There are three members of the finch family Amandava; Strawberry Finch, Green Avadavat and the Orange Breasted Waxbill. Two are quite commonly found in aviculture in this country while the Green Avadavat, also known as the Green Strawberry Finch, is rare. They are part of the same family of finches as the waxbills; the Estrildidae family, as well as other familiar birds such as the Zebra Finch and Bengalese or Society Finch.
The Strawberry Finch (Amandava amandava) is correctly known as the Red Avadavat and is a bird of the fields and grasslands of tropical Asia. When the male is in breeding plumage, he is a bright red coloured bird with eye-catching white spots. Outside breeding plumage, he looks much like the hen, a brown and yellow bird.
Generally, these small finches live well with others but can become intolerant of company of their own species when in breeding condition. They need greenery around them to feel comfortable so a planted aviary or large cage with greenery in or around is best. They also need access to sunlight and warmth and, depending on how they have been raised, may need protecting from the colder seasons if outdoors.
They are seedeaters who will often forage on the ground for spilled seed. They also enjoy egg food, weed and grass seeds and will take live food or insect paste.
Strawberry Finches are relatively simple to breed; they can rear several broods each year if they are in good condition. They will use a nesting box designed for finches or sometimes build a freestanding nest if there is a suitable location. They like to utilise coconut fibre, dry grass and feathers from other birds.
4-6 eggs are typically laid and both birds incubate them. They hatch at 11-12 days and this is the point where plentiful live food is needed in addition to their normal seed diet. They fledge at around three weeks and are weaned after around two weeks further.
The Green Avadavat (Amandava Formosa) is easily identifiable by its green and yellow body, red beak and black and white zebra stripes on its flanks. It is similar in size to the strawberry finch at 10cm and the female bird is slightly paler than the male but otherwise both are very much alike.
In the wild, they live in dry scrub areas as well as using agricultural land and live near water. They are found most densely in central and north-west India but are classed as vulnerable due to habitat loss and capture for the bird trade.
In captivity, males can be very aggressive to each other so therefore it is best to keep just one pair to an enclosure. They do not bother other birds, however, so can occupy a mixed flight. They will live in a large cage happily as long as it has greenery in or around it to give them the sense of protection. They also need access to sunlight and warmth and are not cold tolerant in our climate.
They are primarily grass and weed seedeaters but will need live food when raising their young and will also take egg food and insect paste. They are frequently seen foraging on the ground as well as in seed feeders.
Similar to their cousins, they lay 4-6 eggs in a nest box, or constructed nest, which both birds incubate. They hatch at 11-12 days and fledge at three weeks. The chicks are weaned at 1-2 weeks further though it can take up to 8 months before they get their full adult plumage and beak colouring.
The Orange breasted Waxbill (Amandava subflava) is geographically the odd one out of the family as it lives in the grassland and savannah areas of Africa south of the Sahara. It is also slightly smaller than the other two species at around 9cm.
These birds are beautifully coloured with the male having a red rump, dark barring on the flank and a scarlet eye stripe as well as an orange breast and dark olive back and wings. The female has the same colourations, only her feathers are duller in shade.
These little birds are the friendliest of neighbours to other species of finch, though will defend their nest against others of the same species. Therefore, while they can be kept with other finch species, only one pair per enclosure is advisable.
These waxbills feel happiest in either an aviary or large cage that has greenery. Also, remember due to their tiny size, they will need the smallest bar spacings and mesh to avoid escapee birds. This also applies when they breed as their chicks are amongst the smallest. They are also cold susceptible and need to be protected from the worst of our climate.
The Orange breasted will frequently use a nesting box for finches though sometimes will build their freestanding spherical nest if there is a suitable location. They lay 3-6 eggs, which are incubated for 11 days, mainly by the female bird. They fledge at 21 days and in the period before this will need live food to be successful. They are weaned by around 5-6 weeks of age, by which time the parents will be starting the process again. Healthy birds can raise 2-3 broods per breeding season.
Once the young are fully weaned, it can sometimes be advisable to remove them from the cage or aviary that their parents occupy as their father can quickly see them as a threat and may attack them.
Apart from the need for heat and making sure they cannot escape, these species of finch are simple to care for, have minimal specialist needs and can live well with others. They are very attractive little birds with gentle finch calls and are active and entertaining to watch. Provided with the right environment that offers them adequate protection, they will happily breed though the size of the chicks is something to remember when picking a home for them. Otherwise, a pleasant and friendly little member of your bird family.