Editor's note: I have enjoyed corresponding with Pascal over the Internet for some time now. His dedication to aviculture, in particular the Gouldian Finch is self-evident. English is his third language. Arab and French coming first. I hope you enjoy his story about how he keeps the Gouldian Finch in Lebanon.
2011 Update – Unfortunately Pascal’s website and email address is off-line. I am worried for him. If anyone knows of Pascal please email me. Thank you!
Gouldians in Lebanon: Ups and Downs
My name is Pascal, and some of you know me as Aviando, which is a nickname I acquired at college. I live in Lebanon and raise a multitude of small birds but my main focus is Gouldians. Although undeniably gorgeous, the classic green mutations did not satisfy my "Mendel" side that is why I breed all the other mutations like yellow, blue, pastel and silver, in all head and chest colors.
I was first introduced to Gouldians many years ago, when I was just a kid. Those birds were inexistent in Lebanon, you have to remember that we were at war then, and bird keeping was the least thing on peoples mind.
It all happened when one of my friends returned from a trip to Europe with 4 birds. He didn't know the first thing about them... nor did I.
A week or so after they were in Lebanon, one male got sick and died, followed by a female. Then the other couple started to get fluffy, and lethargic. This is when my friend gave them to me, as I am much more experienced in bird keeping than him. I nursed the birds back to health and a few months later I tried my first breeding attempts.
It took me 3 years to get the first babies, but it was worth it. I was so enthralled by their beauty, so I saved some money for about another year and had some mutations imported from Italy, and then things took off.
I had chosen Cage breeding because of the rigorous husbandry standard I follow. I mean with so many mutations, it is crucial for me to know who fathered whom and which hidden traits each bird carries. Outside the breeding season, my birds are housed in roomy cages, which I never overcrowd. But after seeing the masterpieces some of you house your birds in, I hardly can call mine Aviaries. They are large holding cages.
Due to our mild weather, the birds can breed in both late spring and early winter but this is very traumatic to them, as they would molt twice a year. That is why I breed mature birds in the winter season and the first timers in spring alongside some societies I set up just in case. I will not bring up the fostering issue but I have to say, I'd rather not foster.
The winter breeding season starts Late September and lasts till February. The temperatures range between 8C and 23C. I only provide extra warmth at night and only when the temperature is below 15. May is the start of the spring breeding cycle, and it is when I couple up the Gouldians, which are older than 12 month that had never bred before.
I do not expect much in the spring season, and I do not tire the birds too much, just a clutch or two. It is only training as I like to call it, and it is mainly to initiate them for the forthcoming winter cycle of the following year.
Nutrition wise, I mainly give my birds beside seeds, a bit of home-made egg food some millet sprays and always put in with them a cup of crushed eggshell and cuttlebone. I do not wait until the breeding season to supply the calcium because they need it throughout the year and the females would thus fortify their bone structure in anticipation of the draining egg-laying period.
I have to say that when I first started with breeding Gouldians I was so afraid to disturb them that I used to tip toe around the cages to feed them and then disappear for the whole day, my birds would only see me once a day and they grew distant and weary of me which was a huge disaster, because whenever I had to handle a bird or check a nest they would freak out!! And the cages being so close to each other did not help either, in a flash all the birds would be flying all over their cages banging to the wire and deserting their broods.
I had read a lot about how bad parents they are that I was so afraid to disturb them, but this is so wrong. Most of them are great parents, although they need time to master parenthood, usually a season or two.
Believe me, Gouldians are very devoted parents. I decided to change my approach, and spent more and more time around them, doing whatever I had to do, and this got them to accept my presence as part of their daily routine.
So now, I could be cleaning their cage while whistling a tune and most of them wouldn’t bulge. Some might leave the nest or stick their head out but never panic nor be afraid.
The only problem I face in Lebanon with Gouldian is the unpopularity of this bird. 95% of bird owners have canaries and the others have Zebras or Budgies. I relate this to two factors: one is the relative price of the bird, you can buy a white Yorkshire canary (the most popular bird here) for $100 while a pair of classic greens is $90. Naturally everybody would pitch in an extra 10 and buy the Canary.
Another reason is this following "vicious cycle" as I like to call it, expensive birds, leading to few owners, leading to less breeding attempts, leading to fewer birds on the market, leading to expensive birds. Which takes us to the beginning.
To my knowledge I am the only Lebanese person to have successfully bred Gouldians, I am still waiting to be stood corrected, because this would give me so much joy to have somebody to compete with, amiably of course.
I sell the green birds locally and the other mutations are shipped to Arab Countries where they are more appreciated.
Thank you all for reading this. Please write to me with your comments and questions.