Red Headed Finch - Amadina erythrocephala
Red Headed Finch (male)

Common Names
Paradise Finch, Red Headed Weaver

Males are easily distinguished from the females by the rust red head coloration and more colorful breast color. Juvenile males often fledge from the nest with some red on their head, but do not have the breast color of the males, but resemble the females in this regard.

These large finches will prefer the large millet found in a standard parakeet mix. They eagerly eat the egg food I prepare (Roy's egg food) once they learn what it is. Some of the imports were a little reluctant to eat the egg food at first and even after they did learn to eat it, they were never as enthusiastic as the domestically raised birds. They will all take live food. I offered mealworms and wax worms, but not regularly. Also offered to them was green food and soaked Japanese millet and white prosso millet. Grit and calcium in the form of crushed egg and oyster shells and cuttlebone should be available at all times. Calcium and Vitamin D3 are essential in any bird's diet, but I pay particular attention to the Red Head's diet. While I have not experienced a problem with egg binding with them, they are closely related to Cutthroat finches which I did have considerable problems with.

Red Headed Finches
Red Headed Finches (female left, male right)

Breeder's Notes
These birds are quick to go to nest. Those that have gone to nest too quickly though, seem to abandon their nests just as quickly. The first nests built by my Red Heads were rough nests of stiff materials. Some of the pairs didn't even bother with that very much. Since I always put sawdust in the bottom of my nestboxes, they would just lay their eggs in that, not bothering to carry any material to the nest. However, when provided with coconut fibers or long, fine grasses, they'll weave elaborate nests that are quite sturdy. They will weave a globular nest with a tunnel entrance in a large finch box . The nest cavity was lined with white chicken feathers. One nest that was built from coco fibers had some interesting features. They had many strands poking out of the nest hole. I thought this might be due to sloppy construction, but it may have been to protect the nest from animals peering into or trying to enter the nest. The male also produced a cavity in the front of the nest that he later deposited some infertile eggs into. Again, I thought this was due to them just being sloppy, but later thought that this might be some sort of cock's nest or decoy that some African finch species are known to produce. It could have also just been the result of messy housekeeping. The Red Heads have very messy nests.

Both the male and female share in the incubation duties of the rather large and roundish eggs. Clutches range from 4-8 eggs with 5 or 6 being pretty common. When you see the size of the egg in comparison with the size of the bird, you can see why calcium depletion is of concern with this species. The pair will begin incubation after the second to fourth egg is laid and lasts about 13-14 days. The young hatch out and look like they are all mouth. They are black and very fuzzy with large gaping mouths that are lined with yellow-white flanges (see below). They fledge after 3 weeks and require another 2-3 weeks until they are independent. The young males can be identified upon fledging by the red coloring on their head. Their body lacing is finer than the adults, but males still have different body patterns than hens. Some hens may fledge with some red on their heads, but usually not as much as males and can still be distinguished by the breast pattern.

The Red Headed finch is not as aggressive in a mixed colony as its cousin the Cutthroat. While it is still a stout bird capable of defending itself, it is not as pugnacious and nasty and will leave other breeding finches alone. I had 3 pair breeding with a pair of Hawfinches, a colony of Spice finches and some Mountain quail in the same flight without incident. I have also had single pairs in small breeder cages go to nest, but they do better in larger flights. They can also be raised under Society finches. They have a very different begging behavior than the Society chicks, so it is best to start with eggs under a pair of Societies that have not raised any other kind of finch before. These first time parents have not "imprinted" on chicks and don't know what to expect from the hatchlings. Still, many Societies will not feed the young Red Headed finches due to their straight up begging pattern. It is also important that the eggs hatch under the Societies. It seems that just placing hatched young in the nest is disturbing to the Societies and they will not feed them.

Additional Notes
The resemblance to the Cutthroat finch is unmistakable. The Red Head and Cutthroat finch are the only members of the Amadina family. Amadinas with their heavy beaks resemble members of the Lonchura (mannikins), but are actually more closely related to the Pytilias such as the Melba finch.

They should not housed with Cutthroats during the breeding season. The two species will cross and produce fertile hybrids. Hybrids are usually identified by the brightness of the red head. The males will have the red head of the Red Headed finch, but it will be the brighter red color of the Cutthroat finch.

There are two subspecies, but I'm not certain as to the differences in color or size or if the subspecies even exists in aviculture.

Red Headed finch males can learn to mimic other birds and even humans. A Red Headed finch male hand raised by Sally Huntington named Turkey has learned to say his name. (see Turkey)

I have hand raised the Red Headed finch. The large gape does make for an easy target. See Hand Raising Finches. (Hand feeding a Red Headed finch hen)

Screaming Red Head Chicks
Clutch of five Red Headed chicks 12 days old. See the mouth markings of nestling Red Heads