Plum headed Finch
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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. Plum headed finch
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  • An Australian Grass Finch
  • Scientific Name:  Neochmia modesta  (previously Aidemosyne modesta)
  • Sub Species: None
  • Origin / Distribution: Inland parts of Queensland and New South Wales.
  • Habitat In Wild: Nomadic birds that follow the available feeds and inhabit open grasslands and lightly timbered areas as well as farmland.
  • Status In Wild: Probably secure as long as suitable habitat exists.
  • Status In (Australian) Captivity: Common, but numbers vary dramatically when it sometimes loses popularity.
  • Age To Sexual Maturity: ?
  • Adult plumage: attained by about  4 months of age
  • Best breeding years (estimate):  2nd - 5th year
  • Lifespan (estimate): About 7 - 8 years.
  • Sexing: Monomorphic / Dimorphic. Easily sexed. The cock bird has a carmine red spot on its forehead and a blackish spot on its chin. The female lacks the purple throat patch and has a distinct white eyebrow.
  • Mutations: Yes
  • Availability:  Bird dealers
  • Temperament: Non aggressive in a mixed finch collection.  Hardy bird and breeds well.  They will breed all year round if conditions are suitable and a compatible pair would be good for a beginner / intermediate level bird-keeper.  They are happy in a small aviary or a large planted aviary.  Can be bred as a colony.  One pair can be bred in a large canary style cage.
  • Cost (Victoria) Per Pair: - Normal colour (Approx) $80
  • Description Of Adults:
  1. Length: Approx. 115 mm (or approx 4.5 inches)
  2. Colour ( "normal" colour ): Refer photo/s above if available.
  3. Weight: Approx. 10 gms (or approx 1/3 oz)

The Neochmia genus comprises the Crimson finch Neochmia phaeton,  the Red browed finch Neochmia temporalis,  The Star finch Neochmia ruficauda, and the Plum headed finch Neochmia modesta.

Aviary Notes:

Read notes on "Finches - Australian" web page and use in conjunction with details outlined on this page.

Level Of Knowledge Required: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced / Specialist Breeders Only.

Government Regulations & By-Laws: Refer to "Government Laws" page.

Housing Requirements: Click on "Housing birds" web page for general details on the housing of Australian Finches or read on for specific details for this finch.

The Plum headed finch prefers an aviary with shrubs and tall growing grasses.  Care has to be taken if too many are kept in a planted aviary as they can defoliate the shrubs.  For birds that are very hard on a planted aviary, they can be placed in an aviary that has bundles of dry brush such as tea tree attached to a wall fixture in which to build their nest.

They are easy to house as they will breed in a large canary style cage/cabinet but an outdoor aviary is preferred.

A planted, fully roofed, aviary is ideal.

Diet / Feeding: Click on "Feeding birds" web page for general details on the nutrition of Australian Finches or read on for specific details for this finch.

In the wild the Plum headed finch will forage and feed on or near ground level.

Good quality finch mix, seeding grasses and some leafy green vegetables.  Live food is beneficial but not essential during the breeding season.  The best breeding results are generally obtained from the pairs that feed live foods to the young.  Mealworms, small commercial cockroaches and small crickets can be offered.  Sprouted or soaked seed if available.  Very few Plum headed finches show much interest in consuming fruit.

Basic seed mix should include Canary seed, White French Millet, Japanese Millet, and Yellow and Red Panicum.

Nesting: A basic overview only.

  • Roosting nest: No
  • Nesting months: Covers the months August to March but depends upon which Australian state they are being bred. They may breed year round if conditions are suitable.
  • Nesting receptacles: The plum headed finch will make their nest in shrubs or dry brush such as tea tree. Equally, they will build a nest in an artificial nest.
  • Nest: Dome shaped nest made of dry and green grasses and has a side entrance. Nest does not have a tunnel entrance.  Nest is lined with feathers and soft fine grasses.  The nest is small in comparison compared to other finches.
  • Who incubates the eggs: Hen / cock / both share.

They are generally intolerant of nest inspections. They nest low to the ground.

Parents usually build a new nest for each new clutch. Adequate spare nest receptacles must be available for pairs nesting in artificial nests before the current clutch leave the nest. Adequate new nest material must be available for the birds to build a new nest for the next clutch.
More details on finch nests and a selection of finch nest photos can be located on the "nests", "finch nests" and "finch nest photos" web pages.  Click on "Up" then "nests" then "finch nests" and "finch nests photos" in the navigation bars.

Breeding: Egg Colour White.  Clutch/s per year 2 - 3.  Eggs per nest 4 - 6.  Incubation approx 13 days.  Fledge approx. 21 days.  Independent approx. another 21 - 28 days.  The young may return to the nest for a few days after fledging.

Pair bonding is strong and best breeding usually occurs with birds that have the opportunity of choosing their own partner. Plum headed finches are more selective in choosing their own partner than most other species of finch. Best breeding results are obtained if the birds are allowed to choose their own partner. Once a "paired-up" couple has been identified, keep them together and they will usually be good breeders.

The Plumhead finch can be bred as a single pair in a large canary style cage but results may not be as good as in an aviary.

Artificial incubation, hand rearing or fostering will not be covered on this web site. It is too complex and diverse in nature to be attempted here.  Refer "Specific References" as listed below and "General References" listings.

Health Issues: Refer "Avian Health Issues" web page for information and references.

  • Worming and parasite control and Quarantine requirements of new birds or sick birds are considered to require veterinary advice and therefore not covered on this web site. Refer above "Avian Health Issues" web page option.
  • Avian medicine is advancing at a rapid pace. Keep updating your knowledge and skills.

General References: Refer to references listed on "Book References" web page.

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture

  • A/A Vol 57 No 9 Sept 2003 Page 198-201 (Inc Photo).
  • A/A Vol 54 No 12 Dec 2000 Page 265-267
  • A/A Vol 40 No. 6 Jun 1986 Page 141-145(Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 39 No. 12 Dec 1985 Page 290 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 33 No. 12 Dec 1979 Page 215-219(Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 26 No. 9 Sept 1972 Page 161-163
  • A/A Vol 21 No 7 Jul 1967 Page 97-98.
  • A/A Vol 13 No 1 Jan 1959 Page 19-21.
  • A/A Vol 12 No 8 Aug 1958 Page 97-99, 110 (Inc colour plate).
  • A/A Vol  3 No 9 Sept 1949 Page 98 (Sexing Aust. finches).
  • A/A Vol  3 No 5 May 1949 Page 41-42.
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol  4 Issue 8. Apr-May 1991 Page 381-385
  • ABK Vol  3 Issue 2. Apr-May 1990 Page 61-64 (Part 3)

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