AN INTERVIEW WITH MR. ANGELO FUMAGALLI
BREEDER OF EUROPEAN & SIBERIAN GOLDFINCHES, BULL FINCHES, SISKINS, HAWFINCHES, PLUS A FEW OTHERS
Mr. Fumagalli's breeding facility is small but very unique. Each of his back yard aviaries measured approximately 2 – 3 feet wide, 4 – 5 feet deep and about 7 feet high and contained one pair each of the above mentioned birds. Most of his aviaries were adorned with green vegetation; including some kind of ivy growing all over the wire which gave the birds a sense of security and the feeling of being in a natural environment. He walked me through the breeding facility and at that time there were many pairs of birds sitting on eggs and some pairs even had babies. In the center of all the aviaries there was a luscious vegetable garden with plenty of dandelions, chicory, lettuce, spinach, radicchio, etc. I assume some of those vegetables were used to feed the birds?
Mr. Fumagalli is a Software Configuration Project Manager for Alcatel Telecom. He is also an enthusiastic, meticulous, and indeed an expert in European
bird breeding, especially the larger species of the European Goldfinches (Siberian) including mutations of Pastels, Brown, and Agate. He also breeds the Redpoll mutation, such as Agate and Isabel. Every year
Mr Fumagalli produces more than l00 European Finches. This hobby keeps him very busy, however, he enjoys exchanging ideas with other bird fanciers throughout the world.
Therefore, if anybody wants to communicate with Mr. Fumagalli, you may do so on the Internet at Mr. Fumagalli and I had a long, long conversation. I
asked him many questions, primarily on his method of feeding the various European Finches, including "What is your basic dry seed mixture that you feed all year round?" He replied, "I feed
Sunflower and niger seed. I think that these seeds are very important to keep the Carduelin, such as Goldfinches, Redpolls and others in good health. Sunflower seed and niger seed should be natural and not
sterilized in any way through heat processing methods." I immediately commented to Mr. Fumagalli, "Unfortunately the niger seed available in the USA is sterilized through a heat process and it will
not germinate. In my personal opinion, sterilized niger seed doesn't have any nutritional value. In the USA, we only have plenty of good large Sunflower. However, what you have available is very
small in size, and consequently Goldfinches and other birds are able to eat it." Mr. Fumagalli showed me gray striped small Sunflower about the size of a grain of rice. Mr. Fumagalli continued to say,
"Good seed should germinate at least 80% -- this is what I consider good nutrition for my birds." He further stated, "As for dry seed, I use two different mixes. One is the basic one which I
use all year round. It consists of the following: canary seed – 2,000gms, niger seed – 1,000gms, white lettuce – 250gms, black lettuce – 250gms, perilla seed – 250gms (perilla is
not available in the USA) rape seed – 250gms, hemp seed – 250gms, teazle seed 150gms (teazle is not available in the USA), chicory seed – 150gms, turnip seed – 150gms, white millet –
150gms, linseed-flax seed – 100gms. A certain amount of dry mix, (which is determined by the number of birds present in the aviary) is placed before the birds in a deep seed tray and nothing is added
until everything is consumed. (I do not allow my birds to waste any seed. They must eat 100% of the mixture. I learned that from you.)"
Mr. Fumagalli went on to say that he has another mix which he indicates as a conditioning dry mix. It contains 21 different seeds which consists of the
following: wild canary seed –3,000gms, niger seed – 2,100gms, canary seed – 900gms, white lettuce – 300gms, black lettuce – 300gms, perilla seed – 300gms, hemp seed- 300gms,
chicory – 300gms, turnip seeds – 300gms, linseed-flax seed – 300gms, small black sunflower – 300gms, carrot seeds – 300gms, onagre (Evening Primrose) – 200gms, tomato seeds
– 200gms, poppy seeds – 200gms, fennel seeds – 200gms, sesame – 200gms, thistle – 150gms, cardo, (teazle), white millet – 150gms, red millet – 150gms, tagetes flowers seeds
– l00gms, (Marigold).
I asked Mr. Fumagalli, "How exactly do you feed the two dry seed mixtures, the general as you put it and the conditioning, as you put
it?" He answered, "The general mix is before the birds at all times. The conditioning mix is offered daily all year round in small quantities in very deep containers to avoid spillage. I also offer
all year round the soak seed mixture which consists of four parts niger seed and one part hemp seed. They are soaked in water (I add to the soaking seed a small quantity of disinfectant solution. I prefer to
use quaternary-salts." (a l/2 teaspoon of bleach in a gallon of water will substitute the quaternary-salts). "The seeds are soaked for 24 hours; then I thoroughly wash and prepare one part soak seed
and one part of the conditioning seed mix and one part of a dry nestling food. Everything is mixed together and I offer a small amount of this mixture to all my birds." I asked him, "You mean
you feed this soak mixture all year round, and why would you mix dry seed to the soak seed?" "He replied, "Well, this will assure my birds more diverse selection of food."
Question: "Mr. Fumagalli what else do you feed your birds during the molt and during the non breeding season? His answer was,
"Practically what I stated before is fed all year round. However, during the molting season and also in the winter months, I offer all my birds ground sunflower seeds. I ground the black sunflower that
they make oil from. I offer a small amount of the ground sunflower to all my birds. One more thing, during the molting season I also offer slices of cucumbers and other vegetables and also seed in the milky
stage, such as sunflowers, dandelion head and other weeds. In the winter season, I also slice the cucumbers plus other vegetables, such as cabbage leaves and Brussels sprouts; however, only two times a week.
During the spring I also give them, when available, some chickweed, especially when they are in the seeding stage."
I asked him, "How much greens do you feed to your birds?" He replied, "I do not feed too much greens to my birds. In my opinion
overfeeding greens to any species of birds may cause intestinal problems, such as enteritis. Not all greens are good. I offer greens depending on the season and only in small amounts. As a green I also
use vegetable marrow (i.e. core of zucchini). (My thought – I know as a fact that throughout Italy many breeders don't use greens at all).
"Is there anything else you do for your birds, Mr. Fumagalli?" He replied, "Carduelin also need lots of protein; including chicken boiled
eggs and animal protein, such as: live mealworms and boiled fly worms." (Fly worms are those eggs laid by flies which eventually turn into maggots, usually found on dead carcasses. These are plentiful in Italy,
usually used for fishing bait or again to feed birds.)
"What method of feeding do you use to avoid mortality of youngsters?" He replied, "Many years ago in the beginning of my breeding
experience, I had lots of problems trying to supply my birds with a well balanced diet. Especially in the first four to six days of the youngsters' life. The problem was that some of the Goldfinch
females fed youngsters only using the animal proteins, such as: boiled fly worms and live meal worms. They would ignore the egg food and the germinated seeds. Other females feed their youngsters with only
germinated seeds. In both methods of feeding, many of the youngsters were dying within three or four days of hatching. They were dying with what appeared to be intestinal problems, i.e. diarrhea, inflammation,
digestion problems, etc.--. After so many disappointments and losses, I changed the method of feeding and also the food by introducing new recipes: semolina, pate,' and boiled seeds. At the same time I
also reduced the amount of animal proteins for the first five/six days. I also changed the fly worm boiling method. After the second week of hatching I replaced the boiled seed with the germinated seed. These
changes solved most of the feeding problems with the females and their youngsters. I never offer any greens to the feeding parents in the first week of life. I begin to feed a small amount of greens
starting from the 8th or 9th day of hatching of the youngsters, and continue through the molting season. Towards the end of the molt, I offer slices of cucumbers and vegetable leaves daily, as previously mentioned, as well as seeds in the milky stage, such as sunflowers, dandelions, chicory and seeding grasses. Another important tip to remember is that each cage and/or aviary should have a removable grill to avoid contamination and avoid spreading of diseases among the youngsters."
I asked Mr. Fumagalli, "Do you use canaries as a foster parent?" He answered, "Canary Hens may be suitable for incubating and fostering
European and Siberian Goldfinches. However, only in emergency cases do I use Canaries as foster parents. This is never my normal breeding method."
Mr. Fumagalli further explained, "Young Goldfinches raised by Canary Hens are less robust than the ones raised by their natural parents. Goldfinches
need much more protein and vitamins than Canaries. Goldfinches usually feed their youngsters with more nutritional foods than the Canary females. I want to add that there are many other reasons not to use Canary
foster parents for Goldfinches. For example, when the young Goldfinches are raised by their own parents the offspring receives from the Goldfinch parent the proper antibodies that assures them proper growth and
stronger resistance to diseases, etc. My personal experiences have indicated to me that male Goldfinches raised by Canary Hens when put to breed the next season with a female Goldfinch has a tendency to crush and
destroy the eggs and in many cases throw the young off the nest. This problem usually does not occur with youngsters raised by the Goldfinches. However, sometimes I do use Malinois (Water Slugger) Canary
Hens for fostering Siberian Goldfinches, either normal or mutation as well. I repeat, only in emergency cases. An emergency case would be if a female Goldfinch doesn't sit on eggs or she
doesn't properly take care of the youngsters or she was previously a bad breeder. It is necessary however to make the female Canary accustomed to accepting high protein content foods and also to accept animal
protein, such as meal worms and fly worms. These are very essential for the baby Goldfinches' growth and survival."
"Mr. Fumagalli, why Malinois Canary (Water Slugger) and not some other type, such as Razza Espanola or
Roller?" His answer was, "Malinois is a particular Canary species originated from Belgium in the Malines-Anvers Region. The
Malinois Canary has been in existence hundreds of years and it has been bred specifically for its fantastic song. These species of Canaries are very strong and robust. The female Malinois makes a good
foster parent. They feed the Goldfinches and raise them to maturity beautifully. However, other breeders in Italy use Carpodacus Mexicanus. In my opinion these birds are better for fostering more
delicate species, such as Chaffinches and Bull Finches. Oh yes, also in Italy many other breeders use a small Canary for foster parenting, such as Fife Fancy, Razza Espanola, Rollers, etc. These breeders also
achieve good breeding results."
Mr. Fumagalli, many breeders that I visited throughout Italy and Europe use medicine. "Do you use any medicine?" He answered, "I
think that a natural breeding method is the best way to go, which means, i.e., a good environment, good food and good management. By following these three simple steps, medicine is not usually necessary.
In most cases the Goldfinches' diseases are related to Coccidiose. This malady is present in the intestines of the birds. They infest themselves
through excretion, especially during the warm and humid months of the year. The best alternative to prevent Coccidiose and any other kind of bird disease is to implement a prevention method, such as using grills on
the bottom of the cages and keeping the grills meticulously clean, especially where the younger birds are housed. Young birds have a tendency to pick at their own excretion. I change the grills in my cages at
least twice a week.
Coccidiose is wide spread throughout Europe. In my personal experience no medication will eradicate completely Coccidiose. However, this malady is
sensitive to sulphamide products which may help to control Coccidiose and keep it at an acceptable level. In Belgium some breeders use a product called ESB3 mixed with Baytril, Furavet or other antibiotics all year
round. In my opinion, abusing antibiotics creates lots of problems, such as clear eggs, and youngsters that die in the shell. The youngsters that do survive are of poor quality and very weak.
I try to avoid using antibiotics whenever possible. However, if I do use Sulphamide products I do so only three or four times a
year for five to six days. I then supply a multi vitamin in the water for the next l0 days. Believe it or not, the majority of the breeders in Italy use products to combat Coccidiose once every month; even
more so during the molt from August to October. In my opinion, when you use excessive drug products to treat Coccidiose, the birds eventually become immune to the medication and also the health of the birds will
deteriorate. Therefore the best alternative is to select strong, healthy birds and implement a good breeding program. Use breeding stock bred in captivity which are less susceptible to Coccidiose. For your
information, in Italy, the market is saturated with all kinds of sulphur products. To name a few, ESB3, Baycox, Coccilin and Candiocidin. However Baycox is too strong of a product. It should be used only
for big problems. This product will kill all the intestinal micro-organisms, including the intestinal flora and will really deteriorate the health of the birds."
Here is Mr. Fumagalli's Semolina recipe: 4 tablespoons of wheat semolina, 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 egg, 1 glass of milk, water. Preparation:
Boil a small quantity of water and set aside. Combine the milk, the wheat semolina and the white part only of the egg (albumen) in a little pot for about 5 minutes. You have to mix continuously the semolina using a
wooden spoon and when it becomes dry you have to add a small quantity of the water you previously boiled. At the end of cooking, after 5 minutes, you take the pot off the stove, and add 1 teaspoon of honey and the
yolk of the egg to it. You can also add powder or liquid vitamins and proteins if you want. Put the semolina in a plastic container and when the semolina becomes cold and solid, transfer it to the refrigerator
(not in the freezer). You can maintain it in the refrigerator only for 2 or 3 days maximum. It is truly a treat for birds. The semolina is also a very digestible and secure food. I think that it is
one of the possible solutions in order to feed the young birds for the first days of their life without having digestion problems (remember, you have to change it 2 or 3 times a day). It may be also used for other
finches, such as Red Siskins, European Siskins, Redpolls, Canaries, etc.
Mr. Fumagalli's Eggs Pate' (Nestling Food) recipe is as follows: 1 boiled egg, 6 tablespoons of a good commercial dry egg pate' (Nestling
Food), a pinch of protein dust (like casein or others), and a pinch of vitamin dust. Preparation: I boil the egg (small one) for 10 minutes (l5 minutes maximum for a big one), then I remove the egg from
the water and I crush it completely, including the shell. I add it to the dry pate', protein dust, and vitamin dust. I mix it until I obtain a homogeneous product. It's better to prepare
the egg pate' daily, but you can prepare it in advance and keep it in the freezer and defrost what is needed daily. A fast defrosting method is to put the frozen pate' into a little plate and putting
the plate over a pot containing warm water.
Mr. Fumagalli's Boiled Fly Worms recipe: I buy live fly worms in a fish market and I prepare them myself. First of all, I wash the fly worms 3 times
in water. I boil water and then add the fly worms. After the water boils again I wait 2 minutes and then remove. Immediately I pour them into cold water in order to kill the remainder of the bacteria. After that I
dry them and put them in small plastic containers. The containers are inserted in a plastic bag and are placed in the freezer. You can defrost them as described above for the egg pate'.
In conclusion I would like to add that I enjoyed very much the chat with Mr. Fumagalli. I hope every reader will enjoy this lengthy article. Your
comments and suggestions are always appreciated.