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Owl finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii)

These tiny Australian birds are always zipping about with an insatiable zest for life. They are not nearly as colorful as the Lady Gouldian, but their bars and speckles lend them a certain distinctive beauty. Their beaks are also unusually silver and glossy. Both sexes are very similar in appearance, but males have slightly broader bars and brighter white feathers on the face and chest. These finches are one of the smallest Australian birds, measuring about four inches. Owl finches love millet and seeding grasses as well as spinach, broccoli, and carrots. They eat just about anything and regularly steal food from the Blue-Necked tanagers that share their aviary.

Owl finches are a challenge to breed, because they require a great deal of privacy when raising chicks. Adults reach maturity at about nine months. Younger females sometimes suffer from egg-binding. In a mated pair, both parents take turns incubating the clutch of four to six eggs for about twelve days. Both parents stay on the nest at night. Chicks are only brooded for about ten days, and mature into independent birds after around five weeks. First-time parents sometimes neglect their babies or toss them out of the nest, and the chicks’ quiet peeps occasionally go unanswered until it is too late. Adult male calls are two notes that sound a bit like a cat call. Females make a quiet “meep” sound. Unlike Gouldians and other flamboyant birds, young Owl Finches closely resemble mature adults but sport an additional tuft of baby feathers on their heads. Young finches grow their adult feathers at about two months of age. If babies lose their parents, they can be successfully fostered by Zebra or Society finches.

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