The small, handsome and quiet Java finch has been in vogue as a cage and aviary bird for many years. These birds require a “hands-on” approach to bird breeding, making them a wonderful choice for young and older bird breeders looking for a low-maintenance bird. Their graceful flight maneuvers in the cage and soothing song make them one of the most interesting small birds to keep and watch. However, you should keep two or three, as they need other finches to keep them company. Also, check local laws, as in some states it is illegal to own this bird.
Origin and history
As its name suggests, the Java finch is native to the Indonesian islands, including Java, Bali, and Bawean. It is also found in Sri Lanka, Hawaii, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. In Java, this finch is an endangered species.
This Asian finch usually lives in large flocks in grasslands and savannas. The birds have also found a preference for cultivated fields, especially those where rice is grown. On many of its home islands, farmers consider the bird a pest. In some areas where the birds are not native, they are banned. When feral populations develop, they pose a threat to local agriculture.
Java finches are small, sociable birds, but are often too shy for direct contact with humans. However, some keepers have reported successfully establishing a relationship with their finches.
They usually thrive in pairs or small flocks kept in a flight cage. These birds should not be kept as solitary birds. In most cases, they become depressed without another finch to keep them company.
In addition, these birds are quiet, passive, and non-aggressive. They can easily coexist with other finch species, both large and small. A pair of Javas can be an excellent addition to a varied aviary.
Language and vocalization
The Java finch has a very soft voice with a distinctive “chip-chip-chip” song. Males court females with songs that involve a coordinated, drum-like clicking sound with their beaks. This behavior is similar to human beatboxing or clapping to the beat of a song.
Colors and markings of the Java finch
The natural coloration of the Java finch includes a gray back and black head and tail feathers. The chest and belly are grayish cinnamon and have large white cheek patches. Some people say they remind them of small penguins.
Another distinctive feature of the Java finch is the thin orange ring around their eyes. They also have a reddish-orange beak and bright orange skin on their legs and feet.
Both males and females of the species have the same plumage coloration. There are some ways to differentiate the sexes, although it is not easy without direct comparison. For example, males have darker eyes and a slightly wider, blunter bill that swells at the top during the breeding season. The best way to identify these finches is to pay attention to which bird is singing. While females call, only males sing. A male may take a long time to sing, although some birders say most sing after a week of isolation. If you keep a group of finches, distinguishing them can be difficult, but with careful observation and banding it is possible.
Several color mutations of Java finches occur in the pet trade. These include white-colored java finches, agate-colored java finches, cinnamon or tawny-colored java finches, cream-colored java finches, dark and light silver-colored java finches, and white-colored java finches.
Care of Java finches
Because of their compact size, these finches have become popular companion birds for those who have limited space and cannot accommodate a larger bird. If you are considering adopting a Java Finch, you can expect to house at least two or three of them.
The cage required for Java Finches should be large enough to allow for flying and will depend on the number of birds you plan to keep. Generally, an aviary about 2 feet high would be ideal. However, if you cannot set up an aviary, you will need a cage that is at least 18 inches wide, 30 inches long, and 18 inches high, with 1/4 to 1/2 inch spacing between bars.
Nest boxes are not required unless you plan to raise the birds. Provide enough perches, ladders, swings, and toys to keep them happy. They also like to bathe, so a water dish is appreciated for this purpose.
Java finches are prolific breeders and will breed year-round unless it is too hot or too cold. If you want to keep a non-breeding aviary, it is best to get same-sex pairs. Alternatively, you can remove nest boxes or eggs that have been laid. To ensure your female doesn’t jeopardize her health by constantly laying eggs to replace “lost” eggs, lay mock eggs as decoys.
Related: 8 Best Companion Birds
Common health problems
Java finches are considered very hardy and rarely get sick if cared for properly. A balanced diet reduces the risk of nutrient deficiencies. Like all birds, they can contract some avian diseases carried by other birds, including
- Aspergillosis – a fungal disease
- Bacterial infections
- Polyomavirus: a potentially deadly virus.
Before adding a new bird to your aviary, quarantine it for six weeks and monitor it for signs of disease.
Diet and nutrition
Although these birds have become famous for eating rice in the wild, their usual diet consists of seeds and fruits. In captivity, Java finches should be fed a good mixture of high-quality seeds. Feed your finches one to two teaspoons of a high-quality finch seed mix daily and offer them one teaspoon of special pellet food.
Many owners of Java finches report that they successfully feed budgie mixes instead of finch food. Java finches will rip out any unwanted seeds and leave a considerable mess, so it’s important to tailor your feed to what they eat.
Supplement your seed and pellet mix with nuts, seeds, and finely chopped bird-friendly fruits and vegetables. Your birds will also enjoy crushed eggshells or oyster shells, which provide additional calcium. Most javas do not like squid bones.
Like all finch species, these birds are incredibly active and seem to have an endless supply of energy. A high-flying cage gives them room to fly, play, climb, jump and exercise.
These birds are the ideal pets for people who don’t have enough time to spend with a parrot or other birds; they don’t need playtime outside the cage. As long as they have another bird and plenty of toys, they are great for entertainment.
- It is not too loud and has a nice song.
- Does not need time or interaction outside of the cage.
- Gentle, non-aggressive bird that gets along well with other birds.
- Requires a large cage or aviary for the exercise this energetic bird needs
- Easily solitary; should live in a home with at least one or two companion birds
Where can you adopt or buy a Java finch?
Possession of these birds is illegal in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Florida, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wyoming, Maine, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Your state may require a permit to possess this species. Laws are being drafted in several states to allow legal possession of these birds. Before acquiring a Java finch, check with your state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Java finches are sold by breeders and are sometimes available through adoption agencies. Depending on the color mutation, they can cost between $50 and $100. To find available birds, online sources are as follows:
- Finch Farm
- Bird breeders
- Adopting a pet
When choosing a breeder, ask how long they have been breeding and working with the species. If you can visit the facility. Look for signs that the flock is in generally good health. Birds should be active and alert, have bright eyes, clean plumage, and a full crop.
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