Grassfinch, Hecks or Shaftail Finch
Heck’s Grassfinch or Shaftail
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The Heck’s Grassfinch or Shaftail, as it is also called, is an elegant Australian finch with a rather comical demeanor.The normal Shafttail has a silver-gray head with a rose brown body. The bird has a black eye mask reaching from the beak to the eye, and a black bib under the beak and covering the breast area. The rump is white with a black band above, black and white tail feathers, red beak and red legs. Both sexes appear identical with only slight differences in body size, beak color and bib size. Males are typically larger, have a wider bib and more intense coloration on of the beak. Head bobbing may be displaybe by both sexes, but more often by males. These birds average 5-6 inches (13-15cm). They are hardy birds.
The Shaftail orginates from Australia. The bird remains numerous, second only to the Zebra Finch. A red billed sub-species (Phophila acuticauda hecki) from the western region is now more common in US aviculture than the original yellow billed species (Phoephila acuticauda) from the eastern region.
Stafttail Finch diet should be based on a good finch mix. Fresh water, cuttlebone and a mineral supplement should be provided daily. Shaftails enjoy Lettuce, Spinach, Chickweed, spray millet, Eggfood, Brocolli tops and Carrot tops.
This species is normally an ideal canidate for a mixed aviary. The get along, although they may bicker on occasion with smaller birds during the breeding season.
The birds do best in a large planted aviary. To breed you might seperate them by pairs into large flights or breeding cages. They prefer the deep nestboxes. Shaftails will use a variety of nesting material such as coco fiber, shredded paper, dried grasses and feathers. They must build the nest themselves. The hen typically lays 4-7 eggs. Both parents take turns incubating for about 14 days. At 21 days the young will typically fledge. At 42 days the young are normally independent.
Heat is durring winter months or house them indoors. In the summer time they will thrive and come into best condition in outdoor aviaries. Provide shelter to keep them from damp or contrary conditions.
The species amuzing to watch while singing. The birds take turns bobbing heads, and the male sings a series of “call songs”. The female does not sing the full song.
Heck’s colors range from the normal as described below to cremes, whites, and fawn mutations. The head of a normal is a beautiful soft gray with black streaks around the eyes giving it an almost oriental appearance. Below the beak and running down to the top of the chest is a bold black bib. The body itself is a soft grayish brown with almost a tinge of peach. The underparts of the Heck’s is yet paler and the vent area is almost white. The tail is black and quite long separating into two central shafts. A broad black bar extends down each side of the legs and is flanked with brilliant white. The legs are orange/red in color.