Java rice birds are one of the largest finch species, averaging 5 to 6 inches long. Their back, breast and wings are a uniform gray, and their belly and abdomen is a lighter mix of off-white and gray. The tail is black, as is the head, and they sport attractive white cheek patches. The legs and eye rings are pink. The beak fades from a dark pink at the base to light pink at the tip. Their overall appearance is glossy and polished. Originally native only to Java and the neighboring island of Bali, Java rice birds have been introduced into other areas of Indonesia as well as other parts of the world. The birds are also known as Java temple birds, Java sparrows and paddy birds. They come in several color mutations: white, pied (normal coloration with irregular white blotches) and fallow (normal markings, but dark brown feathers replace the black head and tail and light buff plumage replaces the gray body feathers). Food For Thought The staple of a Java rice bird's diet is usually seed. I have found that they rarely take mealworms, even when breeding. Over the summer, when my birds were in a 28- by 8- by 8-foot outdoor aviary, I gave them many different foods -- green pepper, sweet corn, broccoli, apple, orange, boiled rice, spinach and lettuce seeds, cantaloupe, zucchini seeds, romaine, green beans, dandelion leaves and raspberries. Sweet corn was the favored food, and it got to the point where the Javas would eat an entire ear per day. They were also very fond of broccoli, which was given to them stem and all.
Java rice birds need egg food once or twice a week in small quantities when not breeding. Cuttlebone and eggshells should always be available. Any eggshells offered must first be cooked until they show signs of browning; otherwise there is a risk of Salmonella bacteria. Although grit is not a daily necessity, I find no harm in keeping it available. However, it is becoming common practice not to provide grit. If the birds are fed pellets or soft food, they are not likely to have a great demand for grit.
Some have tried, unsuccessfully, to wean the adult Javas onto a partial diet of pellets.More success has been accomplished with young, recently fledged Javas, which tend to try new things. Housing Because of their size, Java rice birds need a relatively large cage. A 3 by 2 by 2 foot enclosure is the minimum size. Javas do not need dense foliage. Do not provide such luxuries in a small enclosure because it will leave no room for the Javas. The idea that Java rice birds are completely trustworthy with smaller birds is false. Javas were kept in a large outdoor aviary during the summer with a flock of zebra finches. By fall, the Javas had given four of the zebras either a broken leg or missing toe. The Javas presently share an 8 by 4 by 6 foot aviary with a pair of cutthroats and several diamond doves. Javas really aren't aggressive finches, but keep your eyes open for problems when housing them with smaller birds. Java rice birds are very fond of bathing and often take no less than two baths a day. Keep fresh bath water available at all times. These are generally very quiet Finches.
A few years back, the normal gray Java rice bird was considered difficult to breed. Now, Javas (even the normal grays) breed readily in captivity. The Javas are provided with an 8 inch high by 6 inch wide wicker nest basket placed high off the ground. Javas are not extremely particular about their nesting material. Javas tend to favor broad leaves but will use grass or twigs if leaves are not available. Start giving Javas daily egg food a few days before the babies hatch. The courtship display is brief. First, the male begins singing. Then, during the song, he starts to "jump" up and down while still gripping the perch. The female watches as the male does this dance. After one or two verses, the male Java mounts the female. They lay 3 to 6 eggs that take 11-12 days to incubate. Breeders collected the following information from their observations:
· Both parents share the incubation of the four to seven eggs. · Incubation lasts approximately 15 days. · Eyes open eight to 10 days after hatching. · Pin feathers become barely visible on the chicks' wings about 10 days after hatching and make their appearance on the chicks' bodies about three days later. After another 15 days, the pin feathers fully develop. · Chicks leave the nest a little over a month after hatching and don't start eating on their own for another week. · It takes 10 more days before the chicks are completely weaned. · The beak begins to change from black to pink around 40 days after hatching. Another month passes before that transformation is completed.
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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.