New Zealand, Tassie and Birdkeeping

By Paul Dick

What a beautiful place Tasmania is!!! A small Island paradise, at least that's what memories I have of this small Island at the bottom of Australia, when I think back about 30 years ago while living there. Although I lived in Tasmania for a number of years on and off through the 70's, last year was the first time I had returned there since then. Being only a young man when I first explored this Island State, everything at that stage was an exciting adventure; even the snow laden roads through winter were something to revel in.
Cold frosty mornings and frosty roads although treacherous to drive on were normal in this part of the country between Huonville and Hobart.

Life in New Zealand very much reminds me of some of those years spent in Tassie. Our visit to Hobart in May 2006 reminded me that the weather there is a little cooler than most places on mainland Australia !, and a light spattering of snow on Mount Wellington saw us reach for the warm clothes, something we had packed very little of when heading to Australia for our annual birdkeeping adventure.
For a moment we thought we had become lost in a time warp and were actually back in New Zealand...!! The lower parts of the South Island were I have spent the last 20 years, is in fact very similar to Tassie. The weather was even more unpredictable and probably a little cooler in many places. Not an ideal climate for keeping and breeding finches !! Larger birds like parrot species fare much better.


Paul in New Zealand Red Stars in Tassy


The old friends we were staying with, also bird lovers, had some feeding stations setup for native birds and most days we enjoyed a visit from a small group of Tasmanian Rosellas and a few Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. We also enjoyed seeing Red Breasted Robins flitting through the gardens on several occasions.
Perhaps one species both places have in common is flocks of Goldfinches. Although
I didn't see any in Tassie this visit, I remember them for previous times and these are also a common introduced bird seen all over New Zealand in good numbers.
We had only a short time in Tassie this visit and had previously arranged to meet up with Marcus Pollard to have a look at his birds and possibly a few other collections.  From articles and photos I had seen I knew how Finches were being kept.......In a similar manner to New Zealand. Fully enclosed aviaries being the preferred choice of specialist finch breeders. The weather factor dictating this to be necessary.

It was good to see some lovely large aviaries at Marcus's place as well as Allan and Tony Oliver, Don Coombes, with a quick trip up the East Coast to Malcolm and Sherry Graham's. The aviaries were exactly what I expected. I could have been looking at finch collections in New Zealand, the big difference being the variety and number of species. Just entering one of Marcus aviaries to try and photograph some of his Painted Firetails made me feel a little envious. The number of Star finches in another aviary also made me feel a little green. There was just so many and Marcus was having a very good breeding season with them. Gouldian finches were laid on and breeding well also. These were progeny from a few pair that Marcus's mate, Doug Hill had sent him some time ago.


Most impressive were the aviaries of Allan and Tony Oliver. They were very well constructed and many were quite large. Beautifully planted out, they housed an impressive collection of finches and Weavers. No more so that the Napoleon Weaver, which the Oliver's have done very well with. The males are very impressive with their black and gold colouring.


Taswegian Don Coombes welcomed us to his place and we spent a pleasant time inside his large aviary watching his birds and talking about his years of birdkeeping in Tasmania.

Malcolm and Sherry Graham also made us welcome as we looked over there setup and finches. We were even able to catch a glimpse of a Tasmanian Silvereye in the wild, which is quite different to mainland species.

Marcus also arranged to take us to a fellow breeder to see the unique Tasmanian Swift parrot. Beautiful small parrots that were breeding well in a colony system. A number of parrot species were kept by this breeder in a small yard with limited room.


The time went by just too quickly and it was time to head off on the next leg of our birdkeeping adventure. We hope to return to Tassie for another visit real soon and soak up the scenery, native birds and also check out some new bird collections.