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Historical review of parrot breeding in US zoos

Discussion in 'United States' started by Chlidonias, 10 Sep 2014.

  1. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

    13 Jun 2007
    an interesting Avicultural Magazine article I just came across (it is from 1999 so not recent). I will just post the link because the article is lengthy. It starts off with a brief early history of breedings in the US, then discusses some individual zoos (e.g. San Diego Zoo, Chicago Zoo, etc), then moves into time periods between 1959 and 1993.

    There are some good tables at the bottom of the article as well.

  2. Specialist Elbr

    Specialist Elbr Member

    1 Aug 2014
    texas, USA

    I interpret this to mean, to some extent AZA zoos have off-loading the breading of parrots to people who breed birds for the pet trade. I found this course of action to be worrisome for a number of reasons, based on parrot breeding in the US.

    1. Record keeping: Zoos are concerned with the breeding history of birds. It is important for zoos to hold onto this information as long as possible, to insure this they will share this information with other zoos to prevent "data disasters". However, for-profit operations keep those records to themselves (with few exceptions). When businesses fail those recorders are destroyed or are filed in inaccessible locations.

    2. Genetic diversity: Breeding for the pet trade is based on profits, not on preserving genetic diversity. It is more profitable to have a smaller number of breeding pairs producing a large number of eggs, for incubator hatching. It is less profitable to have a large number of pairs producing a small number of off spring each.

    3. Subspecies: Breeders do not recognize subspecies in the same way that ornithologists do. For example, 4 subspecies of "Cacatua sulphurea" are called "lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo". Where as one subspecies is called "citron crested cockatoo". This different naming convention effects which birds are breed to each other.

    4. Color mutation: Many breeders are obsessed with color mutation that will not blend in with there wild counter parts. More importantly this obsession also increases inbreeding and lowers genetic diversity.

    5. Hybrids: Some breeders produce hybrids that have no place in the wild population.

    6. Bankruptcy: From the later half of the 1990's onward there have been a significant number of parrot breeders that have closed-up-shop. This came in two stages. In the 90's many small-scale breeders had contact with actual pet-owner. Of those, many left the business once they discovered how many birds needed re-homing. This led to the increase of large-scale parrot breeding operations (demeaningly called parrot-mills), exacerbating problems from section 2. After the US financial crisis of '08 many of the large scale operations went bankrupt, exacerbating problems from section 1.

    7. Leg band tracing: Many large-scale retailers and breeders have made it more difficult to trace a bird's leg band, on purpose. Many of these operations want to trade young birds and at the same time make it appear as if they themselves breed the bird. Each banded bird has a 3 letter code, but it is not public knowledge which breeder has which code (a few breeders have volunteered that info) .