The Star Finch

Star Finch8,11,13,14,22,23
Neochmia ruficauda
Grass finch
Hardiness:Hardy when acclimatized
Singing ability:Pleasant, but quiet song
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4.25" (11 cm)
Approx. cost:$45-$75 (US) per bird, depending on mutation

Other common names

Rufous-tailed finch, Red-tailed finch, Red-faced finch, Ruficauda finch



Area of distribution

Northern Australia: from the Pilbara region in Western Australia through the Kimberley range and the Northern Territory and across Arnham Land to Cape York.



Relatively calm, quiet, and independent. Usually peaceful, but may become defensive of their nest during the breeding season.

Physical descriptions

Forehead, sides of head, chin and beak: bright red; neck and upper back: grey-green to olive green; wings: grey-brown; belly: yellowish green; rump and central tail feathers: crimson. Red eyes, yellow legs and feet. Spots located on mask, chest and along the sides of the belly. Older birds tend to have more intense coloration and a greater number of spots. Juveniles are very similar to Crimson Finch juveniles; they are a dull olive-brown with their underparts being a lighter shade than their back, have a blackish bill, and have brown legs and feet.

Mutations include: pied (but pied feathers only tend to show on the head, wings, and tail), yellow-faced (where the mask is yellow instead of red), and isabel (a lighter, more fawn version of the bird with the same markings, just in a lighter, browner tone).
Sexing Star Finches


The hen's mask covers a smaller area of her face and is less bright than the cock's. In addition, the spots adorning her mask, breast, and sides are often less distinct than those of the cock bird. Although both cocks and hens can make simple shrill calling noises, ONLY cocks can sing.


The song is high-pitched and can only be heard from a short distance.

Sound FileSong ClipExternal Site at


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Red faced isabel cock   Yellow faced normal cock
Left: red faced isabel star finch cock. Right: yellow faced normal star finch cock.

Red faced normal cock
Red faced normal star finch cock.

Yellow faced hen
Yellow faced star finch hen.

Star finches
From front to back: Red faced male, yellow faced hen, red faced hen.

Star finches
Yellow faced hen with some red faced star finches.

Red faced normal hen
Red faced normal star finch.

Favorite foods

Millet, green food, and insects: flies, flying ants, ant pupae, small mealworms, and termites.

Natural habitat

Tall grasses, reeds, and rushes alongside rivers, creeks, and swamps. The birds prefer areas with some bushes and low trees.


Wild star finches live in medium-to-large flocks outside of the breeding season. During the breeding season, the courtship ritual includes a display flight by the hen and a dance by the cock. The hen may carry a blade of grass in her bill during her flight, as she flutters in circles around a perched male. When the male courts a hen, he carries a long piece of grass in his bill and puffs out his head, breast, and flank feathers, turning his tail towards the hen. The male stands tall, bobs up and down, and bows while singing his song for the hen. The hen quivers her tail to invite copulation by the cock bird. Once paired, the partners may allopreen each other during the breeding season. Bonded pairs may stay together even outside of the breeding season. They do not roost in nests at night like zebra finches; they only build nests for breeding purposes. They drink water by sucking and may engage in peering behavior at singing conspecifics.

Special considerations

Hybrids have occurred between star finches and bichenos (owl finches), between star finches and zebra finches, and between star finches and crimson finches. Therefore, when breeding stars, do not mix them with bichenos, zebras, or crimson finches. Although star finches are characteristically hardy birds that are relatively long-lived, they do not do as well in colder climates and should not be kept in temperatures below 54-60° F (12-15°C).

Breeding season

Australia is in the southern hemisphere, so its seasons are out of synch with those of North America and Europe. In Australia, wild star finches begin breeding during the second half of the wet season; their breeding season is quite prolonged. In the Kimberleys, breeding may begin in late December; in West Australia, breeding has been observed in March, May, and August.

Breeding tips

If the enclosure is large enough (i.e. a planted aviary), star finches can be bred in mixed company or in a colony setting. They may also breed when housed as a single pair per cage. In a planted aviary, star finches often prefer to build their own nest in a shrub, bush, or tall-growing clump of grass, but in a cage they will accept a nest box or a cylinder made of ½" wire mesh which they can build their nest within. Star finches build a domed nest with a side entrance. The nest may be constructed out of dry coarse grasses and/or green stems. They prefer to line the inside of their nest with feathers. If you are providing your stars with an artificial nesting receptacle, you may need to place some nesting material in it to start them off. Provide plenty of nesting material even after the nest appears to be complete. While breeding, the pair will become very defensive of the immediate area surrounding their nest. Both sexes will incubate the eggs. Providing the pair with plenty of live food and egg food for chick rearing is essential. If large quantities of insects (or egg food) are not available to them, the pair will often toss their chicks. Newly fledged young tend to be sensitive to cold and damp conditions, and will not return to the nest to roost after they fledge.

Because star finches tend to be "light sitters," you should avoid nest checks whenever possible! If you are going to close band the chicks, wait until they are 9-10 days of age.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:3-6 eggs
Incubation date:After the third or fourth egg is laid (the hen usually incubates alone at night)
Hatch date:After 13 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 21 days of age
Wean date:6 weeks of age
Complete molt:4-6 months of age
Sexual maturity:Although Star finches may become sexually mature before they obtain their adult plumage, many breeders recommend waiting until the birds are at least 6-9 months of age before breeding them

Related Article(s)

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Star Finches

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