The beautiful Strawberry finch is a relatively easy finch to keep, and is a delightful finch to observe in your aviaries. Their melodious song and attractive colours make them endearing and unusual, and they are a great finch to add to any aviary. Unlike many species of waxbills, the male Strawberry Finch has a clear song which consists of clear, flute-like notes. There are two species of Strawberry finches, the more well-known species being Amandava amandava which is renowned for the male’s beautiful red breeding plumage and which this finch was named for. Then there is Amandava formosa, which has more of a green colour to it, resembling an unripe strawberry. In the past these finches were readily available for sale in South Africa but they have become much less common and so their demand and value has been steadily rising.
Strawberry Finches belong to the group of finches known as waxbills. They naturally occur in the tall grasslands, marshes and bushes of India, Pakistan, some parts of China and the Philippines.
Strawberry Finches are peaceful finches and can be kept in an aviary with other small seed eaters (Cordon Bleu’s, Red Faced Pytilia’s, Gouldians etc.) without too many problems. If any problems do arise it will be during the breeding season when the finches are establishing a nesting area. Once nesting has begun the fighting usually stops. Strawberry finches should be housed in large aviaries that measure around at least 1.8m in length, which will allow them enough space to fly. Breeding pairs should be kept in flights for optimal success in breeding young. These finches do very well in planted aviaries, so if possible provide leafy branches, grasses, reeds and dense bushes for coverage socializing and nesting. Provide them with fresh water in a shallow bowl about 3 cm deep; your finches will enjoy bathing in this water.
Strawberry Finches will need to be fed daily. Provide them with a seed mix containing red and yellow manna, Japanese millet, white and yellow millets as well as canary seed. Your finches will also benefit greatly from a daily provision of green foods such as chard, spinach, celery tops, kale, chickweed and dandelion greens. Sprouted mixed millet seeds are also a favourite.
Especially during the breeding season it is important to provide foods that are high in protein, such as egg food and small mealworms. Additional supplements such as cuttlebone, oyster shell and grit with charcoal are also an important part of the Strawberry Finch’s diet, as well as Avi-Sup Twinpack, which contains vitamins, minerals and trace elements. These supplements contain valuable minerals and trace elements needed for good health and the grit will aid in digestion. The Cuttlebone will provide calcium which is necessary for the bird to have a strong beak and for females to produce healthy egg shells and to prevent egg binding.
Strawberry Finches are sexually dimorphic. The cock bird undergoes a nuptial change, where his colours change to a rich red with white spots; they have dark reddish-brown heads, backs and wings with a black tail during the breeding season. Out of the breeding season males and females will look alike with brown feathering on top with darker wings and yellow under parts. The rump and upper tail appear dark red and females display a few white spots on their wings. Strawberry Finches can breed at around the age of 8 months although it is recommended to wait until 12 months before breeding. Breeding times are during the warmer months from spring through to summer. The male Strawberry Finch will do a mating dance where he will sway from side to side whilst holding a piece of grass in his beak. When the hen bird is ready to accept his offer she will quiver her tail.
Strawberry Finches have been known to be very good parents, which makes them a good finch for beginner waxbill breeders. During the breeding season they can become aggressive when selecting their nests so it is best to have one pair of Strawberry Finches per flight, which can contain other species of small seed eaters, but just make sure to keep an eye on them.
They will accept a variety of different nests including closed wicker baskets and half-open nest boxes. Most Strawberry Finches will however build their nests in bushes in the aviary or in man-made nest boxes. Both the males and female Strawberry Finches will assist in building the nest: they will use coconut fibres, dried grasses and other plant materials of this type, they will also use moss to line the nest. Clutches of around 4 – 7 eggs are laid and the hen will rear the young with the help from the male. It is recommended that you do not disturb the nest and you must not touch the nest or eggs, as this will result in the parents deserting the nest. Incubation averages around 12 days, and chicks will fledge at about 3 weeks of age. Strawberry Finches are prolific breeders and if allowed they can breed themselves to exhaustion, it is therefore important to control the number of clutches your hen lays, with 3 clutches a year being reasonable.
Young birds can be rung immediately after they have left the nest, just make sure to do it carefully so as not to injure their toes. Pairs can be kept together all year round. Keys for breeding success are a diet rich in protein, a planted environment, a large flight, lots of privacy and appropriate supplementation.
Strawberry Finches are some of the best waxbills for any aviary situation, they are a very peaceful bird and it can be great enjoyment keeping them in an aviary with other smaller finches; as far as waxbills go they are highly recommended!