The Java Sparrow (Rice Bird)

Java (Rice Bird) Sparrow8,10,11,12,13,21,23,30,31, 34,35,37,40,41
Padda oryzivora (Lonchura oryzivora)
Munia
Hardiness:Hardy
Reproduction:Prolific and relatively easy to breed
Singing ability:Excellent
Compatibility:Pushy, but too large to mix well with other pushy species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:5-5.5" (12.7-14 cm)
Weight:Around 20-22 grams
Approx. cost:$20-$30 (US) per bird (special mutations may cost more)


Other common names

Java Finch, Java Rice Bird, Java Sparrow, Paradise Sparrow, Ricebird, Rice Bird, Paddy Rice Bird, Rice Munia, Paddy Bird, Paddy Finch, Temple Bird, Java Temple Bird

Origin

Asia

Area of distribution

From Java to Bali and Bawean, and introduced to many other locations.

Distribution


Java finches are becoming scarce within their native range due to being hunted (both for a food source and in order to protect the rice fields) and trapped for the pet trade.

Disposition

Calm but intimidating in stature; can be pugnacious and territorial in a mixed collection.

Physical descriptions

Head, chin, rump, and tail are black. Back, wings, and chest are a bluish grey. The cheeks are white and the belly is a pink-grey. The beak (which is quite large), legs, and eye ring are pink to red in color. Juveniles are grey-brown above and light buff below, with some grey streaking on the breast; the beak is horn-colored, but gradually lightens and becomes pink at its base.

Several mutations exist, including:
  • White - autosomal recessive: although fledglings may emerge from the nest as pale grey (some with dark feathers), after several molts the adult attains a pure white body color; the bill and eye-rings remain pink-red.
  • Pied: random splashes of white feathers
  • Pastel ("Dilute")- sex-linked recessive: black markings remain dark, but the body of the bird becomes a lighter steel grey, and the belly a fawn color.
  • Fawn (aka Isabel) - autosomal recessive: black areas become mid-brown, blue-grey areas become pale fawn, belly deep fawn, cheek patches remain white or pale cream; eyes red & sensitive to harsh light - may be prone to blindness
  • Silver (aka Opal) - autosomal recessive: black markings become dark grey, back becomes a bluish silver, belly becomes pale cream.
  • Black-head


White Java Sparrow
White mutation. Photo by Darren.

Fawn Java Sparrow
Fawn mutation. Photo by Shankar S.

Sexing

Generally these birds are difficult to sex visually, especially when not in breeding condition. Only the cock birds perform a song and dance routine. When in breeding condition, the cock's beak is slightly larger, more bulbous, and deeper red than the hen's, and, more reliably, the eye rings may appear more swollen and deeper red. The cock's cheek patches may be slightly brighter white, marginally larger, and better defined than the hen's.

Song

The male may begin his song by clicking his bill, then will begin to slowly rattle notes, increasing in speed and ending in a drawn out whine. Songs vary among individuals.

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.

Normal Javas:

Java Sparrow
Photo by Henry Sin.

Java Sparrow
Photo by Darren.

Java Sparrow
Photo by Alan L.

Java Sparrows
Photo by Alan L.

Java Chicks:

Java Sparrow chick  Java Sparrow chicks



Java Sparrow Juvenile
Juvenile. Photo by Daniel Ramirez.

Hand Feeding Java Chicks: Photos by Deanna

Java chicks - Photo by Deanna

Java chicks - Photo by Deanna

Java chicks - Photo by Deanna



Hand Tame Pied Java: Hand Tame Java Sparrow

Favorite foods

Parakeet mix (for its larger seed such as white proso millet), oats, green food (e.g. sliced cucumber), egg food, livefood (termites, small crickets, medium mealworms), paddy rice, fresh half-ripe sweet corn-on-the-cobb (scour the kernels first).

Natural habitat

Lowland grasslands, open woodlands with grass or scrub, tree savanna, beach forest, cultivated land--rice fields, maize fields & cane fields, and mangroves of Java and Bali, although these birds have now been introduced to many other areas.

Habits

In the wild, the java sparrow is an open-country finch which is highly social and may flock with other species such as the spice finch. They build nests in holes and eaves of buildings, tree cavities, or in bushes and trees. Outside of the breeding season, flocks of java sparrows move together in search of food, gathering in rice paddies where they are considered a pest. They feed on the ground or in growing vegetation on grass seeds, fruit, rice, maize, and small insects. In captivity, they are gregarious, long-lived, and adore bathing. They often clump together on perches and allopreen. Some Java finches housed with doves will roost or rest beside, beneath, or on top of the doves.

Java Sparrows
Javas clumping. Photo by Charles Wong.

Special considerations

These birds are listed in CITES and are illegal to keep in some states, so check with your local fish and game officials before purchasing any. They do best housed in groups of their own kind, but may be able to be housed with other large, self-assertive finches such as weavers and munias. When housed in a colony, male Java Finches may fight, so observe the birds closely. They tend to adapt well to human company and are often kept as tame pets.

Java Sparrow
Hand tame Java, silver (opal) mutation. Photo by Mohammad Abdullah.

Although they do not build roosting nests, Java Finches in captivity may commandeer a discarded nest of another bird for roosting purposes. Usually, however, birds in a group will huddle together to roost. Java Finches tend to decimate any live plants within their enclosure. Enclosures should be draft-free, have dry flooring, allow access to natural sunlight, and remain adequately warm in cooler climates.

Java Finches kept in small cages are prone to obesity. To minimize this risk, feed birds an austerity diet (& limiting oily seeds) during the non-breeding season and house them in larger enclosures with perches spaced far apart to encourage exercise. Because they have such a powerful bill, Java Finches may try to chew on items including wire; avoid giving birds access to objects made of or contaminated by heavy metals (e.g. zinc) as these can lead to toxicity. Treating galvanized wire with vinegar will help reduce this risk.

Java Finches can contract intestinal parasites including coccidia, as well as air sac mites. If suffering from nutrient deficiency, Java Finches can develop a pale bill (possibly flaky) and pale eye ring. The healthy bill is glossy and has a rich pink-red coloration. With appropriate care, Java Finches can survive up to 10 years in captivity.

Java Sparrows have reportedly hybridized with: Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata), Bengalese (Lonchura striata), Society Finches (L. domestica), African Silverbills (L. cantans), Scaly-breasted Munias (L. punctulata), Diamond Firetails (Stagonopleura guttata), Cut-throats (Amadina fasciata), Red-headed Finches (A. erythrocephala), and possibly Plum-headed finches (Neochmia modesta), so take care not to allow cross breeding to occur if housing these species together.

Breeding season

In the wild, javas breed after the rainy season comes to an end. Spring breeding is recommended, however, provided proper conditions, captive Java Finches can be bred at any time of year.

Java Sparrow
Normal java nesting in a tree cavity. Photo by Silvain de Munck.


Breeding tips

Birds aged 1 to 4 years are best suited for breeding, and can be bred in cages, flights, or aviaries. Although these birds can be colony-bred with 3 or more pairs (provided a large enough enclosure), productivity is greatest when each pair has its own breeding enclosure, since in a colony only the most dominant pair(s) may breed. That being said, allowing birds auditory and visual contact with other breeding conspecifics may help stimulate breeding. If colony breeding, keep an eye out for overly-aggressive individuals who may need to be removed from the breeding enclosure to avoid disruption of the other pairs. The breeding diet should be introduced at the end of winter for spring breeding.

A male will occasionally carry a piece of straw prior to performing the courtship display to a hen. He will often bow before her, click his bill, and hop on the perch toward the hen while remaining bowed. Some males may not sing during the courtship display. Receptive females bow and occasionally hop a few times before soliciting copulation with a crouched posture and quivering tail. Copulation usually takes place on a branch. Bill fencing may occur after mating takes place.

Provide parakeet-sized nest boxes with at least a 2" diameter entrance hole, and coarse building material such as coconut fiber and dried grass for nest construction. Pressing a handful of nest material into the bottom of the nest box with a small amount left protruding from the nest entrance will help get the pair started. Pairs may build a bulky spheroid nest of grass and fiber with a side entrance; some pairs will line the inside of the nest with feathers. If colony breeding, do not hang nest boxes too close together to discourage quarreling. If more than 8 eggs are laid in one clutch, it is likely that 2 hens are sharing the same nest.

Java Sparrow
Normal java nesting in a tree cavity. Photo by Gordon Lo.


Both birds will incubate the eggs during the day, but only the female incubates at night. Young hatch naked with dark skin. Provide plenty of egg food, greens, and sprouted seed for chick rearing. Although they can successfully rear chicks without it, providing live food may improve breeding results. Nest checks are usually well tolerated & young can have a closed leg band applied at 6 days of age.

After fledging, the young will return to the nest to roost at night until they are weaned. Four weeks after fledging, the independent young should be removed to their own enclosure and the parents given a clean, fresh nest for the next brood. Limit birds to 3 clutches per season, with at least a 6 month break afterward. When not breeding, birds should be fed an austerity diet to help prevent obesity, and ideally separated into same-sex enclosures to reduce breeding stimulation.

Java Sparrows
Normal java feeding fledglings. Photo by Marie Hale.


Because the pair bond is not very strong, birds bred in a single-pair-per-enclosure set up can be separated and each given a new partner (or a widowed bird provided with a new mate) if needed. If necessary, eggs or chicks can be fostered under another pair of Java Finches.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:4-6 (sometimes up to 8) eggs
Hatch date:After 14 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 21-30 days of age
Wean date:About 50 days of age
First Molt:Three months of age


Related Article(s)

If you own this species and would like to write an article about your experiences with them for this page, please submit your article for possible inclusion on this site. Credit will be given to you!

Java Sparrows

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