The Yellow-rumped Mannikin
By Mark O’Connor, Mount Gambier
Mark, the author of the following article, has been interested in aviculture since about 1990. Now at age 12 he has enjoyed considerable breeding successes with his birds. His main involvement has been with finches although he also keeps some Bourke Parrots (both normal and Rosa). He can readily identify most species of birds, including some of the rarer foreign parrots and is more than capable of citing the price of many birds without enlisting the help of a price list.
Description of the Yellow-rumped Mannikin (Lonchura flaviprymna)
This solid finch in my opinion would rate as one of the most attractive Australian finches. With its chestnut-brown wings, creamy buff underparts, straw yellow rump, greyish head and bluish grey beak, it has always been a firm favourite of mine. Young Yellow-rumps come out as a dull brown colour.
As usual, the cock bird is the prettier of the two, and although difficult to sex, there are some variations that you can go by. The cock bird’s head is usually of a lighter colour and the upper mandible is slightly larger. Compared to the female, the cock seems to have an overall brighter coloration. As far as I’m concerned, the best way to sex them is that the cock will crow and the hen will not. I have used this way with a fair amount of success.
My Yellow-rumps enjoy a variety of seeds including red pannicum, niger, canary, a general finch mix and canary tonic. During the breeding season my birds get plenty of silverbeet, broccoli, soaked seed, apple, termites and mealworrns (fed once a day). I don’t know of anyone who has bred the Yellow- rump without some form of livefood, so it is just about essential if you want good breeding results. Yellow-rumps should always have a good supply of fresh water for drinking and bathing purposes. My birds always get cuttlefish, shell grit and egg and biscuit. Whenever possible the Yellow-rump should have seeding grasses as they are something the Yellow-rump really likes.
In the Aviary
From my experience, the Yellow-rump is extremely docile. I have never observed the Yellow-rump interfering with other birds whether they be young or old, or other bird’s nests. It is a good bird for a mixed collection of other Australian and foreign finches, except they should not be housed with either other Australian mannikins or munias, as they may hybridize. I have only tried breeding them as a three pair colony and never as just single pairs. My birds have bred successfully this way so I intend sticking with it. Yellow-rumps are usually a very hardy bird, but as with other birds they should have an adequate sheltered area and the aviary should be as draught-free as possible.
Being a comparatively large finch, the Yellow-rump likes a lot of room. My Yellow-rumps are housed in an aviary which is 4.5m x 4.5m x 2.1m high. My colony of three pairs share their aviary with the following: two pair of Hecks, one pair of Yellow-hooded Siskins, one pair of Blue-faced Parrot-finches, one pair of Orange-breasts, one pair of Fires, one pair of Cubans, one pair of St. Helenas, one pair of Emblemas and one pair of Rosa Bourkes. There have been no problems arising from this combination and the only birds that haven’t produced young so far are the Blue-faced, the Yellow-hooded Siskins (although they are on the nest at the moment), and the Rosa Bourkes (who also currently have eggs). They like a bit of sunshine (which is a bit of a problem here in Mt. Gambier!), so a few sheets of fibreglass on the roof doesn’t go astray. My aviary has a sheltered area which is 2.1 metres long by 4.5 metres wide and 2.1 metres high. Half of the front is covered with fibreglass. This lets light in and stops draughts. The front is planted with the following plants: Kunzias, Melaleucas, Bamboo, Acanthus, Fuschias and various little grasses.
Yellow-rumps usually breed all year round, except they have a break during winter. The Yellow-rump will usually build either in grasses or brush. Mine have only ever nestled in the brush which lines the inside of the sheltered area, about one metre above the ground. I have never noticed them breeding in cane baskets or any other nest receptacles. They make a small, round nest with no entrance tunnel and feathers are used for lining the structure. Swamp grass and other fine grasses are used in the nest construction. My birds have bred twenty three young from four nests, so they usually have about six young per nest. The babies come out a dull brown colour and aren’t usually good fliers. The parents look after the babies well, and the Yellow-rumps once out of the nest usually live. I have noticed other members of the colony looking after the babies as well.
Although not an overly popular bird, for reasons which I don’t know, I think they are ideal finches to keep for the following reasons: they are docile, hardy and free breeders. They never interfere with other bird’s nests or young and are colourful as well.
Reprinted from the January 1994 edition of Bird Keeping in Australia, the official publication of The Avicultural Society of South Australia Inc.