The Black-throated (Parson's) Finch

Black-throated Finch 8,11,13,14,22,23, 32, ,34,35,37,41
Poephila cincta
Grassfinch
Hardiness:Hardy
Reproduction:Prolific
Singing ability:Somewhat pleasant
Compatibility:Not suitable for a mixed aviary
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4.25" (11 cm)
Approx. cost:$120-180 (US) per pair


Other common names

Black-throated Finch, Black-throat
  • P. c. cincta (white-rumped subspecies): Parson's Finch, Parson Finch (Predominant form kept in captivity)
  • P. c. atropygialis (black-rumped variety): Diggle's Diggles' or Diggles Finch, Black-rumped Parson Finch, Black-tailed Finch
  • P. c. nigrotecta (chocolate colored breast, may occur with a black or white rump): This may not be considered a true subspecies, but rather a naturally occurring variation in color.


Origin

Australia

Area of distribution

Cape York Peninsula; range used to extend through Queensland southward to the northernmost areas of New South Wales. The black-rumped subspecies is found in southern part of the range, and is uncommon in captivity.

Distribution


Disposition

Active, nosy. Tend to become aggressive toward birds of the same species as well as more passive species in captivity.

Physical descriptions

Grey head, black "bib" extending from chin to the throat, black bill, black markings extending from each side of the beak to the eye (black 'lores'), brown back and wings, pinkish-brown colored breast and belly, black thighs, white rump (P. c. cincta), black tail, orange legs. P. c. atropygialis is the black-rumped variety, which looks nearly identical to the white-rumped subspecies, except that the birds have a black rump. Crossing the two subspecies may produce birds which have a combination of the two rump colors ("visual splits"). P. c. nigrotecta has a chocolate colored breast and can occur with either a white or black rump. Juveniles emerge from the nest similar to adults but with paler markings and a smaller throat bib.

Several mutations of the white-rumped subspecies exist including: fawn (which is a paler, more tawny brown version overall, where even the black of the throat eyes and thighs becomes more of a dark brown), cream, pied, and white (the entire bird is white and the normally black markings are hardly visible). The Diggles Finch (black-rumped variety) has reportedly occured in a Chocolate phase as well as Albino. Some of the mutations are thought to have been dervived by cross breeding Parson's finches to Shaft-tails. Shaft-tail Finch

The Parson's finch looks very similar to a separate species called the Shaft-tail Finch (P. acuticauda), pictured at right, but can be differentiated from the Shaft-tail by the color of the bill. The Shaft-tail will have a yellow, orange, or red bill, whereas the Parson's Finch has a black bill. The Parson's Finch also has a shorter tail.

Sexing

Only the cock sings. When compared to a cock, the hen's head may have a more dull gray color, she may sport a narrower throat patch with straighter sides, and her black lores and flank stripes may be more narrow, but these visual sexing methods may be unreliable.

Song

The song consists of a series of soft notes, some of which are flute-like, and ends in a long mournful note. Individual songs may vary.

Pictures

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Parson's


Parson's


Parson's


Favorite foods

Live food (mealworms, termites, ant pupae), large grain millet, green (half-ripe) seeds, canary seed, egg food.

Natural habitat

Near water in sparsely wooded savanna grassland. Frequents open pandanus plains near the coast.

Habits

Parson's live in loose, sedentary flocks year-round and primarily eat half-ripe grass seeds (of the grasses Setaria surgens, Dactyloctenium radulans, Digitaria ciliaris, and Stylosanthes humilis), small insects, and termites. Pairs from a flock build their nests closely together, using stems, and creating an entrance tunnel. Birds rigorously defend their mates from sexual competitors. Nests have been noted in tall eucalyptus trees (from 5 to 40 feet off the ground), pandanus palms, abandoned kingfisher caves, on the underside of hawk's nests, parrots' breeding holes, in tree holes, and in termite mounds. Nest lining consists of plant wool and white feathers; sometimes nests contain pieces of charcoal. Young males may carry a piece of grass while courting. Parent birds primarily feed their young flying termites. Birds roost in a nest at night.

Parsons have a special method of drinking. Contrary to popular belief, this is not accomplished by "sucking" the water. Rather, the way a Parson's finch drinks is by tipping its bill down into water, then while the bill is immersed, using the tongue to 'scoop' water into the pharynx where the front of the larynx then immediately forces the water into the esophagus; peristalsis of the esophagus then transports the water to the crop. Using this method, they imbibe water quickly and spend less time being vulnerable to predators at water holes; additionally, their method allows them to exploit small volumes of water such as dew drops as well as draw water up vertically from otherwise difficult to access sources.

Special considerations

Because they may not fare well in the cold (at temperatures below 60°F [15°C]), they may need to be wintered indoors or provided with a heated shelter if housed outdoors. Egg-binding may occur if the diet is not appropriate. The Parson's has reportedly hybridized with the following species: Shaft-tail Finch (P. acuticauda)--this mating creates a fertile hybrid!, Masked Grassfinch (P. personata), Owl Finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii), Zebra Finch (T. guttata), Bengalese Finch (Lonchura striata domestica), White-headed Munia, Cut-throat Finch, Spice finch, Red-throated Parrot Finch, and Star Finch, so take care not to allow these species to breed together.

Breeding season

Wild Parson's can breed at any time of year, provided sufficient rain fall has allowed for ample grass seed availability. In the northern part of their range, breeding typically occurs after the end of the wet season from January to April/May; in southern areas, breeding commonly occurs from August to January.

Breeding tips

Parson's can be housed communally with larger birds such as serins or siskins, but should avoid being housed with other exotic finches as well as with other Parson's, especially when breeding. The reason for this is that even though wild Parson's are gregarious, captive birds tend to become aggressive toward each other (and may attack or interrupt the breeding of other exotic finches) due to the space limitations imposed by enclosures. Therefore, bonded pairs should be housed in their own enclosures for breeding. Breeding can occur successfully in a roomy cage, flight, or aviary. Although Parson's form a strong pair bond, arbitrarily paired birds are unlikely to breed. Therefore, individuals should be allowed to select their own mate from a group prior to segregating bonded pairs for breeding.

Birds tend to prefer closed nest boxes and should be offered at least 2-3 to chose from. Occasionally they may build their own nest in a thickly-foliaged shrub or use the nest of another grassfinch. Sometimes a male will dismantle his original nest before laying has occurred and start building another nest in a new location; this process may be repeated several times. Nesting material to provide includes coconut fiber, bast, grass blades, and moss. Green (half-ripe) and sprouted seeds should be provided while chicks are being reared, as well as live food and egg food. Parents tend to stop brooding the chicks once they are around 10 days old, but will still return to the nest at night to roost. Fledged young are immature and should remain with the parents until they enter their juvenile molt. Parent birds may lead the young back to the nest each night to roost.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:5-9 eggs
Incubation date:After the fourth or final egg is laid
Hatch date:After 12-15 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 21-22 days of age
Wean date:Around 6-8 weeks of age
Begin molt:Within 8 weeks of age
Complete molt:3-4 months of age
Sexual maturity:Although young may become sexually mature around the time they attain adult plumage, they should not be allowed to breed until they are at least 9-12 months old.


Related Article(s)

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Black-throated (Parson's) Finches

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