Nesting Requirements

Providing a nest box or log for our breeding pairs of Eclectus can be a very exciting time. Having a pair that you have had since they were fledglings, then watching them develop into adult birds, you notice that they have started preening each other and beginning to shows signs of mating. This is all part of the pair bonding period, and is the time to give them something to nest in. What type of nest box depends on what type of breeder you are. If you are hobbyist and breed birds purely for enjoyment, then you may prefer to provide your birds with a natural hollow log. These look great, but if you are a commercial breeder or a breeder that has many pairs and banks of aviaries to maintain, then the humble nest box is the right choice. The main reason for choosing a nest box is they are easy to maintain, clean and most importantly to inspect. A professional breeder will like to inspect his nest at least once a week, some inspect daily, and if you have only natural logs this then becomes a difficult task.

Eclectus parrots seem to prefer the grandfather box style of nest box. These can vary in size depending on what subspecies you are keeping. For example for the smaller subspecies, like the New Guinea, Solomon Island, Biak Island and the Tanimbar Island Eclectus parrots a suitable nest box size would be 24 inches high x 10 inches square (609mm x 254 mm) square. For the larger subspecies i.e. the Grand, Vosmaer’s, Aru Island, Cornelia’s and Australian Eclectus parrots the nest box size should be 36 inches high x 14 inches square (914mm x 355mm) square. These nest boxes are constructed using half-inch (12mm) waterproof marine plywood. The nest box is hung vertically and a 6 inch (150mm) diameter entrance hole is cut, leaving a 2 inch (50mm) space below the roof of the nest. A 6 inch perch is fitted a further 4 inches (100mm) below the entrance hole. This position will allow the male to perch at the entrance hole and watch over his mate. An inspection door 6 inches (150mm) square is cut into the side of the box close to bottom of the nest box so it is just above the height of nesting material. This inspection door allows for inspection of eggs and for removal of chicks if they are going to be hand reared. Inside the nest box, a heavy gauge 2 x 1 inch (50 x 25 mm) wire mesh ladder about 30 inches (760 mm) long is attached on the front facing wall of the nest box, just below the entrance hole. This will allow for easy access to the female when returning to her eggs or chicks. It will also prevent the female jumping in on the eggs, as she will be able to climb down the ladder without damaging them.

Many breeders sometime forget to choose the correct type of nesting material to use in their nest box or log. A large number of breeders use only dry pine shavings. I prefer to use something a bit more natural for Eclectus. During my collecting and field research days, I would record the contents of each nest climbed in the wild. Then, when I started to concentrate on breeding the Australian Eclectus Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi in captivity for the first time, I started reading through my diaries to see what the Eclectus in the bush preferred in their nest. I found that the highest percentage of nests contained damp to moist nesting material. This material was the dry and decaying wood that the birds had chewed over many years. This decayed wood would be build up over time and each year at the start of the breeding season the females would spend many hours chewing and scratching up this decayed wood dust. Because Eclectus parrots are found in tropical rainforest, this means that they get above average rainfall; therefore, many of the nests at the beginning of the breeding season are wet or at least damp. So I started going out into the rainforest close to where I lived and spent hours collecting the decaying wood dust from fallen logs for my nesting material. If, at the start of our breeding season, the stored wood dust was too dry, I would just sprinkle a little water on it before placing it in the nest box.

It is important to remember that Eclectus parrots require high humidity during the incubation process, so by providing a moist, natural nesting material, I never had a problem with low humidity within the nest. Later on, I started to use another type of nesting material that also worked extremely well. A neighbour of mine, who was a large finch breeder, would go out into the bush and collect live termite mounds. These mounds contained countless thousands of live termites. On returning home, he would break up these mounds into large chunks and place these chunks into a tumbling machine that would break up the mounds. The live termites would then fall through the fine mesh into a plastic container, which he would then store and feed out to his birds. After he had finished removing the live termites, he then had a large quantity of crushed up termite mound that he would have to dispose of. So I decided to get a trailer load of this material and use it as a trial nesting material. I used it in four nests of my breeding pairs of Australian Eclectus to see if they would accept it. To my surprise, all four pairs nested and produced chicks. The female would delight in getting down into the nest as soon as I placed it back into the aviary with the new nesting material, they would enjoy scratching up this material and I even observed them eating it. This in turn turned out to be an added bonus, as the termite nesting material contained a lot of vitamins and minerals that were purely natural. Over time the feather condition of these pairs improved greatly.