Melba Finch Pytilia melba

The green-winged pytilia, or melba finch as it’s known in Australian aviculture, is an estrildid finch common to the dry regions of central and southern Africa. They are reasonably uncommon in Australian aviculture and are not considered to be suitable for finch-keeping beginners.

Male melba finch. Photo credit: Derek Keats

Housing & Compatibility

Melba finches can be housed as single pairs alone or as part of a mixed finch collection. Do not house more than one pair together, otherwise the males will fight. Star finches, twinspot finches, and other finches with red face masks should not by housed with Melba finches, as they male be mistaken for another male and attacked.

Melba finches prefer a large planted aviary of at least 3 meters in length. They don’t tolerate cold conditions and enjoy direct sunlight, so these factors must be considered when designing and positioning the aviary.

Diet & Feeding

A quality finch seed mix including canary seed and various millets forms the basis of the melba finch’s diet. Sprouting seed increases its nutritional value and is an effective way to improve your bird’s health and breeding performance. Freshly grown green seed heads should also be offered frequently.

Some leafy greens should can be provided throughout the year. Although not as keen on greens as many other finch species, they will still incorporate a small amount in their diet, especially if they see other birds eating them. Kale, bok choy, endive, and silverbeet are the most nutritious and are very easy to grow. Spinach can also be given, but only sparingly as it can contribute to calcium deficiency.

Live food is an important component of the melba 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, which is especially useful when breeding.

Do not feed anything from the list of forbidden foods.

Female melba finch. Photo credit: Derek Keats

Breeding

Although they’re able to breed year-round if the conditions are right, the breeding results are achieved in spring through to late summer. The hen bird should be at least 12 months old, and better breeding results are usually achieved in her second year of breeding.

Melba finches fiercely defend their nesting site, and do not tolerate nest inspections. In a mixed aviary situation, the aviary should be large enough that other birds do not need to enter the proximity of their nest.

Melba finches build an open cup-style nest in a tree or shrub. They may occasionally use an artificual nest, such as a canary cup or an open nesting box. They will construct a nest from fine strands of dry grass and line it with feathers. A new nest will generally be constructed for each subsequent clutch.

Do not house with any of the other Pytilia species, as they may produce hybrids.

They typically lay 3-6 eggs in each clutch, which are incubated by both parents for approximately two weeks. Young birds fledge the nest at three weeks of age and are usually independent after a further three weeks. The young birds will resemble the hen, so it’s best to put leg rings on the parent birds.

Young birds should be separated from their parents when they reach independence to prevent aggression.

Sexing

Easy to visually sex, as only the males have red patches on the face and head. Females have completely gray heads.

Mutations

No mutations have been established in Australia.

Health

The Melba finch’s diet is high in live food, making them especially vulnerable to parasite infection. A strict worming and parasite control regime should be implemented to ensure their long-term health. We recommend Moxidectin Plus.

Healthy birds can be expected to live for approximately 7-8 years of age.

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