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Diamond Firetail Finch

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Is the Diamond Firetail Finch right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Diamond Sparrow; Spotted Sided Finch

Scientific name: Stagonopleura guttata

The basics:
The Diamond Firetail Finch is a classic Australian grassfinch that became a favorite among hobbyists because of its impressive size, dapper plumage, and easy maintenance. By the way, although you may frequently hear the nickname Diamond Sparrow, this species is not a true sparrow.

The Diamond Firetail is native to the grasslands of eastern Australia, where it may be experiencing a slow decline. In years gone by, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) listed the species as Near-threatened, because of the widespread destruction of its habitat. However, it has recently downgraded the listing to “Species of Least Concern,” because of the large remaining population of perhaps 300,000 birds spread over a rather wide area.

Appearance:
Diamond Firetails stand out because of the red eye-ring within a bold black eye-stripe, giving this active finch an expression of alertness. Other red accents include the bill and rump. They are willing to breed, and humans have created a number of beautiful mutations. One rare mutation consists of an otherwise snow-white bird that has retained the crimson rump, truly a stunning creature.

Weight:
15 - 18 grams (0.5 - 0.6 oz.)

Average size:
12 centimeters (4.7 in.)

Lifespan:
7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The male Diamond Firetail performs a particularly charming courtship dance for the female, although the “song” has been described as raspy or buzzy. He will offer a long piece of grass and perform a most entertaining dance, which involves stretching up tall, bobbing, and hopping, to get the female's attention. They do better in large aviaries, where they are generally observed to be an agreeable member of the aviary community. However, if crowded together, they may become aggressive.

Housing:
Diamond Firetail Finches have a reputation of becoming somewhat lazy or even overweight if kept in a cage. They may become depressed and inactive if crowded too much, and a colony kept in a confined space may even start feather-picking each other. Many so-called finch cages are not adequate to house a Diamond Sparrow for more than a few days, as a travel or hospital cage. So don't skimp on the space. A single breeding pair might enjoy a cage of around 3' long, 2' deep, and 1-1/2 to 2' tall, with a bar spacing of about 1/2” wide. If you'd like them to breed, you should attach some sort of greenery (even if it's plastic) to the outside of the cage to give the birds a feeling of privacy.

Many breeders prefer a planted aviary large enough to hold a colony or a mixed-species display. You need to provide plenty of room, as well as sufficient nest boxes and weaving materials for everyone. Some breeders report that Diamond Firetails are calm and unaggressive, only defending the area immediately around the nest from competitors and busybodies. However, others have witnessed bad-tempered Diamonds attacking smaller species. It is best to house them with species that can hold their own and to keep a very close eye on the situation, to stop any bullying before it gets started.

Diet:
As an Australian grassfinch, the Diamond Firetail thrives on a relatively simple diet, but never use this as an excuse to short-change these beautiful finches. They do have a tendency to gain weight, so monitor their menu carefully. The core of the diet should be a high quality small seed mix, with plenty of spray millet on the side. Most people will also offer a high quality eggfood during the molt and breeding season, as well as sprouts, greens, and a bit of chopped fruits and vegetables. Some people also like to add a good finch pellet and/or live food, although other equally successful breeders say they do not provide live or wet food. Some people suggest that if you do offer live food, restrict it outside of the breeding season, to avoid over-loading the bird's liver. You should also provide clean cuttlebone, grit, and the vitamins and other supplements recommended by your avian vet or your breeder.

Written by Elaine Radford