Famous around the world, it brightens and decorates the place with its natural gifts.
The Peking Robin (Leiothrix lutea) has all the qualities that one looks for in a bird. It sings marvelously, it has beautiful plumage and doesn't cost much. As if this weren't enough, it gets along in cages, inside the house, or aviaries in the garden, and its care is easy.
It comes from countries such as China, Birmania, Himalaya and India, which explains its designation.
The strong singing, made by the repetition of short notes, is what the specialists call "laughing". The male sings a lot. The female gives short and less frequent trills. Both sing more when there is a mate close by, and they can't see it. For that reason, it is a good idea to have more than one in one place, but they should be isolated with lateral walls in the aviaries to prevent them to see each other.
The plumage is shiny, and depending on the variation to which the bird belongs, there are subtle changes in the original colors, which are: gray body, olive green chest, reddish yellow throat, black tail, reddish beak and wings slightly red. These alterations in colors also occur in males and females. Males present lively colors and masks that cover almost all head; females present lighter tones (specially the red in the faces) and smaller mask.
In nature, the Peking Robin inhabits the lower parts of mountain forests and woods. It makes the nest in the shape of a champagne glass, in the higher bushes, and covers it with lichen, moss, grass, and roots. It lives in small groups which move all the time searching for insects (the favorite menu of the species), seeds, fruit and vegetables.
The same agitation can be witnessed in captivity: the bird moves all the time, showing gaiety and a good disposition. It is also very resistant and can live through cold and hot weathers.
Breeding demands a lot of dedication. During this time they must be placed in aviaries built in a way that they resemble bird's habitat as much as possible.
Size: 15cm (adult), from tip of tail to tip of
Feeding: Onivorous, it eats everything. Give good and balanced bird food, fruit and vegetables. During breeding, offer them 15 larvae each (5 in the morning, 5 in early afternoon, and 5 at sundown).
Housing: Cage 70cm long, 30cm wide and 40cm high. For a couple, small aviary measuring at least 140 x 30 x 40cm. Do not put couples of different species in the same aviary. Mixed aviaries only when they are big enough (9x9x4m) and have lots of trees so birds can hide in case there is persecution.
Equipment: Both in cage or small aviary, two perches (10mm). Basin with water changed daily. Avoid leaving it at night. As they bathe frequently, they may sleep wet, which would lead to respiratory diseases, and even death.
Sexual Identification: Male sings more intensely, and has stronger colors.
Breeding: Starting at 10 months old, in spring, when there is an abundance of plants and insects to feed babies and build nests. It is troublesome because of the difficulties in distinguishing male from female. Try several times: put them two by two until you form a couple. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, which hatch in 12 to 14 days. Babies are independant at about 45 days old, when they should be separated from parents.
Special Care: 1) Build 3x1x2m aviaries. 2) Plant bushes that have lots of branches, and therefore protect birds; choose bushes that also grow fast and are easy to trim. If you prefer, get some artificial foliage, where the nest can be built on. That way, the female will feel safe. 3) Change water frequently. 4) Provide grass, grass roots and rough cotton material for nest building. 5) Put one couple per aviary; during this period they get aggressive, and eat each other's eggs.
Life Span: More than 10 years.
Family: Timallinae, which has 252 species.
For More Information: (011) 267-190, Reginaldo Leone
Reading Material: No specific bibliography.
We would like to thank the assistance of Reginaldo Leone,
importer of the species; Paulo Flecha, breeder, and Juvenal Ferreira Perestrelo,
president of the National Ornitological Center.
Research: Carmen Olivieri Text editor: Bernadette Siqueira Abrão
Picture: Fernando Torres de Andrade