The Jacarini finch, also known as the blue-black grassquit, or jacarina, is a small tanager found throughout South America. The species is uncommon in captivity in Australia and Europe, and quite rare in North America. Although they are not particularly difficult to keep and breed, they have a preference for large well-brushed aviaries, which limits the number of finch keepers able to successfully house them.
Housing & Compatibility
Jacarini finches can be housed as single pairs or as part of a mixed finch collection. Two hens to one cock is also acceptable. The males can be territorial, especially during the breeding season, so only one pair of jacarini finches should be housed in each aviary. Some breeders report aggression issues when housing jacarini finches with cuban finches.
Jacarini finches prefer a large planted aviary with moderate brush and plenty of hiding places. They are a shy species that prefers to remain out of sight. A sparsely populated aviary 3 meters in length or larger is ideal.
Diet & Feeding
A quality finch seed mix including canary seed, pannicum, and various millets forms the basis of the jacarini finch’s diet. Seed lacks many essential vitamins and minerals which must be compensated for by introducing other foods. Sprouting seed increases its nutritional value and is a cheap way to improve your bird’s health. Freshly grown green seed heads should also be offered when available.
Leafy greens should be provided throughout the year. Kale, bok choy, endive and silverbeet are the most nutritious and will be readily eaten. Spinach can also be given, but only sparingly as it can contribute to calcium deficiency.
Live food is an important component of the jacarini finch’s diet and should be provided throughout the year – especially during the breeding season. Mealworms, maggots, termites, and small crickets will be consumed readily. Commercial soft finch food mixes can also be provided for an added nutrient boost, particularly when breeding.
Do not feed anything from the list of forbidden foods.
Jacarini finches generally breed in mid summer through to late autumn, with a hen bird that is at least 12 months of age. The cock bird will attain more vividly colorful nuptial plumage and perform and elaborate courting routine.
They prefer to nest in a shrub or among dry brush, creating a cup-shaped nest close to ground level. Artificial nesting receptacles are typically ignored in favor of natural nests. The nest is constructed from fine grass by both parents.
A quality pair will produce three clutches a year. They typically lay 2-3 eggs in each clutch, which are predominately incubated by the hen for approximately 12 days. During this time, the cock will be extremely protective of the nest and will chase other birds if they come too close.
Chicks are fed by both parents, who become heavily insectivorous during this time and demand a constant supply of live food. Young birds begin to fledge the nest at two weeks of age and are usually independent about five weeks later. Recently-fledged chicks are very shy and will try to remain hidden for several weeks. It may be necessary to separate independent young from their parents to control aggression.
Nest inspections are generally tolerated, but should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Chicks that fall from the nest prior to fledging should be promptly placed back into the nest.
Difficult to sex until the males achieve their nuptial plumage, at which point they become glossy mix of blue and black. DNA sexing may be required to accurately sex juvenile birds.
Very few mutations have been observed or established. A fawn mutation is known to exist.
A strict worming and parasite control regime is essential to ensure the long-term health of any finch collection. Jacarini finches are an unusually long-lived species with a lifespan of about 10 years.