Birder’s Corner, Patrick Dunn
The State of the Avian Union
|Patrick Dunn owner of Ave Azul de la Osa, a licensed avicultural compound supporting conservation through captive propagation firstname.lastname@example.org|
Audubon Society Christmas Count
Tallies are on their way from the December 19th annual Audubon Society Christmas Count from Karen Leavelle, Director of Osa Birds: Research and Conservation (osabirds.org). But here at Agua Buena we saw 148 species in 24 hours, including night forays that netted four Spectacled and a Mottled owl along with nine or so Praques. The best were two male Turquoise Cotingas down at the Agua Buena bridge in a Jobo tree. I have seen them there before. Also at the bridge: a sexed pair of Slaty-tailed Trogons at a nest site in a dead snag. No life listers to report, but we did get a rare accidental: a Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus. A northern bird was in the fresh water marsh on the road into Ave Azul for some three days, pure luck he was still there on count day. And news from La Tarde: a friend sent a series of pics of a bird a few days before the count. He is not a birder and did not know what he snapped. Turns out it was an Ornate hawk-eagle, Spizaetus ornatus in full color, eight frames. It did not, however, make the count list but nice to know at least one Ornate out there is confirmed. Stay tuned for the final results from Karen soon.
Tis the season and the migrants are here! Not the tourists, silly . . . the birds! Well, tourists too.
Orioles, finches, vireos, grosbeaks, tanagers, thrushes, swallows, wax-wings, warblers, flycatchers, waterfowl, birds of prey . . . They are all here.
But why do they leave temperate latitudes to head south?
Some contend it´s too cold up north. Perhaps, but the real reason is food. The North American winter shuts down many of the food sources these migrating birds need. Insects, flowers, fruits and nectar all pretty much go dormant. There is just not much to eat up there. But there’s plenty to eat down here! Since our seasons are pretty much opposite, breeding season here for the resident birds and our collection starts in October as winter sets in up north.
At Ave Azul de la Osa it’s a time to gear up and get ready for that fact.
Feeding the Birds
It’s a time of aviary refurbishment.
- Nest box repair or replacement and the substrate that fills them.
- Replacing new perches for copulation and preparing the nursery in advance for occupancy.
- Baby formula for hand rearing prepped way in advance.
- Because neonates are born sterile, all brooders, heating pads and nest tubs all must be disinfected before reuse.
- And because we are on solar power, everything, backup generators included must be dependable and up to speed.
Here at Ave Azul we feed a high-protein diet to increase the fertility in our eggs, which are, after all pure protein, as any oologist will tell you.
But where do the lapas and other parrots get that protein to produce fertile eggs? After all they don’t eat meat or insects. But they do eat the pods and beans of the Leguminosa family. They strip the protein rich seeds from the pods of many species and masticate them for the babies.
At this writing the Balsa trees too are flowering, and lapa chicks everywhere are feeding on the regurgitated balsa flowers and its sugar.
We feed daily a soaked multi-bean mix to our birds. Because of afloxins emitted by beans, we must thoroughly wash this feed stock. To this base we add fresh chopped fruits and veggies, a varied seed mix, powdered vitamins and Di cal Phosphate, plus fresh coconut or peanuts daily without exception at 4 p.m.
Our feed-out ingredients may be varied but our schedule is not. It is regimented and on time with the finest available ingredients. Mothers with chicks cannot wait and are fed up to three times a day depending on the number of chicks a hen is feeding. I snack on it myself some mornings. I wouldn’t feed it out if I wouldn’t eat it myself.
This Five-Year Drought
Every new season brings new babies but things have tapered off recently. Because rainfall is so closely tied to breeding cycles we measure and track rainfall in Agua Buena throughout the year. Rainfall and light translate to eggs.
We had 138 inches (3500 mm) of rain in October, 2010, a 100-year flood according to one local, plus another 38 inches the first week of November. We could not cross our two rivers to even get out to the main road. A helicopter dropped supplies for stranded communities. But ever since, rainfall totals have been dropping. In 2015 we had only 96.5 inches from Jan.1st. to Oct.15th, and nothing at all in January, February or March. Expected May rain was off, and we didn’t see real rain until late August. Still, we got only 20 inches last October, by a good margin normally our rainiest month.
Breeding populations of all living things are dependent on rainfall to produce food to feed reproduction cycles and the offspring in any form they produce. From pollen and insects to invertebrates and fishes, from reptiles and amphibians to birds and mammals, rainfall means food . . . food to feed progeny. Here at Ave Azul it is particularly important for birds in captivity.
Along with this drop in rainfall we have seen a drop in chick production as a result here at the farm.
Some pairs of our birds simply skipped the season altogether. While not uncommon in the wild, birds know less water means less food and the wild birds too know that less water means less food. We did not see as many wild trios (mating pair with offspring) of lapas this past year as years previous. You’d think that in our controlled environment we would be immune to environmental stressors. But the less rain we get, the fewer chicks hatch.
We are now in the 5th year of this drought. Locals tell me they believe it will last 7 years and return to normal slowly. But figuring in the latest El Niño effect, who knows . . . ?