A Proposal to Form Codes of Recommendation and Facilities Accreditation for Exotic Bird Aviculturists

By Mark Hagen, M.Ag.
Director of Research

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Accreditation
  • Administration
  • Lobbying
  • Certification of Aviculturists Using Standards
  • Minimum Standards
  • Welfare Considerations
  • Records and Breeding Consortiums

Introduction

The recent US Bird Working Group Report (of which the AFA, AAV and PIJAC are members and have agreed to the recommendations) is recommending the elimination of the mass importation of non-pest species of birds for direct sale to pet shops over a five year period. Only accredited aviculturists may continue to buy wild caught non-pest species after this point. Canada does not allow the importation of parrots directly from the Tropics and so most come through the USA and a few from EC countries who are considering similar legislation.

The Canadian CITES office is presently considering several requests for the importation of App.I species for breeding purposes but since no official stud books i.e. consortiums exist within Canada for these species, there are many delays to ensure the birds are not going to end up as pets. The Fish and Wildlife Office must also ensure that these birds will be properly taken care of. Thus if a Canadian aviculturist wants to continue to buy wild caught birds or imported captive bred birds (such as Military Macaws from the USA which are presently selling for about $1,000 Can.) it is imperative that they become accredited and join consortiums.

Accreditation

Accreditation is the establishment and maintenance of professional standards. It is achieved through the qualitative evaluation of individual operations with regard to those standards. The standards are selected by avicultural professionals, rather than by requirements imposed by some outside force thus is practical and realistic.

This program will offer to aviculturists the most effective vehicle possible for the improvement of their facilities. Aviculture is a field with rapidly changing technology which requires participants to continually upgrade their procedures.

The accreditation program does not presume to identify the level of achievement beyond that of the established minimum.

Administration

Individuals who pass accreditation would become members of the “Professional Bird Breeders of Canada” (PBBC).

The voluntary facilities accreditation program (VFA Program) would be administered by the PBBC with inspections by an avian veterinarian and/or zoo professional. The VFA program enables participating aviaries to bring their facilities into conformance with a detailed set of standards in all areas of an avicultural operation and thus achieve accredited status from PBBC. The standards for the program will be developed by a committee and will reflect the cooperation and input of aviculturists, avian veterinarians, zoo professionals and conservationists. The VFA committee is charged with administering the program, and monitors it continuously to assure that it accurately reflects the changing needs of the aviculture and advances in bird care.

The qualifications of each candidate for accreditation shall be evaluated by the VFA committee. All members of PBBC must be accredited by the VFA committee within one year of joining PBBC.

The VFA committee and the PBBC have no intention whatever to determine which aviaries shall or shall not engage in captive breeding; the program is not intended to be an enforcement program. That an aviary is not accredited does not indicate that the facility is not designed or operated properly, only that the aviculturist has not fulfilled the requirements for accreditation, or has not applied for admission to PBBC.

Any aviculturist who is presently breeding or an individual who would like to breed birds may apply.

The VFA program is conducted in confidence. Individual facilities may advertize that they are accredited and the PPBC may respond to inquiries requesting verification of accreditation.

Reevaluation of accredited breeders may occur periodically, when standards change significantly and at least once every three years.

These welfare codes are intended to encourage aviculturists to adopt the highest standards of husbandry and provide recognition for this. They will advance cage bird quality, promote humane care and the conservation of rare birds, increase sales through customer confidence and improve bird health.

The recommendations are designed to help those who are inexperienced to attain a degree of training to further develop awareness of welfare requirements. PBBC members are available to offer assistance and consultation to other aviculturists.

Charter applicants to PBBC must have been breeding for at least two years and have had breeding success.

Lobbying

Lobbying statements may be released by PPBC, such as:

Whereas habitat loss is the greatest threat to wildlife around the world, and that wildlife trade gives intact habitat an additional value for the resource that it supports, PBBC therefore is resolved to improve the trade of wild caught parrots to sustainable levels.
Whereas Australia has a pest problem with its native cockatoos, and inhumane smuggling of these birds now occurs, the PBBC supports the controlled humane export of quarantined cockatoos to western markets.

Whereas Zoos do not have the resources to keep and breed all the species of parrots presently considered rare PBBC recognizes the role of all private individuals, pet owner and breeder in the captive breeding for conservation of these birds.

Whereas animal rights activists in various protectionist organizations would like to stop the trade and keeping of birds and these groups use false, sensational and misleading information, leaving out important facts, PBBC will counteract this by lobbying governments with the correct information.

Certification of Aviculturists Using Standards

To raise the professional standards and improve the practice of bird care and management within aviculture, by giving special recognition to those aviculturists who by conforming to stringent standards of aviary design and operation, demonstrate successful captive breeding of exotic avian species.

These standards are to improve avian health and husbandry practices; e.g. the basic requirements for the welfare of the birds are a husbandry system appropriate to the health and, so far as practicable, their behavioral needs.

Descriptions of aviary and cage layout, feeding systems, waste management etc.).

Minimim Standards

Basic minimum professional standards or codes of recommendations for captive exotic birds…

  • comfort and shelter; indoor housing for the animals is adequately ventilated with fresh air either by means of windows, doors, vents or ducts so as to minimize drafts, odors, and moisture condensation; temperature in the bird area is maintained at a relatively constant temperature with seasonal changes at between 10°C and 30°C.
  • readily accessible fresh water and a diet to maintain the birds in full health and vigour; water is completely changed at least once every day; automatic-waterers (if applicable) are checked regularly for proper function; birds should have easy access to adequate, nutritious, and hygienic feed each day; all feeding bowls and containers are mounted to minimize fecal contamination.
  • lighting to enable the birds to be inspected at anytime.
  • proper environmental conditions through effective use of ventilation, heating and cooling systems.
  • freedom of movement.
  • cages/perches which potentially neither harm the birds, nor cause undue strain; cage door latches are secure and resistant to accidental opening; cages should be completely cleanable.
  • the prevention, or rapid diagnosis and treatment of injury and disease; the medical program for the birds must be under the direction of a specialized avian veterinarian.
  • premises, feeding containers and cages should be regularly cleansed; thorough disinfection should be carried out at appropriate times and especially when changing birds.
  • indoor flights should have floors constructed of a cleanable surface such as cement, tiles, linoleum or water proof paint.
  • double door/safety aisle system to minimize the chance of birds escaping.
  • emergency arrangements to cover the disruption of power or breakdown of essential mechanical equipment; a well stocked first aid kit is available along with a relevant reference text on emergency procedures.
  • fire extinguishers are the ABC type (all purpose), are charged, are large enough and are located near at least two doors so they can be easily reached as one enters the room.
  • smoke detectors are located throughout the facility.

Welfare Considerations

The welfare of the birds can be safeguarded and their physiological and behavioral needs met under a variety of management systems. The number and type of birds kept should depend on the suitability of the facility and the skills of the aviculturist. The size of the colony should not be increased unless it is reasonably certain that the aviculturist will be able to safeguard the welfare of the individual bird. The aviculturist should know the normal behaviour and signs which indicate good health of each species i.e. important indications of health are alertness, clear bright eyes, good posture, vigorous movements if unduly disturbed, active feeding and drinking, and clean and healthy skin, shanks and feed.

He should watch closely for signs of distress or disease and where necessary, take prompt remedial action.

The type and arrangement of cages should allow for efficient working and minimize disturbance between pairs. Suspended cages which do not allow droppings to fall on other birds or in food bowls. Materials used in construction of cages should have sufficient fire and rot resistance e.g. metal frames are better than ones made of wood. Floors, walls and ceilings should be clean and free of cobwebs and in good repair.

There may be an interruption in the availability of feeding stuffs and adequate stocks of feed should be kept on hand, rather than having to rely on last minute purchases.

Ventilation rates and house conditions should at all times be adequate to provide sufficient fresh air for the birds. Ducts which produce a downdraft effect with stale air being exhausted rather than recirculated are better. Accumulations of ammonia, carbon dioxide and dust should be avoided. Overheating under warming weather conditions should be foreseen and a cooling system such as by misting or air conditioning should be in place.

All equipment including feed hoppers, drinkers, ventilating fans, heating and lighting units, fire extinguishers and alarm systems should be cleaned and inspected regularly and kept in good working order.
Within the present limits of scientific knowledge it is not possible to relate cage sizes to welfare in any simple manner. Many other aspects of the situation play a role especially the species, colony size, temperature, ventilation, lighting and quality of housing. Thus minimum cage size dimensions will not be set for the time being. Perhaps recommended cage volume for birds that are not removed from their cages, like pet birds, could be set.

The administration of antibiotics, vaccinations and other injections, surgical sexing and other medical procedures should only be undertaken by a specialized avian veterinarian.

Transportation of birds – birds should be shipped in durable, well ventilated containers and be protected from excessively hot or cold conditions.

The breeder should poses applicable licenses such as retail sales permit (vendors) if such sales are made or other city or provincial licenses if required.

Facility sanitation and safety – work areas, including food preparation areas should be clean, safe and attractive with proper illumination; food storage bins are covered, vermin-proof and properly marked; garbage area and waste containers free of accumulated residue and lined properly with appropriate plastic liners; chemicals such as disinfectants kept separately and clearly marked.

Records and Breeding Consortiums

A record-keeping system is recommended for all species especially those listed on CITES Appendix I and the breeder should help form consortiums for these rarer species. If possible other breeders should be offered offspring first, before babies are sold as pet stock (although some of these pet birds do eventually end up in breeding situations). For effective maintenance of the genetic diversity of pure species no member of PPBC may hybridize and a priority is to set up stud books which record band numbers of all offspring matched with the identity of the parent stock. The Avian Preservation Program of the AAC should be the body which receives the band numbers and would handel inquiries concerning the pairing up of these captive bred birds.

The keeping of accurate records includes; band and micro-chip numbers with history of bird, both medical e.g. sexing info. & vaccination dates and reproductive e.g. pairing attempts, mates, egg production & babies; records on the whole colony should include inventory presently kept e.g. number of mature and immature pairs, unpaired birds, list of all birds that have died and the cause.

Membership is required in the Avicultural Advancement Council of Canada and is recommended in the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. The members are expected to make donations to these groups based on their gross income from breeding.

The result of these standards, consortiums, and conservation funding is to increase the quality of offspring and the productivity of breeding pairs, improve welfare, aid in the conservation of these birds, expedite international exchange of captive bred birds and make aviculture a recognized profession.