Greater Vasa Parrot Breeding Survey

Dave Blynn


This article presents anecdotal information
on the known successful
breedings of the special Greater Vasa
Parrot, Coracopsis vasa. My knowledge
of these events is limited and
the numbers too few to consider this a
definitive study of their habits in captivity.
I do hope that this information
will encourage others to experiment
with this unusual species so that we
can preserve the bloodlines now
existing within North America.
Unique Characteristics
Greater Vasa Parrots are unique
birds, differing greatly from most other
parrot species. They have long limbs
(Silva), unlike any other living species,
except for the Lesser Vasa Parrot, Coracopsis
nigra. Cloacas extend in both
females and males during breeding
season. The skin of both sexes turns
yellow-orange when in breeding condition.
The females' beaks grow wider
and they also lose their head feathers.
Females probably will breed with
more than one male, if available. They
also develop a pouch under the lower
mandible which fills with a clear fluid
when feeding young. Their eggs hatch
in 17 days and the babies' eyes open
in eight days. If conditions are ideal,
they will fledge in seven weeks.
Unfortunately, they are also marked
by some not-so-unique problems.
Their primary home range, Madagascar,
is rapidly being deforested and
shortly there will be no place for them
to survive. Four or five hundred were
imported into the U.S.A. in 1984/85
and, probably, 200 or less are still
alive. Only a few dedicated aviculturists
are interested in these birds. They
are not very attractive to the eye and
there is little or no commercial market
for them as pets. Additional importation
is unlikely, due to their low desirability,
our new federal law and the
difficulty of exporting from Madagascar. 

Limited Time
for Success
Thirty-three babies have hatched in
the USA since 1988, 18 of those from
one pair. The imported adult birds
now in the USA must all be at least
nine years old or older. While that
may be old in the wild, one lived in
captivity for 52 years. We should have
at least another five to ten years to
learn how to breed the Greater Vasa
Parrot consistently if we want to save
the bloodlines now residing here. Certainly,
all of these imported birds are
mature enough to reproduce. Domestically
raised babies have shown
breeding characteristics at three years
of age, although none have yet reproduced
in the USA.
Breeding Table
I have compiled a table of breedings
showing some characteristics of the
successful events. While the table
strongly suggests what we have to do,
please remember that I do not have
information on all the unsuccessful
breeding attempts. It is possible that
most of the Greater Vasa Parrots , successful
and unsuccessful, are set up in
most common breeding conditions
shown in the table. If true, that would
invalidate the conclusions I draw from
the information in the table.
Breeding Table
All but one pair were fed a general
parrot diet of seeds, fruits and vegetables.
One pair was fed a pelleted diet
and fruits and vegetables. Nest boxes
reportedly ranged in size from a 15" x
15" to a 16" x 24" base, with heights
from 24" to 36". "Large cage(s)" are at
least 4' x 4' x 8' in size. "Outdoor
cage(s)" were either all outdoor or
combined indoor/outdoor cages.
"Others nearby" refers to other Great
or Lesser Vasa Parrots within sight or
hearing distance. "Years bred" shows
a single year, inclusive years, or first
year (further success being unknown).

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