Painted Finches Where are they now?


The Painted Finch, Emblema picta, originates from Australia and in the early 1980s was being reproduced in limited numbers in Europe. They were quite expensive then and several American breeders imported them at a high price. They were popular in the mid-to-late 1980s and then seemed to lose their popularity. Why, when they were difficult to reproduce and high priced, was this finch popular and now that it can be obtained at a much lower cost, it is not as desired? This scenario should he just the opposite. There are breeders working with this finch in America hut their numbers have greatly declined. Let us encourage more breeders to propagate this finch.

The Painted Finch is one of the more colorful of the Australian finches. As adults they can he sexed visually. The male has more red on its face, chin and breast patch. The female has only a few reddish feathers on her face and her breast patch may also have only a few red feathers. Both adult birds have distinct white spots running along the sides of the abdomen and breast. The female has more extensive


white spots, however, as they run clear up to her throat and chin. Immature birds are duller in color and lack the red on their bodies and heads. The white spots of the adult birds appear as washed out gray barring.

In the early 1990s we found that the newly imported Painted Finches were much more flighty than almost all other Australian grass finches. They were not suited to small cage units that Gouldian and Owl Finches reproduced in. They did much better in cages of longer length. I use a cage similar to those observed in European aviaries. This was what was called a "meter" cage being one meter (39 inches) in length. They appear more steady with this extra length but even so we eventually placed them in cages 48 inches long. In small cage units (36 inches in length or less) the Painted Finches were forever flying back and forth showing their nervous behavior. The extended length of their cages was directly related to the reduction of this nervous flying and breeding success was then achieved. The height and depth measurements were 18 to 24 inches square.

These finches have a habit of flying straight up and hovering for a few moments before going forward to the ground or another perch. I have not seen this behavior in the other Australian finches. This may be observed in other species but was not observed in the other nine commonly kept Australian finch species that I



We have much better success in small indoor-planted aviaries and even outdoor heated aviaries. These birds can be heat sensitive so drastic temperature changes can cause disaster. Their nests are placed within clumps of grass or under the shelter of shaded plants. They seem to thrive on this security.

Even though they love security during the nesting period, the adults are not that shy. They can be observed in full view on a front perch trying to catch a ray of sun coming through a window, or on the ground drinking or flicking through the compost and leaves.

The male Painted Finch has a wonderful song and he has a very active courtship with his mate just before the breeding begins. The courtship is much more varied and active compared to that of the other Australian finches.

The Painted Finch also spends much more time on the ground than do the other Australian finches. They will often roost on the ground so one must always have clean bottoms to all of the cages as often the birds' plumage will become soiled. This is especially true if the keeper does not clean old food and fecal matter from the cage bottoms.

I was told that the Painted Finch liked running water and that it would stimulate breeding. Painted Finches do love to bathe and will foul up their drinking water if given a chance. I use watering tubes or waterers that hang outside the cage and that are reached only by a bird sticking its head through a narrow slit in the wire.

A large open-faced water dish, wide but only a inch deep, is provided every other day for bathing. The birds splash the water everywhere. This dish is removed after 20 to 30 minutes or fecal matter and dirt quickly get into it. The birds know when the bathing dish is coming and they relish it. They jump right into it as they know from experience that their feet will hit the bottom. It is like being at the edge of a pool or stream.