Breeding My First Softbill




After acquiring my first softbills, a 'pair' of White Crested Laughing Thrushes, I became enchanted with their actions and character. I soon added a glossy starling and later some White-Shouldered Starlings. The White-Shouldered making an attempt to breed in 1998.


Having bred canaries and parrot type already I was yearning to breed a softbill. To this end, in the spring of 1999, I enquired with a friend, who was very successful with softbills , that should he have any pairs that were proven and surplus, I would be very interested. A few weeks later he telephoned me and offered me a pair of Indian (Common) Mynahs, which had previously had young in nest, in a communal aviary, but had failed to rear. The birds were soon on the way home.


The Indian Mynahs were housed in an aviary 30-ft by 14ft, with the mesh covered with a 50% shade net, a disused dog kennel elevated at one end served as a shelter. The aviary included a wildlife pond, various flowering plants inside, and four nest-boxes of various shapes and sizes. Initially they shared the Aviary with two Hill Mynahs and a 'pair' of Japanese Starlings.


By mid May, they were becoming obviously territorial, chasing the Hill Mynahs away from one end of the aviary. It was decided to allow sole occupancy of the aviary to the Indian Mynahs. A further nest-box was added, abutted to an existing nest-box. They ignored the new nest-box but immediately started filling the existing one with dead grasses etc.


By June 3rd, my curiosity got the better of me and an inspection confirmed that 3 eggs were in the nest-box. A further inspection on the 8th, determined that the full clutch was 4 eggs. Mealworms were made available for the expected hatch, but not consumed in great quantity. On June 17th, I was elated to hear squeaking from the box. A further inspection at a later date revealed that only the one egg was fertile. It was interesting to note that the parents were seen to carry fresh water leeches from the pond to the nest-box.


When the baby was 14 days old I decided to hand rear it. It needed force feeding for three days, but after that begged for food every couple hours. Softbill mix, cottage cheese and waxmoth larvae were used. By 28 days it would fly to my shoulder, and feed itself!


The parents obliged by commencing to lay their second clutch whilst their first baby was only three weeks old. From a clutch of five they hatched and reared one more baby. This being parent reared, left the nest at three weeks, and by four weeks only a trained eye could distinguish it from it's parents! By now it was the third week of August, but this didn't stop the parents making their third attempt at nesting in the same year.


Written by Chris Iles. 1999