Breeding Yellow-Bellied Tits

by Ray Sherlock
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The Yellow Bellied Tit (Parus venustulus) comes from China. It measures 4" long. They look very much like a Coal Tit (Parus ater). The cock has a glossy black head and throat whereas the hen is light gray with moustache stripes instead of a black bib.

Both sexes have 2 white wing stripes and 4 white spots on the back. Both birds when molted lost the bright yellow underparts and look very pale. I purchased my pair on 14-7-2000 from a bird dealer who had imported them from Belgium. They were in a sorry state, very dirty with missing feathers and unable to fly. The weather was hot and sunny but I didn't think they would survive in an outside aviary. I hand washed both birds and put them in a cage with a lamp for warmth. The following morning I put the pair in a 6ft X 3ft X 6ft aviary of there own. They had access to an indoor flight where food was put for them.

During the winter months I demolished my aviaries and began to build new ones. They were all built of timber on brick bases with concrete floors. The largest aviary measures 9ft X 8ft X 7ft high .It is clad with ?" twilweld mesh to deter mice. It is built between a shed and 2 Parrot aviaries and has a Perspex roof and back to allow as much light as possible. There is no shelter attached. The aviary is planted with Conifers, Hebes, Honeysuckle, Bamboo and some flowering plants. The pair were put in the aviary in March along with Rufous Bellied Niltavas and Pekin Robins. They have shown no aggression to any other birds. In the beginning of April two Tit boxes 5" X 5" X 9" high were put up both at 5ft high, both birds showed an interest but nest building didn't start until the 22nd.Soft hay and Canary nesting material were used. Feathers and coconut fiber were offered but not touched. Neither bird had roosted in a box, both birds slept in a conifer 3ft off the ground clearly visible from outside. They roosted outside all winter even through a couple of nights when the temperature dropped to -10c.

Food for the pair consisted of a good quality universal softbill mix, Ce-De parrot food, peanuts, sunflower seeds and fruit which was never eaten. The peanuts and sunflower had to be rationed as the birds buried and hid them all over the aviary. Mealworms were eaten but waxmoth larvae and greenfly were favorites. The pair now shared the aviary with a pair of Chinese painted Quail and a cock Diamond Dove, the Niltavas and Pekin Robins were removed. On the 24th of April the first egg was laid followed by 3 more. The hen spent very little time in the box and when I looked in it the eggs were covered up lightly with nesting material. A 5th egg was laid on the 30th but the hen didn't incubate them. I removed the eggs, 3 of which were broken on the 4th June. On the 6th of June another egg was laid followed by 5 more. This time the hen settled down to incubate after the 4th egg was laid. The eggs are white with red spots and blotches mainly at the blunt end. They measure roughly 1.6cm X 1.2cm.

The first two eggs hatched early morning on the 22nd 3 hatched the following morning and the last hatched on the 24th. On the 25th the youngest chick had disappeared. Chicks are born naked except for a small tuft of down on the head and back, they are dark skinned and blind. The chicks were fed on small maggots, which had been cleaned in a multi vitamin and calcium powder. Greenfly were also fed for the first 2 days.

For the first 3 days only the hen fed the chicks, the cock would enter the box only to have a look. He would only take food in if the hen were there to take it from him. The parents prepared Waxmoths by removing the head and some of the insides, some of it was eaten until it was the right size for feeding. Legs and wings were removed from flies and moths before feeding by the adult birds. On the 5th day both parents were feeding the chicks, one parent waiting until the other left the box. After feeding the chicks the parents would leave the box carrying a faecal sac, this was deposited on a perch by the cock or quite often eaten by the hen.

Day 5
The chicks' eyes opened and feathers were seen forming on the wings. The chicks were very vocal, calling every time a parent landed on the box. The birds were feeding mainly waxmoth larvae to the chicks, they ignored crickets, woodlice and earwigs. Mini mealworms were fed very rarely and maggots were now refused. Any insect flying into the aviary was chased and eaten.

Day 6
At 6 days old the chicks are feathering up well and are being fed constantly by both parents. They are now being fed almost exclusively on waxmoth larvae, everything except the occasional spider is ignored.

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