Breeding the White-Bellied Caique
(Pionites leucogaster xanthomeria)

by David T. Longo

Longo�s Aviaries Inc.
Meaford, Ontario, Canada

There are 2 types of White-Bellied Caiques. The particular sub species that this article refers to is the Yellow-thighed Caique. The nominate species of White-Bellied is the (P. l. leucogaster) which has green thighs. They are seldom seen in North America! The first one I obtained was the male along with some other rare birds in South Florida. This was a handfed baby bred by Kathleen Szabo Harring of "Luv them Birds". He was hatched in mid June of 1997. This made him less than 2 years old during the time of copulating and egg fertilization. The female came from another importer from western Canada. The female was bred by Ralph Lima of "Lima's Exotic Birds" in California. The female, as far as I could track back to was younger than the male by 2-4 months.

They are presently housed in a cage 2' deep by 3' high by 4' long. Their nestbox is 30" tall by 12" wide by 10" deep. The entrance to the nestbox is facing the lights on the side being 12", contrary to most theories of darkness and privacy, lighting did not affect their decision to nest. I did not see any results until I introduced visual barriers in my aviaries this year. Within 3 weeks, I had eggs from them as well as the rest of my producing pairs. They have 3 perches in the cage closest to the ends of the cage to help encourage flight. The perches vary in thickness from 3/4" down to 3/8".

I began the breeding season by starting the humidifier and showering the birds 3-4 times per week. I think the best decision I made this season was to introduce a nutritious varied seed diet in their program. The seed mixture consisted of corn, peas, safflower, buckwheat, wheat, milo; both red and white, four types of millet, oats, flax and hemp. This is available to them during breeding season as well as their pelleted diet. The pellets I feed are "Hagen" and are provided to them all year round. I find that the pellets fed to the birds are not enough to influence their breeding. I think that only health and nutrition are the 2 main factors to really be concerned about when choosing a pelleted diet. The variation in diet, lighting and the rain season is what will trigger breeding. I denied them sunflower and peanuts in their diet due to the high fat content. I allowed sunflower and or peanuts once every 1 - 2 weeks. I also fed sprouted beans, not cooked. I have a hard time seeing our birds flying around their native habitat looking for cooked beans with essential nutrients from biological matter which was boiled out of them. Sprouted beans, roots, chutes and blossoms may smell good or bad but are what they would find in their endemic habitat. Their sprouted beans consisted of black, black-eyed, chickpeas, Mong., red Mong., fava, lentils, navy etc. This was also offered 2-3 times per week. Also, every vegetable I could obtain would be offered 2-3 times per week and fruits, all of them but the dreaded Avocado, 2-3 times per week. Also, every couple of weeks I may skip a day to stimulate drought that they may encounter on bad days. This helps prepare their bodies for the worst as well as the best conditions that are exposed to them.

The first egg was laid on the 10 of May. The others came consecutively on the 12, 15, 19. I candled the eggs and found the last 2 laid were fertile. Other aviculturists I have spoken to with experience in BH's have told me that these will be the first and last infertile eggs they will produce. I removed the 2 infertile eggs after all of them were laid. The 2 young were born on June 11 and 13/1999. Majority of parent psittacines at this young age from the studies done here and with other aviculturists indicate that they are inexperienced. Common sense will dictate that this will also apply with us (humans). I initially had this fear in the back of my head but parent raising is now a responsibility for quality imprinted breeding stock. Because the parents were sort of dumfounded on what to do with the first baby, I checked it frequently and was insecure about whether or not it would have enough strength to beg for food which would further delay the parents responsibilities. I pulled the baby every 2.5 hours for a feeding. I gave it a warm solution of 50% "Pedialyte" for human infants that replenishes lost fluids, same purpose as Gatorade but no taste. The other 50% was "Ensure Plus" (vanilla flavoured) which is for human infants which may have nutritional absorbency problems. These both can be purchased at any well supplied pharmacy. I fed this solution at 102-108 F. Then the baby was placed back into the nest when Peaches was out of the nest. The baby weighed 7.0g. By the 6th feeding close to the end of the night, I noticed there was still food in the crop but with different colour and consistency. I knew Peaches was feeding so I assumed the baby had the strength to beg or stimulate the parents. Peaches and Cream caught onto the idea and I noticed that they were taking shifts. By the time the next baby hatched, there were no worries.

During their developmental stages, I pulled them, weighed them every couple of days and took photographs. As mentioned earlier, they are born at 7.0g and tripled their weight in 7 days to 21g. Then doubled to 40.8 in another 7 days. They reached 3 weeks of age by July 2nd (my birthday) Their eyes opened for the first time on this day�What a gift! Both still featherless but retaining their down. White-Bellied Caiques do have immature colouration. They have light black on their heads, not as intense as BH's but do come out within their first year or first moult. When all of the feathers were developed, the one I handraised had far more black on her head than the male I left in the nest. Initially, I thought there may be some direct relation to dietary needs. Nutrition in handfeeding formula compared to parents feeding young. I thought back to when I obtained the parents and looked at photos�..The mother had far more black than the father and she was parent raised and he was handfed. This occurrence was reversed with the parents as compared to their offspring. There is a possibility that the juvenile stage of colouring could be dimorphic!!! Also, the juveniles have white cheeks instead of yellow and have yellow throughout their chest and bellies instead of white. By July 1st and 4th the babies were banded and the eyes opened, they were at 103g and 112g. August 29th was the first day the baby male in the nest was seen in the cage with the parents. Well, it is now nearing mid September, the 16th actually and I found the parent raised male feeding for the first time with the father. I kept the handfed female with the parents during the day and let the father teach her how to eat as well. The first signs of this was 1 week later and the parent raised one is now weaned.

I do really love the Peach colouration on their head, not because they are more rare contradictory to certain beliefs, you know who you are!!! I do not think there is credit to be given for being the first to breed these little clowns but being one of the first to obtain them helped a little. There is a friend in western Canada who had their pair give them fertile eggs but didn't hatch. This was about when my female was laying so it was pretty close!

Dave T. Longo
Longo's Aviaries Inc.
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