Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton)


Te Crimson Finch is an average to 1~~1all sized Australian grass finch. In body it is a reasonably sleek bird; however, the long tail feathers give an overall longer length than other Australian finches. They are closely related to the Star Finch or Red-faced Finch (Neochmia ruficauda) and bear obvious similarities. The overall average length of the Crimson Finch is 140 mm (5.5 inches) with the tail being only marginally less than half of this. The male bird has a red bill, face, and ear coverts with the red extending down the throat, breast and flanks. Along the flanks close to the edge of the rested wing are a number of white spots. The belly through to the undertail coverts is black. The tail is a dull crimson on the upper surface with a more fawn undersurface. The upper tail coverts and rump are crimson with the wings being fawn with a strong crimson wash in adults. The back, nape and crown are a gray to almost black on the forehead/ crown region. The gray nape almost forms a collar to the throat. The iris is yellowish and the legs are either flesh colored or yellow, depending on race.

The female bird exhibits the same degree of red in the face and side of head with a red bill although slightly duller than the male and has a dull red brown tail and only a very slight or weak red wash suffusion of the back and wing coverts. The remaining portion of feather color is a grayish fawn, slightly paler on the undersurface. The white spots on the flanks are also exhibited. The female is slightly narrower across the forehead than the male, this being a significant means for sexing immature birds. Juveniles have no distinct red feathering and have a black bill. Western birds are a darker brown and males of this race only do exhibit a slight red wash suffusion in the back and wing areas. (This is elaborated upon at a later stage of this article.) The white flank spots are also absent until just prior to coloring.


These grass finches live in the far northern and northeastern edge of Australia from the Kimberley region in the north, west to the east coast then south to the Tropic of Capricorn. They are, therefore, birds of tropical and semitropical climate and inhabit particularly the lush growth along watercourses and lush, tall, grassy glades. They are also reported to live in areas of cleared land close to human habitation where they may nest in and around buildings.

The Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) or the Blood Finch, is a colloquial name that may suggest a subspecies, but is certainly descriptive of the eastern and western extremes in the species.

Having kept and bred many of these magnificent finches over many years, I have noted differences in both behavior and, more particularly, color due to, I believe, geographic variation. I purchased a young semi-colored pair of Crimson Finches in early 1979. These were the progeny of birds bred from a parentage of Queenslandorigin birds before the introduction of wild-caught specimens from the Western Australian Kimberley region. The immature male was colored only as high as the lower chest, upper abdomen area, the upper half remaining fawn with a dull reddish bill. Eventually, the male attained adult plumage, crimson underside, black abdomen and undertail coverts, red tail and bill, brown wings heavily washed with crimson, crimson face with gray crown and nape and flesh colored legs. The bird remained this way without change. The white flank spots were evident at all times from purchasing, i.e., on the fawn coloring through to adult plumage.

The female, similarly, already with white spots and possessing a crimson tail, attained adult plumage with crimson face coloring and a light crimson wash coloration of the light brown wing coverts. The bill also became a dull crimson red. The legs were also flesh colored.