Aviarylife "Words on Birds"

​​Stan Sindel - a gentleman and bird man of grand proportions

In the days after his recent passing on the 6th of October 2018 I read many wonderful tributes to the wonderful man that was Stan Sindel; a gentleman and bird man of grand proportions. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have gotten to know Stan prior to the onset of his long illness and still very fondly remember the times I spent at his house, discussing his life with birds and looking through his magnificent slide collection. I also cannot forget the beautiful hospitality of his wife, Jill, who was always most welcoming whenever I would visit. Stan was a most dedicated bird lover and breeder, who delighted in sharing his experiences and knowledge with all who wanted to listen and read; he certainly made a hugely positive difference to the world of aviculture and left an incredible mark on the world that will no doubt live on through his writing and be a source of inspiration to aviculturists around the Globe for many, many years to come.

Thank you Stan; the time you gave to me as a young bird lover will never be forgotten and forever be an inspiration.

In light of Stan's incredible contribution to aviculture, I felt it fitting to re-publish an article that I compiled with his help back in 2009, I hope that you all enjoy it.

Stan Sindel
“A Life with Birds”

Text by Simon Degenhard
Photos by Stan Sindel

“Growing up A keen young aviculturalist I was aware of the name Stan Sindel from an early age, his name was and still is synonymous with aviculture in Australia. Stan was, even before I had ever met him, someone I held in the utmost of high regard and among the top of my list of aviculturalist I wanted to meet. It was around 15 years ago that I first had the privilege of meeting Stan at one of the monthly meetings held by the Avicultural Society of New South Wales; after this meeting we shared many a conversation and I must say my respect and regard for Stan only grew from this point on. I consider myself very privileged to have had the chance to get to know Stan as a friend during this time and some 9 years ago I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down with him and recount his life with birds”.

Stan kept and bred birds for close to 70 years, starting out at the age of eight with a pair of pigeons. His mother gave him two shillings to buy them from a friend at school and from there things quickly progressed as he moved on to Budgies and then finches. Stan’s father was not a bird keeper, but he sometimes spent time trapping finches back in the day’s when this practice was the norm and as such both his parents were approving of his new found hobby. Stan’s Uncle (his mother’s brother) on the other hand was a keen bird man and the two of them soon formed a very strong bond. His uncle’s children weren’t interested in the birds, so he quickly took Stan under his wing and subsequently became somewhat of a second father figure to Stan throughout the rest of his life. He maintained some 30 to 40 aviaries in the early days and Stan spent countless hours helping out with the birds.

During this period finches were somewhat of a focus for Stan and he kept and bred most of the species that were available at the time, these included the Red-browed Firetail, Diamond Firetail, Plum-headed Finch, Crimson Finch, Masked Finch, Yellow-rumped Finch, Pictorella Finch, Spice Finch, Cut-throat Finch and Java Sparrow.

From these beginnings Stan quickly progressed further with the hobby and soon started concentrating on his main love, native parrots. His early attention was focused on the neophema family; these beautiful little grass parrots have always remained a favourite with Stan and he always enjoyed good success with this group of birds. It wasn’t long before Stan’s collection started to diversify with the inclusions of rarer native species like the Northern Rosella and Cloncurry Parrots, at the time these birds commanded rather high prices, being worth roughly as much as lutino Indian Ringnecks during the late 60’s to the early 70’s and proved to be a valuable inclusion. This early focus on native species continued throughout Stan’s avicultural journey.

Being always on the look out for interesting and rare species to add to his collection, Stan’s aviary complex and subsequently his bird numbers grew rapidly and it soon proved necessary to buy adjoining properties when they came on to the market to allow for further expansion. At its peak, Stan’s collection comprised of approximately 150 aviaries and some 500+ birds.

During the early 60’s Stan decided to give African lovebirds a go, starting with Peach-faced and then trying his hand at Masked and Nyassa Lovebirds. In these pre-mutation days the normal birds were still worth reasonable money and Stan did particularly well with these species. In the mid 60’s a lovebird breeder by the name of Mrs. Stony was surprised by the appearance of a colour mutation in the nest of one of her pairs of Peach-face’s, Stan was able to purchase this bird and it later proved to be a cinnamon-yellow mutation. It was the cause of great excitement for Stan and he subsequently established this mutation. It proved to be a very popular bird upon its release onto the market and due to this popularity Stan was able to use the proceeds he derived from this to continue to expand his already large collection of birds. Soon after the appearance of this mutation a grey-green Peach-face was bred in a South Australian collection, upon hearing about this breeding Stan quickly set about trying to acquire some. He consequently acquired some birds from this breeder and soon after set about combining the two mutations subsequently producing the mustard which is a secondary mutation. The next colour to appear was the blue mutation and this again came out of a collection in South Australia. Stan soon acquired some examples of this mutation and again set about combining it with both the cinnamon-yellow and the mustard. This resulted in the production of yet more new combinations and from there many more colours began to pop up over the next couple of decades. Stan considers his achievements with the breeding of lovebirds to have been one of his most rewarding successes.

It was also around this point in time that Stan started to increase the number of other foreign species he held in his collection and soon decided to try his hand at breeding macaws, primarily Blue and Golds but he also kept Scarlets as well. Macaws in general were very scarce in Australia at this time, but before too long Stan was lucky enough to be rewarded for his efforts with his first successful breeding of the Blue and Golds, this occurred in the mid-1960’s. After this first breeding Stan enjoyed regular success with this species, with one pair in particular proving to be very prolific, producing some 60+ chicks over a period of twenty to twenty five years. Stan tells me that his only disappointment with regards to the macaws is that he was never able to get them to parent rear their young and as a result all the chicks had to be pulled for hand rearing as soon as they hatched. Stan was also very successful with the breeding of African Greys during the same period, but again much to his dismay, it was necessary to take the chicks for hand rearing.

During the late 60’s to early 70’s Stan started working on assisting with the establishment of the lutino mutation of the Cockatiel in Australian aviaries. Stan proved to be very successful with this mutation and remarked to me that they were another bird that was very kind to him in those early days. From the early to mid 1970’s Stan also became involved in the re-establishment of the yellow mutation of the Turquoise Parrot; this mutation first appeared in 1961 and was initially established by Frank Parmenter of Sydney, NSW. After this initial establishment a mini boom followed, but for some reason, possibly due to appearance of numerous mutations in other species yellow Turqs became very scarce and by the early 1970’s were at risk of being lost to Australian aviculture. At this time Stan, along with a couple of other breeders decided to put in a concerted effort to re-establish them; yellow Turqs have remained very popular ever since.

Native cockatoos have always remained a special interest for Stan and to that end he has kept and bred all species, except for the Yellow-tail Black Cockatoo, which he only kept for a matter of weeks before moving them on due to their excessive noise, and as such they were never given the chance to breed. The only species he has never personally kept is the Palm Cockatoo, although Stan did play a part in the breeding success that was achieved by the late Bob Lynn in 1968; this breeding is regarded to be the world first fully parent reared breeding of the this species in captivity. Australian Lorikeets have been another long-time passion for Stan and he has successfully bred, to several generations, all seven species. He was also instrumental in developing the grey-green mutation in the four larger species.

Another interesting species that Stan kept and bred for many years was the Red-browed Fig Parrot. Another notable achievement was the granting of a permit to Stan by the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the legal collection and subsequent housing of a small number of Ground Parrots. Stan was able to keep this species for a couple of seasons for research purposes, though unfortunately they never bred. None the less Stan was the first person to successfully keep them for any length of time.

During the 1980’s Stan developed an interest in native softbills and was successful in keeping and breeding a number of species including Regent, Western and Satin Bowerbirds, Green Catbirds (hand reared), Apostlebirds, Oriole’s and Eastern Figbirds to name a few. Stan also tried his hand at breeding various native pigeon and dove species during the same period and was successful with most, if not all species he kept. These included species such as the Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Brown Pigeon, Spinifex Pigeon, Partridge Pigeon, Squatter Pigeon, White-quilled Rock Pigeon, Brush and Common Bronze-wing Pigeons, Wonga Pigeon, Green-winged Pigeon, White-headed Pigeon, Diamond Dove, Peaceful Dove and Bar-shouldered Dove.

Over the years Stan has kept approximately 126+ species of birds in total and of these he has been successful in breeding at least 112 of them; a number that would have to be very close to being a world record. He has kept all native parrot species bar 4, with these being the Night Parrot, Coxen’s Fig Parrot, Paradise Parrot and the Palm Cockatoo. Of the species he has kept, Stan was successful in breeding all except for 5, namely the Marshall’s Fig Parrot, Ground Parrot, Orange-bellied Parrot, Red-cheeked Parrot and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. There would only be a very small handful of aviculturalists that would even come close to having bred this number of species, so this is a truly remarkable achievement.

After years of breeding and research, Stan, with the help of long time aviculturalist and close friend Charlie Attard, discovered that due to its high fat content, along with the types of fat it contains, the feeding of plain Canary seed is very detrimental to the health of parrots. They found that the best dry seed with regards to nutritional value coupled with low fat content was French White Millet. From this point on, with the exception of the black cockatoos and some of the other larger parrot species that were primarily maintained on Grey-striped Sunflower, French White Millet was the only dry seed fed by both Stan and Charlie to their parrots. The birds also received sprouted Grey-stripped Sunflower and as much green food and fruit as they would eat. The black cockatoos were also offered varying amounts of green peas mixed in with their sprouts and greens. After cutting plain Canary seed completely from his feeding regime, Stan found that birds such as Hooded Parrots and Rosellas among others were starting to live much longer lives in his aviaries, where in the early days the life span of many of these birds in captivity was generally no longer than 6-8 years, 15-20+ years became a regular occurrence from this point on.

When asked whether any period in time really stands out as a golden era for Aviculture in Australia, Stan replies “the late 1970’s through to the end of the 1980’s, with a definite peak during the mid 80’s”. He recalls that at this time birds were in great demand especially with the ever increasing variety of mutations that were becoming available and the number of people entering the hobby was also increasing all the time. This was clearly evident by the number of members attending the monthly meetings of the various bird clubs around the country. At this time young birds were easily sold and many were commanding very good prices.

As well as being a very accomplished bird breeder, over the years Stan has also given countless hours of his time to help promote this wonderful hobby by being involved in numerous bird clubs, presenting countless lectures and happily answering the never-ending questions posed to him by other breeders. Stan was elected president of the Avicultural Society of New South Wales (ASNSW) in 1967 and served in this position until the end of 1970. At that time it was written in the society’s constitution that no one shall hold the position of president for more than three years, but this was waived to allow Stan to remain as president for a further year. This was done because at the time the Society was in the middle of negotiations with the National Parkes and Wildlife Service to help initiate the development and implementation of a licensing system for the keeping of native birds in New South Wales; Stan was considered to have the required knowledge and ability to carry out these negotiations on the society’s behalf. Stan has since been made an Honorary Life Member of the ASNSW; he was also awarded Life Membership of the ABT (now the Associated Birdkeepers of Australia) in July 1989 and made Patron of the Parrot Society of Australia (NSW) Inc. in November 1999.

Stan has been invited to guest lecture by various societies and clubs that are just too numerous to mention. He lectured at the American Federation of Aviculture Convention in 1985, where he presented lectures on Australian Lorikeets and Australian Cockatoos. He also lectured at the Avicultural Federation of Australia Conventions in 1985, 1987 and 1994 as well as at avicultural society meetings in New Zealand, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Canberra, Brisbane, Toowoomba and numerous clubs throughout New South Wales and also at the AVES International Parrot Convention in Grafton in 1999. Stan was also invited to speak at the Avian Veterinary Post Graduate Course, Sydney in 1991.

In the mid-late 80’s Stan, along with the help and support of close friend and accomplished avian veterinarian James (Jim) Gill, embarked on a new and ambitious venture that would encompass the production and subsequent publication of the first book of what was to become and remains to this day among the most comprehensive series of books ever written on Australian Parrots. This first offering from SINGIL PRESS, entitled Australian Lorikeets - Experiences in the Field and Aviary was at the time, the most comprehensive writing on the subject ever published. It proved to be extremely popular and subsequently the entire print run sold out. From there the foundations were laid and Stan got busy recording his vast experience in book form. The next title Australian Cockatoos (co-authored by the late Robert Lynn) soon followed; the series includes four other titles: Australian Grass Parakeets -The Neophema, Australian Grass Parakeets -The Psephotus and Northiella Genera, Australian Broad-tailed Parrots -The Platycercus and Barnardius Genera, and Australian Coral-billed Parrots. They have also since published a revised and even more comprehensive version of their title on Australian Lorikeets; this was released in 2007. There was one more proposed title in the pipeline, Australian Parrots -The Miscellany, however unfortunately this book has not been completed. This series of literature is a representation of the magnificent and incredibly important contribution Stan has made to Aviculture, both in Australia and abroad and will forever remain a credit to his name.

As an unexpected result of his unbridled dedication to aviculture in this country Stan received a number of awards over the years including an Avicultural Society of New South Wales “Meritorious Achievement in Aviculture” Award in 1988 and an Aviculture Federation of Australia “Breeders Award” in 1991. On Australia Day 2003 Stan was also the proud recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to aviculture in this country as a breeder, author and researcher of Australian parrots, lorikeets and cockatoos.

Stan has long been regarded as one of Australia’s, if not the world’s most successful and respected aviculturalists, he has achieved more in aviculture than most could ever imagine and the impact of these numerous achievements will be felt for generations to come. Stan has encouraged, helped, mentored and taught countless aviculturists over the years, both beginners and experienced alike, in so many aspects of aviculture and his tireless contribution to this cause has been nothing short of remarkable. So, my sincere thanks and congratulations go out to Stan for all he has done for our wonderful hobby; his amazing contribution helped to shape aviculture in Australia and beyond.

R.I.P. Stan Sindel; your legacy will live on.

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