My Life with Kakariki
I’d never meant to add smaller birds into the aviary: It happened like this.
A friend takes in unwanted birds - too many I sometimes think. He had a lone hen which he brought round and we housed the hen in my aviary.
I put her in my 3-metre end-flight and closed it off from the main aviary which contained 20 mixed Parakeets and, in warm weather, my pet Parrots.
I bought a matching cock bird and named the pair Beatrice and Benedict. They were yellow mutations of the more common red fronted Kakariki. They became a couple within ten minutes of introduction.
(From my notes) Beatrice and Benedict are live wires and use every inch of the space. No skirmishes with other Parakeets or Parrots so they have the whole aviary.
With no apparent cause, Benedict died before breeding; necropsy showed no anomalies. Looking to replace him, I met Eric Pryor. He brought over three of his birds from Sussex.
Beatrice chose a yellow cock who then became Benedict 2nd. The other pair (pied mutation) were called Moregren and Lessgren (greener and less green.)
Beatrice’s Second Clutch
Beatrice’s first clutch proved unfertile but she soon laid again.
(From my notes) 2010 October 13th Beatrice has at least ONE live chick. October 16th Beatrice - 2 live chicks. Benedict eating constantly; I saw him feed her today
Oct 18th Benedict is outside on the aviary roof. I cannot find any holes anywhere. A gale’s blowing. I fear he will be blown away.
Next day I found him crouched on the ground behind the cold weather panels. Still no holes visible. Wal (my loving suffering husband) and I put a booby-trapped cage on the roof and at 4 pm he was inside it. We closed the cage. At that moment Benedict flew out of the food doors at the bottom or the wire.
I set up the cage again but he wouldn’t approach. At 5 pm he was on the ground foraging against the wire. Could I trap him? I’ve done it before. I crept forward without him spotting me, threw a black sheet over him as he flew up. His head poked out of the top but he was back in the aviary after his 24-hour escape. I have more grey hairs than before.
Only one of Beatrice’s two chicks survived so we called him Lucky.
(From my notes) Tuesday 25th October. Lucky is fledged and almost as large as his mum. Both parents still feeding him.
Once he flew strongly, I allowed the Kakariki family the whole aviary to fly in. The following year he went to a local breeder, Brian Burgess. We missed him but wanted to avoid sibling pairing if Beatrice bred again.
The weather was cooling. Every bird survived the cruel winter of 2010.
That February, none of the other birds appeared to have mating in mind except the Kakariki. The second pair Moregren and Lessgren hatched five eggs.
I rehomed three of the five ring necks and the Rosellas because they became aggressive to other birds. However, I foolishly retained Blue Boy and Blue Girl who reminded me of blue birds of happiness. I had to stop fooling myself. Blue Girl remained as aggressive as Bianca, the white Ringneck whom I’d rehomed.
The two blue Ringnecks were separated from the other birds in separate long flight which runs along the back of the aviary and where the Alexandrines had their nest box. My aviary is built in sections so sections can be closed off. Someone (I hope it wasn’t me) left the connecting flight door ajar.
In a short space of time, not longer than an hour, she’d flown into the main aviary and broken off a Kakariki beak; the vet euthanized the bird. I hoped the hen would manage to raise the five nestlings. Another error. It wasn’t Moregren who’d been attacked and mutilated but Lessgren, the hen. When I examined the nest box the following chilly March morning, the chicks were dead.
Moregren needed a mate so I ought a cinnamon hen and called her Spice. She wasn’t as strong a flyer as my previous Kakariki but she hatched five chicks with Moregren. When they were a few weeks old, Spice got a wing nicked.
I have to suspect Artha, my Grey. The wound was minor and did not look serious but the shock must have killed her. Moregren, the dad, fed the babies himself. I added a syringe feeding daily. Four out of five fledged and were lovely large birds.
A mystery illness
Cinnamons surviving chicks were excellent. One green, one yellow and two pied. Vert, the handsomest, took Georgie, a small green hen I’d bought, as his mate. Georgie's first clutch was infertile. Before she could lay a second, I found Vert dying on the ground.
The necropsy showed he’d died of a parasite rare in UK. Sarcocystis is a parasite infecting mammals, and some reptiles and birds.
It is carried by raccoons or possums; the nearest live at Colchester Zoo 10km from us.
There’s no explanation how he could have caught it. Pigeons perhaps?
Kakariki don’t grieve for long, Georgie now chose Vert’s brother. There were eggs in the nest. And the summer finally began. I decided to keep the Kakariki separate in the end flight of 3 metres. In the afternoon, I needed to pressure-wash the Kakariki flight.
I closed off the exit of Georgie’s nest box, caught her mate and put him in a crate. When I opened it after cleaning was finished - he was dead. He had apparently broken his neck struggling to escape.
I phoned Brian Burgess who’d bought Lucky. Generously, he came over straightaway and brought a cinnamon male. He had a fine red poll so his name was Morered.
My conclusion is that Kakariki will do fine in a large mixed aviary if you avoid aggressive species like Rosellas or Ringnecks. For the breeding season, you need to separate them in separate flights
The saddest happening of all
Morered and his mate fledged 5 large lovely chicks. Once fledged they had the whole aviary Then tragedy struck again.
Rats. There was no pied piper in my area. I called in the rat man. He shot two at night.
We found some entry holes outside. The rats had burrowed below my 30cm of wire. Every hole was plugged. We did our best; it wasn’t good enough. The family of 7 Kakariki was decimated one by one. We lifted the concrete slabs on the aviary floor and found 2 rats’ nests.
The next summer we hired a digger and with the help of some paid labour and some volunteer friends we excavated a trench around the perimeter and filled it with a cement and laid a 30 cm deep and 10-centimetre-thick protective shield. The protection has been a success. But too late for my Kakariki family.
I still hankered after Kakariki; the re such cheerful birds. I bought 4 green fronts from a bird merchant. Am I especially unlucky or simply not cautious enough? One of the hens was spending time examining a nest box. About the same time a squirrel squeezed in through the roof. A female squirrel?
I do not know. I almost caught the animal but never quite managed. He or she grew too large to get out the way it had come in. And it killed the Kakariki hen. I did not see the fatal attack. She had no mark on her as she would have had, if the Parrots had pecked her) nor was she part-eaten - if a rat had got in). Eventually I got the squirrel out via the main doors. Left with three Kakariki, I lost enthusiasm and stopped observing them so carefully.
A few months later, this spring, Harry who helps me out occasionally and likes messing around in the aviary and is a lot more agile than I am said, ‘Do you know the Kakariki have laid eggs?’ What!
He was right. In a small flight shut off from the main aviary but with the door ajar, a Kakariki had entered and laid 4 eggs. Far more secretive than earlier nesting Parakeets, I’d not seen her enter.
Four eggs hatched. When I was sure the parents were outside the nest box I peeked - 3 normal sized and one very small. You are advised if you keep Kakariki to have double doors and a strong aviary. I do have. But they are escape artists. Before the chicks fledged I found both parents had escaped the aviary and were standing on the aviary roof.
I tried not to panic and succeeded. That night I shut the rest of the Parakeets out of the main aviary and left both porch doors open. At 6 am the parents had flown inside. The chicks were fed.
How they got out I will never know. Possibly in a spot where the virginia creeper covered a corner, they’d squeezed through. All corners are double-wired now. Gaps plugged and calm restored. The chicks fledged, one was blue with some white feathers, the others, the same green s their parents with the red topknot. their parents green. They were hatched in a 1- metre aviary. Not enough space to fly.
So, before they fledged, I transferred the 4 chicks and their parents into a 4-metre flight. The parents were a bit worried but did not stop feeding them. All four fledged and I managed to observe two of the first exits from the nest box. Time consuming but worth it. For the moment, the flock of 5 are joy. The Kakariki coexist pleasantly with the Cockatiels, Rock Pebblers and others.
In the daytime, when the two Greys and two Macaws are in the aviary, all the Parakeets keep their distance. I won’t repeat the mistake of keeping Ringnecks or Rosellas in a mixed aviary.
Qualities as aviary birds or pets
· Kakariki are active from daybreak through until dusk
· They breed easy and are good parents
· They don’t aggressively bite
· Hardy in our climate, they do not need artificial heat in the aviary
· Non-breeders can be housed with other similar or smaller sized birds.
· Ideal for the smaller garden, especially in urban areas
· They are not noisy, therefore will not upset your neighbours
Kakariki in my aviary have the same diet as the other Australian Parakeets. That’s a clean seed mixture about 50- 60% with the addition of sprouted seeds and legumes and fresh foliage.
They enjoy a variety of fresh branches, seeding grasses, blossoms, hips, haws, cotoneaster berries and almost anything you can gather in the way of berries and flowers. Dandelions are a favourite food. Find lots of tasty food here.
When they are nesting or feeding chicks, I add plenty of crumbly egg food and sweet corn. In fact, they are easy to keep happy and well-fed. They are susceptible to worms so you need a worming routine. They love scratching on the ground to forage as their wild cousins do. I buy millet in bulk. This works out far more economical than a few sprays.
Although in USA, I know of Kakariki kept indoors; they are not common as pets in UK. Rightly so, for they need so much space for their boundless energy and curiosity. In the aviary, you can easily hand tame a Kakariki.
I would not encourage anyone to keep them as indoor birds.
Help with starting out
Some knowledgeable and devoted breeders are now working on the revival of the pure bred Kakariki. Leading this effort to avoid hybridisation is Les Rance, Secretary of The Parrot Society. Anyone interested may contact him by phone, 01442 872245
And why Kakariki not Kakarikis?
The name comes from the Maori word for a small Parrot. And the plural IS Kakariki just as the plural of sheep is sheep. Check the dictionary if you do not believe me. :)
Scientific Name: Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae (Red-fronted), Cyanoramphus auriceps (Yellow-fronted)
Origin New Zealand and its islands
Adult Length: 25-28 cm.
Adult Weight: Approximately 65 gm
Potential Lifespan: 15-20 years
Conservation Status Threatened and vulnerable in their homeland. Efforts to rid islands of introduced predators like rats, cats, etc.: and strenuous attempts at providing safe environments are producing some good results.
The best website I’ve found is New Zealand based: kakariki.net/
Rosemary Low’s Fact sheet gives the essential information in our Kakariki fact sheet here and buy everything you need for Kakariki here.
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