This beautiful African finch, which is also known as the Green-backed Twinspot, has to be one of the most beautiful finches in Africa. Currently these finches are not very common in captivity and are very much sought after.
The male has a bright red face patch, and all of the upper sides and the rest of the head and throat have a dark shade of olive green. The rump is a paler shade of the same green, which is slightly tinged with yellow, and the wings are dusky. The tail is black on the outer parts and olive-green in the center. A large area from the breast to the lower abdomen and the flanks is black with prominent white spots. The ventral area is pale olive-buff. Legs and feet are pinkish brown.
Females are similar to the males, but somewhat duller and lacking the bright red face, which is instead beige or fawn brown. Breast, belly and flanks are rather greyer than the male and the spots are less distinct.
Juveniles are similar to the female but much duller and lacking the spots on the under parts. Young males show tinges of green on the breast and spots appear gradually in an erratic or random fashion.
The above description is of the nominate race, Mandingoa nitidula nitidula. M.n. chubbi is brighter in colour while M.n.schlegeli has a larger bill. He face is deep scarlet and the breast deep red to golden orange. Green Twinspots generally reach lengths of 10 – 11cm.
Distribution and Habitat
With the Green Twinspots you get the nominate race M. nitidula nitidula, which we get in parts of South Africa, and then there are three subspecies which occur in other parts of Africa:
M. nitidula nitidula – Tanzania, Zaire, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Natal and N.E. Cape Province.
M. nitidula schlegeli – Sierra Leone, S. Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, Zaire and Angola.
M. nitidula chubbi – Sudan, S. Ethiopia, Kenya, N. Tanzania and Zanzibar.
M. nitidula virginiae – Fernando Po.
These birds live in small groups along dense riverine or secondary forest and also edges of forests. Tall or rank grassland, evergreen thickets and other dense undergrowth. They have been found at altitudes of 2400m! Occasionally they are seen in open ground but always near cover. They feed on seeds and small insects, mainly on the ground.
This species enjoys а large, planted aviary with plenty of privacy for breeding. Green Twinspots may be housed as single pairs, singles, or in groups up to 4 pairs in а large flight. They are considered as hardy lively birds, which feed mainly on the ground. A thickly planted aviary is ideal. They are friendly towards other birds, which makes them ideal for community aviaries. During the breeding season they have been known to be quarrelsome towards other small finch species. These birds enjoy warmer climates, and if you have cold winters they might need to be housed indoors during the winter. Birds that have just arrived are often best acclimatised at a temperature of around 25°C.
When it comes to feeding Green Twinspots it is important to remember that they mostly prefer to feed from the bottom of the aviary and not from feeders that are hung on the sides. Canary grass seed as well as various small grass and weed seeds, both fresh and sprouted, along with small mealworms make up a basic diet. Mealworms are ideal if your finches if they accept them as they can be purchased quite easily. Otherwise your next best option is termites. During the breeding season, animal protein is essential.
The Green Twinspot is a monogamous bird, which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life (unless one dies then a new mate can be accepted in a matter of time). They can lay between 4 to 6 eggs which are coloured white. The nest is built high up in the tree canopy and is protected from predators by branches and the dense green foliage.
The Green Twinspot prefers its privacy in regards to breeding. Males in the breeding season will raise their heads, looking straight up while “dancing” on the perch next to the female, moving in а side-stepping fashion. The female, if receptive, will crouch down and point her tail to the male. Green Twinspot males will care for the female and the young while breeding. They like to use half-open breeding boxes in which 4-5 eggs are laid approximately 5 days after mating, usually 1 daily. The female will go in and out of the nest frequently until all eggs are laid and will sit in place to incubate thereafter, ensuring all hatch in relatively close proximity. The young will hatch after 13-14 days and then leave the nest 21-23 days later. The first few days, up to a week, they often spend the night in the parental nest.
Keeping indigenous species of the Green Twinspots like the nominate race M. nitidula nitidula in South Africa will require a permit. It is best to contact your local permits office to find out about application. It is also a good idea to join a local finch or bird club in your province which will also be able to help you with application in order to keep and breed these beautiful indigenous finches. The other sub-species of M.nitidula occur naturally outside of South Africa and therefore may be kept without permits.
Overall the Green Twin spot is considered a real gem in any finch enthusiast’s aviaries. There is very little information on them and any finch breeder who is keen to keep this species should make every effort to try and breed them. They should speak to as many other people as possible who have had success with this species in order to find out what worked for them. If you do manage to breed them successfully I am sure you will have very little trouble selling any extra offspring to other finch enthusiasts!