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Shaft-tail Finch

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Is the Shaft-tail Finch right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Black Heart Finch; Heck's Grassfinch (P. a. hecki); Long-tailed Finch (P. a. acuticauda)

Scientific name: Poephila acuticauda

The basics:
The Shaft-tail Finch is one of the classic favorites of aviculture because of its sleek appearance, delightful personality, and easy care. This finch originates from northern Australia, where they inhabit open woodlands. In 2008, scientists noted an unusual family of wild Shaft-tail Finches, where a juvenile male assisted his parents in feeding the second brood of the season – the first known example of cooperative breeding in an Australian estrildid finch species.

Appearance:
The Shaft-tail Finch is an elegant Australian grassfinch with a black bib and a long black tail complete with two extra long central tailfeathers. There are two closely related subspecies. The nominate, P. a. acuticauda, has an orange or yellow bill, while the Heck's Grassfinch (P. a. hecki), is highly desired because of its deep coral red bill. The red bill color is a dominant gene and, where the subspecies have been hybridized, the babies will have red bills. Color mutations are sometimes available.

Weight:
17 - 19 grams (0.6 - 0.7 oz.)

Average size:
15 - 17 centimeters (6 - 6.7 in.)

Lifespan:
7 - 9 years

Behavior / temperament:
The handsome Shaft-tail Finch male might not have much of a song, but he makes a charming display when he puffs out his black bib and dances for his female. By the way, if you find it hard to tell the boys from the girls until the male declares himself by dancing, don't feel bad. A 1999 report suggests that the birds themselves don't know if a stranger is a male or female until the male sings or displays, thus giving himself away. There are occasional reports of breeding Shaft-tails being aggressive toward others in the aviary, so always keep an eye on the mixed-species aviary to make sure everyone is getting along. There should be an overabundance of nestboxes and building materials for all.

Housing:
Because of the elegant tail, Shaft-Tail Finches may display better in an indoor or outdoor mixed species or colony aviary that allows them plenty of room to fly, to perform their courtship dances, and to mingle with other friendly species. That said, successful breeders have cage-bred pairs in large cages, for example 4' long by 2' wide by 2' tall. They have also been bred in smaller cages, but it seems like a shame to spoil the lovely tail by close confinement.

They are more aggressive than some species of Australian grassfinches, so be cautious when housing Shaft-tail Finches in mixed species colonies with other birds. Because they may hybridize with their close relatives, do not house them with Masked Grassfinch or Parson Finch.

Diet:
As an Australian grassfinch, the Shaft-tail 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. Many people also like to add a good finch pellet and/or live food, but there are successful breeders who don't offer live insects to this sturdy species. 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

wonderful

peaceful personality, bright red beaks, good pets

interesting

decent sized cage

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