Although I had kept most Australian and foreign finches over the past thirty years, until very recently the Double-barred finch (Poephila bichenovii) was one Australian finch which I had never had in my aviaries.
In September, 1983, I purchased one pair of the black-rumped race and from this pair clutches of three and one were fledged. From what I had heard about this bird it was not easy to breed, so naturally I was very pleased with the success. It was then that another two birds were purchased. As far as I am concerned, and two dealers are of the same opinion, this finch is very hard to sex. I have been told of various ways of sexing them but am unable to pass on any foolproof method. The way I sex these finches is that the chest between the top and lower bar is a dirty grey on the hen but a much cleaner grey on the cock, and the lower bar is not as wide on the hen as it is on the cock.
After a few sales, a few deaths and a few swaps, I finished up with my second pair in March, 1985. Between 1983 and December, 1986, my two pairs of Double-bars have reared fifty-nine young, including one clutch of seven, two clutches of five and two clutches of six. These birds are in an aviary 4.5m long, 1.8m wide and 2.1m high with a 1.8m long shelter, which has an enclosed front of fibreglass sheet 60cm down from the roof.
A Chinese lantern is planted in this aviary and the other birds occupying this flight are Gouldian, Emblema, Cordon, Cuban and Star finches. The nesting material supplied is coarse grass, swamp grass, cut-up and shredded sugar bag (hessian) and emu feathers. Nesting sites are in needle bush.
I feed these birds pannicum, white millet and canary seed, all in separate containers, with preference being given to white millet. A container each of niger and maw is also available but very seldom touched. Seeding grasses, when available, and silver beet are supplied and gents and mealworms are also provided, the latter cut into three small pieces. Over the period of time these Double-bars have been bred, success cannot be attributed to live food as I was away for periods of seven, five and three weeks and although no live food was supplied during this time, young were still successfully reared.
After the success with my first two pairs of Double-bars, I decided to go further and in October, 1985, thought it a good idea to place two pairs in another two aviaries. One aviary measured 4.5m long, 1.5m wide and 2.1m high with the same shelter as in the other aviary but with nothing growing in the flight. Other birds in this flight were one pair each of Scarlet-chested and Bourke’s parrots, Cuban and Emblema finches. I supplied the same nesting material and feed as with the first Double-bars kept, but since October, 1985, these two pairs have only reared two young.
The other aviary where the Double-bars were placed in October, 1985, was 4.1m long, 2.1m wide and 2.1m high, planted with Duranta and Golden Privet. The birds in this aviary were Gouldian, Emblema, Star, Fire, Cuban, Black-heart and Cut-throat finches. Shelter and feeding were the same as in the other aviaries. The same nesting material was supplied, with the addition of duck down and assorted feathers, but preference was still given to swamp grass and emu feathers.
As previously stated, these birds are hard to sex and it took me until December, 1985, to be sure I had two pairs in this aviary. As yet I have not had one young from this aviary.
I, and many other aviculturists, would like to know why one should have so much success in one aviary with a species of bird, and no success at all in other aviaries with the same species and feeding and nesting conditions the same.
Reprinted from the March 1987 edition of Bird Keeping in Australia, the official publication of The Avicultural Society of South Australia Inc.