Finch Compatibility in a Mixed Aviary


T here are few pleasures in aviculture that compare to watching a mixed aviary of finches going about their daily activities. The combination of their lively nature, never ending song, and a kaleidoscope of colors amongst a variety of living plants and shrubs provides a most relaxing and enjoyable picture - at least it should. If you have the right mix of compatible species, then it is indeed enjoyable. However, World War III might be a better description if the mix is wrong! It is therefore important before stocking an aviary with

finches to carefully consider just which species can be housed together to provide a compatible group of birds.

Before I start with my discussion I perhaps need to make a disclaimer. My experience of finches is in Australia, in the mild sub-tropical cli- mate of Queensland, and so my comments need to be read with that in mind. In Queensland, and indeed in much of Australia, finches are kept in outside aviaries, almost always with shelter from the elements over part of the aviary, but with part of the aviary open to rain, wind and sun. These aviaries can range from small ones maybe only 6 feet by 3 feet up to enormous flights covering several hundred square feet. The largest I have seen was about 100 feet by 25 feet and about 12 feet high.

The keeping of finches in cabinets or in inside flights is rarely practiced, except in specialized breeding programs. However the principles of compatibility I talk about here will still apply, be it on a smaller scale.

I have also restricted myself to discussing the species of finches, both Australian and non-Australian that I am familiar with. These are, in the main, those that are common in Australian aviculture. Some may be less familiar in the USA, while some of the "bread and butter" species in USA aviculture may not get a mention due to their rarity in Australia. I have also used the common names current in Australia; some I know have different common names elsewhere. To avoid confusion I will add the scientific name for each species the first time it is mentioned in the text.

The first point to consider is that, provided their environment and diet are satisfactory, finches wantto breed. If nest boxes or baskets are not provided then they will go ahead and build their own nest, much as they would in the wild. In fact many species will happily ignore provided artificial nest sites and do their own thing anyway. Thus in a finch aviary you can reasonably expect your finches to try to breed, and it is this breeding activity which leads to many of the compatibility problems that can arise.

These problems can be divided into two main areas, hybridization and competition.

Hybridization can be a serious issue in finches, especially now that importation of new stock into the USA is either very difficult or impossible. It is an issue that Australian aviculturists have faced for several decades since the importation of exotic birds into Australia ceased around 1950. The arguments against the production of hybrids, and the problems that they can cause to the genetic purity of a species are well known in aviculture and I will not repeat them here. Suffice to say I am opposed to deliberate hybridization, and with finches special care should be taken not to house together species that are known to be at risk of hybridizing.

Competition between species is most often related to breeding activity. Such behavior as fighting over nest sites, the stealing of nesting material from another nest, and fighting between males of the same species for dominance, can all be a problem.