In January 2010, I was offered a couple of wild caught Agapornis pullaria. Before purchasing the birds I quickly did some research in Dirk van den Abeele’s book. He states that of the wild caught pullarias usually up to 95% die. This is according to the experience of breeders/fanciers who have wild caught, imported pullarias.
The South African importer had imported a number of pullaria’s and, keeping in mind what Dirk states in his book, I purchased 25 pairs. This is probably as many pairs as there are in the whole of Europe at present. We lost at least 20% in the first couple of weeks, but now the birds have settled in and we have not lost any more. A possible reason for the fact that we did not lose up to 95% of the birds is our South African weather, which of course is much warmer than the European climate, especially during the winter. We do however have cold spells now and then and also cold nights during our winter period. That is why we keep the birds inside during the night as they like to hang against the wire. As the shipment brought in by the importers was larger than the 25 pairs that I had bought (maybe 50 pairs), a few pairs became available when breeders who had bought one or a couple of these pairs lost one or more birds and decided to sell the rest. I think they also may have realised that these birds are not very easy to breed. We bought some of these remaining birds and at present we have 25 pairs once again as well as a few spare females.
In February 2010 I went to visit family in Holland and also had the opportunty to visit Alfred Echten, one of the few pullaria breeders in Europe. He has managed, during the last couple of years, to breed a number of pullaria’s from wild caught birds. He informed me via e-mail recently that he had again managed to breed 9 chicks this season and that two pairs were still in their nests which could mean that the total number of youngsters could be more for this season. I also recently communicated with Frans Mulder, a well-known dutch breeder of lovebird mutations, and he informed me that he had managed to buy a small collection of pullarias, 3 pairs and a few spare males. The birds were all unrung so they were probably wild caught birds that were imported before Europe stopped the import of wild caught birds.
In the wild the Agapornis pullaris breeds in arborial termite nests, which of course is difficult to simulate in an aviary or breeding cage. To overcome this problem Alfred and other European pullaria breeders use cork blocks. The cork, being soft, is tunneled into by the pullaria’s and at the end of the tunnel they make a cupshaped hollow to breed in.
During my visit to Alfred’s place he showed me one of the nestboxes with the cork blocks inside. Because cork blocks are impossible to obtain in South Africa, I have to use something else. I had thought of using “Plaster of Paris” and mixing it with woodshavings and course grass, which we have in abundance in South Africa. I made a sample but then a fellow bird breeder told me that I should use the inside of a “garingboomstomp”. This is the flowerstalk of an Agave plant which can grow up to 6 metres long. The bottom part of this flowerstalk is used by some breeders as nesting material for woodpecker-type birds like barbets, hornbills etc. The inside of this stalk resembles cork but is perhaps a bit softer. We have used this material in our pullaria nestboxes, which are at least 40 centimetres long, to enable them to make their tunnel.
To help them I made a start and also an inspection hole in the back to enable me to ring the birds, if and when we breed them. I know of two South African breeders. One managed to get the pullarias to lay eggs but never bred any chicks. He then decided to sell his remaining pullarias. The other breeder managed to breed with his pullarias, but the youngsters died after a certain age. I am therefore not aware of any South African breeder that has bred pullarias and kept the youngsters alive to use for the next generation of aviary bred pullarias.
Because the wild caught pullarias we have are very wild, we decided not to breed them in cages but rather in small colonies. We keep 3 to 4 pairs in a small aviary, some with access to an outside section and others which are strictly indoor. Some have paired off and one can see the pairs sitting together. Some pairs have started to work on their nestboxes. One can see the sawdust on the bottom of the aviary.
We feed them mainly millet seeds, canary seed, oats and some small sunflower seed. We have tried sprouted sunflower seeds, but they do not touch these sprouted seeds. They are very fond of apples and also oranges. We have planted six different types of fig-trees as the pullarias are reported to like figs as well.
Recessive lutino and pied examples of this bird existed in the seventies and eighties but seem to have disappeared completely. The lutinos were brilliant golden yellow with scarlet faces, red in the tail, white flight feathers and shoulders, pink feet and red eyes and bills.( Jim Hayward)
We hope to breed these lovebirds in the near future. It has been a challenge for us to get a number of potential breeding pairs. We would like to share any information regarding breeding, housing, feeding etc. with breeders in Europe and breeders/ keepers in South Africa. We will keep you updated on developments at our breeding facility.
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