Species group: Australian Finches
Other common names: Double-barred Finch; Bicheno Finch; White-rumped Owl Finch or Banded Finch (T. b. bichenovii); Black-rumped Owl Finch; Black-ringed Finch; Ringed Finch (T. b. annulosa)
Scientific name: Taeniopygia bichenovii
The Owl Finch is a tiny Australian grassfinch that attracts attention because of its crisp markings. As a bonus, these finches are relatively small, gentle, and easy to care for, and they can mix well with other birds in the planted aviary.
There are two subspecies – the nominate T. b. bichenovii with a white rump, and the less common black-rumped form T. b. annulosa. The subspecies have been frequently hybridized in captivity, creating some birds with a mottled rump, and other birds that don't breed “true” to the subspecies. The white-rumped subspecies appears to possess dominant genes, so it's possible for two white-rumped captive adults to have a black-rumped baby, if both hold a recessive gene for the black rump.
This little finch is found in grassland and rather scrubby habitats in eastern and northern Australia, but it can also adapt to using parks, gardens, and feeders. The white-rumped and black-rumped subspecies hybridize in the wild where they overlap. In some areas, they may choose to nest near active wasp nests, perhaps to provide an extra layer of protection for this tiny species.
The white face of the tiny Owl Finch is neatly outlined in black, including a crisp black band across the throat, paired with a second crisp band at the “waist.” The dark eyes in the framed white face give this bird a particularly appealing look.
7 grams (0.25 oz.)
10 - 11 centimeters (4 in.)
5 - 7 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Owl Finch is social, gentle, active, and utterly charming. The female can chirp, but it is the male who produces the courtship song and dance, and if you are new to Owl Finches, you can usually sex them more easily by watching their behavior than by looking for subtle differences in the plumage. Don't allow bigger or more aggressive birds to take advantage of their peaceful nature to interfere with their nesting projects.
Owl Finches may be tiny, but they do need a roomy flight which encourages them to fly, to exercise, and to allow the male to perform his charming mating dance. Some breeders have recommended breeding cages 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, as the gentle Bicheno Finch gets along with other birds well and will also tend to play near the ground, adding a dimension to the scene when you include other birds that prefer to be higher. However, this species has a poor reputation for tolerating the cold, so you should be sure that the aviary has adequate heat. To prevent the finches from developing a pecking order, you need to have either one pair or three or more pairs in the aviary, as finches can't seem to count higher than six to keep track of who's on the bottom. Also, be cautious about busybody species that might harass or interfere with the nesting efforts of the peaceful Bicheno.
As an Australian grass finch, the Owl Finch thrives on a relatively simple diet, but never use this as an excuse to short-change them. 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 there are even breeders who have taught Owl Finches to eat live food by providing a “teacher” finch in the colony that already takes live food. However, they usually don't accept very much, even when breeding, so continue to offer the eggfood. 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
entertaining finches, loved bird breed, friendly chirps, gorgeous plumage, striking looks
typical finch song, meal worms, basic finch mix, mixed greens
Bounciest pair in my aviary
This has to be my most loved bird breed in the world! I fell in love with them at my local bird farm and knew I had to have them... but they were not cheap. Owl finches normally cost quite a lot of money because of their striking looks and their difficulty breeding in captivity. But I saved up and sold a lot of zebra finches and finally got a pair. I kept my Owlies in my mixed aviary with several other varieties of doves, quail and finches and they did great with them. They were easy to care for since they ate a basic finch mix which I combined with grit, egg food, and mixed greens. I also added dried meal worms which they seemed to really like. Aside from their gorgeous plumage, this bird is such a pleasure to own because their personalities are so friendly. My pair was strongly bonded to each other so they always bounced around from branch to branch in synch and never bothered anyone else. They have friendly chirps, and were surprisingly easier to handle than my zebras. My male would even sit in my hand if I needed to catch him for any reason. I kept them in my aviary and provided straw and plants as nesting material and got lucky enough to get a baby hatched. However, he was a small baby and the zebras were much larger and I believe they just overwhelmed him so he did not survive. But the fact that my pair had a baby was a miracle in itself, because as I previously stated, they simply just do not breed well in captivity. Owlies originate from Australia so they prefer warm climates in which to breed, so luckily my outdoor aviary in Southern California in summer time must have felt just like home. After my Owlies passed away, my devotion to the breed continues. I know I will own another pair of Owlies someday. Their liveliness, happy personalities and pleasant "meep" sounds are good for the soul and make each day with them much better..
From JessBePaws Sep 12 2012 1:09PM
Pretty, sociable and surprisingly adaptable
Owl finches are adorable, beautiful and sociable exotic finches. It’s unfortunate that this species isn’t more widely available.
I haven’t kept owl finches for a while, but when I did, they were pricey and very difficult to find. Given that I haven’t seen them around since, I doubt that has changed much.
You’d think a species that was relatively rare and difficult to breed would be fussy and delicate, but owl finches are surprisingly easy to care for. Their difficulty is solely in their breeding given their preference for planted aviaries and the near impossibility of sexing them.
Supposedly, there are subtle differences in the appearance between the males and females, but it’s not something I can discern and even a lot of experts stumble over it. The only sure way to tell is by observing their behavior and this isn’t a breed where the males frequently show off.
Despite the difficulties in encouraging them to breed, well-paired birds can breed in a variety of enclosures. They occasionally will also crossbreed with zebra fiches.
It seems odd to me that the two species are so closely related given that their personalities are polar opposites. Where zebra finches are feisty, loud and rambunctious, owl finches are peaceful, quiet and calm. However, like zebra and society finches, owl finches prefer to be kept in groups. They also sleep cuddled together in nests.
I’ve heard that they can be aggressive when breeding, but mine never bred and I never saw anything resembling aggression from them. They do well in species aviaries or mixed aviaries. My owls got a long well with a variety of finches, diamond doves and button quails.
While they can be kept in smaller cages, these birds love to fly. Mine particularly liked flying in and out of the little trees in their aviary and running around the ground chasing mealworms.
Owl finches are sweet, entertaining finches with a unique color pattern that is simply beautiful. They add a peaceful energy to the aviary and are well worth their extra cost if you can find them..
From gardenfairy Oct 3 2014 1:13AM