The Australian Painted Finch(Emblema picta) is a perfect subject for cage or aviary. Colorful, easy to sex, easy to feed, peaceful, good parents, possesing outgoing personalities what more could be asked! Though not exactly a song bird, compared to the other finches from down under, they even have a pleasant voice. The only drawback is, for some unkown reason, the Painted Finch is not always easy to obtain. Perhaps if more people ask the shops to order this bird, more will become available.
Beautiful, yet not gaudy, the male Painted Finch has a bright red face mask and considerable red on the chest. The hen lacks the red of the face and the scarlet color of the chest is much reduced. In some cases it may be absent entirely. The white spots are much more evident in the hen than in the male. Juveniles, before the first molt, are similar to the hen.
The Painted Finch comes from a particularly arid section of Australia. All birds in the United States are captive bred, for Australia has not allowed exports for many years. In the wild state, this bird lives among a thorny bush called the spinifex. The long beak is nature’s way of ensuring that this finch may feed in the midst of the plant spines without being harmed.
Many of the habits in captivity relate to the environment of its ancestors. Generally dry, the terrain is occasionally drenched by rains. The plants rapidly develop and seed during these wet times. The increased supply of seeds gives the birds a chance to breed and feed their nestlings.
The nest itself is built in the spinifex bush. This plant protects it from predators. To keep the eggs and young from being impaled by the thorns, the nest is constructed in two stages. A sturdy platform of charcoal, clumps of grass, small rocks, bark, pieces of wood, and anything else available is put on top of the thorns. The male does all the heavy labor of hauling material for the nest. The charcoal is important. It stimulates the Painted Finch to go to nest and should be provided. The more familiar sort of bird nest is woven out of hair, feathers, and grass right on top of the platform.
If given the opportunity, they will perform similar feats of engineering skill in an aviary. Of course a planted flight would be best. Dead christmas trees, without any fake snow, tinsel, or anything else artificial, can be put in the flight. These, though not attractive to our eyes, require no care and are loved by the birds. Various arrangements are possible, on the ground, attached to the wire, or standing up. The Painted Finch often nests about three feet from the ground, but may prefer another location. Dense jungles are not needed. The Painted Finch is not shy and enjoys showing off in open areas.
If an elaborate setup is not possible or desired, the finches will accept `bare bones’ accommodations. The regular finch nest boxes or wicker nests may be used. It is helpful, and more attractive, to cover these with twigs. For tight quarters, pairs may be set up in large cages. Though much smaller than a canary, these are active birds that insist on room.
The hen normally lays four or five eggs. The incubation period is thirteen days, counted from the next to last egg.
In the wild, as the rains are unpredictable, there is no nesting season. If kept under artificial lights, the birds will nest on and off all year long. Under natural light, they will probably not nest during the Winter. This is a hardy bird, but should be brought inside if temperatures will be below fifty degrees for any length of time. If kept in indoor cages, normal room temperature should be provided.
Personality is a definite plus here. Painted Finches don’t squabble or fight. They don’t attack the newly fledged young. They get along with other small birds. The only problem will be if the other birds abuse the peaceful Painteds.
Feeding is very simple. Any of the good vitamin, mineral, and protein enriched finch mixes will be very well accepted. Millet sprays and fresh greens are well taken. Health grit and cuttlebone supply much needed calcium. A nestling food is a must as a protein supplement. Mealworms are relished and are a requirement during nesting.
The Painted Finch is a good parent, as long as it is supplied with mealworms to feed its young. No foster parents are required.
The drinking water is full of minerals in Australia. A good vitamin and mineral supplement should be added to the water, to ensure optimum health. The birds love clean bath water.
Why don’t we see more of these birds? Can you figure it out?