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Species group: Tanagers and Cardinals
Other name(s): Cuban Melodious Finch; Cuban Grassquit
AppearanceDetails: The Cuban Finch is an alert, active, and aggressive species recommended for the experts who can provide the abundance of space and caution needed for success with these interesting birds. The spirited adult male is a striking finchlike bird with a black face mask framed with triangular yellow ear patches. The illusion created by the yellow “wings” almost encircling the face has caused him to be compared to a pansy or a butterfly. However, the territorial fierceness, combined with the black and yellow head pattern, has caused still others to think of a bumblebee. The female's face is more of a chestnut or reddish-brown with less vivid ear patches.
Weight: 8 grams
Average size: 10 centimeters
Lifespan: 5 - 7 years
Diet: Grassquits can be easily observed feeding on the seeding heads of grasses, and the Cuban Finch is no exception, as the core of the diet will be a high quality small seed finch mix. However, dry seed is not enough – be sure to offer soaked, sprouted, and milky seeding grassheads frequently, along with a good finch pellet, eggfood, and a chopped salad that includes favorite treats like bits of apple, chickweed, broccoli florets, and other tasty greens. While they may not crave as much live food as other finches, most breeders do recommend that you offer some, especially to stimulate the breeding and throughout the raising of young and the molt.
Housing: Cuban Finches are territorial, and the breeding males are aggressive to other males, to their own youngsters who might be gaining color, and to other birds that show off a black and yellow pattern on their plumage. You should not consider crowding these birds together. Provide a pair with a generous cage or flight, at least 36” in length, 24” in width, and 18” in height with a 1/2” bar spacing. If you are cage-breeding multiple pairs, have visual barriers between the cages, so that the males can't see each others and become enraged. These active birds also show very well in a planted mixed-species uncrowded aviary, but if you place too many pairs on the territory, you're going to have trouble.The Cuban Finch has a reputation as an escape artist. Provide double doors to your walk-in aviary, and be very cautious about servicing cages. If one parent escapes, the bird may return and try to find its way back in. If they both escape, they may never be seen again.
The Cuban Finch originates not just from Cuba, but from the Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas. They forage in a variety of edge habitats in tropical and subtropical forests. They may not be particularly common, even though vagrants may sometimes occur in Florida, and there are rumors of birds being collected for the pet trade, causing population declines in Cuba. Know your breeder.
Breeders warn that the greatest difficulty in breeding the Cuban Finch is the tendency of the males to attack their young sons once the juveniles start to develop some black feathers in their plumage. You should keep track of time and remove the youngsters before color begins to develop at around three months. Care for these birds with a good understanding of what sparks their aggression – including the colors black and yellow, and a lack of adequate territory. Thanks to its energy and spirit, a well-managed pair of Cuban Finches can be a joy to observe and to breed.Written by Elaine Radford