A bird with a wild temperament.
Found in African countries, the Domino preserves in captivity all of its wild instinct, and does not admit the intervention of man.
Though lacking attractive colors and a melodious voice, the Domino draws attention because of its great reproduction capacity, and ts wild instinct. It belongs to the family of the Estrildinae, and the three most popular species of Domino in Brazil are the Spermestes bicolor, Spermestes cuculateus, and Amauresthes frimgilloides. All have similar behavior, and are easy to breed, if their characteristics are respected.
In nature, the Domino is found in countries such as Angola, Kenia, Senegal and Tanzania. In Brazil, however, it is found only in captivity, and has been bred for the last 10 years. With colors that go from brown to black on the back, and white chest, this bird received an interesting nickname in Brazil: Freirinha (little nun). That is because, with a little imagination, its back may remind us of a nun's habit. Its temperament, however, is far from being peaceful and fraternal; it is aggressive, and doesn't tolerate a lot of interventions in captivity. For bird lovers, this may be considered more a quality than a flaw, for it reflects a resistence to taming, almost as if the bird didn't want to lose its own instincts and roots.
This hostility may be proved in the fact that the Domino doesn't like to share its nest, and does not admit strange birds to integrate its group. If this isn't taken into consideration, it may be lethal for the other bird, considering that in captivity chances of flying away are small, and the Domino is brave and has a very powerful beak.
So, it is up to the breeder's common sense to form couples out of birds who have already lived together for some time, and place each in big cages (70cm long x 40cm high x 30cm wide). But the breeder may always count on the vivaciouness and breeding potential of this animal.
The differences among the sexes are almost non-existent, so, a breeder must wait for the mating season (all year long, but specially from April to October) to detect if his/her couple is formed by a male and a female. The breeder should observe if they caress each other, and if the mating "ritual" takes place. Raising feathers, emiting low sounds, and moving exotically around the female, almost like a dance, the male jumps over the female, who accepts him and cooperates in the sexual act. When this does not occur, the breeder must substitute one of the birds, because, even if it is a couple, the female may not accept that specific male.
Mating all year long, this bird has around 6 babies litters, and the incubation period is usually 13 or 14 dyas. Though it may have up to 4 litters a year, after the third, the Domino mistreats babies. For that reason, further mating is not recommended.
Preparation of nest, though easy, requires some care. A good way of doing it is buying a wood box and some grass in specializes stores. If this is set in a corner of the cage, it will be enough for the couple to build a nest.
The breeders usually fix this box to the cage bars, in a way that the entrance hole (3cm in diameter), faces the inside of the cage, and may give parents and babies free access to any of the "rooms."
Control of the litter must be done discretely, because interventions are not welcomed, and may lead parents to abandon nest. Besides, the couple itself is very dedicated, releasing breeder from excessive attention.
As for feeding, the Domino is a granivorous bird. Its "menu" is mainly birdseed, corn, millet, oat, and green vegetables like chicory. Diet must be varied, and a good option for variety may be coated rice and larvae. Nutrition should be complemented to supply necessary minerals. Egg and flour, plus egg shells are mandatory in the breeding period. A small bowl of sand can be set on a corner of the cage.
Nutrition of babies is not something to worry about, because parents do this job. When it is 10 days old, the baby is already lively and feathered. At 30 days old, it may be separated from parents, being fed same thing parents eat.
A Domino lives an average of 6 years, but this only happens when hygiene is well taken care of. Besides the daily cleaning of cage, and fresh food, breeder must prevent lice, which can deposit hundreds of eggs on birds' feathers. To avoid this, a solution should be prepared every three months, with 1 liter kerosene and 10% of any domestic liquid insecticide. This should be brushed on the tips of the perches. The Domino loves to bathe, and a basin in the cage will provide great pleasure.
The three Domino species have been mixed, with good results; it is a good solution to cases in which the breeder does not have pairs of the same species to mate.
In the case of the Amauresthes frimgilloides, it has been mixed with the Diamond Sparrow and Modesto, and also serves as a nursemaid for baby birds.
This article was based on information provided by breeder Francisco Ferreira Aparício.
Picture: Keiju Kobayashi
Owner: Francisco Aparício