Now with a title like
that I could only be speaking about the Blue-faced parrotfinch, Erythura
trichroa, which is a firm favourite of finch breeders throughout
Australia. Sure, I may be stretching it a bit to call them ‘True-Blue’
Aussies but they do occur in the Cape York region of Queensland so, as this
is my story, I’m sticking to it!
Perhaps not as striking in colouration as its cousin the Red-face it is
never-the-less a very pretty bird in its own rights with its green body,
blue head and red tail coverts.
Sexing is ‘generally
easy’ as the male has the deeper blue head and the extent of this blue is
usually more marked in the male.
However, as a tip for young players, be aware that there are several island
races of the Blue-face and in these the extent of the blue head is very
Not suggesting they were smuggled in but more that the origin of our aviary
strain of Blue-face is derived from a fairly diverse gene pool where sexing
is by no means a ‘lay down misere’!
To this end I have seen 2 hens that had as much blue as the best male I’d
ever seen (not old birds either) and both a cock bird and a hen that had no
blue in the head at all!! So try and use a few sexing methods when selecting
pairs just to be on the safe side.
Usually only the males will trill or ‘sing’ and this is a good sexing method
– especially when pairs are first introduced. One sexing method that many of
us favour is what I’ll call the ‘canary method’!
When birds are mature or especially when in breeding condition if you flip
the birds onto their backs and blow on the vent feathers you will see that
the males vent is raised and points upwards with a pronounced dip between
its abdomen and the vent itself.
The females vent simply points out behind her and lacks the large dip at the
back of the abdomen.
Doug Hill also demonstrated to me that the intensity of the green of the
body colour of males is often more intense than in females – especially in
that bright NSW sunlight!!
combination of those features will get you over the line in the sexing
There is also a
sex-linked Lutino mutation commonly seen these days. The birds are red-eyed
and struggle with direct sunlight and it pays to watch hens that are paired
up to ‘over-sexed’ normal males!
Being sex-linked hens are always commoner and cheaper than males and my own
attempt to breed from them was a mixed bag. I have been told that Lutino
paired to Lutino will ‘work’ but most that I know that bred them run a
Lutino hen to a split male or a Lutino male to a normal hen. No such thing
as a split female in sex-linkage despite some unscrupulous type that sold a
mate of mine 2 "split" hens!!
I am lead to believe most pairings of Lutino to Lutino is performed in
breeding cabinets rather than in aviaries.
There is also a grizzle pied which is a striking bird but they are rarely
offered for sale and I have not heard of them for years now – hope there are
some still out there in finchland.
These guys are easy
to cater for with a good quality finch mix and ours are fed on Elenbee Seeds
Clifton Finch Mix and Clifton Tonic Seeds. They have access to
soaked/sprouted seed with my own ‘special’ soft food, vitamin mix and the
Lowe’s vegetable mix fresh everyday and love Lebanese cucumbers and fresh
greens - when available they are offered green seeding grasses, Chickweed
and anything else that’s ‘green’ and in season! Our usual stashes of green
grass down here are the three members of the Ehrharta family.
All our birds have free access to fresh clean water and my own ‘Polly’s
As a lad I once read a European publication in which a German breeder stated
that the skins of mealworms had a deleterious effect on the digestive tract
of members of the Parrotfinch family – in fact he use to boil the mealworms
and peel them before feeding out!! I know mine will breed quite happily
without them but they seem to appreciate the addition of some form of live
food into their diet – in our case clean fly pupae or better known as the
Maybe fed in moderation they will be fine as I have never had impaction
diagnosed in autopsies of these or any other finches.
Suffice it to say they will rear without live food and appear much more
interested in green seeding grasses than the live food bowl when chicks are
in the nest.
These birds are an
active species in the mixed collection and can be very boisterous especially
when breeding. Their mating ritual has to be seen to be believed and it is
strongly advised that if you have them on the colony system that you ensure
that the number of males to females does not vary from 1:1 as additional
males will mate with any female unlucky enough to cross their path.
Even with such a ratio watch your pairs as some males will harass females as
soon as they leave the nest often knocking the hen to the ground in the
mating frenzy. Also other "free" males will often join in this mating frenzy
which is both not good for the hen or for the chance of fertile eggs through
disruption of the "proper" mating process.
If you feel I am being too harsh a mate once asked me to drop in and see the
new "trick" his male Blue-face had developed in the holding cages. The
"trick" was that these Blue-face were attempting to mate with male King
quail by grabbing hold of their necks and literally bare-back riding them
around the aviary floor!!!
This trait of grabbing the nape of the neck of the hens is often a tell-tale
sign that breeding in Blue-face is taking place as the hens often resemble
scarecrows by the completion of the breeding season - or maybe treat as a
warning that there may be far too many males in the cage!!
Without further labouring the point I have had males pack rape females and
literally drown them in the water bowls when I wasn’t quick enough to remove
the young colouring males from the flock. Remember that the green
colouration of the Blue-face makes them very difficult to see in a planted
aviary so regular checks would seem advisable to keep the males in check!
Don’t wish to put you
off the Blue-face but they were one of my favourites for a long time a few
years back but it was a love-hate relationship when it first started!
I purchased my first pair and the hen died two days later. A new hen was
procured and the cock bird then up and died to show his appreciation. He was
replaced and the hen died…you get the basis of my "relationship" with this
After deciding to call it quits and let the surviving hen go ‘out to
pasture’ a mate saw her and asked if I wanted to buy a male ‘to keep her
company’. I simply looked at him strangely and declined and told him that
the hen he was looking at represented the national debt of several small
Never one to be put off he duly returned and gave me a spare male that had
been harassing quail in his holding aviary – if you know what I mean!!
So every morning and evening I adopted the finch keepers’ stance and
searched the floor and the Tea-tree for the bodies. Well, this time they
were out to dazzle me with their brilliance. It became obvious that the male
I was loaned had not been with a hen for ‘quite some time’!
He hounded her from dawn to dusk and disgraced himself in front of a few
visitors who had come to see them as they were by no means common here at
that stage. We were watching them flitting about when he grabbed hold of the
hen and proceeded to drive her head-first into the aviary wire and began
mating right in front of the shocked couple. The wife turned to her husband
and announced in a very firm voice that "you WONT be getting any of those
for MY aviary"!
However this hen must
have thought that the only way to avoid this feathered lunatic was to go to
nest. So, nest she did…again and again and again! The usual clutch was 5-6
eggs, which always yielded 5-6 fledglings and, best of all, most of them
would be hens.
The following season
I had reduced the national debt and had 6 unrelated pairs ready for action.
This loose colony bred 77youngsters and the aviary was awash with little
Little green bodies that crash, bang, smash and collide with every other
unfortunate finch in the aviary. I learnt a valuable lesson with Blue-face -
keep to 2-3 pairs in a mixed collection or move the rest of the birds to a
Needless to say, like every good aviculturist, I simply built them another
At that time they were still uncommon in aviculture and we sent them to all
corners of mainland Australia.
For nesting they are
not fussy at all and will use a variety of receptacles from nest boxes, wire
cylinders to building their own in the aviary brush. They will often reuse
an old nest by inserting a nesting chamber inside the older structure.
Copious amounts of nesting materials are used and Emu feathers and
Swamp/Blown/November grass are favourites.
One thing to remember with many of these birds from a climatic zone where
the temperature does not vary much is that they really struggle with
extremes of heat. With our aviary designs in Tasmania we have seen Red
siskins and Red & Blue-face parrotfinches struggle in periods of high
temperatures. Our guess is that they are derived from stock that has no need
of great thermoregulatory powers given that their natural home range
temperatures are fairly constant ones.
This is doubly so for young Blue-face which, on hot days, often hang out the
entrance to the nest and appear dead until touched. As a result of this they
often fall out of the nest – or maybe they are seeking a cooler locale – but
do not stress unduly as in 95% of cases simply placing them back in the nest
is all that is required. Mind you may then have to solve the heat problem to
avoid a repeat performance – maybe making sure that nest boxes/sites are
away from the very top of the aviary is a start. A breeder from Kalgoorlie
places his Parrotfinch nest boxes on the wall only a metre from the floor
and has great success with these species.
You will be left in
no doubt as to when you have young in the nest as their incessant begging
calls are loud indeed. The chicks themselves have the large luminous lobes
or as we scientific bods call them ‘traffic lights’ on either side of their
mouth in common with Red-face and Gouldian finches. Why ’traffic lights’,
well with such large luminous spots even the most optically challenged
parrotfinch could not fail to see where to put the next load of food!
To that end when Red-faced parrotfinches were highly priced I often used
Blue-face to rear them with great success. Given the Tri-coloured
parrotfinches nasty habit of leaving their young at around 8 days I’d
imagine that they would do a great job in rearing them too.
Apart from a regular worming regime these finches appear to suffer from a
number of bacterial infections which have devastating effects on their
populations and appear not to trouble other members of the mixed aviary. The
signs can be nothing at all through to a bird appearing fluffed up then
dying which is usually followed by the demise of a number of the flock. Your
avian vet will be able to confirm whether this is the case in your Blue-face
and devise a routine to remedy it.
If you do suspect this is happening to your birds then I urge you to seek
veterinarian assistance as losses can be severe if untreated. We have
confirmed this bacterial infection with some Tasmanian breeders and the
local bird veterinarian Dr James Harris and suggest you might like to
consider this if you have some sudden unexplained deaths in your Blue-face.
Just a brief final note on worming please be aware that many breeders have
experienced problems with this species when wormed with some Levamisol based
wormers when administered in their drinking water.
Don’t let the number of males in your aviary build up to a dangerous level –
for the sake of the hens!
Plenty of greens will see excellent results and live food is not essential
to rear youngsters.
Red-face crossed with Blue-face is sterile so DON’T do it and don’t even
contemplate mixing them with Tri-colours!!!
If your relatives are easily offended by ‘overt shows of sexual behaviour’
DON’T let them near your aviary when
these guys are
If a fellow breeder tells you that his surplus males are trying to mate with
quail BELIEVE HIM!
Most can be sexed like canaries in the breeding season – males have a dip
after the abdomen with a raised ‘pipe’
downwards while the hens don’t have the dip and her vent points out behind
Some youngsters can be sexed by the intensity of the green in their bodies
not long after they leave the nest.
A still Blue-face is a sick Blue-face (or a Lutino searching for his/her
Just because knowledgeable people tell you they are easy to breed don’t
expect them to ‘play ball’ for YOU.
Watch them around smaller waxbills as I have seen them squashed between two
mating Blue-face – not a pretty
sight and imaging
how the Red Strawberry felt!!
Cuban Finches, Tiaris canora, don’t like many birds but they appear
to exhibit a pathological hatred for Blue-face at
certain times and
unless you remove one or the other, your Blue-face may resemble the scalped
cast of the ‘Last of
BEWARE: Blue-faced are highly intolerant of high temperatures when breeding
and young are often lost through
If your Blue-faced throw their chicks on the floor simply put them back in
the nest and, in the majority of cases (but not all
position your nest boxes/Tea-tree with this in mind.
I hasten to add!!) they will simply carry on feeding them as per
If you are not good with worming your finches see someone QUICK to show you