The Mixed Finch Collection.

Part One: Making a Start!

Before waxing lyrical about the joys and frustrations of combining finches I’d better start with a disclaimer! What follows is a record of my own personal observations and not based on any other material. Some of the species that I mention for exclusion I know other will say "what a load of rubbish, I’ve had them like that for years without mishap……………." I say great, you write and tell Pete about it then!

There you go that’s out of the way then!

Perhaps one of the greatest joys of being a finch-keeper is that ability to be able to combine species together to make a flash of colour appear in your aviary – from the somber colours of the Plumhead through to the vivid reds and greens of the Red-face parrotfinch. With parrots often the only way to combine them in such a manner is to have mono-sexual groups, usually just males.

There is a tendency amongst Australian aviculturists to take this to extremes and many of the collections contain a host of different finch species! I have heard a few people upon seeing the Hunter Valley type aviaries for the first time remark that how do finches manage to breed in such collections – but breed they do!

So where to start? Well, here I go again, I’m about to make a presumption! If you’ve got to this stage then chances are you have excluded the three cheapest finches on the market (no names yet!) and are preparing to tackle the next rung up the ‘avicultural scale’!
More assumptions at this stage are that you don’t want finches that are heavily dependent upon live food for starters or those that cost an arm and half a leg!

Fig. 1. Pied Parrottees. Fig.2. Cubans. Fig.3. Hen White-Breasts

Hhhhhhmmmm heading for the Bird Shop already are we, get back here we haven’t ‘primed’ you as to what NOT to try to put together yet!
Right, sharpen your knives, warm up your computer keyboards because I’m probably about to offend everybody at some stage in the next few lines!

Cubans and anything Blue do not mix – killer reasons!
Cubans and other Cubans often do not mix – killer reasons!
Cubans and Jacarinis do not mix – killer reasons!
Red and Yellow siskins do not mix – hybrids a no no!
Red-cheeked Cordons and Blue-caps do not mix – hybrids a no no!
Any of the three Asian nuns do not mix – hybrids a no no!
Nuns and any of the 3 species of Aussie manikins do not mix (Pictorellas,
    Yellowrumps & Chestnuts – hybrids galore!)
Red strawbs and Orange-breasts together hybrids will make!
Longtails, Parsons and Masks together – fertile hybrids, even worse!
African Manikins, Munias, Silverbills and any Asian or Australian nuns – hybrids a
Auroras and Red-wing Pytilias – (suspect that one might be a tad too late)
   leaves for nasty surprises when young do or don’t colour as expected!!
Golden song sparrows – with most other finches as they drive them crazy!!
Singers and siskins do not mix – hybrids and/or killer reasons.
Madagascar weavers – hate every other finch at some stage throughout their
    lives! Include at your own peril.
Red-face and Blue-face parrotfinches – hybrids are sterile.
Blue-face and Tri-coloured – nasty hybrids and someone will/may shoot you for
   doing it!!

Sure there are plenty of other hybrids out there between a few species but at least we should try to steer clear of breeding useless hybrids if at all possible and keep our gene pool full at the deep end. As most attempts to import finches through the importation station at Spotswood have been kyboshed by officialdom we must all endeavour to keep our foreign finch blood lines pure.

We live in Australia so why not look close to home. The Chestnut, Plumhead, Double Bar, Star, Redbrow and Painted finches are all fairly docile and will co-exist happily together. Most will breed without huge amounts of live food and the Star and Painted comes in a variety of affordable mutations for you to experiment with.

Fig.4. Painted & Pictorella. Fig.5. Young Tri-colours. Fig.6. Green Singers.

Select either a pair of Longtails, Parsons or Masks but beware that the former two species can take over your collection if allowed to build up too much in numbers! Very prone to pinching nesting material from other more placid species so keep your eye on them!

Throw in a pair of Red or Blue-face parrotfinches and you have the start of a colourful collection.
For starters we would simply have a pair or two of each species as we’ll leave the colony work for much later on! Why more than one pair?
Through bitter experience I have come to realise just getting one pair of anything is usually a recipe for disaster if one of the pair dies. If you have a strong local finch community replacement of a lost partner is easy but be careful if you live in an isolated area!

What is that I hear you say? "What about all those cute colourful little waxbills out there." Well, I guess we could include the African Fire (Ruddy), Orange-breast, Red strawberry or Red-cheeked Cordon into the equation but that means we must also give some thought to live food in some shape or form. Mind you many of the Aussies we have named will also line up at the live food bowl too!

Having mentioned the Aussies we could substitute the Chestnuts for a pair of the Black-headed, Silver-headed or Tri-coloured nuns. If we are thinking of a waxbill or two we might also include either a pair of Cubans or Jacarinis – provided we remember the points above!!

Now many will be screaming "the clown’s forgotten the beautiful Gouldian finch, the most majestic of all our finches!" Well, actually I haven’t but I am saving them for later and will outline my reasoning then – patience grasshopper!

To finish off maybe we might let our heads go and grab a pair of Green singers, Oriental greenfinches or Mexican siskins to give us a cup nester for some variety.

Obviously the number of birds we have mentioned would not be suited to a small aviary but we have taken the first steps towards outlining a mix of finches that we can select the optimal number of pairs from for our particular aviary set-up.

Fig.7. Pair Pictorellas Fig.8. Auroura. Fig.9. Diamond Sparrow.

So for starters:
Little Live food list.
Stars, Longtails or Parsons or Masks, Chestnuts or any of the three Asian nuns, Redbrows, Painteds, Double bars, Plumheads, Red or Blue-faced parrotfinches, Oriental greenfinches

Greater Live food list.

The above with Cubans or Jacarinis, Red-cheek Cordon Bleus, Orange Breasts, African Fires, Red Strawberries, Green singers or Mexican siskins.

Next time round: The Colony Finches.

As Written for Australian Aviary Life 2006