Sunday, July 13, 2008


Remember the little bundle of fluff that I posted on Independence Day? Well look at him now!Believe it or not this is little 'Indy' one week later. Although he still has the black beak of a juvenile bird (I am calling it a 'he' not because we have defined his gender but just because it seems preferable to 'it!') he is now developing the characteristic red tail of the Melba Finch Pytilia melba and, as you can see, has far more mature feathers and less down than last week. As is common with Melba Finches, he loves to sunbathe, and that was how I got this shot, he was basking, and allowed me to get closer than usual.

To give you some idea how much further he has to go to get to mature plumage, this is what an adult male bird looks like. The female has the same body colour but none of the red and orange on the face and neck.

The Melbas are not the only birds in the Haven that have been breeding.

Our pair of Violaceous Euphonias Euphonia violacea have been very prodigious.The male is very striking with his vivid yellow plumage. Euphonias are great mimics and he always seems to be coming up with new songs which he belts out at full volume from a prominent perch. He was actually in mid-song when I took this photo but I think he must have stopped for breath just as the camera clicked! Hence the indignant look! The female is no where near as easy to see, largely because she is kept in a permanent avian equivalent of 'bare foot and pregnant!' This prolific pair have provided us with a fairly constant stream of fledglings throughout the year which we rehouse with other bird breeders in order to prevent any inbreeding within our group.

Some of our other birds are showing definite signs of pairing off too. These two are affectionately referred to as the 'love unit' as they are utterly inseparable. They are Red-eared Waxbills Estrilda troglodytes and they originate from Sub-Saharan Africa. We actually have four of them in the Haven and they stick together in a very tight flock for the majority of the time. Usually when I do my last check-up at the end of the day I will find them paired off and snuggled up in two pairs like this, very sweet.

Our second 'love unit' took a little longer to
come to fruition. This poor guy lost his first, and second mate and seemed fated to live a single life but eventually I managed to find him another female and he was so thrilled when I bought the cage into the Haven, he hung on the outside of it for hours every day until I eventually let her out. When I introduce new birds, they first spend a thirty day quarantine outside of the Haven, to ensure they are healthy. Then they are put into the Haven in a large flight cage for a couple of weeks to get used to the sights and sounds of this large public space. Then I open the cage but leave it in there so they can leave in their own time and return to it if they feel the need for security. And then eventually when I think they seem relatively settled, I remove the cage and leave them free flying. So that was what this poor little chap had to wait for! These are Lavender Waxbills Estrilda caerulescens.

This handsome fellow is a Red-legged Honeycreeper Cyanerpes cyaneus and I am afraid spends so much time gazing at himself that he seems to forget to lavish any attention on his mate. I realise that he is very stunning but he really does like to spend hours gazing at his own reflection and so he and his mate have not yet managed to breed. We have large mirrors placed beside the doors of the Haven so that people can check their reflection to make sure they don't have any butterflies on them before they leave. This bird perches on the edge of the mirror and stares at himself for hours! I believe Narcissus would be the correct name for this character! There is a professional photographer who sometimes visits the Haven and she caught him in action -

Another far more modest fellow, and a favorite of mine is the delightful Peters Twinspot Hypargos niveoguttatus. This species too originates in Southern Africa and I remember them with great fondness when I lived in Zambia, hopping around picking up seeds and hearing their charming, soft, warbling call.

I could not complete a posting about the birds in the Haven without mentioning this character. This is Daffy, named by her breeder because she is so tame that she behaves more like a domestic duck than an exotic honeycreeper! Although this is not the best shot I have of her, it sums up her behavior perfectly. She is always waiting for me in the mornings when I arrive and if I don't fill the nectar feeders promptly enough for her liking she will fly at my head, veering away at the last second! Around three in the afternoon I usually go up to put some waxworms in some of the feed bowls and she is usually waiting on the edge of the bowl! She will actually take the waxworm from my fingers and gobble it up with great relish. Daffy is a Green Honeycreeper Chlorophanes spiza.

Photo Credits - CJT


Rambling Woods said...

What beautiful and touching photos. It certainly looks like that bird is watching himself in the mirror

Celeste said...

Rambling Woods - Oh he does, sits there gazing at the handsome fellow on the other side frequently.