The Cuban Melodious Finch
Other common namesCuban Grassquit, Melodious Grassquit, Cuban Melodious Finch, Cuban Finch, Melodious Finch, Brown-cheeked Grossbeak, Little Cuba Finch
OriginCuba and the Isle of Pines (southwest of Cuba)
Area of distributionEndemic throughout Cuba.
DispositionPugnacious, especially hostile while breeding, and especially so towards birds of the same species or with black and/or yellow plumage. Level of aggression is variable between individuals.
Physical descriptionsBlack beak, face, chin and throat surrounded by a yellow crescent-shaped band; olive back, wings and tail; black lower breast and dark grey belly; tawny legs and feet. Juveniles appear as less defined, browner versions of the hen.
SexingHens are significantly duller than the males. Their yellow is more brown in color, and any black areas on the cock appear more grey on the hen.
SongDescribed as 'sweet.'
PicturesIf 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.
Cock. Photo by Rafy Rodriguez.
Pair, hen on right.
Pair, hen on right.
Pair, hen on left.
Pair, hen on left.
Pair, hen on left.
Favorite foodsGreenfood, soaked seed, egg food. This species is not particularly insectivorous.
Natural habitatGrasslands with trees and bushes; cultivated land (e.g. sugar cane plantations). The climate tends to be hot, humid, and rainy.
HabitsCuban Finches form small flocks, feeding primarily on seed (half-ripe seed heads) and on the ground. Pairs are monogamous and together build domed nests within 1.5 meters of the ground in dense shrubs, vine tangles, and bamboo, sometimes near wasps' nests and/or along waterways. The nest entrance is located low to one side of the nest and slopes upward into the nest chamber; some nests feature two entrances, one of which is thought to function as an "emergency exit." Cuban Finches love bathing.
Special considerationsBecause cock birds are extremely aggressive towards each other, pairs should be housed separately (one pair per enclosure). These birds should also not be housed with any other species which sport yellow or black plumage, as this may trigger an aggressive response. Stress seems to worsen the aggression. Cuban Finches may be prone to feather plucking, especially if overcrowded. Spacious, planted enclosures are preferred to reduce aggression. Cuban Finches do not tend to decimate plantings in their enclosure.
Do not house these birds below 65°F (8°C), especially while breeding. Due to their ground-feeding habits, regular deworming for intestinal parasites including coccidia is recommended. Captive live span is around 6 years of age.
Cuban Finches have reportedly hybridized with the Olive Finches (Tiaris olivacea, T. o. olivacia, T. o. intermedia, & T. o. pusilla) as well as the Black-faced Finch (T. bicolor).
Breeding seasonCaptive Cuban Finches will breed during the warmer spring/summer months (April/May in the Northern Hemisphere).
Breeding tipsWhile breeding, live food may be appreciated but is unnecessary. The breeding diet should be supplemented with soaked seeds, copious amounts of greenfood, and additional protein (as from egg food), however.
Birds aged 2 through 4 years are best suited for breeding. To form a new pair (or to reintroduce a bonded pair that has been separated), a cock and hen should be introduced to each other in a neutral cage which has no territorial familiarity for either bird. Birds that bond will engage in allopreening. If a pair is compatible, they can be released into the breeding enclosure together after about a week in the introduction cage.
Although cage breeding may be possible, a well-planted aviary or planted medium-sized flight is preferable for breeding. It is less likely that a male will injure a hen if the enclosure is spacious and planted. Only one pair should be housed per breeding enclosure. Furthermore, cock birds should not be permitted to see one another in order for breeding to take place, as they may otherwise be distracted trying to fight 'through the wire.'
During courtship, the cock will pursue the hen while holding a nesting token. He will puff out his yellow throat patch and sing. A hen signals her acceptance by crouching and quivering her tail.
Provide the pair with large wicker nest baskets, large half-open nest boxes, a wire cylinder, clumps of dried brush affixed to the aviary wall, and/or a dense bush to be used as a nesting site, with copious amounts of coconut fibers, plant fibers, fine grasses, and feathers to build with. These grassquits build a messy and bulky domed nest, and may occasionally steal the nest of another pair of birds if they were housed in a mixed collection. Eggs are usually pale green-blue with speckles. Only the hen will incubate the eggs while the cock protects the nest. Avoid nest checks as pairs readily abandon the nest if disturbed.
Hatchlings have greyish-white down. Cuban Finches practice nest hygiene and remove the chicks' feces from the nest. Nestlings become audible around 10 days of age. Fledglings have bluish gape tubercles and stumpy tails. After fledging, the cock continues to feed the young for 10-14 days until they are weaned. Young should be removed as soon as they are independent so that the cock bird does not attack them, and all young cock birds should be housed separately from each other to prevent vicious fighting as they mature.
Two to three broods are expected per season. Pairs are likely to re-use the old nest after relining it. Birds should be placed on an austerity diet outside of the breeding season. Sexes do not need to be segregated when not breeding.
|Clutch size:||2-4 eggs|
|Incubation:||Done by the hen after the last egg is laid|
|Hatch date:||After 12 days of incubation|
|Fledge date:||Reports vary from 13 to 21 days of age|
|Wean date:||4 weeks of age|
|Juvenile molt:||Around 2 months of age|