Saffron Finch

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Is the Saffron Finch right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Brazilian Saffron Finch; Yellow Finch; Sparrow Finch

Scientific name: Sicalis flaveola

The basics:
The bold and hearty Saffron Finch is now classified as a tanager rather than a finch, but the word “saffron” is still appropriate to describe these beautiful yellow birds. They are not shy, and the males sing, making them a well-regarded addition to the aviary as long as you watch out for seasonal aggression.This extremely successful, highly visible little songbird is found over a wide area of lowland regions in South America outside of the Amazon River basin. They may be expanding, as this species is now easily visible in Trinidad and Tobago, and there are other introduced populations in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. There are at least four subspecies and possibly five.

The adult male Saffron Finch is particularly fine, because the yellow plumage is highlighted by the orange crown and the hint of orange at the throat. The female is not quite as vivid, but she's still lovely.

20 grams (0.7 oz.)

Average size:
14 - 15 centimeters (5.5 - 6 in.)

7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
Saffron Finches have a pleasant, confident personality if kept in the proper conditions. However, if crowded or kept in cruel conditions, they will fight. In fact, in Brazil and perhaps elsewhere, in days gone by, there was actually an unethical practice of fighting the male birds – which underlines the risk of territorial aggression if you push these birds too far by crowding them too much.

Some pairs may be more aggressive than others, so they should also be viewed as individuals. Take nothing for granted and make your own observations to guarantee the safety and success of your birdroom. Also, many males can become aggressive and harm or even kill the young fledglings, so you must not leave the youngsters too long with their parents.

The male Saffron Finch does have a desire to claim territory, where he will mate with more than one female. They can do well in a mixed-species planted aviary, as long as you take care to make it a spacious one. They can share with non-aggressive, non-competing species that will hold their own, but they may attack extremely gentle, passive species. Some breeders have placed them with similarly sized tanagers or Australian grassfinches in the mixed-species aviary, rather than with some of the gentler African waxbills. Space is all-important to this species, and while they are bold on someone's lawn or in an aviary, they may become extremely nervous in a too-small cage.

The wild Saffron Finch is frequently seen at feed tables or even on urban lawns, and it is not a fussy eater, although you shouldn't use its hardiness as an excuse to shortchange this charming little bird. If you have experience with African finches, the diet might remind you of the classic waxbill menu. Start with a high quality small seed finch mix that's fresh enough to sprout – and do sprout it frequently. Be sure to offer soaked, sprouted, and milky seeding grassheads regularly, along with a good finch pellet, eggfood, and a chopped salad that includes favorite treats like bits of apple, chickweed, broccoli florets, and other tasty greens. While they may not crave as much live food as other finches, most breeders do recommend that you offer some, especially to stimulate the breeding and throughout the raising of young and the molt.

Written by Elaine Radford

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