Home | Bird Behavior | Keeping and Breeding the Cuban Finch or Cuban Melodious Grassquit

Keeping and Breeding the Cuban Finch or Cuban Melodious Grassquit

Cuban GrassquitFinch keepers with a bit of room and some experience would do well to consider the gorgeous and plucky Cuban Finch, Tiaris canora.  They can be challenging, but most agree that their gorgeous colors and vibrant spirits make efforts spent on their care worthwhile.

Although not commonly seen in pet stores in the USA, Cuban Finches are well established in private collections.  The related Yellow-Faced Grassquit or Olive Finch, T. olivacea, is sometimes available from the breeders specializing in Cuban Finches.

Range and Habitat

Cuban Finches are native to Cuba and several nearby islands, where they favor brushy scrub, wooded grasslands, forest edges and farms.  They also appear in Florida on occasion, most likely as strays.


The jet-black face and throat of the male, bordered by bright yellow, is striking.  The rest of the plumage is olive-green.  Females sport brown plumage in place of the males’ black, and have their own subtle beauty.

Brilliant colors, a bold demeanor, and constant activity often make the Cuban Finch appear larger than its 3.5- 4 inches.


Cuban Finches will not tolerate crowding, and must be provided with plenty of room to move about.  A large flight cage is a must, and they really come into their own in a planted outdoor aviary.

Pairs form strong bonds, and will often attack other Cuban Finches and unrelated species (birds with even a small amount of yellow in the plumage are sure targets).  Single males may be as aggressive, or more so, as a mated pair…in most cases a separate room is needed for each male if stress is to be avoided.  Colonies are, however, sometimes possible to establish in large, densely planted aviaries.


Mated Cuban Finches sometimes exhibit perplexing behavior.  Either sex may, for no apparent reason (to us, anyway!) destroy the nest or throw out specific chicks.  Pairs that do so may go on to raise the next brood without event.  An unseen stressor is likely at work, but in many cases even experienced keepers are at a loss to identify the problem.

Incubation, which lasts for 11-13 days, is carried out by the hen alone, but both parents feed the hatchlings.  Inspecting the nest at this time will usually cause abandonment.  The chicks fledge in 12-17 days, at which time the hen often re-nests while the male continues to feed the fledglings for up a month longer.

Yellow-faced GrassquitThe adult plumage begins to appear at age 3 months or so.  You must be careful to remove the youngsters before this time, as the first yellow feathers to appear may trigger a fatal attack by the formerly devoted male parent.

Sexual maturity is reached by 4 months of age, but hens should not be bred until they are 12 months or so old.  Captive longevity averages 7 years.


High quality finch seed can form the basis of the diet, but variety is essential if Cuban Finches are to remain in good color, health and breeding condition.  Fruit, greens, sprouts, egg food and small live or canned insects should be offered regularly.  Insects are especially important during the breeding season and when chicks are being reared.



Further Reading

Video featuring several beautiful Cuban Finches

Cuban Finch Breeder

Natural History of the Cuban Finch and other unique animals of Cuba

Cuban Grassquit male image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Richard Taylor
Yellow-faced Grassquit male image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by TonyNorthrup


  1. avatar

    Very helpfull thank you

  2. avatar

    Thanks for the kind words, Best, Frank

  3. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I had read your article about cubans and also other articles and i was very scared of releasing my pairs of cubans into my mixed finch aviary due to how aggressive the readings i found made them sound. However i took the risk and put them in the aviary.. its been two months now.. they readily adapted to their new surroundings.. like the articles say they really come to themselves in large planted aviaries (like mine 4 metres by 1.2 wide by 2.2 high with 2 ficus trees of 2 metres in height) and they readily set up nest and are currently sitting on eggs.

    Im very glad to say they show ZERO aggression to other finches. I have the shaft tails occasioanly perching on top of the cubans nest with no reaction at all from the cubans. I hope they remain this way as they are possibly one of my favourite finches in the aviary if not the favourite.

    Ive limited the nest checks to one time to see if they actually laid and havent checked again so i have no idea how many eggs they have.. i have to enter the aviary to feed them and the female immediately leaves the nest when i do so but re enters the nest right after i leave the aviary when im done from feeding.

    Looking forward to mid august now to see if i hear some chirping coming from babies 🙂

  4. avatar

    Hello Matt,

    Thanks very much for your observations..great to have on hand. Sounds like a wonderful set-up; I’m sure the size and plantings are are key factor in your success. Please keep me posted..enjoy and good luck, Frank

  5. avatar

    hi, interesting post , the second pics is actually a different species http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow-faced_grassquit
    Wondering if this other can be breed in captivity.

  6. avatar

    Hello Michael,

    Thank you.

    Yes, the Yellow-faced is mentioned in the 1st paragraph and noted in the photo credits below; i’ll go back and make a specific ref to the photo, which would be clearer.

    I’ve only seen them in offered in the USA on rare occasions, but have not checked recently.

    Best, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

Read other posts by

I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
Scroll To Top