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Report on the International Parrot Symposium in Dublin, Ireland

By Winny Weinbeck


Trinity College in Dublin was the venue for the International Parrot Symposium held from Friday 26 to Sunday 28 June.  Founded in 1592, the College is one of the oldest universities in Europe and is located in the centre of Dublin.

A total of 86 speakers and participants came together from all over the world to attend the conference which was very well organized by Jerry Kidd.

On Friday night there was a Welcome Reception, which gave all the participants an opportunity to meet with the speakers.  On Saturday and Sunday there were lectures during the day, in which various parrot related topics were presented: conservation of parrots in the wild, the breeding and protection of parrots kept in captivity, behavior, knowledge of the various species, nutrition and avian medicine.

The first lecture on Saturday started at 8.15 am, so there was no time for a long lie-in or breakfast, since the campus is vast and it takes about an extra 15 minutes from the entrance to get to the building where the lectures were conducted.

Povl Jorgensen from Denmark explained the way in which parrots are being bred in Scandinavia. The weather plays a particularly important role here. Povl breeds Vasa Parrots, Blue-throated Macaws, African Greys, Amazons and Asian Parakeets, and has studied the way in which Vasa Parrots breed and lose their feathers during this time.

Povl has been quite successful in breeding Blue-throated Macaws, and has raised 76 birds since 2004. What was quite remarkable is that he is feeding his parrots 80% peanuts. He believes that animal protein and vitamin C is very important in the nutrition of the birds.

Christina Yumi Miyaki from Brazil stressed the importance of DNA for the conservation of parrots in the wild. On the basis of genetic varieties, advice can be given on the most successful breeding pairs. This knowledge is being used in the Lear’s and Hyacinth Macaw projects. It appears that there are also genetic differences with respect to the various regions where the parrots live. There is a database with species-specific DNA which can be used to retrieve the origin of confiscated (smuggled) eggs.

Dr Carlo Manderscheid from Luxembourg explained that the compilation of a bird collection for breeding purposes is very important. The more species you have, the more difficult it is to prevent inbreeding, and the various nutritional requirements may also present problems. In order to prevent disease, it is important to have an annual health check of the birds, especially if one has large flights. He also stresses the importance of keeping the quarantine stations strictly separate from the other flights, which also implies changing clothes and footwear. Necropsy should always be performed on dead births.

Susan Friedman from the USA spoke on the science of behavior and ethical standards. She stressed the importance of science for behavior consultations, and that it takes much more than just personal experience. Sometimes well meant advice causes more damage. Science is the best information available, and throughout the centuries, science will correct itself, because of its self adjusting processes.

Behavior is based on various items. The most important question we should ask ourselves is ‘what does it look like?’. People like to put a label on everything, for example: the parrot is sweet, aggressive or dominant. In fact, we get the behavior we expect, and behavior changes based on experiences. You can teach animals things, and if you want to change the behavior, you will have to change the circumstances.

EB Cravens from Hawaii promotes a natural way of breeding. He believes that it is essential to let a bird be a bird, and that the best teachers are the parent birds. He observes nature and tries to implement this as much as possible at home, and he lets his birds socialize with their own species.

The moment of fledging is the right moment for the bird to become independent and to start the human bond. Birds are suspicious of people by nature. Co-parentship (men and parent birds) offers the best of both worlds to raise young and confident parrots. This of course will take extra time and effort from the breeder. He furthermore believes that nest boxes should only be offered during the breeding season and he is opposed to the breeding of Hybrids.

Mark Stafford from the USA gave an update of the various projects of Parrots International. The looting of the nests by wild cats of the Bahamian Parrot (which nests on the ground) has diminished by 30%. The Blue-throated Macaw project has resulted in the number of birds having risen to 250-300.

The subsidizing of corn seems to be very successful for the conservation of the Lear’s Macaw. The number of Spix’s Macaws has risen to 68 birds, of which Al Wabra has 52. A piece of land has been purchased for the reintroduction of the Spix’s Macaws in the wild.

Parrots International does not have any paid staff and all donations support the fieldwork and conservation projects. For more information see:

Neville Connors from Australia explained how to prevent problems in breeding Black Cockatoos. Since the introduction of pine trees, Black Cockatoos are more common in Australia. When a male shows aggression toward the female, one should act immediately. Neville uses black insulating tape on the wings of the male, so it cannot chase the female. A varied diet is very important and a breeder should prevent stress for the birds as much as possible.

Mark Ziembicki from Australia told us about the threats to the parrots that live on the islands in the Pacific. More than a quarter of the parrots there are endangered, and since the introduction of humans, 45% of the birds have become extinct. Apart from the illegal bird trade and wood logging, the introduction of predators (cats, rats, snakes) presents the biggest threat. Climate change and the introduction of diseases also take its toll. Limitations in local laws, corruption and traditional landownership make it more difficult to solve these problems.

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