Cut-Throat Finch

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Dick Daniels

Is the Cut-Throat Finch right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Ribbon Finch; Bearded Finch; Weaver Finch

Scientific name: Amadina fasciata

The basics:
The Cut-throat Finch is one of the most popular African finches of all time. However, because of some personality challenges, the Cut-throat Finch is usually recommended to the intermediate or expert breeder who already has some experience breeding other finches.

There are four subspecies of this widespread, highly successful finch that may be encountered over a wide range of dryer areas of western, eastern, and southern Africa. In addition to using cavities created by woodpeckers, they are very frequently seen nesting in the old nests woven by different species of weavers, which may have sparked the common name of Weaver Finch. When you see them on a huge, intricately woven nest, don't assume they did all the work themselves.

Cut-throats are hardy birds, well-adapted to tough desert and near-desert conditions. Indeed, a southern California researcher claimed that his birds did not require water – not an experiment that we want to duplicate but something to be aware of so you won't worry if your birds drink relatively little.

This small, speckled brown bird stands out for one reason – the male's brilliant scarlet throat. The female lacks this marking, but some hint of the red ribbon can be seen on the male juveniles from an early age, making these birds easy to sex even when very young.

17 - 18 grams (0.6 oz.)

Average size:
12 - 13 centimeters (5 in.)

8 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The hardy, attractive Cut-throat Finch is a good choice for a well-planted colony breeding project, if you allow plenty of room, provide plenty of nestboxes and material, and choose the companions wisely. The males are not particularly shy, and such a set-up should offer you many opportunities to enjoy them performing their courtship song and dance for their females.

Cut-throat Finches may have been improperly housed in days gone by, simply because they were known as inexpensive finches. These active birds simply can't fly, perform their courtship dance, or remain reasonably healthy in tiny old-fashioned cages. Out of season, they get along well in mixed-species, well-planted aviaries that give everyone plenty of space and cover. If the birds can have some access to sunlight or full spectrum lighting, it's definitely a bonus for the health of their feathers. Watch out during the breeding season, and don't keep them with smaller species that are also trying to breed, as the Cut-throat has been known to take other bird's babies right out of the nest in order to make use of the nestbox themselves.

Cut-throats cannot be housed with Red-headed Finches, or they will hybridize. However, they are usually not too aggressive and can hold their own without being obnoxious toward finches of their own size or other non-competing species like Button Quail. If they are not working out in the aviary, they can be successfully cage-bred in large breeder cages at least 36” in length, 24” in width, and 18” in height, but you can only maintain one pair to the cage, not the entire colony. The bar spacing should be around 1/2” wide.

Breeders warn that the Cut-throat Finch may go to nest too young, causing health problems for the female. Since the availability of nestboxes may stimulate the breeding instinct, try holding back on offering the boxes and nesting materials until the birds are one year old.

The backbone of the Cut-throat Finch diet is a high quality small seed mix, fresh enough to sprout – and you should test it by sprouting regularly. Because of the size of their seed-cracking bills, some breeders like to mix budgerigar seeds into their finch mix, and this species is reported to prefer the larger millet seeds. They will benefit from the milky seeding heads of grasses, in addition to the sprouts. You should also supply a finely chopped salad that includes greens, apple, carrot, and broccoli, as well as eggfood and/or a high quality finch pellet that the birds will eat.

As you approach the breeding season, offer plenty of tiny white-skinned mealworms, waxworms, small crickets, and perhaps ant pupae or fly larvae to bring them into season. You may find it worthwhile to make a small homemade insect trap, to provide them with moths and other insects to add variety. All finches need access to clean grit and clean cuttlebone. Some breeders are concerned about the possibility of egg-binding in the Cut-throat Finch, and you may want to ask your avian vet or breeder about whether to offer vitamin D3 and liquid calcium supplements, especially if your finches don't have access to natural sunlight.

Written by Elaine Radford

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