Observation of a Male Strawberry Finch (Amandava amandava)


This articl e summa rizes 20 hours of
o bse rv a ti o n , Octobe r 13, 1991 to
November 23, 1991, on a male Strawbe
rry Finch (Amandava amandava)
in the Co llege o f Natural Resources
avia1y at th e Univers ity of WisconsinSteve
ns Po int. The Univ e rs ity of
Wisconsin-Ste ve ns Po int has had an
avia ry fea turing exoti c fin ches and
na tive fish and re pti les for o ve r ten
yea rs . The s pec ies of fin ches th at
influ e nced the behav ior of the ma le
Strawbe rry Finch we re the Java Rice
Fi nc h , owl fin ches, Cord on Ble us,
pa rrot fin ches, Goulclians, Red-eared
Waxbills, Orange-cheeked Waxbills,
Star Finches , o ne female Strawberry
Fin ch and , in la te Octo be r, a baby
St raw be rry Fin c h . The exhi b it is
loca ted in the first fl oor lobby of the
College of Natural Resources building.
This exhi bit provides opportuni ty for
stude nts majoring in Biology, Wildlife,
and Captive Wildli fe Manageme nt to
gain valuable hands-on ex pe rie nce in
the husbancl1y of these animals.
The Strawbe rry Finch has a va riety
of oth e r commo n names which include
Reel Ava clavat, Bombay Avaclavat,
and Tiger Finch (Bates 1970). The
Strawbe rry Fin c h is in the waxbill
g roup and fa lls into the fa mily of
Estrildids. This bird is small and found
in India and p a rts o f So utheast As ia
(Goodwin 196o). Strawbe rry Finches 

occur in la rge fl ocks amo ng reedy
ma rshes and wet g rassla nds (Austin
196 1). They a re trad ed commo nly
be tween Indi a and o th e r countries
because they tame eas il y and a re
re la ti ve ly easy to ra ise in captivity
(Austin 1961).
The males can be distinguished ve1y
easi ly from the fema les beca use they
a re sexu a lly dimo rp hi c . The ma le,
when in his b re eding plumage, is
almost all red with the exception of a
bl ack stripe fro m bea k to each eye .
His lower breas t, flank s, wings and
rum p are spotted white. The female is
dull e arth brown with a re el rump
patch (Goodwin 196o).
Ingestive Behavior
Inges tive be havi o r is the behavio r
assoc iated with eating and d rinking.
The male Strawbeny Finch ate mainly
mill e t and dry seed . He a lso ate
soa ked see d , me alwo rms, g reen
sprouts, and cottage cheese. Accord ing
to Goodwin 0 982), Estrilclids gene
rally ea t la rge qua ntities of dry seed
but the mill et tends to be eaten in the
la rgest amo unts. He ate the mill et off
the ground or by pecking at the hanging
mill e t s prays . He did no t spend
mu ch time eating o ut o f the di sh
which contained the bird seed . He
pre ferred to hop around on the sand
and wood chips to look for and peck
at seed s . When he was ext remely 

hungry, he jumped into the seed bowl
but this was usually done in the morning
when fresh food was first made
available. When eating the dry seeds,
he held the seed between his upper
and lower mandibles. He then raised
his lower mandible two or three
times to crack the seed before it was
When eating mealworms, the Strawberry
Finch always grabbed the worm
by the end and squeezed out the
insides, thus leaving the exoskeleton
behind. Once or twice, he ate the
remains after squeezing out the
insides. This was also observed by
Goodwin (1960) when he was watching
his Strawberry Finches. The Strawberry
Finch I observed started eating
at 10:00 a.m. after the fresh food was
set out and continued eating all day.
Drinking behavior was observed
many times. The male drank about
once an hour. He usually drank out of
a pool of shallow water located on an
island in the middle of the aviary pool.
He also drank water from the rock
wall ledges of the waterfall and water
from a large bowl used by the turtles
fora bath.
Estrildid finches exhibit two kinds of
drinking behavior: tip up drinking and
suction drinking (Heldweiller 1990).
The male finch exhibited tip up drinking.
He dipped his head down and
took some water into the bill and then
raised his head to swallow. The majority
of Estrildids drink by dipping the
bill into the water and then lifting the
head to allow gravity to let the water
flow down the throat (Goodwin
Shelter-seeking Behavior
Shelter-seeking behavior is the
behavior of seeking out optimum
environmental conditions. The structures
that the bird used most often
were a potted five-foot tall Norfolk
Island Pine tree and a grapevine perch
over the water. The male Strawberry
Finch made the greatest use of the
perch over the water. Whenever he
was frightened by people on the outside
of the aviary, he flew to this perch
for security. If the perch was being
used by diamond doves, he would
therr·seekshelter in the Norfolk Island
Pine in the corner of the aviary. His
use of the perch for security is probably
a reflec.tion ~f his ~cclimating to
captivity, smce, m Indta, Strawberry
Finches live in reedy marshes and wet

grasslands. If he were in a natural setting,
he would probably select thick
grasses for cover instead of an open
The finch was never seen sleeping.
He probably slept in the nest with the
female. He stayed in the nest for up to
two hours during the day. We could
not locate him at night because it was
too dark in the aviary.
Agonistic Behavior
Agonistic behavior is the behavior
associated with conflict between two
individuals. The Strawberry Finch's
agonistic behavior involved conflicts
with several birds in the aviary. There
was also conflict with the baby Strawberry
Finch when it was old enough to
fly. The Strawberry Finch always
chased the other finches away from
his perch. These were the Java Rice
Finch, owl finches, Cordon Bleus,
parrot finches, Red-eared Waxbills,
Orange-cheeked Waxbills, and Star
Finches. The only birds he did not
evict were the Diamond Doves, probably
because of their size. He chased
the finches off by flying at them and
pecking at their rump feathers until
they flew away. Once they started to
fly away he chased them a few more
feet and then flew back to his perch.
When he flew to the food dishes his
behavior was more submissive. He
was frequently chased away by the
Gouldians and the Cordon Bleus.
The conflict with the baby Strawberry
Finch occurred when the baby
landed on his perch. The young bird
was chased away just like any other
bird, except there seemed to be a lot
more pecking involved. Whenever the
baby was eating, the male hopped
over to the baby and chased it away
from the food. He only chased away
the baby after it was old enough to eat
on its own.
The male also defended his nest
site. He always chased away the other
species of finches from the plant in
which his nest was located. Again, the
only birds he could not chase away
were the Diamond Doves. All the
other birds were chased away the
same way they were chased from the
perch. We did not observe any aggression
or conflicts between the male and



Austin, 0. 1961. Birds of the world . Golden Press,

New York. 316 pp.

Bates, H. and R. Busenbark. 1970. Finches and

soft-billed birds. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune

City, New Jersey. 735 pp.

Goodwin, D. 1982. Estrildid finches of the world.

Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, New

York. 327 pp.

Goodwin, D. 1960. Observations on avadavats

and golden breasted waxbills . Avicul. Mg.


Heidweiller, J and G. Zweers. 1990. Drinking

mechanisms in the zebra finch and the bengalese

finch. Condor. 92:1-28.