By Lauraine Wilson
Amazona Pretrei, Brazilian name Papagaios Charao, is listed on Cites Appendix 1 as vulnerable with a wild population estimated to be between 7500 and 8500 birds and now being almost entirely confined to the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.
The Red Spectacled Amazon is a full species within the genus Amazona and not conspecific with the Amazona Tucumana. There is sexual dimorphism, with the males having a greater extent of red over the forehead and far more extensive red colouring on the carpal edge of the wing and the under-wing coverts. In immature birds this sexual dimorphism in not clear as the red is reduced and only increases with maturity.
Our Pretreis are bred in cages facing either direction but generally have had more success breeding Amazons in the south facing cages, which are colder in the winter due to the lack of direct sunlight.
The facility’s cages each comprise a brick built nesting area 1.2mx1.6m under thatch into which two types of nesting boxes/logs are fitted. The flight area attached to the nesting area is 3.0m long x1.6m wide x 2.0m high. The floors are sloped concrete fitted with 100mm drains. The Amazons generally spend most of the day under the cover of the thatched roof except for mornings, evenings and when showers are turned on for periods of twenty to thirty minutes, normally daily for the duration of summer and only on warm sunny winter days. The fifty degree slope thatch roof covering the central passage and back to back nesting areas reduce internal summer temperatures and the roof void conserves the warmth on colder winter days where the birds perch during the days and nights.
Each cage’s nest area is fitted with a nesting log as well as a conventional nesting box fitted in the passage and accessed by the birds via a hole cut through the wall, facilitating nest box inspections. Although Pretreis do utilise the conventional nest boxes, the majority of pairs prefer the nesting logs. Nesting logs with dimensions of approximately 600mm high and a diameter of 350mm are used.
Bedding consists of course, untreated pine shavings mixed with small pine chips. Access perches are fixed, allowing birds to climb or fly to nest box/log entrances.
Feeding takes place twice daily. The morning meal consists of mixed sprouts, fresh seasonal fruits and corn on the cob; and the afternoon meal consists of minced cooked mix, to which is added fresh vegetables and some fruit puree to obtain the correct consistency. Twice a week the morning meal consists of mixed sprouts, soaked almonds, dry nuts and seeds.
The sprout mix comprises legumes, a mixture of Mung beans, lentils, Rondo, Chick and yellow peas; grains, a mixture of wheat, barley and oats; sunflower and alfalfa.
The cooked mix is made up of a mixture of legumes as above (50%); mixture of grains as above including sorghum (50%); Orlux Calcium; hard boiled eggs twice weekly; chopped fresh vegetables which include carrot, broccoli, red peppers, spinach, sweet potato, butternut and beans; sesame seed for calcium and phosphorus; apple/pear puree and passion fruit to obtain the correct consistency; and Kelp Powder / Palm Fruit Oil / Zinc Bacitracin.
Fresh fruit is also fed. Daily: papaya, banana, apple and pears; in season fruits such as grapes, pomegranates, prickly pear, mango, guava and oranges; uncooked Sweet corn cut into pieces is also fed daily; and beetroot – cooked and roughly chopped.
The seed mix we use consists of hemp, linseed, sesame seed, buck wheat, millet, manna, pumpkin seed, safflower, peanuts and soaked almonds.
Nuts are fed rarely to the Amazons, mainly to boost weight if required. We feed the following nuts when necessary: Cashew, Almond, Brazil, Pecan, Macadamia, Pistachio and raw peanuts.
Of the three mature pairs we acquired initially, one pair laid three fertile eggs within the first three months. The three chicks were pulled when the hen injured her leg on a perch attached to the nest log. One month later she again laid three fertile eggs and raised three chicks successfully. The other 2 pairs laid infertile eggs the same season as well as the following season, after which the 2nd pair produced fertile eggs. We suspected at the time that these two pairs were possibly too young to breed. We have, however, subsequently determined from our own stock that young pairs will lay from two years of age and generally lay infertile eggs for the first two seasons.
Pretreis are willing breeders provided they are not placed in cages adjacent to other Amazons or territorial birds such as Guaruba Guarouba where the males haggle with one another continually and neither pairs breed. The Pretrei males in these circumstances also attack their own hens. Earlier this year we had to separate a cock and hen as the male had started attacking his hen – displaced aggression. After moving the Guarubas the birds were put back together and there have been no further signs of aggression.
We have had the best breeding results from the pairs in south facing cages. We have no explanation for this, as the general consensus amongst breeders is that birds will breed most successfully when facing north east.
The pairs will year to year not necessarily lay in the same nest box or log as the previous year. They prefer the nest logs placed inside the nest area as opposed to the nest box placed in the passage. This is in all probability due to the disturbance of personnel passing by in the passage. The pairs, when breeding, do not tolerate any disturbance whatsoever and any form of cleaning or maintenance is prohibited as the hen will kill chicks if disturbed.
Pretreis are very susceptible to stress and are subsequently sensitive to change resulting in the loss of birds. We have lost birds as a result of storms, moving them to other cages or placing youngsters in communal cages with another group of immature Amazons that were not part of the group reared with them in the baby room.
In South Africa the few breeders that manage to raise youngsters generally breed more cocks than hens.
Eggs are left with the hens if they prove to be successful mothers, otherwise eggs are pulled and incubated. The eggs are incubated using Grumbach incubators. Incubation temperature is set at 37.2oC and relative humidity 52%, turning is set at 24 turns per day with a duration of 30 minutes. The eggs are moved to a hatcher on internal pip with a temperature setting of 36.9oC and RH 70-80%. The incubation room is air conditioned with a temperature setting of 20oC.
Pairs where eggs or chicks are pulled will generally double clutch. In this event the hen is always left to hatch and rear the chicks to full term with probiotic added The newly hatched chicks are fed only Ringers lactate, PT12 for the first 24 hours. The chicks are fed every two hours for the first 24 hours of feeding and thereafter Kaytee is used starting with a ratio of 1:11 by mass and reducing with age to a ratio of 1:2.6 at weaning age. Brooder temperatures are gradually reduced according to age. Generally the chicks are raised like any other Amazon and need no special or additional care or diet.
Pretrei chicks are most vulnerable at weaning age and our losses have always been due to haemorrhagic enteritis, the cause of which we have not been able to ascertain from autopsies and the subsequent bacterial cultures or organ and tissue analysis. Hens seem to be more prone than cocks.
While researching the internet we happened on an article by Dr Susan Clubb, detailing how Umbrella Cockatoos showed similar symptoms. Following the same regime we have successfully treated the birds with a combination of Claforan and Clindomycin.
We have recently determined that our first heavy rainfalls occur in conjunction with the Amazon breeding season, which, it seems, is washing bacteria into the underground water table from which we obtain domestic water supply via a borehole. The contamination can only be determined immediately after rain as the contamination is quickly flushed away by pumping, so all the testing that has previously been conducted after the weaning birds fall ill resulted in clear water tests. The entire aviary is given water only from Reverse Osmosis filtration but the sprouts are rinsed with this “polluted” water, contaminating the sprouts which are fed to the weaning Pretreis, which is, as far as we are concerned, the cause of the haemorrhagic enteritis. It is, however, disconcerting and coincidental that other breeders have the same problem. This coming season we will either confirm or deny our suspicions and will wean the birds on a diet devoid of sprouts. We have now installed an ozone generator which seems to have had positive results and all water samples sent in for testing have come back free of bacteria.
Not only are the immature youngsters susceptible to changes in climatic conditions and diet, but this too applies to the mature birds. Although our birds are dewormed once annually by our local vet we have found them prone to tapeworm and the first signs are vomiting of their food, deep grass green droppings and general lethargy. We are yet to source the origins of the tapeworm and there is much speculation regarding this. The affected birds are brought indoors, dewormed immediately with an oral dose of Brutel (Praziquantel) followed with 2nd dose 10 days later. As often the head of the tapeworm remains lodged in the gutlining we treat additionally with Synulox (40mg amoxicillin/10mg clavulanic acid) for a period of 5 days.
Since these birds are one of our more sensitive species, the floors of their cages are brushed down daily as the floors under thatch are concrete and there is food spillage. By doing this we are also monitoring their faeces and any change is quickly observed, ensuring that intervention is timeous.
The keeping of these birds has not been an easy task and it has been wrought with highs and lows so at this point in time we have 6 pairs. Progress is mighty slow but we are determined to build this into a viable flock. Hopefully the rest of the keepers will persevere with this lively species.
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