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Star Finch

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Is the Star Finch right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Ruficauda; Red-faced Finch; Rufous-tailed Finch

Scientific name: Neochmia ruficauda

The basics:
The Star Finch is a classic and rather tiny Australian grassfinch with a bright red face. They are reliable breeders that do well on a relatively simple diet, allowing humans to develop a number of interesting mutations.

There are, or at least there were, three subspecies of Star Finch, all endemic to Australia. They seem to like wetter grasslands, occurring in swampy or heavily irrigated areas. Sadly, the nominate subspecies, N. r. ruficauda, was apparently last seen in the wild in 1994, and it may now be extinct. Fortunately, the other two subspecies seem to be holding their own, and the successful N. r. subclarescens may number 200,000 in the wild.

It will likely not be possible to recover the extinct subspecies because all three subspecies were interbred freely in captivity in days gone by – a reminder that it's important to pay attention to breeding like to like at the subspecies level wherever you can.

Appearance:
The face and especially the chest of the Star Finch is dotted with the so-called “stars.” The males are noticeably brighter and possess a larger red face mask than the females. In addition to the normal red face, there is a popular yellow-faced mutation, as well as several other mutations.

Weight:
10 grams (0.35 oz.)

Average size:
10 - 11 centimeters (4 in.)

Lifespan:
7 - 8 years

Behavior / temperament:
Star Finches are sweet, gentle birds who get along well with others who will not harass them. The male performs a song and dance for the female, and he may also sit with the female when she's on the eggs. Their devotion to each other is truly touching.

Housing:
Star 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 2' 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 could try attaching 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 Star Finch gets along with other birds well. However, don't place Melba Finches – an unrelated species of red-faced finch – in the same flight. The male Melba Finches may feel that they are in a rivalry with the red-faced Stars, and they are known to attack them. Star Finches are not cold tolerant, so they need a source of warmth in winter.

Diet:
As an Australian grassfinch, the Star Finch thrives on a relatively simple diet, but never use this as an excuse to short-change these beautiful finches. The core of the diet should be a high quality small seed mix, with plenty of spray millet on the side. One breeder notes that his Stars prefer larger than average seeds, so he actually offers a high quality Budgerigar mix instead of a classic finch mix. 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 Star Finches to eat live food by providing a “teacher” finch in the colony that already knows how to take live insects. 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

little comedian, great pets, vibrant color, colourful little finches, bright red faces

challenging

scatter seed, MASSIVE mess

interesting

light nesters, inexpensive choice

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