|Java Rice Finch||Zebra Finch||Society Finch||Owl Finch||Lady Gouldian||Cut-throat Finch|
|Green Singers||Waxbill||Shaft-tail Finch||Button Quail||Orange Weaver||Mannikin|
|Canary||Star Finch||Spice Finch||Tragopan|
Our office is truly unique in many ways. In addition to having a comfortable decor and a friendly staff, we also feature one of the largest aviaries in Southwest Florida. Measuring approximately 1800 square feet, our aviary is home to over 400 birds of 16 different species from all over the world. Before your visit with us, you can get to know each bird by reading a little bit about each species below. Enjoy!
Java Rice Finch, Lonchura (Padda) oryzivora
By far the most dominant bird in the aviary is the Java Rice Finch. Also known as Rice Sparrow, the Java Rice Finch is native to the Islands of Bali and Java, in Indonesia. They were introduced to Borneo, China, Japan, Figi Islands, Malaysia and Philippines. As the name implies, Java Rice Finch eat rice and they are considered an agricultural pest in most of the countries they have been introduced into. As a result thousands upon thousands of these beautiful birds were killed in Southeastern Asia. Their markings remind me of little penguins in tuxedoes. They are very active in a large aviary and they like to live in large groups. Selective breeding in captivity has developed a wide range of colors, including birds that are entirely white.
Males and females are practically indistinguishable. The male sings more, but it is hardly a distinguishing factor. Javas usually mate for life. Both the male and female will defend their nesting site vigorously. Male construct the nest with just about anything they can find. In our aviary they use nesting boxes and baskets. The female lays 4 to 7 eggs over the period of a week. The incubation period is about 15 days. The chicks are ready to leave the nest in about a month. They are totally independent in about 1-2 weeks out of the nest.
In our aviary they eat standard finch seed mixture. When the population reached about 100 birds they begin to defoliate and destroy plant life to a point that it became noticeable, so we occasionally need to remove some Javas out of the aviary. They take baths twice a day as a group activity, lending credence to the expression, “Birds of a feather flock together.”
Zebra Finch, Poephila guttata
Zebras, are small finches native to the Australian grasslands. Currently, all species of Australian finches in the United States were not hatched in Australia. Australia has not allowed the export of native animals for decades. Zebra finches are among the most popular variety of caged birds. Mature male zebra finches are much more colorful than the female. Males have bright orange cheeks and black and white striping across the throat. Breasts are brown chestnut spotted and shares the same zebra stripes on the tail with the female. Wild zebra finches travel in huge flocks in the wide open grasslands looking for grass seeds. Experts recommend that zebra finch owners provide their birds with the largest flying space affordable. I think we did a fair job of that!
As a rule, zebra finches are gigantic nest builders. The male will use anything he can find to make a nest. In our aviary we do not provide any nesting material and they still build huge nests. In captivity, Zebras will nest in any nesting basket or box you provide them. When no more artificial nests can be found they will nest in any spot they can. Each female will lay between four and six eggs, laying one each day. Both male and female will sit on the eggs. Incubation process take 11 to 14 days. The whole process takes about two months. They effectively breed all year in our aviary causing an occasional population explosion. At that point I catch about 100-200 birds and give them away to the local pet shops, who turn around and sell them for a premium (what a racket).
Society Finch, Lonchura striata domestica
Society Finches are the bantam hens of the finch world. They are typically only kept to incubate eggs of other harder to breed birds, namely, Lady Gouldian Finches. Males and females look the same (even to themselves), and are only distinguishable by their behavior. Often two females can sit on the same non-fertile eggs for weeks. I can tell which are males when their necks are out-stretched while aggressively singing to a nearby female. It used to be believed that the society finch was a hybrid member of the Lonchura family. However, DNA studies have shown that they are simply a variety of the southeast Asian White-rump mannikin. They breed freely in our aviary, but recently I have noticed a decline in their numbers (probably due the the population explosion of Zebras and the fierce competition over nesting spots). They can be quite sociable, as their name suggests, and as many birds as possible will try to fit into one nesting box. This sometimes can smother chicks in the nest. Incubation lasts for 12- 14 days, fledge in 21-25 days and are independent in 2-3 weeks. After the chicks are independent, the entire family will continue to roost in the nest at night. Chicks will sometimes have “failure to launch”, and stay to help incubate and feed the next batch of chicks.
Owl Finch, Taeniopygia bichenovii
They are also called Bicheno Finch, Double-bar Finch, and Clown Finches. They are very closely related to the Zebra Finch. Male and females are identical, so most breeders rely upon “educated guesses”, but to be sure a physical exam can be done. Just like in the Society Finches, the most reliable method of sexing has been behavioral or to wait for the males to sing his courtship song. Once a pair has bonded, the female will sit inside the nest for a few day before laying 4-7 small white eggs. Both the male and female incubate the eggs for 11-14 days, chicks fledge in about 18 days days, and are independent in about 2 weeks. Owl Finch hatchlings look identical to Zebra finch chicks, and look similar to the adult Owl Finch after fledging (except for the darker beak and more of a gray color pattern).
These are one of the most popular birds in our aviary, but unfortunately they are one of the hardest to breed. You may be able to see one close to the ground or inside deep cover. They are very shy!
Green Singers, Serinus mozambicus
Green singers are really more yellow than green, but boy can they sing! An African relative of the canary, the male and female are easily distinguished by their markings. The greyish-green plumage, yellow stripes and bright yellow breasts of the males are brighter than the similarly colored females overall duller colors. She also has a necklace of dark spots around the neck. During breeding times, the male begins to sing very persistently and can become quite aggressive to others inside the aviary. However, during the non-breeding season, they become more tranquil individuals. Since it is unwise to have more than one pair of singers inside a single aviary, I have decided not to breed these birds and intend to keep only males. Green singers are attractive, hardy, long-lived birds (15 or 20 years) that will sing their way straight to your heart. They are extremely hard birds to photograph in a large aviary, even though many bird keepers report that green singers are easily tamed.
Blue breasted Waxbill, Uraeginthus angolensis
Blue-breasted Waxbills are often confused with the Blue-capped Waxbill (Uraeginthus cyanocephalus), and both are from central Africa. The Blue-breasted Waxbills are one of the most striking birds in our aviary. They are the “Bluebirds” of the aviary family. They are always exciting to see, either at the feeders, looking for the occasional flying insect or just flying past your window. When you see one at the feeder stay perfectly still or you may scare it away! The male has a strikingly dark blue face and breast, and the top part of its body is light brown. The female is similar to the male except not as blue. This Waxbill likes to forage on the ground and also likes areas with tall grasses, small dense shrubbery, and climbing vines. All of the Waxbills enjoy a variety of seeds like the other birds in our aviary but they are also eat insects. This presents a particular problem when placed inside an aviary, especially one with butterflies! Unfortunately, we no longer put butterflies inside our aviary, but when we did most of the butterflies were very bad tasting to birds and they soon learn to leave them alone. Providing them with a constant supply of tasty mealworms, and houseflies usually satisfies their craving for the occasional bug. Both sexes contribute to the nest building. The Waxbills will lay four to five small white eggs. Both sexes share in the incubation, with the female carrying out the brooding at night. The incubation period is 11 or 12 days long. Fledging occurs around 19 days. The arrival of the nestlings is heralded by the feverish activity of the parents singing, tail twitching, and consuming larger than normal quantities of live food. Young birds don’t leave their parents until they have been out of the nest for at least four weeks.
One interesting observation I have noted over the years with different individual birds is that female waxbills love to preen owl finches. Much to the chagrin of the owl finches mate, I might add.
Lady Gouldians, Cloebia gouldiae
Lady Gouldian Finches are one of the world’s most beautiful finches. Gouldians are native to Northern Australia where they live in dry grassy areas that have spotted bushes & small plants. In the wild, they are known to nest in colonies, and take frequent baths. This I believe is the trick to breeding Gouldians in captivity. Having several pairs of Gouldians together in the same cage stimulates the group to breed and take better care of the their chicks. They have a unique way of drinking, similar to pigeons, in that they use their bills to siphon the water like one would use a straw. This allows them to drink dew or rain drops off of leaves when water is scarce. They usually eat the tall grass seeds and catch insects on the fly during the rainy season. The male has a darker color breast and darker yellow at bottom of its belly. The female looks like the male, but with a lighter color breast and a less vivid yellow at the bottom of its belly. Gouldian are not good nest makers. They prefer covered nest boxes and since they usually mate within the nest box, it should be larger than other finch boxes. I provide coconuts with a large hole cut into the side as nests and they love them. They usually lay a clutch of 3 to 4 eggs that are incubated for 12 to 16 days. The female does most of the brooding, but the male will sit from time to time to give her a rest. The babies have little fluorescent spots around their mouths that when opened stimulate the parents to feed them massive quantities of seed, vegetables and insects. The chicks fledge in about 3 weeks. The offspring have gray heads, olive bodies and short tails. They will be ready to move out on their own at about 6 weeks of age. In the wild, 90% of Gouldians have a black head, 9 % a red head, and only 1 % an orange head. Many mutations have been created in the last half century of captive breeding. Unfortunately, due to this bird’s beauty it is estimated only 2500 bird remain in the wild as of 2005. All of the birds found in the USA have been bred here for over 30 years. Our birds are currently in a special breeding program.
Button Quail, Excalfactria chinensis
Buttons are the smallest of the “true” quails, about four inches long, and are native to Australia, Southeast Asia, and India. Buttons do not have a very long lifespan in the wild with some females lives being as short as 18 months. However, if given proper care and nutrition, we can expect our aviary button hens to live three to four years and the males to live four to five years.
Buttons run exclusively on the ground in our aviary. They always look like they are in a hurry to go somewhere. As they scurry past your window, you will probably see them stop abruptly to peck at the ground, dig with their bill and feet like a chicken looking for bugs to eat. We do not specifically set out food for the Buttons in the aviary. More than enough food falls from the feeders for them to eat. They are usually quiet birds, except when they wander too far away from their mate or chicks. They can have a fairly extensive “vocabulary” that you will come to understand if you take the time to listen. Button quail can become very tame. Sometimes I feed them right out of my hand.
Button quails can be very shy, and are easily startled. They are much happier if they have places to hide or you will experience “THE BOINK FACTOR”. When startled, a button quail’s first instinct is to fly straight up like a rocket to escape predators. They’re not going to remember that there is a roof until it’s too late. Boinking into something unyielding can cause serious injury, permanent disability, health problems later in life, and yes, even death. The answer? A “BOINK-PROOF ROOF”! Our aviary is roofed in by a screen much like a pool cage, which helps the button quail survive every time we have to travel through the aviary to restock the feeders!
The egg-laying cycle begins when the days have 14 or more hours of light. A clutch will consist of 8-12 eggs, although they can lay many more, and hatches after about 14-16 days. We have had several good hens in the past who have hatched out several clutches of chicks. Once the chicks hatch they are up and on their feet following closely behind mother (or any adult who will tolerate them) eating and pecking everything in sight. It doesn’t take very long before you have a bunch of little “BOINKING BUTTONS” all over the place!
White-headed Nuns, Lonchura maja
White-headed Nuns go by many other common names such as White-headed Munia, White-headed mannikin, Silver-headed Munia, and Cigar birds. They are from southeastern Asia and have similar habits as the Java Rice Finch. Male and female are similar in appearance. Males will have a whiter head than females, but this can be deceiving as juvenile males can look identical to females. As males age, they will gain more white on their heads. In addition, males have a sharper demarcation of chocolate color on the breast than the females. Males also have a courtship song and dance that is easily distinguished.
White-headed Nuns are unique in the bird world in that they form a strong pair bond while the birds are still in juvenile plumage. It is important to have a small colony of adults in an aviary and allow them to choose their own mates. To breed they prefer a half-open nest box and plenty of appropriate nesting material for them to construct their nest. In our aviary, this means they will nest in the larger leafed bromeliads. In the wild, seeding grass heads may be the trigger for breeding, so we provide sprouted seeds and greens to entice them to breed. Insects are not considered a large part of the diet of the wild White-headed munia so you will probably not see them eating any bugs or butterflies before or during the nesting cycle.
The clutch consists of 3-7 eggs and incubation lasts for 13 days. The chicks will fledge in 21 days and are independent in an additional 14-21 days. White-headed Nuns will readily cross breed with Black-headed and Tri-color munias which we do not have in the aviary because of the potential of a genetic mess!
Orange Weaver, Euplectes orix orix
The Orange Weaver is one of the most interestingly colored birds in the world, and one of the biggest bullies for it’s size. Native of sub-Saharan Africa, the male has seasonal coloration. During non-breeding season he is a drab, brownish tan very similar to a female house sparrow. But during breeding season he is a bright fluorescent orange and black! He is truly a beautiful bird. Hens do not change color, and are somewhat slimmer than males. The onset of color does not appear until the second seasonal cycle after fledging. For this reason young weaver cocks before the first seasonal molt are frequently sexed as hens. When a male is in full breeding regalia, and has at least one female to his harem, he is a holy terror. The male Orange Weaver is about the most aggressive and destructive finch-type bird you can own. It is not a social bird during breeding season at all. It commands a large very territory, and will chase EVERY other bird out of the area often giving its life in defense of its nests. Yes, “nests”. They are markedly polygamous in the wild, commanding a harem of as many as fifty hens. The male will often start the nest made of palm leaves and have the hen finish it. The nest may be built and rebuilt several times before the cock and hen are satisfied, and he may come back later and add on to it. This is why we no longer have the little booger in our aviary!
Shaft-tailed Finch, Poephila acuticauda
The Shaft-tail Finch is also known as the Long-tailed Grassfinch, Heck’s shaft-tail, and Black Heart finch. One of the most numerous finches in Australia. The male and female are almost indistinguishable, but small clues like the black breast patch size and the overall size of the bird can help determine their sex. They like to travel in small groups and they are considered to be good breeders, so we hope they can proliferate well here in our aviary. They are very friendly to other finches, but can be too bothersome for some of the other shy breeds causing them to abort nesting. They can nest in baskets or the regular finch boxes and like to hide in their nests. The average clutch of eggs is 4-7, incubate is 13 days, and both parents share in sitting on eggs and feeding the young. The young leave the nest in 3 weeks and are independent 3 weeks later.
Shaft-tails have very strong pair bonding and will call loudly to each other if separated. Their eggs can be incubated and raised by Society Finches very easily because the chicks begging pattern is typical of Australian finches.
Cut-throat Finch, Amadina fasciata
The Cut-throat Finch is from Africa and is also known as the Bearded Finch, the Ribbon Finch, the Cut Throat, or the Weaver Finch. Males and females are easily distinguished by the red slash under the male’s chin. Both sexes plumage is pale, sandy brown with specks of black, a black-brown tail, a thick whitish beak, and pink legs. We feed them standard finch mix, CeCe’s egg food, green leafy vegetables, cuttle bone (calcium) and some live mealworms. They are hard to breed in captivity and are very shy in the nest. I see pairs of Cut Throats sitting inside a nesting basket without any eggs, just hanging out, passing the time of day.
If you are lucky and have healthy chicks in the nest, you will not see them out of the nest for 18 to 21 days. You can identify a male upon fledging by the red slash under their chin and they are independent within 2 to 3 weeks after leaving the nest. They can be successfully fostered by society finches in spite of differences in their begging behavior. Cut-throats stretch their necks straight up to beg for food, rather than turning their heads sideways like Societies. The different mouth markings, noisy begging, and the fact that the species is from an entirely different continent still isn’t enough to put off the Society Finches maternal instinct. In a mixed communal cage, Cut-throats can be aggressive, however, when not breeding these birds can be socially acceptable. One of the major difficulties when breeding Cut-thoarts is that the females have a tendency to become eggbound. Not having enough calcium in their diet is the major contributor to this problem.
They are one of our newest species in the aviary and I am looking forward to them breeding and getting along with the rest of the birds.
Star Finches, Neochmia ruficauda
Star Finches have bright red face which extends past the cheeks in males (only indicating factor between sexes). They are olive green with a beige-yellow underbelly. Small white stary specks dot the head and flanks. Originally found in Northern Australia, they are considered threatened in the wild due to overgrazing of pastures and destruction of habitat which is similar to the fate of the Lady Gouldian. They feed on a variety of seeds, fresh vegetables, egg food and cuttle bones. They are an easy species to keep and behave themselves very well in a mixed aviary. They are as difficult to breed as Lady Gouldians but unlike the Gouldians, they breed best with only one pair per cage. Breeding season normally ranges from October- March, but can breed any time the mood is right. Male constructs the nest in either a finch box or basket and the female will lay 3-6 eggs. Incubation takes 14 days and the chicks leave the nest at 3 weeks of age. Weaning may take up to 6 weeks. Adult plumage forms at about 6 months.
Canary, Serinus canaria domestica
The Canary Serinus canaria domestica is a domesticated form of the wild singing Canary found originally in Madeira, Azores and the Canary Islands. They have been bred in captivity since the 17th Century. While wild canaries are greenish in color, captive canaries have a wide variety of colors, such as white, yellow, orange, red, brown, and black. Once regularly used in coal mines to detect toxic gases, the term “climate canary” is used to indicate a danger trigger that signal problems in the environmental.
Most males sing and most females do not. The abdomen of the hen is more rounded than that of the cocks whose legs protrude downward to the legs. Canaries are only fertile when the length of the day increases to about 12 hours. This occurs naturally at the spring equinox. Canaries are best breed one pair per cage. Greens, seeds, sprouts, apples, boiled eggs, bread, and protein rich soft foods are essential to good chick health.
Males become ready to breed before the female and may pursue a hen before her time. Separating the pair until the female is ready is one way of solving this problem, but in a large aviary it may not be practical. The pair is ready to mate when “kissing” is observed (mate feeding). They like to nest in an open (uncovered) 4″ nest cup. The female lays four or five eggs and rarely leaves the nest during the two week incubation period. Mate feeding is an important feature of the incubation process. Chicks leave the nest at 18 days and are weaned in 2 weeks. At that time the chicks are kicked out of the house and have to be removed from the cage or the mother will fight them off to make room for her next clutch.
I bought a male, orange-colored Canary and after if molted in the fall it was yellow! Yellow Canaries can be fed beta-carotene in a concentrated form before their annual molt to give them “orange” plumage! This fetches a higher price from the pet shops over the brown, white and light yellow colors of naturally pigments birds. You can feed the birds ground carrots or beets if you want to do the colorization naturally.
Spice Finch, Lonchura Punctulata
This beautiful 5 inch long finch is a mannikin like the White Headed Nun and the Society Finch. It originates from Indochina, Java, and parts of the Philippines. The male and female look identical and can only be distinguished from one another by behavior or direct sexing of their cloaca. When courting the female the male will sing a softly sounding song with his neck stretched out like that of a male Society Finch. Spice Finches and Society Finches are so similar that they can interbreed with a great deal of success. The typical lifespan of a Spice Finch is 6-8 years.
Spice Finches get their name by arriving to new ports of call onboard old spice ships from the orient. Colonies of Spice Finches have been established in virtually every warm water port around the globe. Many of the birds imported to the States actually come from Puerto Rico where the climate is perfect for them to thrive.
Spice Finches are not very cold hardy and need to have a good source of heat or kept indoors during the winter. We provide heat lamps and cover for them throughout the winter at our office. Ordinarily they are an easy species to take care of and do their best in a large outdoor aviary. They get along with most other birds, but can be intimidated by others during breeding season. They do not compete well for nesting sites and are easily overwhelmed by more gregarious birds like Zebra Finches. They lay 4-6 eggs and hatch in about 14 days. They are very good parents and the chicks are fully independent is about 2 weeks. The chicks achieve adult plumage in about 4-7 month at which time they are ready to mate. They best time for breeding is in the spring.
In the wild they concentrate in tall weeds, grasses and at the edges of rice paddies. They feed on a typical finch diet of seeds (soaked and dried), fruit (melon, cucumbers), greens, egg food, rice and mealworms.
They are a recent addition to the aviary and tend to hang outside of Room #7 deep inside the shade of the fire bush tree.
It is also known as the Crimson Horned Pheasant, it is a pheasant found in the Himalayan centered around Bhutan where it is protected from hunting by religion and government. There they live in the dense forests and undergrowth which are always under constant threat of deforestation. In the mountainous regions they move their habitat to follow their food sources from the lowlands in the winter, to was high as 14,000 feet in the summer months.
One of the unusual features of all tragopans is their inflatable bright blue wattle which the male display during the spring mating season. They get their scientific names from head feathers that look like goat horns. They feed on in our aviary cracked corn, chicken layer crumbles, all kinds of vegetable (lettuce, peas, corn), fruit (melons, carambolas, apples, cherries), and believe it or not Soft & Meaty Beef and Cheese flavored Ol’Roy dog food.
They are considered a near threatened species with only about 20,000 birds in the wild. Both of our birds were hatched in the USA from breeding stock that has existed in the states for many years. They are considered rare captive birds and are only found in exclusive aviaries such as ours.
Tragopan food dish. Everyday they get a specially prepared dish of canned peas/corn, fresh fruit, dog food, cracked corn, chicken lay crumbles, small parrot food, softbill insect diet and CeDe’s egg food. In addition to this gourmet plate, we give them a head of romaine lettuce. What a life! The Java Rice finch and Malaysian Serama’s love this plate, too!
Baby Star Finch with Papa