Parson Finch
(Poephila cincta)
– by Kerri McCoy

The Parson’s Finch, also called the Black Throated Finch, is a stunning Australian finch with a very peaceful nature. Although it should not be housed with the closely related Heck’s Grassfinch or the Masked Grassfinch; I have found that housing it with any of the other Australian finches to not be a problem. I have even housed young, just weaned, zebra finches with the Parsons with great results.

The Parson’s Finch overall length is roughly 4 inches. Beak color is black depending upon the color mutation. Parson’s colors range from the normal as described below to creames and fawns. The head of a normal is a beautiful blue/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 chest itself is a soft brown, and the back of the body is a rich cinnamon-brown. The abdomen and vent areas are white. The tail is black and definitely shorter than the Heck’s ending in a square. A large black patch is also present on the lower flanks. The legs are faded orange in color, depending on the mutation.

Sexing of the Parsons can prove difficult to the uneducated eye. Although seeing a male and female beside one another resting on a perch, the sexing is quite easy. The male’s bib is quite wider than the females.

Although if you were to catch them up the bib size changes as the bird moves it’s neck. One cannot sex Parsons only on bib size. There are many in between bib sizes that makes sexing visually, almost impossible. I have also noticed that the head of the male is usually slightly lighter in color than that of the female. But, to surely distinguish the sexes one must wait for the male to sing his whistling song. While singing his neck area will also extend somewhat making watching for the males a little easier.

It is advisable to allow Parsons to choose their own mates. Once, the birds have chosen their mates the bonding between them is unsurpassable. Parson pairs bond for life and a large percentage of their time is spent doting upon one another.

My experience with the Parsons is that they love mealworms with a passion. Limiting them to 1 or 2 each 2x a day is best. Feeding mealworms and an eggfood (rearing food), helps put them in the breeding mood. They will usually choose a box nest over a rattan style nest. They tend to use bermuda grasses initially and then line the nest with soft materials such as burlap and feathers.

Once the nest has been made to their satisfaction the female will begin laying. Clutch sizes range from 5 to 9 making it one of the largest clutch sizes of the Australians. Incubation is usually 12 days. Parsons are extremely diligent parents. They raise their young with the same passion as do zebras. The young will usually fledge at around 3 weeks. I normally leave the young with their parents for 45-55 days. I have found that moving them sooner, even though they are exhibiting self-feeding, can present a problem. It is advisable to leave the young with their parents until their first molt sets in at roughly 6 weeks of age. Parson finches reach sexual maturity very early, but it is advisable not to allow the birds to breed until they are between 9-12 months of age.

I would not recommend housing Parsons in small cages. They are graceful, fast flyers and should one escape, catching them can prove quite time consuming. Housing Parsons in flights around 6 ft in length is best for these beautiful birds to show off their flying skills.

I would recommend Parsons to any finch fancier, whether a beginner or an experienced breeder. Anyone who chooses to add these birds to their collection will be most pleased.

It is also important that should you decide to add Parsons to your aviary collection, to concentrate your efforts on the breeding of these lovely birds. Although, somewhat common in captivity, their numbers in the wild are drastically dropping, making them one of Australia’s endangered species.

(No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without prior permission from the author.)

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