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Post  FinchG on Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:55 am

Even the most peaceful finch is capable of displaying moderate irritation or self-assertiveness. This is normal and enhances the individual bird's ability to compete. Bird keepers routinely observe forms of aggression in many different situations: A sleeping bird that is disturbed by another individual may nip at the annoying intruder; a bird showing too much interest in a member of the opposite sex may be chastised by its mate; or a finch grabbing a prized piece of food may be chased until the item is released. Moderate displays of aggression are normal, but extreme or continuous aggression is a problem that usually results in stress or injury. Unfortunately, many aspects of captive life can spark and sustain extreme, aggressive behavior.

Common Forms of Aggression:
Individual finches, particularly those that do not adjust to the stress of captive life, may vent their frustrations on smaller, weaker birds that are easily intimidated. The victims may be forced away from favored perches or feed dishes, chased, pecked, plucked or attacked. Serious attacks to the head are common, resulting in feather loss and bleeding, which eventually may result in death. Less violent forms of aggression can also lead to the victim's death. If, for example, a small finch is constantly denied access to perches and feed dishes, stress and lack of food will ultimately damage the health of that bird. Aggression in cage birds is caused by the same factors that cause feather picking: small, overcrowded cages; noisy and disturbing cage locations; and frustrated breeding instincts. When birds establish their social hierarchy, the ones at the bottom of the social structure are forced to accept the least desirable perches, nests and food selections. If they venture into the territory of a dominant bird, they may be chased away. In a small or crowded cage, lower-ranked birds are forced to coexist in the dominant birds' space, which often leads to aggression. Act quickly if you observe signs of aggression. If a bird has been seriously attacked, remove it immediately. Treat cuts and bleeding as needed. Place the bird in a warm cage to recover, particularly if it shows signs of shock. Consult a veterinarian if the injury is serious. When the bird recovers, do not return it to the same cage without improving the environment. Begin by enlarging the enclosure or reducing the number of birds housed together. !f necessary, give less assertive birds a space to themselves, or place them in another cage with more compatible species.

Aggression During Breeding:
Aggression increases during the breeding season, when finches defend their nests and territories from intruders. In a small, mixed flight, a single pair of finches may claim the entire space as breeding territory, vigorously protecting it from the other inhabitants. Al! outsiders may be chased from food dishes or assaulted if they approach the selected nesting site. If you observe this, remove the birds under attack until the breeding pair has completed raising its young. The permanent solution is, of course, to provide a larger space so all pairs can stake out separate territories. This can be encouraged by using plants to break up the interior space of the enclosure, creating small units of space out of one large area. This will help each pair to claim its own distinct territory. If you intend to combine breeding pairs, use a large enclosure; avoid using cages at all, unless you are limiting your efforts to domesticated species such as zebra finches or societies.

Remember that some aggression during breeding season is natural. Birds must protect their nests and compete to find adequate food to successfully raise their babies. For example, my golden breasted waxbills, tiny and normally peaceful birds, challenge the larger birds in their flight when young are in the nest. If denied access to the mealworm dish by larger breeding birds (who want to consume all the worms for their own babies), the golden breasteds boldly sneak in, grab a worm and run off to a corner to eat it. A desire to raise young prompts the small birds to compete.
Aggression in Breeding Pairs:
Aggression related to the breeding cycle may also affect members of a mated pair. If one of the pair fails to fulfill its obligations properly or fails to display an interest in nesting, that bird may be badgered or attacked by its angry, impatient mate. In this case, the victim is most often the female. Being attacked makes the reluctant female even less interested in nesting, which, in turn, increases the frustration of the impatient male. In the wild, the female might simply be driven away or "divorced", but in a cage she cannot escape persecution by her angry mate. If you encounter this problem, check the health of the unwilling partner before making any adjustments. The reluctant mate may be resisting breeding because of illness. If you are certain the bird is healthy, a short separation may be all that is required to return harmony to the pair. Wild birds select their own mates, and both members of the pair simultaneously come into breeding condition because of seasonal changes that affect their hormone. In captivity, however, conditions may not encourage both birds to arrive in breeding condition at the same time. If you suspect this problem, consider increasing the length of daylight and enriching the diet prior to the breeding season. This should assist both members of a pair in simultaneously responding to the urge to reproduce. It is also possible for members of a pair to fail to form a strong pair-bond. Because most pairs of captive finches have not selected their own mates, sometimes two birds in such an "arranged marriage" fail to be compatible. Separate the birds and consider re-pairing them with different mates. If possible, permit your finches to select their own mates by allowing members within a group to pair off naturally. Even well-paired finches may display aggression toward their mates if problems occur during breeding. Avoid interfering, unless disagreements become serious; compatible mates can usually work things out.

Mixing Species:
Some finches are inherently more aggressive than others, so it is always important to read about the personality of new species before purchasing them to mix with your other birds. Be particularly wary of adding larger finches without researching their habits and behavior. Confined to a cage, small birds have no escape and can quickly become the victims of larger finches. Species that are reputed to be aggressive during the breeding season should be housed separately at that time. They should also be watched carefully during the rest of the year if they are mixed with other birds--in case they unexpectedly come into breeding condition. Ideally, aggressive breeders should be housed separately at all times to avert potential problems. Green singing finches, for example, have a reputation for becoming intolerant of other birds at breeding time. I have witnessed one shaft-tail being attacked by green singers. If the owner had not intervened, the shaft-tail would have been killed. Although the shaft-tail recovered from the attack, it never re-grew the feathers on its head where it had been repeatedly pecked by the green singers that had unexpectedly returned to breeding condition. In general, mixing different species of finches is most successful if the birds are about the same size so that larger birds are not tempted to bully their smaller companions. Avoid combining two pairs of the same species, because it usually results in direct competition. Introduce all the birds into the cage at the same time. This will prevent squabbles that occur when new birds are added to an established social group. Above all, don't crowd the birds. Many conflicts and breeding failures are caused by over-crowding. Because finches are such tiny birds, it is a natural temptation to house several pairs together in a small cage. It rarely works well. Avoid housing finches in cages less than 30 inches long, and avoid housing more than one pair of finches in a single cage. If you plan a mixed collection, construct your own flight to provide enough space to ensure the health and happiness of your avian friends.

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