Owl Finch

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Is the Owl Finch right for you?

Species group:

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 basics:
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.)

Average size:
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

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