The Blue-faced Parrot Finch

Blue-faced Parrot Finch8,11,13,14,22,23,31,34,35, 37,40,41
Erythrura trichroa or Amblynura trichroa
Parrot finch
Hardiness:Hardy
Reproduction:Prolific
Singing ability:Fair
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4¾" (12 cm)
Weight:Around 19 grams
Approx. cost:$200-300 (US) per pair


Other common names

Blue-faced Finch, Green-backed Finch, Blue-headed parrot finch; sometimes also Tricoloured Parrot-finch or Three-coloured Parrot-finch, though these names are better reserved for E. tricolor.

Origin

Caroline Islands

Area of distribution

New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, Molucca Islands, Celebes, Micronesia, New Hebrides, Solomons, Pellew Islands, Carolines, Loyalty Islands, tropical north-eastern seaboard (Cape York Peninsula) of Australia.

Disposition

Active, social; generally peaceable, but sometimes pester other breeding birds. Tend to act nervous when housed in smaller enclosures.

Physical descriptions

Grassy green body--darker green above, lighter below; blue mask around eyes extending over forehead; black bill; rump, upper tail coverts, and central tail feathers red. Remainder of tail feathers blackish brown. Pale brown legs.
Juveniles are a uniform dull green color that is paler on the undersides; they lack the blue color on the face and have a deep yellow beak with a dark upper bill.

Very similar in appearance to the Papuan parrotfinch (E. papuana), but has a larger body and longer tail.

Mutations may have resulted from hybridization with red-throated parrot finches and include:
  • lutino (green body becomes yellow, blue mask becomes white, beak is white, rump is more pink than red) - sex-linked mutation
  • pied (yellow feathers 'splashed' on the green body) - autosomal recessive
  • seagreen

Sexing

Females are somewhat muted in color compared to the males; females also have less extensive blue on their heads. Captive-bred birds may be challenging to visually sex this way.

Photo by Esben
Blue-faced parrotfinch pair. Cock on left, hen on right.

Song

Following a metallic trilling call, the loud, shrill song consists of repeating notes and ends with a rising whistle.

Pictures

If you keep this species and have a photo of your birds to share, please submit your photo for possible inclusion on this site! Credit will be given to you.

Photo by Ang Hwee Yong
Photo by Ang Hwee Yong.

Photo by Esben


Photo by Peter
Photo by Peter.

Blue-faced parrotfinch nestling
Nestling. Photo by Ron Crandall.

Blue-faced lutino parrotfinch
Lutino mutation. Photo by Rohit.

Favorite foods

Green seeds, half-ripe oats, wheat, barley; soaked seeds, greens (cucumber with seeds, sweet corn, lettuce), fruit (pear, apple, guava, papaya, figs), live food (mealworms, ant pupae, termites), small millet, canary seed.

Natural habitat

Open grassland, tropical areas, jungle foothills, gardens, plantations and cultivated land, mountain woods, forest edge, eucalypt forest clearings. Prefers dense growth adjacent to mangroves & rainforest. Found at various elevations.

Habits

Blue-faced parrot finches live in large flocks of 20-30 birds outside of the breeding season, but pair off for the mating season. They do not tend to clump together on perches nor allo-preen, although young blue-faced parrot finches fostered by Society Finches may exhibit some of these behaviors. In the wild, these finches forage on the ground as well as among grass & low bushes, eating grass seeds, bamboo seeds, fig seeds, small berries, and termites. They frequently drink & bathe. They build an oval-shaped nest out of grass, ferns, leaves, moss, and small roots in thickly-foliaged trees (such as Mango trees), shrubs, among adventitious banyan roots, or in the recess of a cliff. Young are primarily fed insects.

Special considerations

These birds are prone to obesity which can be avoided by providing ample flight space and limiting high-fat foods. Other health problems may include: egg-binding, intestinal parasites (since these birds tend to feed on the ground) including coccidia, yeast problems (with damp cage floors), heat stress (if chased during hot weather), and air-sac mites.

These birds need open spaces for flying as well as densely planted areas for climbing and nesting, and are best suited to live in a large aviary as opposed to smaller enclosures. They do well in a mixed aviary with other passive species, but should be limited to one pair of Blue-faced parrot finches per enclosure. Although some birds may be successfully acclimated to cooler temperatures, Blue-faced parrot finches may benefit from temperatures above 61 °F; preferably even warmer if fledging chicks are expected, and may therefore require a heated shelter if housed outdoors year-round. They do not roost in nests at night. Due to the violent nature of their mating habits, a hen housed in a smaller enclosure may become heavily plucked by the cock.

Fertile hybrids have been reported between this species and the red-throated parrot finch (E. psittacea), and hybrids have also occurred with: royal parrotfinch (E. regia), red-headed parrotfinch (E. cyaneovirens), pin-tailed parrot-finch (E. prasina), gouldian finches (Chloebia gouldiae), and a zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), so be careful when housing these species together.

Breeding season

Breeding should be restricted to the warmer months.
South Pacific: October through March (spring & summer)
Australia: March
New Guinea: November

Breeding tips

When given the right housing and diet, Blue-faced parrot finches tend to breed prolifically, and will often need have the sexes separated in the off-season to prevent over breeding. Limit one pair of Blue-faced parrot finches per breeding enclosure, as these birds do not breed as well in colony fashion. (Both cocks and hens in colony situations engage in extra-pair copulation; additionally, if more males are present in the colony than females, the unmated males will drive the hens to exhaustion and may damage their feathers. It is better to provide more hens than cocks in a colony situation.)

Blue-faced parrotfinch nest
Blue-faced parrot finch nest in a log (close up on right). Photo by Ron Crandall.

Blue-faced parrotfinches can breed in cages or flights, but tend to breed best in large, densely planted aviaries. Pairs may make use of semi-open and closed nest boxes hidden in dense cover, or may build their own nest in dense bushes. Extra nest sites should be provided and placed at varying heights in the enclosure. Provide coconut fiber, grass, dried leaves, and moss for building materials; some birds may also appreciate feathers to line the nest. Pre-stuff each nestbox with a handful of nesting material.

Hen(s) should be introduced into the enclosure about a week before the cock(s). During the courtship display, the cock may hold nesting material in his bill, angle his tail toward the female, who angles her tail back; both birds then bob up-and-down together. The female then gives chase and the male follows while making trilling calls. When the female is ready to copulate, she quivers her tail and utters soft noises; the male then bites her head or nape feathers and copulates. A female who fails to initiate her mate's pursuit may attack and chase him. Copulation may also occur without any apparent courtship display. Both sexes construct the nest, share incubation duties, and feed the nestlings.

A proper breeding diet (half-ripe seeds, sprouted seed, peas, corn, egg food, etc.) should be offered as soon as pairs are introduced. Pairs may accept live food, though it is not necessary for breeding. Hatchlings may not be fed until they are 24 hours old & have developed their deep cobalt blue iridescent tubercles at each side of their gape. The nest is kept free of fecal material, either by the parent birds cleaning their chicks' droppings from the nest, or by chicks positioning themselves to defecate outside of the nest chamber. The parents stop brooding the young when they are about 10 days old, so it is important to ensure the enclosure stays sufficiently warm especially at night or chicks could be lost to exposure. Young birds should be removed from the aviary shortly after weaning (about 3 weeks after fledging), and before they complete their juvenile molt to prevent the cock bird from injuring and possibly killing them. The juvenile molt into adult coloration usually takes about 2 months. Young birds should continue to be fed the breeding diet until their molt is complete, and sexes should be housed separately.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:3-6 eggs
Incubation date:Once the 4th egg is laid
Incubation:The hen primarily incubates during the day; both cock & hen may sit in the nest together at night.
Hatch date:After 12-14 days of incubation
Feeding:Parents do not begin to feed the hatchlings until they are 24 hours old and have developed their iridescent nodules around the beak; the cock may be the primary parent to feed the young
Fledge date:At 21 days of age
Wean date:Around 5-6 weeks of age
First molt:Between 2 and 5 months of age
Sexual maturity:Although Parrot Finches may become sexually mature at 4-5 months of age, many breeders recommend waiting until the birds are at least 8-10 months of age before breeding them


Related Article(s)

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Blue-faced Parrot Finches

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