The Red-Headed Finch (Amadina erythrocephala) somewhat resembles its more familiar cousin, the Cutthroat Finch, but is a bit larger and, in my opinion, even more striking in appearance. It is also a more reliable breeder than the Cutthroat and, if properly cared for, may live for over a decade. Many keepers report that their Red-Headed Finches mimic sounds, and the songs of other birds, quite well.
In place of the Cutthroat Finch’s attractive splash of color (please see photo), the male has a bright red or crimson head, and his breast is beautifully marked with black-rimmed white spots. Females lack the red head and are more somberly-colored in general.
The alternate common name, Paradise Sparrow, is apt – in part due to the brilliant plumage but also because this 5 ¼ inch-long bird is stoutly built, and puts one more in mind of a sparrow than a typical finch.
The Red-Headed Finch inhabits southern Africa, where it ranges from Angola through Zimbabwe to South Africa.
It is a bird of open thorn-scrub habitats and brushy veldts, but also frequents farms, villages and even cities. Red-Headed Finches breed colonially, utilizing abandoned weaver nests, tree cavities, and holes in building walls.
Red-Headed Finches may be kept in large finch cages or outdoor aviaries. Although they nest in colonies, only a single breeding pair should be kept in a cage. In an aviary or flight cage, multiple pairs may be housed together, but their behavior should be closely monitored for signs of aggression.
In spacious quarters, Red-Headed Finches may be kept with Java Rice Birds, Spice Finches, Button Quails and similar birds. They also get along with Cutthroat Finches, but will interbreed with them and produce fertile hybrids.
Millet sprays hung from perches will keep both you and your birds occupied and entertained for hours.
Small live insects (mealworms, waxworms, crickets), Egg Food and softbill pellets, while not essential outside of the breeding season, should be provided several times weekly; silkworms and other canned insects should be used to add variety to the diet.
Fresh sprouts, carrot tops, and small amounts of chopped kale, dandelion and other greens will round out the diet.
Increased amounts of protein-based foods and fresh produce are necessary during the breeding season, and for parents with chicks.
In common with some other birds native to harsh habitats, Red-Headed Finches may be stimulated to breed at any time of the year if a nest box is provided. Many owners have found that they are sometimes “too willing” to attempt nesting – starting out when given a box but failing due to age, aggression, poor condition or other factors.
While these prolific birds will utilize nearly any type of box, the natural situation is to weave an elaborate, globular nest with a tunnel-like entrance way. Superior results will be achieved if they are provided with a parakeet or large finch nest box and an ample supply of dry grass and nesting hair.
Both parents incubate the 3-6 eggs for 12-13 days. They are quick to abandon the nest if disturbed, so resist the urge to check on their progress. The chicks fledge on day 21-24, and are usually sexually mature within 6 months. However, breeding should be delayed until they are at least 1 year of age.
Video: pair of Red-Headed Finches
Cutthroat Finch Study (desert-adapted population)
Red-headed Finch image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Hans Hillewaert
Cutthroat Finch image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Daniel Crookston