RED BROWED FINCH Neochmia temporalis
The Red Browed finch, Neochmia temporalis, is one of the most common native finches inhabiting the Australian east coast from Victoria in the south northwards to the tropics of north Queensland. This finch has adapted to live in urban areas and sometimes seen in parks and gardens, usually near a creek or some form of permanent water supply. Red Brows have kept in aviaries for many years but they have gained a reputation for being hard to breed in an aviary. Being one of my favourite finches I have kept them on and off over the years but have never been successful in breeding them. In the past the Red Brows I have kept were always housed with a mix of Australian and or foreign finches. After years of keeping Red Brows I decided in 2014 to have a serious attempt to find out what I was doing wrong and finally get them to breed
After much research and talking to other hobbyists about breeding them I realised there is not a lot of information about their breeding habits. From the information gathered I started with a must have list of four items.
- A separate aviary for the Red Brows
- Running water
- Some live plants and brush
- An aviary with privacy and little activity around it
A walk way between the existing aviaries looked like it might be the answer. This area measured 5m x 1m x 2m high I hoped it would be large enough. Running water is supplied as a recirculating system with a built in filter. As the floor was concrete pots of green panic grass, pit pit grass and a dwarf bamboo are used. The concrete floor is partly covered with 10mm gravel and the rest with course sand. Due to the rainfall in Dayboro all my aviaries have a polycarbonate roof to keep them dry. Some brush on the walls and a feeding platform completed the basic set up.
INTRODUCING THE BIRDS
I had two pair of DNA sexed Red Brows plus one bird of unknown sex, these birds were introduced into the aviary in November. A few days of bickering but within a week a pecking order was established and all the birds settled in nicely. The running water set up proved very popular and the birds spent a lot of time bathing in it. Problems with cleaning the watering system caused a few modifications to get in running smoothly.
Two wire tubes filled with branches of Melaleuca bracteta [ sold as Revolution gold] pulled down through the tubes to resemble a bush were hung as high as I could hang them. Another tube filled with grass was also supplied but the birds showed no interest in this tube. November grass [ swamp grass] plus long grass about 250mm was supplied in a basket hung on the wire. Feathers were also supplied next to the nesting grass. Much to my surprise two weeks later both pairs started nest building this turned into a housing development build one nest and then another. This went on for weeks before they stopped building, maybe they have finally found the right spot. Both nests were built in the same tube one at the top facing north the other at the bottom facing east.
While this nest building was going on I was trying different seeds, greens, and live food and by January I found a range of food they seemed happy with. It became apparent that green food would be a major part of their diet. Food is supplied in a four compartment tray sitting in a litter tray about 800mm above the floor on a greased pole to stop the ants. A standard finch mix is supplied via an auto feeder in the same tray. In the four compartment tray I feed the following.
- A seed mix of greens & grains, tonic mix, chic starter, and quick oats to this I add a little macadamia oil and a vitamin &mineral supplement. Also a mix of fine seeds including Haifa White Clover, Lettuce, Barnyard grass, Phalaris, Bambatsi and any other fine seeds I can find.
- A slice of Lebanese cucumber, diced greens from the garden including Lettuce, Endive, Silver Beet, Chicory, Asian Spinach, Kale or whatever is in season. A frozen mix containing Broccoli, Green Peas, Corn, grated Carrot, grated Zucchini, milk seed and sprouted seed.
- Maggots & fly pupae
- A few meal worms are supplied and numbers are increased if required.
Also fed are green seed heads of whatever is available.
Charcoal, grit, cuttlebone, and baked egg shell is always made available.
The middle of January saw their live food consumption change from maggots to large quantities of fly pupae. Apart from seeing some of the birds some of the time this was the first sign that they may be sitting on eggs. Early February on the floor was a chic who looked like it should still be in the nest, over the next week six more young. Five of the young much more developed than the other two, I assumed both pairs had bred and this was confirmed by the parents feeding of their young. The birds diet changed back to mainly maggots and lots of green food while they were feeding their young.
The Red Brows have continued to breed with clutches from two to five always in the warmer months, September until March. The young chicks are very quiet while they are in the nest and the young birds have a distinct fire tail when they leave the nest. Young Red Brows seem to get their full colour very quickly.
I have tried to sex them visually but seldom get it right. The surest way I found was to get them DNA sexed and this is what I do now. I have noticed a visual difference in the red brow shape of older pairs but this is still to be confirmed. After talking to other breeders it appears that some pairs can produce mainly cocks or hens.
Two of my DNA results:
9 samples [2 clutches] 7 hens & 2 cocks
7 samples [2 clutches] 6hens & 1 cock
Another breeder 5 samples [1 clutch] 5 cocks
I do not know if these proportions of sexes are normal for Red Brows but it may explain why we have had trouble breeding from so called pairs if brought from one person. Another reason for this imbalance may be in their diet as no two hobbyists feed the same diet to their birds.
MY THOUGHTS ON BREEDING RED BROWS.
Why after many years have I finally had success in breeding Red Brows, it is not magic only the fact that I finally supplied suitable habitat to enable them to breed in my aviary. It has been a great learning experience and eye opener for me and here are some of my thoughts.
In small aviaries like mine Red Brows only is a must. An environment that is quiet without the hassle from other birds is needed. In large well planted aviaries with plenty of brush cover it may be possible to keep them in a mixed collection.
The supply of mixed small seeds is always welcomed by the birds.
Running water and the sound of it is beneficial but I don’t think it is essential.
While some pairs are visually easy to sex when they have matured it saves a lot of time and frustration if you get them DNA sexed when they are young.