By Douglas Hill
Strawberry Finch, Red Strawberry Finch, Red Avadavat, Coochin Finch, Red Waxbill.
Becoming uncommon. Try to check some background as to where your birds may have originally come, so as to not have birds of the same genetic background. This is one species that we need to keep an eye on for their gene pool.
The cock undergoes a nuptial change, which is, coming up to the breeding season he changes his colour from a colour not un-similar to the hen into his breeding colour. The nuptial colour is a rich burgundy/red around the head, chest and back. The wings get a darker brown bordering on black.
In poor quality birds this may not be the case. Those birds you are well advised to leave alone. The eclipse plumage is a more subdued brown and fawn as with the hen. The cock in the non-breeding colours has a richer burgundy/red rump than the hen.
In Australia, I have never seen any mutations of this bird. However, Doug Lylle has bought a pair of what he called pieds.
India, The Indonesian Islands, Malayan Islands and Indo China.
Peaceful. Can be combined with small seed-eaters without too many problems, after saying that I must point out mine have had territorial fights with Star’s both Red Faced and Yellow Faced and Ruddies, but only when breeding or establishing a nesting area. Once nesting has begun the fighting usually stops. Mine have also nested right next to Cordon Bleu’s, Red Faced Pytilia’s and Gouldians without any bother at all.
$100.00 to $150.00 pair.
Ease of breeding (rating 1 easy to10 difficult):
5/10 Strawberries are more for the experienced bird breeder. That is not to say a newcomer to the aviculture cannot breed these birds, it is important that one seeks out good firm advice from someone who has bred them successfully and follow that advice.
Purchasing your bird:
Strawberries may be purchased from breeders or specialty bird outlets.
Good points look for:
Look for birds in good feather. The colours of the bird are strong, particularly the burgundy if the bird is in breeding colours. The amount of spots down the flanks and across the wings. A good breeding line of Strawberries will show plenty of spots. Look for the size of the bird. The bird must have clear bright eyes. The bird is always on the move. Beware of cross Strawberries and Orange-breast hybrids.
Faults to look for:
Birds that are lethargic. Soiled vent. Fluffed up with closed eyes. Poor of feather and lack-lustre colouring. Look for cleanliness of the beak and legs check that they are not scaly. An unkempt appearance is not a good sign at all.
Aviary or breeding cabinet:
Strawberries do not do well in cabinets or suspended aviaries. Strawberries will do well in aviaries from about 3m on and will do much better in larger very well planted aviaries especially if they contained running water.
In the Sydney area it is best to try and breed them during the warmer months of Summer and into Autumn, although they do breed through the Winter months if given the right conditions. First year hens could be prone to egg binding. It is essential to give the right of oils in the diet to alleviate the egg binding problems.
I never feed Strawberries an austerity diet as they will suffer and lose too much condition. If an austerity diet is given at the wrong time the birds will not pick up enough for their nuptial moult and your breeding will suffer.
Should I feed soft foods?
A good mix of egg and biscuit formula can be fed to the birds on a daily basis. You can also feed corn, Madeira cake and freshly sprouted seed.
What green feed?
I am of the opinion that fresh grass seed should be fed daily in the breeding season, as it assures you the parents will not throw the young out of the nest if no live food is offered on a short term basis. Other green feed can consist of Chickweed, Endive and Chicory.
What live food?
Strawberries do very well when supplied with copious amounts of Termites, small Gentles (Maggots) and small Mealworms. It is important to feed live food when they are breeding. Some Strawberries will not raise young without live food.
Breeding season feeding:
I start to look at breeding the Strawberries just after Christmas. If you put your birds on an austerity diet then this is when you start to slowly give your birds some extra bits in their feed tray. Let the birds build up to the extra live food such as Termites, Mealworms, Gentles and green seeding grasses. Too much too soon can easily cause all types of problems including scours.
Some of the seeding grasses that may be used are, Johnston grass, African Veldt grass, Chickweed, Winter grass, Guinea grass, Milk Thistle and Shepherds Purse. It is best to give Strawberries the seeding heads half ripe.
Separating the pairs:
It is not necessary to separate the pairs, as they will regulate themselves for their breeding needs as they usually stop breeding when the male loses his nuptial colouring. I have had Strawberry’s breed when out of colour.
What age do they breed?
Strawberry’s are ready to breed at 8 months. It is best to leave them until they reach an age of about twelve months.
What if I lose a mate?
Although pair bonding is strong, if one loses a mate, immediately introduce another mate. It sometimes may take a while for a surviving partner to accept a new mate. They may not accept a new partner during the breeding season.
Strawberry’s will use nesting receptacles such as, nesting boxes, cane baskets, wire cylinders and logs. Mostly they nest in the brush building their own nest out of fine grasses.
Nesting materials can vary from November grasses for the nest lining and coarser grasses for the exterior; the nest is usually lined with white feathers. They will use nesting boxes and wire tubes and woven cane nesting utensils. The nest is lined with white feathers, they will almost use all that you put in with them. I have never had green grass used in any of my Strawberry’s nests.
The Strawberry’s build a nest about 150cm in diameter. It is a loosely woven dome type structure and built anywhere from .5m to 2m from the floor. The nest seems to have a platform of long strands of grass coming from the bottom of the entrance to the nest. The male usually builds the nest with the hen lining the interior. Strawberry’s sometimes build their nests near the roof of the aviary, resulting in the young dying of heat exhaustion on hot days. As most aviaries have metal roofs, it would be advisable to place some sort of covering on the roof above the nest to avoid that happening.
The mating dance starts when the cock begins to sway from side to side holding a piece of grass in his beak. When the hen is ready to accept his advances she will quiver her tail. Copulation usually takes place in the open flight area.
Between 4 and 7 white eggs are laid. NO PEEKING AND NO FINGERS. DO NOT TOUCH THE NEST. If you touch the nest they will almost certainly desert the nest. Some people say they can look into their Strawberry’s nest without any bother. Maybe some can, some can’t, mine will not tolerate it and they will desert the nest with either young or eggs.
It generally takes 13/14 days to incubate the eggs. It is almost impossible to hear the chicks in the nest. My last nest (at the time of writing this article) had five chicks and I never heard a sound from them at all although there were five chicks they all fledged at the same time and were all near equal in size. I find Strawberry’s the most doting of parents.
Fledging usually takes around 21 days, though in the cooler weather it may be a bit longer.
Independence from the Parents:
Independence is around 21 days.
How long do the young stay with the parents?
It is best to leave the young with the parents for 4 weeks. The young may be left with the parents without any interference with subsequent broods.
What do I feed the fledged young?
The young birds can be given the same diet as the parents.
When do I ring the young?
The young can be rung immediately after they have left the nest. If you leave it too long the ring will not slip over the toes. When ringing young birds after they have left the nest be careful not to damage to toes.
Separating the pairs:
Some breeders separate their breeding birds during the non breeding period, but I do not find it necessary to separate the pair’s as they will regulate themselves for their breeding needs.
Showing your bird:
Judges will look for birds in good feather, clean mandible, legs and feet. The birds must be bright and alert. The density of colour of the burgundy/red. The amount and evenness of the spots on the flanks and wings.
The gene pool of Strawberries in Australia is at this time is holding it’s own, however this is one species that we need to keep a check on as we could easily lose this bird in Australian aviaries if we are not vigilant.
Strawberries have a life expectancy of about 8 years.
Strawberries need a good worming program as they are forever picking around the floor of the aviary. They are not prone to any particular ailment.
The Red strawberry is one of the best birds for any aviary situation. They are an extremely peaceful bird that has only territorial fights but they are very seldom.
I have red strawberry’s in my aviaries now and I think I will always keep them in a mixed collection of the smaller finches.
My recommendation, go out and get some now as this would be one of my all time favourite birds and I enjoy writing about them as well as keeping and breeding them.
I was introduced to them early in my life by my brother who had a couple of pairs breeding and he gave me a young pair of his offspring, since then I haven’t really been without them or the Cordon Bleu.
Hailing from Asia the delightful little Strawberry finch is one of the most beautiful birds that you can have in your aviaries. The stunning burgundy colour offset by the white spots that run over the body of the bird when the male is in full breeding colour is just terrific.
I have always kept them as a single pair to each aviary and they have not been a bother to any of the other inhabitants of the aviary just mainly keeping to themselves. I must admit here after saying how nice and peaceful they are that I have had some pairs have terrific fights with the Star finch and it doesn’t matter whether they have the red face or the yellow face.
When kept at its best the male Strawberry will sing his heart out. This beautiful song can be heard at its best just as the sun is coming up and it is worth the effort to rise early and have a listen.
The diet of my Strawberries as well as all of my birds is as follows. As much seeding grasses I can find to shove into the aviaries, cuttle bone, egg shells, charcoal, grits, Canundra shells, molasses salt lick, greens and grains and a mix of seed that consists of Jap millet, Red pannicum, French white and canary seeds.
Just to digress for a moment I also now feed my birds now with the new Mike Fidler tonic seed and soft food mix and it has taken the Strawberries a little while to take to it but now they are into it like there is no tomorrow not like the Parrot finches which devour the stuff. I must admit that these two new additions to the diet of my birds has seen the young Parrot finches, Pytilia’s, Cordon Bleu’s and Ruddies coming out of the nest in excellent condition and full of feather.
I mix the soft food in this manner; using snap frozen French white and Red pannicum as the carrying base for the soft food I then add garlic oil and mix this in thoroughly next comes some Madeira cake followed by a little pink pigeon powder and then the Mike Fidler soft food. I mix 1 soft food to 2 snap frozen seed and this is eagerly awaited by the birds each day. The tonic seed is added as a supplementary seed the same as the greens and grains.
They do better in medium to the larger planted aviaries and do not like being kept in overcrowded conditions or in cabinets.
The breeding season for the Strawberry is from about March through to October, although some do breed all year round.
When breeding, the Strawberries build a nest about 150cm in diameter and it is a loosely woven dome type structure and built anywhere from .5m to 2m from the floor. The nest seems to have a platform of long strands of grass protruding from the bottom of the entrance to the nest. The male usually builds the nest with the hen lining the interior.
Strawberry’s sometimes build their nests near the roof of the aviary, resulting in the young dying of heat exhaustion on hot days. As most aviaries have metal roofs, it would be advisable to place some sort of covering on the roof above the nest to try and avoid that happening.
Nesting materials can vary from November grasses for the nest lining and coarser grasses for the exterior; the nest is usually lined with white feathers and they will almost use all that you put in with them. I have never had green grass used in any of my Strawberries nests.
Although they will build their own nest in the brush attached to the walls of the aviary or in the brush growing in planted aviaries, Strawberries will use nesting receptacles. I have used wire cylinders, cane nesting baskets and open fronted nesting boxes for this purpose.
You can see when the birds are ready to go to nest as the mating dance starts when the cock begins to sway from side to side holding a piece of grass in his beak and then the usual bobbing up and down. When the hen is ready to accept his advances she will quiver her tail. Copulation usually takes place in the open flight area.
A good unrelated pair should have anywhere between 4 and 7 white eggs. NO PEEKING AND NO FINGERS. DO NOT TOUCH THE NEST. If you touch the nest they will almost certainly desert the nest. Some people say they can look into their Strawberries nest without any bother. Maybe some can, some can’t, mine will not tolerate it and they will desert the nest with either young or eggs.
I feed mine termites and gentles (maggots) when they are breeding and they do tend to feed a lot of them to their young. I also have a friend that only feeds mealworms to his breeding Strawberries and he has bred many of the last few years.
The young emerge from the nest three weeks after the eggs have hatched and are a dull brown in colour.
They are generally weaned after a period of three weeks, and I suggest that if you do want to separate just leave them for that extra week before separating them from the parents just to be sure. I haven’t had the parents attack any of their young up until now and I have left young with the parents for a couple of months before separating them at times.
This is a delightful bird for anyone (apart from the complete novice) or any aviary which can be kept in any mixed company and I can suggest it for someone just wanting to get into those birds that just need that bit more thinking to keep and breed.