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Spice Finch

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Is the Spice Finch right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Scaly-breasted Munia; Scaly-breasted Mannikin; Scaly-breasted Finch; Nutmeg Finch

Scientific name: Lonchura punctulata

The basics:
The Spice Finch is often considered the most beautiful of the Mannikin and Munia group, and it's certainly one of the most popular. They are social and mix well with other birds in a colony or mixed species collection, and they are a grass-seed-eating species that's hardy and relatively easy to feed. The males and females look much alike, but you can sex them by behavior, as the adult male will sing and perform a little dance to captivate his female.

At last count, there were around 13 subspecies of this highly successful finch, with a range through the Indian subcontinent, southern China, Southeast Asia, and into Malaysia, the Phillipines, Indonesia, and many other nearby islands. There are reports of Spice Finches at elevations as high as 9,000 feet, but they do tend to be a warm weather bird, so do not take these reports as an excuse to expose your birds to cold or damp temperatures.

Appearance:
The handsome Spice Finch features chestnut brown heads and upperparts, in fine contrast to the elegant black and white scales on the underparts.

Weight:
15 - 16 grams (0.5 oz.)

Average size:
10 - 14 centimeters (4 - 5.5 in.)

Lifespan:
8 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
Spice Finches will become depressed if kept in a too-small cage or if asked to live alone. They are highly social, and they need access to a range of weaving materials to allow them to display their activities to best advantage. Because they're so easy-going, they can be used to create a colony breeding aviary, or they can fill in a mixed-species aviary. Only the males sing and display, to impress the females. Watch him pick up a blade of grass and present it to the female with a little dance. With the proper care, they can provide hours of entertainment.

Housing:
Spice Finches exercise by flying rather than hopping or climbing, and they are happiest flying in their own territory. Many so-called finch cages are only suitable to serve as hospital or temporary homes for birds awaiting sale. The permanent home of a pair of Spice Finches should be 36” in length, 24” in width, and 18” in height, with ½” bar spacing. A larger flight would not be excessive. A variety of perches, swings, and even toys will keep them busy and allow them to provide you with endless action and entertainment. They love bathing, so have a bath available, or you may find them trying to splash in the drinking water.

It's possible and even advisable to house several pairs of Spice Finches in a large colony flight to allow them to choose their own mates. Watch out for a couple of issues if you keep the Spice Finch in a mixed species aviary. Do not house them with other Lonchura finches, because they could hybridize. Also, watch out that they are not pushed around because of their gentle nature. Busybody birds in the aviary could make Spice Finches give up on a breeding attempt. If you are a serious breeder, consider holding the Spice Finch colony separate from other species.

Diet:
The Spice Finch is remarkably easy to feed, although you should never expect this bird to subsist on dry seed alone. However, the backbone of the diet will be a small seed mix, so obtain the best quality you can afford. They love many varieties of millet, including spray millet. The seed should be fresh enough to sprout, and you should test it by sprouting it regularly. You should also supply a small chopped salad containing such items as chopped romaine, grated carrot, the fresh sprouts, chopped apple or grapes, and other dark greens such as chickweed or dandelion. This species does not demand live food, one of the reasons they're considered an “easy” finch, but some breeders have successfully convinced the Spice Finch to take small live insects. If nothing else, they should certainly be offered eggfood throughout courtship and breeding. All finches should have access to clean grit, as well as cuttlebone or another source of calcium.

Written by Elaine Radford

wonderful

Exuberant, lively finch, fantastic squeakytoy solo, peaceful finches, entertaining additions

challenging

noise, seed debris, relatively drab plumage, new surroundings

interesting

sebright patterning, almostblack legs

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