Java Finch

It's best to keep two or more of these little cagebirds

Java Finch

Stephanie Young Merzel / Flickr / CC By 2.0

Small, beautiful, and quiet, the adorable Java finch has been popular as a cage and aviary bird for many years. These birds require a "hands-off" approach to bird ownership. This is why they are often hailed as wonderful choices for both very young as well as older bird owners who want a bird that is easy to care for.

The Java finch has very calming vocalizations with a signature chipchipchip song and they are best kept in pairs or with other birds. Their elegant in-cage flight maneuvers help put them among the most interesting small bird to keep and observe.

Common Names

Java Finch, Java Rice Finch, Java Sparrow, Java Temple Bird, Paddy Bird

Scientific Name

Padda oryzivora or  Lonchura oryzivora

Origin and History

As the name implies, the Java finch is native to the Indonesian islands, including Java, Bali, and Bawean. They have been introduced to other areas and populations can be found in Sri Lanka, Hawaii, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. In Java, the Java finch is a vulnerable species.

This Asiatic finch typically lives in large flocks on grasslands and savannas. The birds have also found a love for cultivated fields, particularly those growing rice. On many of its native islands, the species is seen as a pest. Some areas where they are not native also ban keeping the birds as pets out of fear for the local agriculture if feral populations do arise.

Size

Java finches are small birds, averaging only 5 to 6 inches in length from the beak to the tips of the tail feathers. Because of their compact size, they have become very popular pet birds among those who have limited space and cannot house a larger bird species.

Average Lifespan

When properly cared for in captivity, Java finches have been known to live for up to 10 years. On average, however, they tend to live for less than five years. Some individuals have been reported to live into their late teens.

Temperament

Java finches are social little birds, but often are far too timid for direct human interaction. Some pet owners have reported success in bonding with their finch, though. Typically, they thrive in pairs or small flocks kept within a flight cage.

If you are thinking of adopting a Java finch, then you may as well prepare yourself to take in at least two or even three. These birds cannot be kept singly and will become very depressed without another finch to keep them company.

Beyond that, these birds are quiet, passive, and non-aggressive. They can be kept with other finches, both large and small, without issue. A pair of Javas can be a nice addition to a diverse aviary. The only time they show aggression is usually between two male Javas, and even that is minimal.

Java Finch Colors and Markings

The natural coloring of the Java finch includes a gray back and a black head and tail feathers. They have grayish-cinnamon colored breasts and bellies, and large white patches on their cheeks. Some people say they remind them of tiny penguins.

Another distinguishing characteristic of the Java finch is the thin orange ring around their eyes. They also have bright reddish-orange beaks and bright orange skin on their legs and feet. 

Both males and females of the species display the same coloring on their plumage. There are a few ways to tell the sexes apart, though it's not easy without a side-by-side comparison. For instance, the males have darker eyes and a slightly wider, blunter beak that swells at the top during the breeding season.

The best way to sex these finches is to find out who's singing. While the females do call, only the males actually sing. It may take a male a long time to sing, though some birders say that after a week of isolation, most will. This can also be difficult if you keep a group of finches but it can be done with careful attention and banding.

Various color mutations of Java finches are also available within the pet trade. These include pied javas, agate javas, black-headed javas, cinnamon or fawn javas, cream javas, dark silver and light silver javas, and white javas.

Caring for Java Finches

If you are interested in keeping Java finches as pets, it is important to do as much research as possible and learn all that you can about these little birds. They are known to be a very hardy species and rarely fall ill if cared for properly. Yet, it is always better to know too much about caring for them than too little.

Before bringing home a pair or a small flock, talk to local breeders and gather their tips on how to provide the best home environment for them. You may even consider joining your local aviculture society or bird club so you can learn from the experiences of other members. 

The cage required for Java finches should be large enough to allow flight and will vary based on how many birds you decide to keep. Generally, a tall cage about 7-foot high will give them plenty of room.

Nesting boxes are not necessary unless you want to breed the birds. Do provide plenty of perches, ladders, swings, and toys to keep them happy. They also enjoy bathing, so a dish of water for this purpose will be greatly appreciated.

Java finches are prolific breeders and will do so year-round except when it gets too hot or too cold. If you'd like to keep a non-breeding aviary, the best bet is to get same-sex pairs. As an alternative, Finch Aviary recommends removing the nesting boxes or any laid eggs. To ensure your female doesn't jeopardize her health by continuously replacing "lost" eggs, you can use fake eggs as decoys.

As long as you are committed to providing the best possible care for your Java finches, you will surely be rewarded with healthy, happy pets who are very fun to watch and listen to.

Feeding Java Finches

Although these birds became famous for eating rice in the wild, captive Java finches prefer to eat a good, high-quality seed mix. Many Java finch owners report success feeding them mixes that are formulated for parakeets rather than finches. They will pick out any seeds they don't want and leave a considerable mess, so it's important to adapt the food to what they will eat.

For balanced nutrition, their diet should be supplemented with items such as nuts, grains, and finely chopped, fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables. Your birds will also enjoy crushed egg or oyster shells, which provides extra calcium. Though some do, most javas are not fond of cuttlebones.

Exercise

Like all finch species, these are extremely active little birds who seem to have endless amounts of energy. Because of this, and since they do not tolerate human handling, they must be provided with a tall flight cage so they have room to fly, play, climb, jump, and exercise.

These birds make ideal pets for people who don't have enough time to bond and interact with a parrot or other bird because no out of cage playtime is required for them. As long as another bird and plenty of activities are provided, they're great at entertaining themselves.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

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