Species group: Other Finches
Other common names: Paradise Sparrow;Paradise Finch; Red-Headed Weaver
Scientific name: Amadina erythrocephala
The Red-headed Finch is a large, attractive African finch related to the popular Cut-throat Finch. It may present some challenges to the breeder and is usually recommended to intermediate or advanced hobbyists. There are two subspecies of this widespread, successful finch, which may be found over a wide area of southern Africa, with one subspecies ranging quite a distance north along the western edge of Angola. They can tolerate rather harsh, scrubby habitat, and they may frequently be seen at waterholes where they can feed on the ground while having access to clean water. They may build in the old nests of other colony-breeding birds such as the weaver species, which may have sparked the common name of Red-headed Weaver.
The male Red-headed Finch is a sturdy, good-looking bird with a scarlet red head and an attractive pattern of black and white scales on his chestnut underparts. The female is also scaled, but the markings are not so well-defined, and her head is a pale brown.
18 - 20 grams
12 - 13 centimeters
8 - 10 years
Behavior / temperament:
Be aware of the Red-headed Finch's tendency to try to breed too young, and work to avoid stimulating the birds too soon. Since the male's red face could spark an attack from a red-faced male from a more aggressive species, always keep a close eye on your mixed-species aviary to make sure that no one is being pushed around. As a natural colony bird, the Red-head itself is unlikely to be the aggressor if you have been careful to supply enough space and nestboxes for everyone.
In the wild, the Red-headed Finch is a colony breeder, and many people prefer to house them in large, planted, mixed-species aviaries. They cannot be housed with Cut-throat 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 such as Java Rice Birds or other non-competing species. The birds 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. The bar spacing should be around 1/2” wide.
Breeders warn that the Red-headed Finch may go to nest too young, causing health problems for the female. Since the availability of nestboxes seems to 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 Red-headed 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 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 Red-headed Finch, and you may want to ask your avian vet or breeder about whether to offer vitamin D3 supplements, especially if your finches don't have access to natural sunlight.
Written by Elaine Radford