The Avicultural Society produced its first 'registers' in the 40s. Following the Second World War, with food shortages and no importation, most exotic species had disappeared from UK aviculture. Exceptions to this general lack were Pheasants, Waterfowl and Parakeets, of which small stocks in a surprising number of species had persisted against all odds.

The Avicultural Society undertook a census of these three groups and was able to identify solitary birds and pair them up, doing much to keep stocks going in the difficult post-war years.

A quarter of a century later, UK aviculture faced the twin problems of the anti-birdkeeping lobby failing to believe that birds could be bred in captivity and the threatened cessation of wild-caught, imported birds.

To address both these issues, the first Register of Birds Bred in the UK was published for the 1973 breeding season. That year 312 forms were recorded bred, ostensibly by Avicultural Society members, although several public collections also contributed.

The register ran for a decade or so, until the newly formed Foreign Bird Federation took on the responsibility.

Comparison of the 1973 register with that for 2009 shows both gains and losses in UK aviculture. For example, the Red Hooded Siskin was not recorded in the former year, and was regarded as a rare bird, known largely to New Colour Canary fanciers who paid high prices for single males to cross with their stock; respondents to the 2009 register bred 95 between them, suggesting that this species is becoming established.

Another seedeating species that bears comparison between the years is the Cutthroat Finch, with 8 birds recorded in 1973 [when wild-caught birds were available at two pounds a pair], and 485 in 2009. The increase reflects the greater interest in the species stimulated by mutations becoming available, with a concerted effort to propagate what used to be a 'common seedeater', kept in crowded mixed collections with little effort to breed it.

A great advance over the years is seen with the Turacos. Three forms [I refer to 'forms' to acknowledge that some birds are included at subspecific level] were recorded in 1973, and fifteen in 2009. This reflects the advances in sexing monomorphic species, allied to the effort made by specialist breeders of these magnificent aviary subjects.

A major difference between the 21st century registers and those early ones is that we no longer reveal who bred what, or the addresses of contributors.

A drawback of all these registers over the years, is that they give a rather 'skewed' picture of what is being bred, dependent on who contributes. For example, only ten Reeves' Pheasants are listed for 2009, although enough are being produced for them to be turned out on shooting estates to supplement the Common Pheasant stocks. Conversely, the three Spangled Cotingas represent a noteworthy achievement by anybody's standards, and must be the total UK production for the year. None of the birds that are bred on a semi-commercial scale [pheasants, waterfowl, parrots and raptors] are recorded in anything like realistic numbers. On the other hand, the wonderful results recorded for turacos and foreign seedeaters - thanks to the efforts of the respective specialist societies - are probably fairly representative.

The register of birds bred in 2007 - 2010 is now available here. Costs preclude printing and sending out copies to all contributors as in previous years, but copies can be printed for contributors who ask - please contact Breeding Registrar Philip Schofield, Little Maen, Prince of Wales Road, Dorchester, DT1 1QE.

Avicultural Society members (only) are invited to submit details of foreign birds bred in 2011 form. Please print the form and return by post or e-mail it to p.schofield@dorsetcc.gov.uk. As previously, breeders' contact details will not be published.

The register of birds bred in 2006 - 2009 is available here.

The register of birds bred in 2005 - 2008 is available here.

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