The Morning Ritual
By Doug Taylor
You would think Finch Mansion was being run by military generals the way
breakfast is executed every morning. But no, the precision involved is
based on how the many species of finch are adapting to their conditions
and me and how I am adapting to them and their needs. They like routines
and understand them well. Routines keep them calm and secure. They
become earnest and dependable breeders.
New parent raised, no live food (PR/NLF) species, including Red Wing
Pytilias and Yellow Wing Pytilias that have fledged this week, along with
successive fledglings from the Orange Cheeks, are contributing to overall
numbers, along with a few Australian species that are known and reliable
producers. Gray Singers have chicks, but I am not counting them until they
I owe some of the success on creating a hybrid flight/cage room where
there is freedom to build nests wherever the birds want. As it turns out,
both species of Pytilias chose existing bamboo nests in cages—just not the
ones they were originally assigned to. On the other hand, the Orange
Cheeks prefer to build their mini tumbleweed coco fiber balls and stack
them in piles in every corner of the room and other parts, yet to be
There are about a dozen cages that have their doors wired open, have nests
set up, and are left for the needs of any pairs choosing to use them, as was
the case with the Pytilias. In the instance with the Yellow Pytilias, a pair of
Zebras, with their chicks fledgling last week, used the nest next to theirs.
The 30″ cage has six nests and it’s possible other nests are being used.
But let’s get on with the routine that begins at 4:30 am for me, prepping
food for the day, and the first delivery of food, which occurs at 6:17 am, the
time the 2nd bank of lights, goes on in the first bird room.
Lights on are spaced one hour apart for each room. It gives me time to
deliver breakfast in one room and prepare for the next. Up to 60 plates of
food are prepared for each room.
It is critical to serve The Green Day Diet of fresh vegetables and fresh egg
food at lights on. There are always hatchlings and fledglings to be fed, and
for proper growth they must start each day with nutritious food and not be
stuffed with seeds.The order in which plates of food are served is always the same. This way,
all of the birds are patient, knowing when they will get theirs. The only
deviation from the routine is when there are hatchlings or fledglings and
those specific cages are served first. Not only do the parents depend on this
to feed their noisy babies–and are reinforced that they can continue doing
so on a daily basis–but the other birds know what the priority is. It also
lets them know that having babies results in an earlier feeding. There is no
mistaking what the sound of begging chicks is. You know and the other
You may think I’ve become a little obsessive over this, but I will tell you,
Success is in the details. Once the rooms have been fed there is time to
clean up and prepare for water, which is usually an hour and a half after
feeding. When eating soft food, some of the food does get stuck on beaks
and most of the birds use the water to wash it off, getting the water
muddied. The birds do wait until they get their fresh water to bathe. The
water is delivered at about 85 degrees, which most seem to like. If they
want it cooler, they wait. But usually by the time water delivery in a room is
completed, half of the birds have already bathed.
Bathing is an extremely important part of the daily grooming. And in
cooler weather, clean feathers insulate better. Just to show how much they
anticipate it, the birds get noisy at feeding time, but doubly so when their
water is being changed.
The final round of the bird rooms is to refresh seed. The birds usually go
directly to the refreshed seed cups as soon as you are finished with their
cage. It is for this reason I wait until last, as I want them to have a good,
nutritious breakfast, from the fresh soft food plate first. I have one
exception to this, which also reinforces how well they understand the
concept of a routine. The Strawberry finches prefer a smaller seed than the
white millet all of the birds get. I have made it a point to give them their
special seed when I give them their fresh water. Every day when I come
into the room with their water, there are one or two of the Strawberries
perched on the seed cup, waiting for their day’s refill.
The only other visit I might make in the morning is to bring in fresh piles of
coco fiber and a handful of feathers. Nest building is always on the agenda
for some of the free rangers in the hybrid flight/cage rooms.
I don’t linger in the rooms in the morning. Some birds prefer not to eat
until you leave. The same goes for bathing. They have their preening and
socializing as well, only in the company of birds. Leaving the birds alone to
do their thing is one of the better restraints for successful breeding.
My next visit to the rooms is in the afternoon to check on food levels for the
cages, with hatchlings and fledglings, as well as the colony cages. More
plates of food are brought in as needed.
I prefer to do cleaning and maintenance chores in the evening, usually
within the last couple of hours before lights off. The birds are most settled
at this time, their day’s activities complete, and less likely to be upset by the
intrusion and what it entails. This, too, is predictable and acceptable.
I think most people find their lives run more smoothly when they have a
daily routine. I know it works for me. And as you can see, my routine is
strictly for the birds.
Gulf Coast Finches