The history of captive management of Ground Parrots is sketchy, with
references going back to 1885 of breeding in Campsie NSW and various zoos
holding the birds (Lendon, 1979). H. Manfield of Adelaide Zoo and L.C.
Webber writing in Aviculturalist Magazine in the 1940s give the most
detailed husbandry. Manfield was describing the three birds the zoo held
while Webber observed the birds held by A.E.R Leer, a Sydney aviculturalist
(Manfield 1941). Webber also bemoans the lack of foresight by authorities in
not encouraging the actively breeding of this rare bird (Webber, 1948).
Webber described the birds as "very uninteresting.. in the aviary",
nocturnal in habits and having a preference for sunflower, canary and millet
seeds and green lucerne and thistle (Webber, 1948). The Adelaide Zoo birds
were also described as difficult to see and fed canary, pannicum, hemp and
sunflower seed, hulled oats and green thistle, and lettuce (Manfield, 1941).
There is no description of breeding with the Adelaide birds and limited
information on the Campsie pair. In the latter, nestlings were ignored by
the adults when reintroduced, but it is unclear whether or why they were
removed in the first place and whose nestlings they were. Hand feeding of
these nestlings was done with rolled oats, some cod-liver oil and arrowroot
biscuits moistened with milk and they were fed three times per day. They
apparently thrived on this mix but the milk was removed after one week as
they "were off-colour" and replaced with boiled water. The food was
delivered by placing in a small bowl placed in a larger one of hot water as
the chicks were reluctant to eat cold food. They were introduced to green
seeding grasses some time later (Hodges, 1961).
Housing of the chicks is not described but at six weeks they were placed in
a portable chicken coop placed on grass and were self feeding. They were
described as very tame and responded to calls. Some time after this, milk
was re-introduced to the diet and the birds refused to eat it and were dead
within three days (Webber, 1948). While the use of milk may seem the easy
culprit for the death of the juveniles due to lactose intolerance,
starvation and compromised development during rearing are equally as likely.
The apparently more successful attempt was that of Leer who housed a pair
"in an open top aviary with a lot of shrubbery and grass in it ..feeding and
watering done without disturbing the birds". The aviary must have been
effective as Leer never saw a nest but "found he had six birds instead of
two" (Lendon, 1979).
The Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service of NSW have records
of five Ground Parrots being held since 1994. Four of these birds were
recovered alive in the Clarence River mouth area during January/February
period of 1994, 2002 and 2005 and appeared to be dispersing sub-adults who
were underweight. All were released after being feed small seed mixes and
some grasses while being held in aviaries over a few weeks.
The fifth bird, (WIRES call number CN168720) came from the Malabar Headland
in Sydney in 2006 after being found injured from a possible feral animal