Java Sparrow

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Is the Java Sparrow right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Java Rice Bird; Java Finch; Java Rice Sparrow; Paddy Bird; Java Temple Bird

Scientific name: Lonchura oryzivora

The basics:
The Java Sparrow has been a beloved pet and aviary bird in Asia for centuries, and it is well-regarded among pet owners everywhere as one of the most personable of the finches. Easy to care for, eager to breed, and available in a wide variety of color mutations, the Java Sparrow deserves its excellent reputation among pet owners. If you start young enough, you can even train a baby Java Sparrow to fly to your hand – not an easy achievement with most other finches.

Alas, the Java Sparrow is anything but popular with the agricultural community, which regards the species as a rice field pest and which has succeeded in having it banned in some areas. It remains illegal to hold in California, Kentucky, and Georgia, and possibly other areas. If you are in doubt about your own laws, check with a local wildlife agent before you purchase a pet you won't be allowed to keep.

As the name hints, Java Sparrows are natives of Java, as well as the nearby islands of Bali and Kangean. Adapted to feed on the seeding heads of grasses, this intelligent bird quickly learned to take advantage of cultivated crops, including rice. As a result, it is persecuted as a pest in its native land, and it is now rated as a “vulnerable” species by International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). It is not terribly cold hardy, but flocks have proven to be clever escapees who have tried to establish themselves in many locations around the globe. Many Americans can perhaps most easily view the introduced population of Java Sparrows right in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. There are also some large colonies in Hawaii.

The natural form of the Java Sparrow makes it stand out from the other Lonchura finches, with its stout body and rather pinkish-gray underparts. Most people can identify the bird at a distance because of the black head with the large white cheek patch, in contrast with the heavy red bill. It is different enough from the other mannikins and munias that scientists are still divided about whether to place the Java Sparrow in the Lonchura genus or to give it its own genus, Padda, and you will see both names used when you search for information. There are a number of attractive mutations, including a beautiful white albino.

25 grams (0.9 oz.)

Average size:
14 - 15 centimeters (5.5 - 5.9 in.)

7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
Kept in pairs or colonies, the Java Sparrow will display the same charming behaviors as the other Lonchura finches. The male will pick up a bit of grass or straw and do a little song and dance to charm the female. The main difference is that his song is louder than the other mannikins and munias, so that it carries a little better. Any untamed Java Sparrow will become depressed if kept in a too-small cage or if asked to live alone. They are highly social, and they need access to a range of weaving materials to allow them to display their activities to best advantage.

If you are planning to tame a Java Sparrow, you may want to breed the bird yourself or else work with a breeder you know, because you should start as early as possible. The best pets who will fly to you on request are hand-fed babies, and the correct hand-feeding technique of a tiny finch is always something best learned from a more experienced person. It may not even be possible to tame an adult Java Sparrow.

Java Sparrows exercise by flying rather than hopping or climbing, and they are happiest flying in their own territory. Many so-called finch cages are only suitable to serve as hospital or temporary homes for birds awaiting sale. The permanent home of a pair of Java Sparrows should be 36” in length, 24” in width, and 18” in height, with ½” bar spacing. A larger flight would not be excessive. A variety of perches, swings, and even toys will keep them busy and allow them to provide you with endless action and entertainment. They love bathing, so have a bath available, or you may find them trying to splash in the drinking water.

It's possible and even advisable to house a flock of Java Sparrows in a large colony flight to allow them to choose their own mates. They would prefer a rather dense, heavily planted flight, including some clumps of bamboo, grasses, or reeds. These birds are known escape artists, so have a double door on the aviary to prevent losing your colony.

Some people report good experiences housing their Java Sparrows in mixed-species colonies, but others say that their birds harassed smaller waxbills. If you want to try it, the larger the aviary, the better, and have more nest boxes of assorted sizes than you have pairs of birds looking to nest. Also observe closely. Is the dispute really being caused by the bigger bird, or is the Java Sparrow being heckled by a smaller bird? Knowing what's really going on can help you make better decisions about how to house all your birds.

The Java Sparrow is easy to feed, although you should never expect this bird to subsist on dry seed alone. However, the backbone of the diet will be a small seed mix, so obtain the best quality you can afford. They may enjoy the small finch and canary mixes beloved of other Lonchura finches, but some breeders report that their Javas actually prefer a high quality Budgerigar “parakeet” mix. Either way, the seed should be fresh enough to sprout, and you should test it by sprouting it regularly. You should also supply a small chopped salad containing such items as chopped romaine, grated carrot, the fresh sprouts, chopped apple or grapes, and other dark greens such as chickweed or dandelion.

Unlike many Lonchura species, the Java Sparrow probably does need access to some live food, such as small mealworms, to stimulate breeding and supply protein. They should certainly be offered eggfood throughout courtship and breeding, and you may be surprised at much live food they're willing to take during that period. All finches should have access to grit, as well as clean cuttlebone or another source of calcium.

Written by Elaine Radford


favorites, easytocarefor finch, sweet, lovely colours, stunning mutations


large cage, hardest bites


Asian history, Chinas famous cagebird, powerful finches, love green food

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