The Cut-throat Finch

Cut-throat Finch 8,10,11,12,13,23,30,31,34,37,40,41
Amadina fasciata, 4 subspecies
Reproduction:Fairly prolific, but sometimes problematic
Singing ability:Poor
Compatibility:Aggressive, mixes well with other aggressive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:5" (12.7 cm)
Weight:16.5-17.5 grams
Approx. cost:$30-40 (US) per bird

Other common names

Cut-throat, Cut-throat Weaver, Cutthroat Finch, Cut-throated Finch, Ribbon Finch, Ribbon Weaver, Cut-throat Mannikin, Flame-throated Amadina, Flame-throated Finch, Red-collared Bengaly, "Cutties"



Area of distribution

From Senegal and Gambia across to Somalia, extending southward to eastern South Africa.



Undemanding, animated, calm. May become aggressive when breeding.

Physical descriptions

Plumage is in shades of pale, sandy brown with black flecks all-over. Black-brown tail, creamy white chin and cheeks, chestnut brown patch on belly. Beak and legs are a pale pink (fleshy) color. The cock sports a bright red band across the throat. Male juveniles look like slightly dulled versions of their fathers; even recently fledged males will have a dull red band across the throat. Female juveniles look like dulled versions of their mother.

Mutations include:
  • Isabel (where the bird becomes more creamy white where it was once sandy or chestnut brown, and black markings become dark grey): autosomal recessive
  • White/Ino (entire bird is white except the cock retains the red throat band)
  • Yellow-throated or Orange-banded (where the red band across the cock's throat is replaced with yellow): autosomal recessive

Sexing Cutthroats


Males sport the red band across the throat which females do not have. Juvenile males also sport this red throat band, whereas juvenile females do not.


The cock sings a low-pitched, bubbling warble.

Cock singing (.mp3, .17 MB)


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Cut-throat Finches
Pair of Cut-throats (A. f. fasciata) copulating. Photo by Ian White.

Cut-throat Cock
Cut-throat cock. Photo by Ian White.

Cut-throat hen
Cut-throat hen. Photo by Ian White.

Photo by Charlie Wijaya
Pair of Cut-throats (hen on left, cock on right).

Cut-throat Cock
Male cut-throat. Photo by Peter Steward.

Cut-throat Finches
Pair of Cut-throats (Male on left). Photo by Ron Knight.

Male Cut-throat
Male Cut-throat singing.

Photo by Deborah
Male Cut-throat.

Photo by Charlie Wijaya
Cut-throat family. Note how the juvenile cock (second bird from the left) has a red band across the throat which is more dull than the adult cock's (bird on far right).

Favorite foods

Live food (mealworms, termites, ant pupae), grass seeds, millet, green food, egg food, sprouted seed, some fruit (oranges, pears, apples).

Natural habitat

Arid country, dry acacia savanna, thornbush scrub, cultivated areas, villages, mopane woodland, and semi-desert or desert country with available surface water and some trees or bushes.


Cut-throats form strong pair bonds and are a social species. Members of a pair may engage in allopreening. Outside of the breeding season, these birds live in pairs or large flocks and may mix with other species such as Red-headed Finches, Cordon Bleu waxbills, Red-billed Quelea, and weavers. Birds may engage in peering behavior at a singing male. They enjoy "dust bathing" and may benefit from access to a shallow dish of dry (chemical-free) earth. Cut-throats are insectivorous, even when not breeding. They occasionally roost in nests.

Nests in the wild are built in thick trees, cavities in buildings or fence posts, or low bushes using grass, moss, and plant fibers and are lined with feathers. Sometimes a cut-throat pair will take over a weaver's nest or steal lining material from it. The male collects the materials and the female constructs the nest. Both sexes share incubation duties. When one parent returns to the nest to relieve the other, s/he will often bring additional nest lining material.

Special considerations

Due to their aggressive and interfering nature while breeding, Cut-throats should not be housed with smaller birds such as waxbills while breeding. Cut-throats have been known to investigate the nests of less-bold species and throw out their eggs and young in order to commandeer the nest, though they tend to remain peaceful towards other cut-throats even while breeding (if a spacious enough enclosure is provided). They may be able to be housed with weavers while breeding since weavers are also self-assertive and have different nesting habits, but generally it is not recommended to house cut-throats with other species while breeding. In a nonbreeding aviary, Cut-throats may be peaceful inhabitants, but if they show signs of aggression, they may need to be separated from the more passive species.

Cut-throats can live up to 10 years in captivity, but they do have some potential health issues. They are prone to induced melanism if they are not housed adequately. Lack of vitamin D can also lead to rickets. To avoid these problems, make sure to provide your birds with adequate lighting and a quality diet. If housed in small enclosures, Cut-throats have a tendency to become lethargic and obese as well as to begin feather plucking; keeping Cut-throat finches in a spacious, well-planted aviary and feeding an austerity diet (limiting live food and soft food) when not breeding is advised. Orienting perches horizontally and far apart will maximize exercise. Feeding greens and half-ripe seeds excessively or too infrequently may induce diarrhea. Cut-throats feed on the ground where they can acquire intestinal parasites including coccidia; they may therefore need to be dewormed regularly. Dry flooring should be maintained in the enclosure. Birds may need to be wintered indoors in cooler climates (below 41°F or 5°C).

Hens of this species, particularly if first-year or old, also tend to suffer from egg binding; therefore, providing a constant source of calcium and a balanced diet is important, and breeding should be limited to warmer weather or birds should be bred indoors. Cut-throats have poor nest hygiene and chicks exposed to a damp nest (more common in hot weather or with large broods) may develop bumblefoot. If this occurs, remove the chicks temporarily from the nest in order to clean it and furnish it with fresh nesting material.

Cut-throats have reportedly hybridized with: Red-headed Finch (Amadina erythrocephala) creating a fertile hybrid, Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina), Orange Bishop (Euplectes franciscanus), African Silverbill (Lonchura cantans), Society finch (L. domestica), White-headed Munia (L. maja), Indian Silverbill (L. malabarica), Java sparrow (Padda oryzivora), Black-throated finch (Poephila cincta), and the domestic canary (Serinus domesticus).

Breeding season

Birds may breed year-round in warm climates, or during the warmer (summer) months in cool climates. In the wild, Cut-throats breed during the end of the rainy season and in the dry season:
  • Sudan: January, February, August, September
  • Ethiopia: May, November, December
  • Kenya: July
  • Kenyan Highlands: May to August
  • Malawi: March to May
  • West Africa: September and November

Birds in captivity can be bred at any time of year if provided with the basic requirements.

Breeding tips

A breeding diet including live food and soft food should be introduced about 1 month prior to breeding. Birds aged 2 to 4 years are best suited for breeding. Pairs may breed successfully in either a cage or an aviary and can even be bred in colony fashion with 3 or more pairs per adequately-sized enclosure. Breeding cut-throats in a mixed collection with other species is not recommended, since the cut-throats are aggressive during their breeding season and prone to stealing nests and tossing other birds' chicks. Although colony breeding in a single-species aviary is possible, breeding one pair per enclosure will increase productivity and ensure paternity. A male will court a female by singing to her while displaying with fluffed underparts and erect head feathers, turning his head from side-to-side and bobbing his body up-and-down. An interested hen will solicit copulation by quivering her tail. A bird who lost its mate or who failed to bond with the mate provided may be willing to accept a new mate during the breeding season, but adding a new bird into a colony-breeding set up may be disruptive to the group.

Cut-throats may accept a covered nest box and use coarse nesting materials (grass stems, bast, millet stems, shredded paper, coconut fiber) and small feathers for construction of the nest. Pre-stuffing a handful of nesting material into the base of each nest box is recommended to get the pair(s) started. Wild birds build their nests in bushes, trees, or tree hollows using grass stalks and feathers for lining; they may also accept abandoned weavers' nests or commandeer nests of other species. Providing multiple nesting receptacles per pair may help reduce competition for nest sites when breeding in a colony fashion.

Provide hens with a constant source of calcium and a balanced diet to help prevent egg binding, and only attempt to breed mature birds during warmer weather. Both sexes will take turns incubating the eggs, and both birds will roost in the nest at night. Live food is ideal to provide to breeding birds for chick rearing purposes, however, pairs can successfully breed without it. Cut-throats do not practice nest hygiene. Nestlings hatch with dark skin. The young are brooded until they are 10 days old, so it is important to ensure the enclosure remains adequately warm after this time. Fledglings may begin picking at food early, however, they are not fully weaned until about 3 weeks after they fledge. Juveniles can be left in with the parents if the enclosure is large enough, or moved into their own enclosure once weaned.

Although cut-throats tend to tolerate nest checks, some pairs are prone to abandoning their eggs or nestlings in captivity. In an effort to avoid this problem, provide a wide variety of nesting options, materials, and rearing foods (including egg food, green food, and soaked seed) to breeding pairs and avoid nest checks. If fostering is needed, cut-throat chicks may be raised by silverbills or society finches.

Limit breeding pairs to 2-3 clutches per year. Birds should be fed an austerity diet when not breeding. Separating the sexes at the conclusion of breeding can help further reduce the drive to breed.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:4-6 eggs
Incubation:Starts once the 5th egg is laid
Hatch date:After 12-14 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 21-23 days of age
Wean date:Around 6-7 weeks of age
Juvenile molt:Around 60-75 days of age
Sexual maturity:Because hens are prone to egg-binding, Cut-throats should not be bred until they are at least 1 year of age.

Related Article(s)

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Cut-throat Finches

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