Red billed Firefinch
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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. Red billed firefinch
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  • Scientific Name: Lagonosticta senegala
  • Sub Species in country / area of origin: 9
  • Origin / Distribution: Widely throughout Africa except the northern portion.
  • Habitat In Wild: Drier areas of savannah and acacia scrub. Has adapted to populated areas.
  • Status In Wild: Secure. One of the most widespread and common of the African birds.
  • Status In (Australian) Captivity: Common
  • Age To Sexual Maturity: About 6 months
  • Adult plumage: attained at about  4 - 6 months
  • Best breeding years (estimate): 12 months - 4th year.
  •  Lifespan (estimate): About 5 - 6 years
  • Sexing: Monomorphic / Dimorphic. Sexing can be made at about 7 - 9 weeks of age.  Feathers on the males starts to turn red.
  • Mutations: Yes
  • Availability: Pet shops and bird dealers
  • Temperament: Good in a mixed colony. Very popular, active, attractive and hardy bird. Will breed in a colony, mixed collection or as a single pair in a cage.
  • Cost (Victoria) Per Pair: - Normal colour (Approx.) $50
  • Description Of Adults: One of the smallest of the foreign finches.
  1. Length: Approx. 90 - 100 mm (or approx 3.5 - 4 inches)
  2. Colour ( "normal" colour ): Refer photo/s above if available.
  3. Weight: Approx  9 gms (or approx 1 /3 oz)
Aviary Notes:

Read notes on "Finches - Non 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" web page.

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

Usually has a peaceful nature and suitable for a mixed species collection in a planted aviary. Can be bred as a colony. Can be bred as a single pair in a large canary style cage but results may not be as good as in an aviary.

Spends a lot of time on the ground. Low growing dense shrubs and tall growing grasses including potted bamboo plants are ideal.

As one of the smallest of the foreign finches available in Australia, ensure the cage front bar spacing does not allow the bird to get its head through and get stuck.  Some "budgie" or canary cage fronts may have the bar spaces too wide for these birds.  Special finch cage fronts can be purchased to ensure a safe, escape proof home for small finches.  Finch cage fronts have the bars closer together.

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

Require a good quality finch mix and seeding grasses. Live food is beneficial throughout the year and essential at breeding season. Small mealworms, small cockroaches and small crickets are ideal.  Sprouted or sprouted seed if available.

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

In the wild, Fire finches predominantly feed on the ground consuming seeds and some insects.

Nesting: A basic overview only.

  • Roosting nest: Yes / No
  • Nesting months: May breed year round if conditions are suitable, although spring to autumn is preferable.
  • Nesting receptacles: Will build a nest in a shrub or dry brush usually close to the ground. Equally it will build a nest in a wide variety of artificial nests.
  • Nest: Builds a dome shaped nest from fine grasses, teased short lengths of hessian, coconut fibre, moss and plant material. Nest has a side entrance. Nest is lined with fine soft grasses, other soft materials like wool and feathers. A soft grass such as November grass is ideal.
  • Who incubates the eggs: Hen / cock / both share.

Nests are often built at about mid height in the aviary (about 1 metre/ 3.5 feet above ground).  These birds seem less fussy in choosing a nest site.  They will build a nest in almost any suitable spot.

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 rebuild the old nest or build a new nest for the next clutch. Removal of the old nest will ensure they build a new clean 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 3 - 4.  Eggs per nest 3 - 6.  Incubation approx. 12 - 13 days.  Fledge approx. 18 - 21 days.  Independent approx. another 14 - 21 days.

Adequate live food is essential for the first 10 - 12 days.

It is usually safe to leave the young fledged birds in the same aviary as the parent birds. The young can benefit by being left with their parents for about 4 weeks after leaving the nest, after that they can be placed into another aviary.

Although they are short lived for a finch, they make up for this with high numbers of young. They can be paired up and start breeding at an early age and breed well for about 3 years. Spare adult birds should not be allowed to be in the same aviary as paired up breeding birds.

Hens should be allowed to mature fully before they start to breed.  Best results are obtained if the hen is about 9 months of age prior to laying.  The short delay of about 3 months while the birds fully mature, can be made up by more reliable parenting skills and better productivity in future years.

Nest inspection should be kept to a minimum. Leg rings can be placed on the young birds as soon as they leave the nest. Red billed Firefinches can be used to foster other finches.

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 option - "Avian Health Issues" web page.
  • 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 59 No. 11 Nov 2005 Page 255-259 (Background notes on some African Waxbills).
  • A/A Vol 52 No. 7 July 1998 Page 150-153
  • A/A Vol 47 No. 2 Feb 1993 Page 36-38
  • A/A Vol 38 No. 4 Apr 1984 Page 82-85 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 31 No. 3 Mar 1977 Page 39-42 (Inc photos)
  • A/A Vol 23 No 12 Dec 1969 Page 169-176 (Inc photos).
  • A/A Vol 22 No 6 Jun 1968 Page 89-90.
  • A/A Vol 15 No. 4 Apr 1961 Page 49-50.
  • A/A Vol 14 No 6 Jun 1960 Page 90-91.
  • A/A Vol 10 No 8 Aug 1956 Page 77-78.
  • A/A Vol  7 No 10 Oct 1953 Page 123.
  • A/A Vol  7 No 6 Jun 1953 Page 75-76.
  • A/A Vol  5 No 5 May 1951 Page 63-64.
  • The Bulletin No 15, Dec 1943 Page 6 - 7 (Breeding notes).
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 11. Oct-Nov 2005 Page 676-681 (What's genetically pure and what's not)
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 10. Aug-Sept 2005 Page 601-607.
  • ABK Vol 14 Issue 7. Feb-Mar 2001 Page 376-379.
  • ABK Vol  6 Issue 7. Feb-Mar 1993 Page 321-326
  • ABK Vol  5 Issue 6. Dec-Jan 1993 Page 275-277

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