|A male Fawn Java Sparrow - note the bulge on the top of its' beak|
It would have been around 1967 that I first started to keep birds. Maureen Young, a friend of my parents, was kind enough to give me a pair of Zebra Finches and I was away. This first venture into the hobby was relatively short-lived and by the time I'd left school (1974) the aviary had out-lived its' novelty. However, what I do recall about this period was the ease with which foreign finches could be brought. There was a thriving industry based upon the capture and transportation of huge numbers of African, Asian and (possibly?) Australian wild birds.
A visit to a pet shop anywhere in the UK was to see rows of cages housing pathetic, fluttering, frightened "exotic species" which had, just a few days earlier been flying wild in some foreign country. I remember travelling to Toddington (Junction 12 on the M1) with my father to visit a massive, well it seemed massive at that time in my life,retail outlet where there were 1000's of birds for sale. I recall various species of Waxbill, Whydah, Weaver Birds and Finches available for a few shillings each!
|A Normal (wild grey), an Opaline and a Silver - fantastic birds|
Thankfully all this has now been consigned to the history books and any trade in wild birds is strictly licensed and generally only possible with scientific research/captive breeding as its' purpose. As a spin off from all this is now the fact that cage birds are now highly prized and must have come from a sustainable aviary-bred source. If I so desired to purchase Waxbills or Weaver Birds I would expect to have to part with £100's rather than the paltry sums of yesteryear.
I didn't return to bird keeping until after Bev and I were married, for some reason - and on a whim, she brought me a pair of Zebra Finches which were housed in a small cage in my study. I called them Posh & Becks and said to Bev that I would breed them. Within four months I had seven Zebra Finches, in two cages, in my study and the resultant mess ensured that my plan to build an aviary was a goer! Bev now wanting those "messy sods" out of the house. A few weeks, and £450, later I was the proud owner of a nice new aviary with a splendid flight and separate indoor feeding area. My Zebra Finches were soon joined by three Java Sparrows which were purchased from "Vanishing World" on the Wildwood site at Herne Hill.
|My favourite colour variety - an Opaline (this one's a female)|
Sadly my Zebra Finches didn't take too kindly to their new surroundings and within a year I had lost them all to the cold and damp of our English winters. My Javas, on the other hand, loved it and were thriving. My colony has grown, new genes were introduced and youngsters moved to other aviaries around Thanet, so that I am now the keeper of a very healthy flock of these Indonesian birds with four colour variants in the group. I get massive amounts of pleasure from watching their antics, they are as close to wild birds as they can be. There is no additional heat provided during the winter and they brave the elements as they would have to if they were wild birds. As a flock, they react to any alarm signals given by the wild garden birds, a mass panic and rush inside greets the overhead predator alarm of the local Blackbirds, Blue Tits and House Sparrows. Cats are occasionally a problem, although one or two of the youngsters seem to enjoy playing with them when they get on the flight roof. There is a great deal of pleasure to be had from watching these birds and I am often surprised by the learning opportunities that arise which have value when I'm out in the field.
Good to see you back Dyl.ReplyDelete
I only have 3 Javas left plus the pair of Turacos'