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61
AVIARY

to grow any kind of vegetation except grass, and even this will be demolished unless the aviary is of considerable size. The larger parrots will, in fact, bite to pieces not only living trees but also the woodwork of their abode, and the only really suitable materials for the construction of an aviary for these birds are brick or stone and iron; and the wire-netting used must be of the stoutest gauge or it will be torn to pieces by their strong bills.

The feeding of birds in aviaries is, obviously, a matter of the utmost importance, and, in order that they may have what is most suitable, the aviculturist should find out as much as possible of the wild life of the species he wishes to keep, or if little or nothing is known about their mode of living, as is often the case with rare forms, of nearly related species whose habits and food are probably much the same, and he should endeavour to provide food as nearly as possible resembling that which would be obtained by the birds when wild. It is often, however, impossible to supply precisely the same food as would be obtained by the birds had they their liberty, but a substitute which suits them well can generally be obtained. The majority of the parrot tribe subsist principally upon various nuts, seed and fruit, while some of the smaller parrakeets or paroquets appear to feed almost exclusively upon the seeds of various grasses. Almost all of these are comparatively easy to treat in captivity, the larger ones being fed on maize, sunflower-seed, hemp, dari, oats, canary-seed, nuts and various ripe fruits, while the grass-parrakeets thrive remarkably well on little besides canary-seed and green food, the most suitable of which is grass in flower, chickweed, groundsel and various seed-bearing weeds. But there is another large group of parrots, the Loriidae or brush-tongued parrots, some of the most interesting and brightly coloured of the tribe, which, when wild, subsist principally upon the pollen and nectar of flowers, notably the various species of Eucalyptus, the filamented tongues of these parrots being peculiarly adapted for obtaining this. In captivity these birds have been found to live well upon sweetened milk-sop, which is made by pouring boiling milk upon crumbled bread or biscuit. They frequently learn to eat seed like other parrots, but, if fed exclusively upon this, are apt, especially if deprived of abundance of exercise, to suffer from fits which are usually fatal. Fruit is also readily eaten by the lories and lorikeets, and should always be supplied.

The foreign doves and pigeons form a numerous and beautiful group which are mostly hardy and easily kept and bred in captivity. They are for the most part grain-feeders and require only small corn and seeds, though a certain group, known as the fruit-pigeons, are fed in captivity upon soft fruits, berries, boiled potato and soaked grain.

The various finches and finch-like birds form an exceedingly large group and comprise perhaps the most popular of foreign aviary birds. The weaver-birds of Africa are mostly quite hardy and very easily kept, their food consisting, for the most part, of canary-seed. The males of these birds are, as a rule, gorgeously attired in brilliant colours, some having long flowing tail-feathers during the nuptial season, while in the winter their showy dress is replaced by one of sparrow-like sombreness. The grass-finches of Australasia contain some of the most brilliantly coloured birds, the beautiful grass-finch (Poëphila mirabilis) being resplendent in crimson, green, mauve, blue and yellow. Most of these birds build their nests, and many rear their young, successfully in outdoor aviaries, their food consisting of canary and millet seeds, while flowering grasses provide them with an endless source of pleasure and wholesome food. The same treatment suits the African waxbills, many of which are extremely beautiful, the crimson-eared waxbill or “cordon-bleu” being one of the most lovely and frequently imported. These little birds are somewhat delicate, especially when first imported, and during the winter months require artificial warmth.

There is a very large group of insectivorous and fruit-eating birds very suitable for aviculture, but their mode of living necessarily involves considerable care on the part of the aviculturist in the preparation of their food. Many birds are partially insectivorous, feeding upon insects when these are plentiful, and upon various seeds at other times. Numbers of species again which, when adult, feed almost entirely upon grain, feed their young, especially during the early stages of their existence, upon insects; while others are exclusively insect-eaters at all times of their lives. All of these points must be considered by those who would succeed in keeping and breeding birds in aviaries.

It would be almost an impossibility to keep the purely insectivorous species, were it not for the fact that they can be gradually accustomed to feed on what is known as “insectivorous” or “insectile” food, a composition of which the principal ingredients generally consist of dried ants' cocoons, dried flies, dried powdered meat, preserved yolk of egg,[1] and crumb of bread or biscuit. This is moistened with water or mixed with mashed boiled potato, and forms a diet upon which most of the insectivorous birds thrive. The various ingredients, or the food ready made, can be obtained at almost any bird-fancier's shop. Although it is a good staple diet for these birds, the addition of mealworms, caterpillars, grubs, spiders and so forth is often a necessity, especially for purely insectivorous species.

The fruit-eating species, such as the tanagers and sugar-birds of the New World, require ripe fruit in abundance in addition to a staple diet such as that above described, while for such birds as feed largely upon earth-worms, shredded raw meat is added with advantage.

Many of the waders make very interesting aviary birds, and require a diet similar to that above recommended, with the addition of chopped raw meat, mealworms and any insects that can be obtained.

Birds of prey naturally require a meat diet, which is best given in the form of small, freshly killed mammals and birds, the fur or feathers of which should not be removed, as they aid digestion.

The majority of wild birds, from whatever part of the world they may come, will breed successfully in suitable aviaries providing proper nesting sites are available. Large bundles of brushwood, fixed up in sheltered spots, will afford accommodation for many kinds of birds, while some will readily build in evergreen shrubs if these are grown in their enclosure. Small boxes and baskets, securely fastened to the wall or roof of the

  1. It has recently been stated by certain medical men that egg-food in any form is an undesirable diet for birds, owing to its being peculiarly adapted to the multiplication of the bacillus of septicaemia, a disease which is responsible for the death of many newly imported birds. It is a significant fact, however, that insectivorous species, which are those principally fed upon this substance, are not nearly so susceptible to this disease as seed-eating birds which rarely taste egg; and in spite of what has been written concerning its harmfulness, the large majority of aviculturists use it, in both the fresh and the preserved state, with no apparent ill effects, but rather the reverse.