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Tag Archives: Feeding Finches

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The Best Finch and Canary Foods – Commercial Seed and Pellet Diets

Double-barred FinchAlthough we are fortunate to have available a wide variety of commercial finch and canary diets, choosing one can be a difficult task.  Once a decision is made as to the basic type – seed or pellet – we must then consider the ingredients, which vary from brand to brand.  Today I’ll examine some well-known foods and a few often-neglected dietary supplements.

Basic Guidelines

It’s important to remember that finch species vary in their nutritional needs.  While many will thrive on the basic diets described below, to achieve optimal health and color the addition of insects, sprouts, fruit, greens and other supplementary foods will be necessary.  Depending upon the species, some of these foods can also be used to bring birds into breeding condition.  Please post your questions concerning diets for specific finches below, and I’ll provide some suggestions. Read More »

Using Flowers as Food for Parrots, Finches and other Birds

Plain-throated SunbirdSending flowers is a time-honored way of showing affection and concern, but did you know that your parrots and other feathered pets might appreciate a bouquet as well?  I’m not suggesting actually having flowers delivered to your parrot (although I know several who have done that!), but rather that you consider edible flowers as a source of bird food and behavioral enrichment.

The Role of Flowers in Bird Diets

Flowers, buds and nectar figure heavily in the natural diets of many parrots, finches and softbills.  In fact, lories and lorikeets are actually “floral specialists” (please see drawing of lorikeet tongue, adapted for nectar feeding).  However, with the exception of nectar-mixes, flowers have largely been ignored by most pet keepers.

Flowers are also a major food item of several less commonly-kept softbills, including hummingbirds, sunbirds and the aptly-named flower-peckers. Ornithologists speculate that the brilliant colors of some species may have evolved to provide camouflage during feeding sessions in flowering trees.

Behavioral Stimulation

In addition to their nutritional value, flowers can provide important behavioral stimulation for parrots and other birds.  Most parrots delight in tearing them to bits, and bud-covered fruit tree branches (apple, pear, plum etc.) will provide hours of entertainment for both pet and pet-owner.  Finches, White-Eyes, Pekin Robins and other small birds will also poke about in flowers for insect treats, real or “imagined”, and may consume petals and nectar as well.

Purchasing Flowers

Lorikeet tongueFortunately, it’s quite simple to incorporate flowers into your birds’ diets.  Many bird-safe flowers are relished by people, and are available in food stores.  In NYC markets, I’ve come across squash, zucchini, rose and daylily flowers (note: not all daylilies are safe for people or birds, so do not pick your own), as well as a number that I did not recognize.  Korean, Chinese and Indian neighborhoods have proven especially rich flower-hunting grounds.

Do not buy edible flowers from garden supply outlets or florists, as these will not have been slated for human consumption and would likely have been exposed to toxic chemicals.

Dried flowers specifically marketed as bird food are also a useful option.  Goldenfeast’s Hibiscus and Chamomile

may be offered to a variety of parrots, finches and softbills.

Growing and Collecting Flowers for Your Birds

If the option is available to you, growing your own edible flowers is a great alternative to shopping.

Harvesting wild flowers is also possible, but you must be confident in your ability to identify the various species and have access to a pesticide-free collecting site.  A field guide will be useful in this regard.

Common, Easy-to-Grow Edible Flowers

The following common flowers are readily accepted by many birds and can easily be grown or, in some cases, purchased at food markets.  Do not buy flowers intended as food anywhere other than at a food market; please see above.


Daisy                                                   Marigold

LorikeetsDandelion                                           Rose

Carnation                                            Sunflower

Violet                                                  Zucchini Blossoms

Tulip                                                    Squash Blossoms

Elderberry                                           Hibiscus

Impatiens                                            Apple,Plum and Pear Blossoms




Further Reading

Further information on edible and poisonous flowers; written with people in mind but applicable to birds.

Gardening for Pet Birds

Eat Your Roses: a guide to 50+ edible flowers



Lorikeets image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Tatiana Gerus

Plain-Throated Sunbird image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Ltshears



Feeding Finches – Tips and Special Considerations – Part 2

Fringilla coelebs chaffinch MalePlease see Part 1 of this article for a discussion of the importance of offering your finches more than a simple “seed-only” diet.  Today I’d like to suggest some foods that will help to keep your birds in good health and brilliant color, and which may encourage breeding.

Live Insects and other Invertebrates

Insects and other invertebrates are essential for most finches, and critical during the breeding season. I’ve always maintained insect traps, such as the Zoo Med Bug Napper, to help meet the needs of my finches. 

Try collecting small grasshoppers, crickets, sow bugs, beetles, flies, termites, grubs and moths.  Please see my articles on Collecting Feeder Insects to learn more about increasing dietary variety.  Consider raising mealworms as well, so that you’ll always have a supply of nutritious pupae and newly-molted grubs on hand. Read More »

Feeding Finches – Tips and Special Considerations – Part 1

Gold Finch

Many popular finches will live for years on relatively simple diets composed of a few types of seed.  However, studies of wild finches have revealed that most consume a wide range of other foods.  The following suggestions will help you to maintain your finches in peak health, color and breeding condition… a bit more work than simply filling a feed cup with seeds each day, but well-worthwhile. Read More »

Hand Rearing Black-Headed Mannikins and Other Finches

Black headed Finch
While working for a bird importer in years past, I had the opportunity to hand-raise a number of finch chicks.  The following information is based on recent and past experiences with the Black-Headed Mannikin (Lonchura atricapilla), also known as the Black-Headed Nun or Munia, but could be applied to a number of related birds.

The youngest chicks I’ve worked with were 4-6 days old and, like most Mannikins, had hatched in a domed nest (please see photo).  They were reared in plastic containers lined with dry grass in an incubator set at 90 F (range: 86-93 F).

Feeding Nestlings

I feed very young finches at 2 hour intervals, from 5 or 6 AM to midnight at first, and cut back over 2 weeks or so to 6 AM – 8 PM.  Hand Rearing Formula (warmed per directions) offered via syringe serves well as a base diet.  Although not strictly necessary, to this I add a “drop” of peanut butter and 2 drops per syringe of sunflower oil.  A bit of cooked egg yolk and a drop of Avitron, provided three times weekly, completes the feeding regime.

Despite their delicate appearance, healthy Mannikin chicks are ravenous.  After a few days, they develop the amusing habit of raising one wing in order to ward off competitors…mini “jousting matches” sometimes break out!

Young Mannikins can only take a small amount at each feeding, and will choke or aspirate food into the lungs if it is forcibly squirted down their throats.  The safest way to feed them is to gently release from the syringe just enough food to fill their mouths…at a frequency of every 2 hours, this will provide quite enough nourishment.

Care of Fledglings

Black headed Finch NestUpon fledging, the chicks should be fed on a 6AM – 8PM schedule until they begin pecking at food on their own.  Most begin trying solid food on the fifth day after fledging, but this varies widely…close observation is very important at this point.

Their first meals should be offered on the cage floor, not in cups, to assure that they are aware of its presence.  Seed-based Finch Nestling Food, Egg Food and cut sprouts should be available at all times.

Once the fledglings have begun to feed regularly on their own, you can gradually reduce the syringe feedings to 2-3 times per day.  Continue this schedule until they lose interest in the syringe, which may take an additional 2-3 weeks.  It is a mistake to rush the weaning process – birds decline in condition very rapidly at this age, and poor nutrition during the fledgling period will have lifelong consequences for their health.

Black-Headed Mannikins and related birds prefer to sleep in a nest or enclosed space, even outside of the breeding season.  Fledglings raised together usually crowd into one covered nest, but provide extras in case of aggression.

Although generally quite hardy as adults, Mannikins are cold-sensitive as chicks.  Until you are certain that their immune systems are functioning well, take extra care to keep the youngsters warm at night (a hot spot of 86-90 F, with an ambient temperature of 80-82 F, works well).  A red or black night bulb, designed for use with reptiles, will provide heat without disturbing their day/night cycle.

Further Reading

Please see my article Introducing Mannikins for more information on these beautiful finches.

A video of Black-Headed Mannikins in the wild is posted here.


Black headed Finch image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by SnowmanradioFinch nest image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Kguirnela

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