What is a Finch?
Historically the word 'finch" was applied to the chaffinch, Fringella coelebs, and apparently derived from one its calls. With European colonisation of the world the name "finch" was applied to many small birds, all of which had short conical bills. The has led the the word "finch' being used to describe birds from many and varied groups. The use of "finch" has been applied to four main families: A) Emberizidae- Buntings, Cardinals, Tanagers B) Estrildidae- Waxbills C) Fringillidae- Finches D) ploceidae- Sparrows, Weavers, Whydahs. These four families cover over 900 species of birds, and obviously have a wide range of shapes, sizes, colours and behavioural patterns.
What finches should I start with?
The Zebra and Bengalese finches are suitable for beginners as they are easy to feed and produce youngsters without too many problems.
Where should I buy finches?
The best place to purchase, like with most animals, it from a quality breeder. We would recommend that you join and finch club in your area or join our club to first get educated about what it requires to keep finches.
What Do I Look for when buying a finch?
The finch should be active anf flying around in the cage. It should be eating and preening itself whilst you are watching it. You will find it should look at you with both eyes and further should be lean and the bird not fluffed up or have a ruffled look. The bird should be sitting off the perch and the feathers around the vent should be clean and unmated. The feet and legs should be clean and scales should be smooth and shinny. The should be not build up of scales and toes and nails should not be too long and all toes should be present. You should always ask the age of the bird and sight records if held to verify. When purchasing the birds you should take note of the environment they are in. Is the water clean ! Is the seed clean! Is the a build up of droppings on the floor!
What Should I do When I Get my Birds home?
The only way to truly protect your existing bird population and start your new one of on the right step is to quarantine the newly arrived stock. Birds can be quarantined in a small aviary or even breeding cabinets or cages, but they should not be any smaller then 50cmx40cmx30cm. New birds should be quarantined for at least two weeks. They should be fed seed and fresh water for the first 3 to 4 days. By the 5 day you should start to medicate your birds for worms and other parasites. By day 8 you should start to feed your birds all the items you are currently feeding in your aviary you are going to release them into and by day 14 they can be released. You release them into the aviary in early morning on a sunny bright day. Do not disturb them in the aviary for the first couple of days so they can have a chance to adjust to their new environment with ease.
What should I Feed Finches?
Wild birds are able to select a wide variety of food stuffs, which include dry and green seed of unknown type and quantity, live foods and various minerals, all of which are not readily available in your aviary unless you put them there. Finches should be given a good finch mix, fresh water, grit and cuttlebone as a minimum diet. If you wish to breed from your finches then you should research into each species particular needs as some will require soaked seeds, sprouted seeds, insects, fruit and greens.
What do finches require for nesting?
You should provide your birds with fine grass like swamp grass or November grass. If you wish to collect from side of the road please ensure you do it an area where it has not been contaminated by exhaust fumes from motor vehicles as this will be detrimental to your birds. Also feather and fine fibre like coconut fibre should also be provided. And finally you should provide nest boxes, baskets, brush or planted shrubs for them to build their nests. All these items can be purchase from the QFS or at most reputable pet stores.
Do I Need To Separate my young parents from the parents?
Most breeders will advise this is a good idea, but they should be moved until they independent for themselves i.e. eating and drinking on their own. Normally this is somewhere between 6 to 8 weeks after they are out of the nest box. Most species can stay in with their parents and they will continue to raise another clutch. A good example of this is Zebra, Bengalese and Gouldian finches. Keep in mind this is only a guide as some species like the "Cuban Finch" and the "Cordon Bleu Finch" will kill their own young if left with parent too long, especially if young birds and cock birds. These breeds should have their young moved as soon as they are independent.
I have a pair of normal Gouldians both with purple breasts which produced offspring with both purple and white breasts. How can this happen?
The parent birds although showing purple breasts are both carrying the gene for white breast. In other words they are split for white breast. White breast is recessive to purple breast. On average, 75% of the young from these parents will have purple breasts and 25% will have white breasts. Also two thirds of the offspring with purple breasts will be split for white breast. Unfortunately you cannot distinguish by visual inspection pure purple breasted birds from those that are purple but split for white. Other recessive colour mutations in Gouldians include blue back and Australian yellow.
How much space do I need to provide to properly house and breed my mixed collection of finches?
It is difficult to give definitive responses here, because it depends on the specific species being considered. However a good rule of thumb is to allow at least one square metre of floor space for each pair of birds. This is for a aviary of average height say 1.8 to 2.5 metres high and is the minimum area recommended in the Queensland Code of Practice for Aviculture. Many breeders would say that more space is needed per pair and some species [e.g. weavers or Cubans] often need more space. Consider an aviary with 5 square metres of open flight and 5 square metres of covered shelter area where all the nesting sites are located, then 10 pairs of birds might be too many - squabbles over nesting territories might well see the breeding of all species reduced. The best advice is to provide as much space as you can afford and definitely don't overcrowd your birds.
I have what I was told is a white zebra finch. She has an orange beak, so I assume she is female. When I purchased her the other birds had pecked some of her feathers - but I was told they would grow back. Since then, she has held her own, but the other finches just don't seem to like her. What should I do?
It is more than likely you do have a female but the only true way to tell is to watch and see if it sings and if it does then, I would say you definitely have a female. It would probably be best to move her into another aviary or holding cage and get her a mate. If you leave them together until you see they have bonded. This is usually by them sitting/preening each other. You could then return them back to the aviary. I have assumed however that your aviary is not overcrowded which is a common problem with feather plucking each other as they fight for space to dominate in the aviary. If you refer to our other question and answers you will see the desired space to keep birds.
I purchased a single "silver beaked finch" that I was told is native to China. I did not want to overcrowd the cage so I purchased just one. I was told that as long as there were other birds that this little bird would be happy. She (I assume she does not sing) does not really socialize with the other birds. Should I buy her another finch of her species? Assuming she is a female, do you have any suggestions as to how and identify a male?
Silverbills, African Silverbills or Black-rumped Silverbills are from Sengal, east to Somalia and Ethiopia, then south to drier areas of Kenya and Tanzania. Also south-western Arabia. She will happily get along with a mixed collection, however be careful if you have other manikin species in with her, as she will hybridize with similar species. The cock bird does crow, but no necessarily sing, so you may have a hen or a cock. The only method to sexing these species, without having them surgically sexed, is similar to most manikins i.e. male has a broader lower beak where it joins the feathered throat of the bird and the hen has a more pointed feathered area going up into the lower side of the mandible than the male. I would buy a mate for her. You should look to purchase a mate from a breeder who has experience with these birds and have him hold two birds in his hands to sex them as described, otherwise buy a couple more, put them all together and they will soon show you themselves by the cocks crowing to the hens and they will naturally pair up themselves. then sell the others or hold for future bloodlines.