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The Natural History and Captive Care of the Red-Headed Finch or Paradise Sparrow

Red-headed FinchThe 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. Read More »

The Natural History and Captive Care of the Gold-Breasted or Zebra Waxbill

Philippine cockatooThe Zebra Waxbill, Amadava subflava (also known as the Gold or Orange-Breasted Waxbill), is one of the tiniest of all African birds available to aviculturists.  With their bright yellow bellies and brilliant red rumps, the males are a sight to behold.  A mere 3 to 3.5 inches in length, they are a delight to keep and breed, and quite hardy as well.

Natural History

The Zebra Finch is found throughout much of sub-SaharanAfrica.  It favors grasslands and lightly-wooded savannas (please see photo), but has adapted to farms and village outskirts as well.  Grass-seeds and insects comprise the bulk of its diet.

A larger and more colorful subspecies, Clarke’s Waxbill, Amadava subflava clarkii, occupies the southern portion of the range.  Unfortunately, it is not common in private or public collections. Read More »

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