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What Is a Parrot Finch?

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  • Written By: Judith Smith Sullivan
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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A parrot finch is one of many members of the genus Erythrura, a group of small, colorful tropical birds. There are multiple species of parrot finch in a range of colors, markings, and habits. They are common house pets, having an active and curious personality and usually a pleasant, short song.

Different species of parrot finch have variations in color, but most have a green back, colorful breast and head, and a black beak. The exception is the pink-billed parrot finch, named for its uncharacteristically light colored beak. All parrot finches have a red-tipped tail. Of course, in many cases the female plumage is somewhat more subdued compared to the male, but some species of parrot finch are monomorphic, meaning that both sexes are identically colored. Plumage mutations are not uncommon, and some species of parrot finch pairings produce predictable percentages of mutant colorings among their offspring.

Most parrot finches are quite small, between 3.5 and 6 inches in length (about 8 to 15 cm). The female is usually smaller than the male, but only slightly. Their size and personality makes these birds popular as house pets. They can be kept in small groups of three or four pairs or in single pairs.

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Although the personalities vary from species to species, many parrot finches are curious, cheerful, and active. In the case of the red-headed finch, inactivity is often an indication of illness. Parrot finches sing, but are by no means warblers. Most singing takes place during breeding and is done by the male.

Almost all species of parrot finch are ready breeders. They will produce three clutches per year, with four to six eggs per clutch. Many breeders find that pairs must be separated during cold months to prevent additional breeding, which often exhausts the female.

Hatchlings will usually become independent around three weeks, about the same time they begin to fly. They achieve adult plumage around three or four months of age and are sexually mature at around 12 months. In some cases, juveniles will attempt to breed earlier, but clutches from finches younger than 12 months are often weak and loss of hatchlings is high.

Parrot finches are tropical birds, found in their native habitat in the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, and Malaysia. They eat both live food, like insects as well fruits, berries, and nuts. In the wild, they can be found in small flocks of 15 to 30 birds.

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