all three babies with their mother. This was taken the day before he died. This hen never fussed when I reached in to take him out to feed him; or when I took the others out to be banded. Raising chicks is nothing new for her and she trusts us.

The comment attached to my previous post (generously provided by a reader, thank you!) says that Gouldian finches that hatch with dark stomachs like this baby, have a liver problem and don’t survive. Maybe that was one of this baby’s problems.

I’ve asked myself all the usual questions. Should I have gotten up more times in the middle of the night to feed him? Was he warm enough, etc.  It must be human nature to question ourselves, and we often feel guilty over the loss of someone or something we love and care about.

My husband reminded me that I still blame myself for the crib death of my first child 40 years ago, as does a friend of mine who also lost her first daughter in a similar manner. Could we, should we, have done something differently? Yet, so many neglected or abused children live to adulthood. Why do others, lovingly cared for, sometimes die anyway? The answer to this, and to the death of this baby bird, is that we cannot know the answer. It is in the hands of a power much greater than us.

It was obvious from the start that this baby had serious handicaps and wasn’t growing quickly enough. It was a sweet little thing and I enjoyed it while it was here. Am I sad? Yes. Am I going to continue second guessing whether I did everything right? No.

Laugh at me if you wish, but I like to imagine that this baby is flitting around heavenly trees right now, making a beautiful pink splash of color in an already beautiful, perfect place.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Albino Baby

I've just started hand-feeding this little guy. His bigger siblings have been grabbing all the food and he's too small to compete, He's fesity though. Looks like he's ready to fly away, doesn't he?

In the photo in the lower left notice the lack of pigment in the eyes of one baby Bourke vs. the other. They are from the same clutch. In previous years, two other babies from the same parents who were born with pink eyes like the one I've begun feeding did not survive. God willing, this little pink-eyed baby will. All prayers appreciated...

I'm curious to see what he/she will look like.  Other pink-eyed adults I've seen were not all white, but did have white faces. Their bodies were pink and wing feathers dark.

These babies hatched April 1, 3 & 4. As an Easter chick, he's not growing very quickly and starting today I'm going to hand feed him so that he doesn't have to compete with his two siblings. I've done a few supplimental feedings, but that only seemed to make his mother less inclined to feed him. Perhaps she's aware that something is wrong with him? Notice how dark his belly is. It's darker than the others. I hope that's not indicative of some defect or other.

I'll keep you informed of his progress, or lack thereof.

Monday, April 12, 2010


The ancient dovecotes in Israel fascinate me, so I asked my husband, author E. G. Lewis, to blog about them. Their story fits both his blog or mine, and he's the historian in the family. Hundreds, maybe thousands of birds were raised in each location…and underground, for goodness sake!

Being an economics major, Ed included statistics that I wouldn’t have considered. If your interests don’t include only birds, you might enjoy his blog which has a strong historical slant. To learn more about the dovecotes, click on his blog below:

Now for a shameless plug for his novel, Witness. You can view a video trailer and learn more about the books on his blog or at They are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s and most other internet booksellers, or can be ordered from any bookstore. Here are links to a couple of his books on Amazon, but be sure to read the blog. It's fun, free and fascinating.

WITNESS  This is a Christian novel set in first century Judea. It's historically and Biblically accurate, but the intriguing story-line never falters. If you wish, read portions of it at Amazon before buying. Click on the book's title and it will take you there.

PROMISES  This novel is commercial fiction with some sexual content. It's about a strong woman who overcomes adversities. Quirky characters make it a fun read. The book title is a Link.

Peace & Blessings to all of you who love birds and enjoy reading about them.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bourke Parakeets or Parrots? Neophema or Neopsephotus?

Thought I'd note that what we call a Bourke Parakeet in the USA is known as a Bourke Parrot in Australia, and sometimes as a Bourke Parrakeet – notice the different spelling with an extra "r" in parakeet. In the UK, they call a Rosy Bourke a Rosa Bourke...that's the spelling shown in the book I own, published in England. I have mentioned it before, but this time I thought I'd look to see if I could find another like it. Mine isn't for sale, but here's a link to one that's available, if you're interested. Mine is a hard copy, I didn't check everything at Amazon. You'll need to do that. My book is only 48 pages.  The book title is a Link: Bourke's Parakeets

Slight differences in names or spelling, but still the same birds. Smile. This is another book I own and enjoy for the varied color photos of parakeets. Not all are as small as the grass parakeets. The book is smaller, but has 384 pages. Notice the spelling difference. My hard bound copy was published in 1979. I'm not sure about the one(s) offered on Amazon. You can check them out yourself if you want to:  Click to Link: Parrakeets of the World 

The Bourke's Parakeet (or Parrot) was recently reclassifed from Neophema Bourkii to Neopsephotus Bourkii for three reasons: Habitat, Taxonomy & difference to other Neophemas. This explains why they have not reproduced with other Neophemas.

Other Neophema Species are:
Scarlet-chested Neophema splendida (also called Splendids)
Elegant Neophema elegans (Elegants)
Turquoise Neophema pulchella (Turquoisines)
Bluewing Neophema chrysostoma &
     Rock Parrot Neophema petrophila

All five varieties are known as GRASS PARAKEETS.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Interesting Avian History

I had a chance to look at this book: “Avian Invasions: The Ecology and Evolution of Exotic Birds.” An avian biologist is studying the transfer of species from one area to another. Amazingly, it didn’t only happen in the 19th and 20th centuries, but also happened centuries ago. It’s full of fascinating facts.

Avian Invasions: The Ecology and Evolution of Exotic Birds (Oxford Avian Biology)I understand the desire to bring familiar birds to one’s own area. I’d enjoy seeing bright red cardinals flitting through Douglas fir trees in Oregon, but I’d never transport them here. I’ve seen the impact that English sparrows have had on Oregon's native blue birds. Starlings, as lovely and intelligent as they are, kill and eat the young of smaller native birds, as well as decimating orchards and gardens. They should have stayed in Europe. They don’t belong on this continent.

I haven’t finished this book yet, but am enjoying the historic facts and figures…things I’d never known before.

Avian Invasions: The Ecology and Evolution of Exotic Birds (Oxford Avian Biology)

Thursday, April 8, 2010


If you have one or more fertile eggs that a hen cannot, or will not, take care of, you should try to foster them with another hen. The ideal situation is to have other hens with eggs that were laid about the same time. You can usually transfer an egg or two to a setting (or brooding) hen without too much trouble. If you don’t have a hen available, you can always try incubation as a last resort, but that’s another story.

Here’s how to check to see if an egg is good. Warning: always handle the eggs gently, as there may be a viable chick inside. Fill a cup with warm water – not hot, but comfortably warm when you place a finger in it. Check one egg at a time by carefully putting them into the water. (I use a half-full one-cup clear glass measuring cup.) If the egg floats that indicates it has started to dry out, meaning it’s old and no good. If the egg sinks, it’s fresh and has a chance of hatching providing it’s fertile.

Determining Fertility. A few days after an egg is laid there should be red vessels visible through the egg. Hold the egg over a flashlight and peer through it. If there are red vessels, then the egg is fertile. If, after a few days the egg is still clear, then it isn’t fertile. But, remember it takes approximately three days for vessels to appear. All eggs appear clear at first. I always wait at least a week before ruling that an egg isn’t fertile. Sometimes, too, I simply leave the eggs with the hen until she decides to abandon them herself.

The photos show an egg directly on a flashlight and one balanced atop a toilet paper roll with duct tape over the top. A hole is cut in the center of the tape to craddle the egg and allow light to shine through it.

NOTE:  If you have one or more babies hatch, leave all remaining eggs that didn't hatch in the nest. They help keep new chicks warm.

I’ve fostered eggs, and once even a chick. Here are my stories:

My first pair, Rhett & Scarlett, were happy together. However, of the eggs Scarlett laid, only one was ever fertile. She managed to raise a hen, Bonnie. Later, another older hen passed away with four eggs in the nest. I floated them and one sank. Scarlett successfully fostered that egg and raised the baby.

I had another hen that typically hatched four eggs, but often wouldn’t feed all of them. When her eggs began to hatch, I monitored the babies closely. As soon as it became apparent that she wouldn’t feed the last baby, I placed the new chick under Scarlett. Fortunately, she had infertile eggs that were due to hatch which I hadn’t removed. Scarlett examined the chick, but didn’t appear to harm it. Fostering chicks is very risky. Keep an eye on the situation, other hens might kill a chick that isn’t theirs. If you can, hand feeding it is safer. However, although unusual, Scarlett accepted the newly hatched chick and raised it to adulthood.

I’ve read that most hens will accept another bird’s eggs if added to their own, but never chicks. Scarlett was probably unique in that regard, but she also had a very sweet nature and that’s why I thought she might accept the chick. If I hadn’t been working full-time, I would have handfed that baby, but was unable to do so then. Scarlett and Rhett successfully raised that adopted baby.

Currently, one of my hens, Cherry, is sitting on five eggs … well, not really … she has two eggs and three babies. She had three eggs when I gave her an extra egg from a young hen who laid it on the floor of her cage. That young hen had been mating, so I believed the egg to be fertile. I could have put it in the young hen’s box, but, believing it had a better chance with Cherry, I chose to give it to her because she and her mate are excellent parents. Cherry later laid another egg, giving her five. The fostered egg hasn’t hatched so far, but I’m still hopeful.

Fostering eggs and babies is never an exact science. The young hen mentioned above has since laid three eggs in her nestbox and is sitting on them. So, in retrospect, maybe putting it in her box would have been okay.

This is Cherry’s third brood of the year and the young hen’s first. I will close Cherry’s nestbox off once her babies are fledged. Three clutches a year is enough for any bird. Too many weakens them too much and you may lose them.

I’ve been told that Budgerigar parakeets (budgies) make very good foster parents for the more expensive parakeet varieties. This is true, and I once even acquired two pairs for this purpose. They did a good job rearing young, but my birds are indoors and four budgies were extremely noisy. I gave one pair away and, when the noise level remained high, eventually divested myself of the other pair too. I’ve grown used to the soft, lilting songs of the Bourkes and Splendids. Also, I have enough pairs now that foster parents are usually available. I try to open all the nestboxes at the same time of the year. An available nestbox stimulates mating and rearing young. If all the boxes are available at the same time, most pairs will raise their young in approximately the same time period too. This helps if fostering becomes necessary.

Peace & Blessings.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mate for Life? Well, maybe.

Many birds mate for life. Do parakeets?

The answer to that is, given the opportunity to select their own partner, most probably will mate for life. However, they aren’t averse to having their mates chosen for them, or even switched if appropriate.

Occasionally, you may find two parakeets who don’t like each other. If one scolds a lot, or chases the other, you can probably deduce they aren’t a good fit. In that case, changing them is a wise idea.

If you consider your birds and choose wisely, you shouldn’t have a problem. Most birds prefer not to be paired with a close relative. They seem instinctively to choose a mate who is unrelated and approximately the same age. You should do the same for them. When you do, they will typically settle in and accept your choice.

This said, several of my parakeets have had two or three mates in their lifetime so far, and have done well with the changes. One example of this is Chitter and Brandy who have raised three clutches this year. Rory and Bella have not. Bella asks to breed, but Rory doesn’t comply. I moved Chitter in with Bella and put Rory with Brandy. After a few weeks together, Chitter is breeding with Bella and she’s in the nestbox, probably laying fertile eggs this time.

Brandy’s nestbox is closed off, giving her a chance to regain strength and vitality. For their safety, I restrict hens to three clutches a season. Perhaps in the Fall I may open the box and see whether Rory is more responsive to her. If not, she may again get Chitter for a mate.

I’ve also paired birds that aren’t of the same age. Even though I prefer not to do that, I don’t always have a perfect mate. Most birds prefer having a mate to being left alone. So, unless they are finger tame and will get a lot of attention, I always provide a companion, even if only of the same sex.

One of my first Bourke parakeets is still alive and producing sons and daughters. He’s a great-great-great-great grandfather. Rhett lost Scarlett after a few years, then fed and cared for Willow, but they never had fertile eggs. When Cherry’s mate was moved to another hen because they weren’t producing, I put her with Rhett. Although neither of them was young, they’ve successfully raised two or three clutches a year for the past few years. It surprises me that they are on their 3rd clutch this year already. Their first was only one baby, then three babies and now she has two newly-hatched babies and three eggs still in the nest (one of them fostered). She’s amazing!

More on fostering eggs (and a baby!) in a later post.

Have a wonderful, blessed Easter.