The Red Headed Finch is a large finch, as large as a Java Sparrow, and a first cousin of the more common Cutthroat Finch. They originate in Africa and have long been regarded as a popular, though seldom seen cage bird. Their breeding habits are not unlike that of Cutthroats, however in my opinion they are more dependable and therefore easier to breed successfully than Cutthroats. Red Heads can be prolific. They tend to nest readily in almost any type of individual cage or aviary. However their success depends largely on proper accommodations and their conditioning. Typically these birds will begin nesting activities almost immediately if given a suitable cage and nest box and lay a clutch of eggs. However if they are not properly accommodated or conditioned, such hasty activities often result in abandoned eggs or abandoned newly hatched young, a common habit of Cutthroats.
Red Headed Finches, due to their size, require a decent size cage to be comfortable in. An individual breeding cage roughly 2 feet X 3 feet seems to be sufficient to accommodate them, but the larger the better. I prefer to breed them in large flight, or aviaries in a mixed collection or in a small colony of Red Headed Finches. In individual breeding cages, only one pair should be kept per cage, as pairs in close confinement can be aggressive to each other and generally one pair will dominate the other. In walk-in flights or aviaries, their display of aggression is diminished by the size of the flight and possibly by their ability to move more freely establishing their own small territories.
Because of their slightly large size, they require a suitable large nest box. I prefer a large wooden box at least 4" wide X 5" deep X 5-6" tall. They will build a simple nest if provided with suitable dried grasses and soft pine needles for this purpose. Clutches consist of 4-6 white eggs which are quite round in shape. Incubation is 12 days. The young hatch with black skin and large yellow gaping mouths and some grey down feathers. During this period the parents consume large quantities of nesting food and mealworms. They are particularly fond of mealworms and this seems to a great asset to parents with young. Parent Red Heads with youngsters can consume 20+ mealworms at a feeding, only to rush to the nest and feed the young. I have found that such live food given freely during this period often insures successful nesting. They young grow quickly and are often ready to fledge at about 12-14 days of age. They are sexable right out of the nest. Although less bright than their parents, the young fledging males show paler red heads and the females completely lack any red coloration. As they mature the colors and markings become more distinct, and at about 4-5 months of age, they usually attain full adult color.
I have always bred this finch in large walk-in flights, they nest repeatedly for 2-3 successive clutches, occasionally resting for a short period before resuming breeding. Most clutches result in 2-4 young, although some hatch as many as 5 or 6, there always seems to be some mortality among the smallest ones. Red Heads are very nice finches for any collection, easy to get to breed, but tricky to raise, so they to present a challenge to even the best breeders but they are well worth the effort.
Red Headed Finches have all be sold, I am not keeping them at the present.