Finch & Canary Focus

Hello, I’d want to raise and breed parrot finches. I have two pairs of pin-tailed parrot finches and would welcome any information on them and their relatives. What are the best techniques of housing and feeding? Can these birds be born, or must they be maintained as society finches?

When comparing Asian estrildid finches to their African and Australian counterparts, two in particular are consistently in my Top-10 faves list for the whole family. These are the stunning pin-tailed (Erythrura prasina) and equally lovely bamboo (Erythrura hyperythra) parrot finches.

There are 11 distinct species of parrot finch, all of which have primarily green or green and blue plumage. They extend south and east over the Indo-Malayan area to the Philippines, New Guinea, the Samoan and Fijian Islands, New Caledonia, and northeastern Australia. The blue-faced parrot finch (E. trichroa), a “Australian species,” is responsible for the group’s popularity in the United Kingdom. The Australian Finch Society of Great Britain, in my opinion, has wisely included all parrot finches in its remit for captive-breeding, and it is thanks to their sterling efforts over many years that a number of breeders have specialized in them and brought the group the attention it so rightly deserves.

The Look

The pin-tailed parrot finch (also known as the pin-tailed nonpareil in the past) is around 6 inches long, including its long graded tail. The mature male has a magnificent midnight blue forehead, superciliary, cheeks, ear coverts, chin, and neck. The lores are black, the head, lower back, and wings are grass green, and the rump, upper tail coverts, and outer fringes of the middle pair of tail feathers are red. Other tail feathers are blackish in color. The straw buff breast, flanks, and undertail coverts contrast with the red belly. The large black bill is distinguished by its steeply angled gonys. The eyes are brown, as are the legs and feet, which are brownish horn colored. The female has less blue on her face, no red on her abdomen, and a tail that is about half the length of the male’s.

An appealing color morph exists in which the red portions of both sexes are replaced with brilliant yellow. This color variety is said to present in at least eight to ten percent of birds over the whole range, and although I don’t personally own such animals, I have seen them in the same batch of imports from which my own typically colored birds were received.

The bamboo parrot finch, also known as the green-tailed parrot finch, is 4 inches long and, although not as showy as the pin-tailed, is just as appealing. The sexes vary very slightly, with the male having a black extreme front of the forehead and a turquoise blue remainder and forecrown. The rest of the upperparts are grass green, straight down to the center tail feathers. The underparts’ face, neck, breast, and central sections are cinnamon buff-brown to straw buff. The eyes are a dark brown hue, the beak is a black color, and the legs and feet are flesh colored. The female is similar to the male, but her coloring is more subdued, with the blue on her forehead being duller and less widespread, and her green sections being less vibrant.

Nest Construction

Parrot finches build conventional domed estrildine nests with a tiny front entry hole in bushes, trees, creepers, and low down in high grass in the wild. This is why their captive surroundings must be similar to their natural habitat; hence, I advocate huge, bushy pot plants in an aviary setting. Some breeders say that nest boxes are seldom used, while others rave about them. One of my own pin-tails built a nest at the foot of a weeping fig where I had placed an old wicker lampshade. The shade had a wide hole on both ends, but this “commercial nest” was quickly filled with dried grass, coconut fiber, sisal, moss, and long strips of dried leaves from a six-foot-tall Philodendron. The male tore the strips violently, carrying each accomplishment around and displaying it in his beak like some hard-won prize.

The nest was built by both the male and female, however the male collected the majority of the material. When I first entered the birdroom, all the parrot finches flew to one end, but here a couple had constructed a nest low down and just about 2 feet from from the entry door. It was also about the same distance from the feeding area, which was the busiest spot in the birdroom!

Occasionally, I saw the male approach his nest with some nesting material in his beak, only to be shocked when I saw him emerge somewhere in the flight but not have left his nest. He and his partner had drilled a hole at the back of the nest, allowing them to escape or enter in any way. The two-holed lampshade was being used to its maximum potential.

The fact that I had a huge window of around 6 feet wide by 3 feet high installed in a unique observation/study room made it possible to see the birds constructing the nest. The chamber was absolutely dark, so the birds didn’t see me if I remained perfectly silent and calm. I also captured some more spectacular activity while sitting in this observation room. I had placed a huge upward and outward growing Philodendron to the left of the viewing window in the birds’ free-flying area, when a male suddenly alighted on a horizontal stem and started singing. While his voice wasn’t very loud, it was clear he was putting everything into it since his throat was completely stretched. Within a few seconds, two more males landed nearby and began to stare aloft in amazement, as if to fully enjoy the performance.

Also, thanks to this observation window. I was able to completely appreciate the male’s spectacular wooing show. After some bill-fencing, the male would run to where his lover was seated, make short bows with his body, sidle up to her, his tail turned toward her, and then he would lengthen his neck and arch it over her head. This was always followed by some mandibulation, in which his beak would swiftly expand and shut as if he was chattering (maybe he was!). A stem display has also been seen in the species on many occasions, and I remember seeing a fantastic artwork portraying this created by my close friend Robin Restall, who lives in Venezuela. Unfortunately, I never witnessed this performance, but I watched what I thought was a buildup to it.

Conserve The Species

Pin-tailed parrot finches are considered a problem in certain nations because they swarm to rice fields to eat, and they have been intensively caught and killed, to the point that they have entirely gone in some locations. It is consequently particularly obligatory on all keepers in possession of this species to pay special care to it. It is undoubtedly the sort of animal that aviculturists work hard to emphasize to wildlife groups as ones that would benefit greatly from captivity.

Obviously, species like the pin-tailed and bamboo parrot finches should only be considered by experienced birdkeepers. As their breeding record attests, it is one of severe variability, owing mostly to the need of fostering. Keeping small flocks of up to five couples in big, well-planted indoor flights is the way to go, since this is more like how the birds are found in the wild. They even nest near to one another, and the stimulation they get from inside the group, as I experienced during the above-mentioned gazing session, ensures a higher likelihood of success.

Seeing these lovely Asiatic birds soaring together from one end of my birdroom to the other is something I’ll never forget. These are the birds that raise the spirit and make aviculture the unrivaled passion that it is. They are unquestionably a connoisseur’s bird, but how much longer their beauty can be appreciated is uncertain, as their numbers are decreasing due to pest control and habitat loss. As one Bavarian breeder discovered 30 years ago, given the right conditions, they can be as prolific and easy to breed as the genus’s more common species. The issue is that no one seems to have been able to replicate him as of yet.

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