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Crafty Brood Parasites – Some Zebra Finches Lay Eggs in Neighbors’ Nests

Male Zebra FinchCowbirds, cuckoos and whydahs are well known brood parasites, meaning that females deposit eggs in the nests of other bird species and leave them to the care of their unsuspecting foster parents.  Finch owners may be surprised to learn that some female Zebra Finches also use this reproductive strategy – but with a special twist.

Cheating…Zebra Finch Style

Researchers at Bavaria’s Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (the former stomping grounds of the legendary animal behaviorist Konrad Lorenz) have discovered that certain female Zebra Finches specialize in taking advantage of their neighbors’ nests.  Read More »

Ideal Finches for Beginning Bird Breeders – The Silverbills

SilverbillsAttractively colored in shades of brown, tan and cream, and with distinctive silvery-gray beaks, the Silverbills are hardy, peaceful and breed readily.  They almost always raise their chicks without incident, and many pairs are even tolerant of overly-enthusiastic nest inspections.  Today we’ll take a look at 3 readily available species that make wonderful additions to any collection.


Silverbills fare well on relatively simple diets – a high quality finch seed mix along with some greens and sprouts    will meet their needs.  Tiny mealworms, crickets and other insects may be offered to nesting pairs, but the addition of extra sprouts is all that most parents need in order to successfully raise their young. Read More »

Gouldian Finch Infidelity – Cheating to Acquire Better Genes

Gouldian FinchesRecent studies of the Gouldian Finch (Erythrura gouldiae), an endangered species and popular pet, have revealed that females readily copulate with males other than their mates in order to ensure that the young acquire the best possible genes.

Risky Behavior

Working with finches in captivity and in their natural habitat (Northeastern Australia), researchers at Australia’s Macquarie University found that paired females will indiscriminately cheat on their mates when given the opportunity.  This behavior puzzled he researchers since, if discovered, the females risked abandonment by their mates and would likely be unable to raise their chicks alone. Read More »

The Vasa Parrot, a Psittacine Rule-Breaker

Vasa ParrotLike much of Madagascar’s wildlife, the Vasa Parrot (or Greater Vasa Parrot, Coracopis vasa) stands apart from related species in both appearance and behavior.  Somberly-colored and with a heavy, slow mode of flight, airborne Vasa Parrots have been described as resembling “elongated, ragged crows”!  However, it’s unique natural history and interesting behavior more than make up for the lack of colorful plumage, and interest among both ornithologists and hobbyists is growing each year. Read More »

Personality or Appearance – Which Matters Most When Birds Seek Mates?

Male House FinchPeople have long pondered the role that “looks” and personality play in our personal relationships.  Recent studies of the House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) suggest that similar considerations may arise when birds go courting as well.

Drab Plumage…No Problem!

Working with wild House Finches in Arizona, ornithologists from Cornell University and the University of Arizona determined that females preferred brightly-colored (red) males to duller, orange/yellow individuals (American Naturalist, September, 2010).  The somberly-colored males, however, were not so easily put off.  It seems that, in order to compete with “handsome” males, they become more sociable – “friendlier”, if you will – and in that way attract the attention of the otherwise uninterested females.  Read More »

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