I came into the hobby of bird keeping in 2001at the age of 31 , so you could say I'm a relative newcomer to the hobby.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated with birds and always longed to keep some of my own, so in January 2001 I decided to convert my small 7’x5’ shed into my first birdroom. I always wanted to keep British Finches; in particular the Bullfinch as it has always been my favourite bird. As I researched information on keeping British Birds I discovered that the Bullfinch was probably not the ideal bird for a novice to start with…. so, after plenty of reading, I opted for the Greenfinch. I purchased two pairs of Greenfinches, from a bird show in March 2001 and eagerly waited for the breeding season to start. I was delighted to discover that both pairs went to nest and between them (in two rounds) laid a total of thirteen eggs. They all hatched successfully but, through my inexperience, I lost every chick to the common condition in British birds, “Going Light”…. I was devastated! 2002, 2003 and 2004 did give me some success with my Greenfinches and I also acquired some Heck’s Grassfinch and Bengalese along the way so I decided to build a bigger birdroom.
The size of my garden, and my wallet, dictated the size of my new birdroom so I opted to purchase a new shed that measured 8’x8’.It was then that I really started to plan and research on how to layout my new birdroom. Obviously, I took advice and ideas from bird keeping friends but the biggest help came from the Internet. Typing “birdroom” into the Google Search Engine returned many results including several for two particular websites, Steve Nesbitt’s (www.snaviaries.co.uk) and Rob Salem’s (www.javafinch.com). As many people know, these two great websites are dedicated to keeping and breeding Java Sparrow’s. As I revisited these sites on a regular basis I became increasingly interested in the species these guys were keeping.
I’d been aware of the Java Sparrow for years and had absolutely no ambition to keeping any. But the more and more I researched; the more and more I became interested in them. On Steve Nesbitt’s website he had a “Java News” page that he would update regularly. This documented what was going on in his birdroom throughout the year. He updated this page on a weekly basis and I was always keen to “log on” and see what was going on. I made the decision to switch species at the start of last year (2005). A friend was looking after my Greenfinches as I had sold my old shed and was spending several months constructing my new birdroom. I decided to let him keep the Greenfinches on the understanding he would give me a couple of pairs in the future, should I wish to return to British Birds.
I contacted Steve Nesbitt via email through his website and after a few more emails and phone calls I arranged a trip from my home in Lichfield to Steve’s home in Grantham. It was great to meet him, and to visit his aviaries “in the flesh” after seeing them on the computer screen for so long. I spent a couple of hours with Steve and he willingly shared his knowledge on keeping Java Sparrow’s and gave me plenty of advice on breeding them. I left with a pair of stunning Normal ’s and from then on I was completely hooked. I also visited another Java Sparrow breeder, whose name is synonymous with the species, Tony Gladwin (Java Sparrow Society UKChairman) and purchased birds from him too. Again, like Steve, Tony was very helpful and freely shared his husbandry methods and techniques with me. I now keep three colours of Java Sparrow’s… Normal , Fawn and Silver but I ‘d have to say, the Normal is my favourite.
At the end of last year (2005) I decided to create a new website dedicated to the Java Sparrow. As far as I was aware there was, at that point, only two websites in the UK dedicated to the species (with exception to the JSSUK website). I came to the conclusion that there was more than enough room on the World Wide Web for another website devoted to this wonderful bird. I spent the best part of three months writing and designing my site and spent many hours trying to figure out how to use the relevant web design software. Finally, after several weeks and many late nights, I was at a point where I had enough information written to upload to the Internet. I published my website ( www.sjdjavas.co.uk & www.javasparrow.co.uk) on March 11 th and it’s already achieved over 2500 hits from countries such as USA, Israel, Portugal, Canada, Belgium, Malta, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Korea, India…to name but a few. On my website I have a “My Java Diary” page (based on Steve Nesbitt’s idea of publishing regular new from my birdroom) which I update every few days. It details what is going on inside my birdroom and illustrates the ups and downs of my breeding programme. According to my web statistics, this is proving to be a popular page and is the most visited feature on my website.
My website is still in its infancy and I’m already working on ways to improve it. Although, I don’t think it looks too bad for a first attempt.
So what does the Java Sparrow have to offer?
Well, if someone asks you what a Java Sparrow looks like you would say, “Finch type bird, grey with a black and white head and a red beak”… doesn’t sound very interesting does it??? But seeing the Java Sparrow up close will often evoke comments on how beautiful these birds are. When these birds are in condition their plumage and general appearance is spectacular. They are a very hardy bird, that are easy to cater for, easy to accommodate and generally easy to breed. They currently do not hold the recognition they deserve and, although an easy bird, don’t have the popularity of the Zebra or Bengalese finch. I have kept Bengalese up until early this year but, as brilliant as they are, I don’t think they posses the character and quirkiness of the Java Sparrow. Some keepers enjoy the challenge of the “difficult” species of bird which I’m sure is rewarding but, for me, the Java Sparrow is the most rewarding bird I have ever kept.
But I really have to pay homage to the Internet for making me aware of this wonderful bird and the Java Sparrow Society UK (of which I am now a committee member). I think people underestimate the power of the World Wide Web; it really does make the world accessible to everyone. Once you have built and published a website, the world is your oyster…. so they say!! I once read an article by Steve Nesbitt called “Internet Super Flyway” in which he closed the article by saying, once your website is live “Sit back and wait for the world to knock at your door!” This statement sums it up perfectly; within 24 hours of my site going live I got emails from America and Italy both complimenting me on my website. The thought of people around the world taking an interest in what goes on in my 8’x8’ shed in my back garden will never cease to “blow my mind”.
Plans for the future?
At some point in the future I would like to get a couple of pairs of the close relative to the Java Sparrow…. the Timor Sparrow. They are a lot more challenging than the Java and I know several people who have had little or no success with them. As the JSSUK has taken the Timor Sparrow under it’s wing, it would be great to help increase the numbers of Timor ’s bred in captivity. I’m also hoping to get a couple of pairs of the elusive Agate Java Sparrow that a few of the society committee members are breeding at the moment. The Agate is, without doubt, the rarest of all the Java colours and mutations and there is only a very small amount known to be in the UK . So eventually I’d like assist in establishing the colour as a more accessible Java for people to obtain.
With my website and Society commitments I hope that I can play a part in helping to raise the profile of the Java Sparrow in aviculture and, at some point in the future, maybe the Timor Sparrow too! In the meantime I plan to develop my website and add new features to it to encourage people to revisit time and time again.
If I can inspire just one person to take on the Java Sparrow as a result of visiting my website, then I’d consider my website to be a complete success. I would recommend anyone to get a couple of pairs of Java Sparrow’s, and I will guarantee they will repay you tenfold. You never know, you may even catch the highly infectious “Java Sparrow Bug!”.
© Stuart Drury 2006 www.sjdjavas.co.uk