Grandma and Grandpa Vos in November of 2001, two weeks before Grandpa passed away, after 29 happy, productive years in captivity."
A post to The Eclectus Connection as written by Susie Christian
It is with a heavy heart and tears of disbelief that I write this.
Grandpa passed away on December 5, 2001. Grandpa and Grandma.....I named them that
because they were so old and every bit as warm and friendly as the names
They were imported in 1972 by a businessman-owner named Gerald Schulman
for his immense breeding establishment in Southern California called
Birds Unlimited. He didn't have just one or two of everything....he had
lots of everything. He would send Dale Thompson overseas with a pocket
full of money and tell Dale to buy whatever it was he wanted at the time.
This was back when exotic birds could still be imported with no problem
Although wild caught, I am not sure about the path these Eclectus took to
get to Birds Unlimited, but when the business "folded", Dale Thompson
scraped all the money together he could put his hands on and bought the
very best breeding pairs of birds that were being sold. Of course Dale
cherry-picked his pairs. Because he worked so closely with the breeding
program there, he knew well what pairs produced the best. Grandma and
Grandpa and a few other Eclectus pairs were among the birds Dale bought.
Dale kept them in Canyon Country (L.A. high desert area) for
approximately the next 20 years. The Eclectus pairs gave him babies
without fail for that many years. In 1995 Dale brought what Eclectus he
had left, two wild caught Vos pair and an extra male to me here on the
All of the Eclectus from him had feathers that looked like they were
worn....especially the males.....like the green color had worn off the
tips of their feathers. This disappeared after their first moult. We
suspected that the poor feather quality was due to the dryness of the
upper desert because here, where the humidity is so high and we have lots
of fog all summer long, they never had that same look to their feathers
Dale made the comment when he brought me the birds that he was very
pleased they would be in such a lovely environment to live out their
days. Of course I was thrilled beyond belief to have them here. I had
nothing but infertile pairs here and Dale's birds were my start in real
Eclectus reproduction. I learned volumes from these two producing pair!
Last year in late October wild caught Ozzie, of Ozzie and Harriet died.
I sent him for a necropsy and he died of pneumonia. They also said he
was a bit thin and had poor muscle tone in his abdomen. They told me he
basically died of old age and had nothing contagious. I was able to
replace him with another male Vos for Harriet. Martin is a bit plucked
but a big sweet mellow guy. Harriet started misfiring a few years ago
anyhow and she would lay maybe two clutches a year and most of the time
infertile even when Ozzie was alive.
She and Martin get along and I hear him making his wooing sounds for her
but I don't think he breeds her. She hangs out in the nest most of the
time but she hasn't laid in over six months. I am sure her advanced age
is telling on her. At least she has a friend she gets along with. I
think that is so important for Eclectus to have a friend.
The other old boy, wild caught Vos, Karl-Heinz is still doing very well
and he is with Gypsy. Their eggs have always been infertile but they are
one of my champion foster parents for other birds eggs. Gypsy is 14
years old and just as sweet as sugar no matter what time of her hormonal
month it is. She was a pet for about 6 years and still thinks she is.
She has never bitten me or even close to it and always tries to sneak out
the door at feeding time to say hello and cuddle. Karl-Heinz is also
from that old wild caught bunch from 1972. He really loves his babies
and is so thrilled when I put a fertile egg in the nest for Gypsy and it
hatches. He actually goes all the way in the nest to feed the baby
himself when Gypsy is out eating her own meals.
I do have one more wild caught male, Wilshire and I think his mate
Beverly is also but I am not sure about her. I don't know much about
Wilshire but he was owned by a lady who raised a lot of Eclectus in the
seventies and he came to this country back then. He and Beverly have an
occasional fertile egg but the babies mostly die in the shell. They did
raise one fantastic hen Vos baby of their own a year ago and the girl was
a big delight and a splendid bird. Now if they could just remember what
Grandma and Grandpa gave me a lot of babies and even raised an Umbrella
Cockatoo last year along with their own baby. The story is on my web
site - eclecsayanything
I am convinced it was a miracle. I will never forget how excited I was
when those little babies both hatched at once.
Dale used to say, about a Hoffman Conure breeding consortium he had put
together, that he made sure everyone had at least one producing pair of
the Conures. He said that when you are trying to breed birds and never
have any success, it is easy to lose interest. But when you see at least
one pair producing your enthusiasm level goes up and you get excited.
This is what he did for me by bringing me his Eclectus pairs. We both
knew they were on the down side of their lives and production, but I was
able to learn with them and get to experience what a wild caught pair of
Eclectus is like....their wild sounds and courtship routine......but
mostly just to love them.
A friend who is also a breeder and I had a discussion tonight and he said
soon he will be losing some of his parrot breeders to the cold as well.
He said the birds are always ill with something else....a low grade
infection of some sort....which they mask well and deal with as long as
the weather is pleasant. But when the temperature outside drops, as it
has been here in the last few weeks....it has been an unusually cold
winter here in California....birds who are compromised mildly, will go
straight downhill with the cold.
Grandpa was quiet and not himself on Monday so I brought him in the house
and put him in a warm brooder. He picked at his food on Monday night but
by Tuesday morning he was failing fast. He died before I could even call
When I saw him leaning against the side of the brooder I picked him up
and knew his time was short. I cuddled him to my chest with both arms
and he seemed to fit into the contour of my body until I could feel his
heart beating against mine. I thought at least that way I could know he
was still alive. He turned his head around and picked a small feather
from the top of his wing with his beak and it fluttered to the floor. I
think he was trying to tell me he was leaving a part of himself behind.
Within minutes he was gone and he seemed to melt into me as he went.
Jasper flew to my shoulder as Grandpa was going and wouldn't leave.
Jasper saw I was crying and I'll never know how they are so good with
their timing, but Jasper kept saying, "I'm sorry" and "Are you OK?" as he
tried to look in my mouth to see where that unfamiliar crying sound was
I held Grandpa much longer than I really needed to. Somehow a part of me
always thinks maybe by some fluke they will suddenly come to life again.
I took his quarantine band off and will treasure it forever, because I
may never see any more of those type bands again once all the wild caught
birds are dead.
To look at Grandpa he was the picture of health with perfect feathers,
clear eyes and although I didn't weigh him he was nice and plump.
Grandpa was sent to UC Davis for a necropsy because I always want to know
what causes a bird death. Especially because of his age, it will be
interesting to know what happened to him.
The worst part is going by Grandma's cage. She is in the nest box most
of the time but does come out to eat. I just wonder what she thinks
though, because they have been together and happy longer than most human
marriages last these days. I hope to find an older male Vos to put with
her for company. I don't care if she never has another baby, as long as
she has some company. I see they are more content with a friend in the
cage so they aren't all alone.
A little over two weeks ago I took some pictures of Grandma and Grandpa
just before I opened their nest box. I don't know why I did that other
than they were sitting there in front of the hole right before I opened
it and they looked so big, robust, healthy and breathtakingly beautiful.
I will ask Lisa my wonderful-web-person to make up a page on my web site
for Grandma and Grandpa soon and let you know when it is done. I will
also post necropsy findings here too, so we may all learn more about the
unpleasant part of keeping birds....but still very educational.