The Finch Weekly

The Java Finch is a reasonably large finch with an impressive bright red beak and a stocky body shape and size that makes it look like one of the tough guys of the Estrildid family tree.  But this is a bird who has a nasty bite but doesn’t seem to use it all that often.  Here is a profile of the Java Finch.

Meet the Java Finch

The Java is also known as the Java sparrow as well as the Java rice bird.  Its name does indicate where it comes from as it is found across Java as well as Bali and Bawean in Indonesia.  It is currently placed in the Lonchura family with the mannikins and silverbills with the Latin name Lonchura oryzivora but many experts think it and the closely related Timor sparrow should be in a family of their own.

Javas are sturdy looking birds, around 5 to 5.5 inches in length.  Their feathers have a silky look to them and while they may not be the brightest of shades, they are eye catching with their black head, white cheeks and black tail feathers.  Their body is a grey shade with a beige underbelly and black feathers on the wing.  Sexes are virtually identical.

Fawn Java Finch
Fawn Java Finch – (c) shankar s.

As well as the grey bodied wild type of the bird, there are also a number of mutations that have developed in captivity.

For great pictures of all these mutations, check out

Keeping Javas

Despite that tough look to them, Javas are relatively friendly with other species of birds though will sometimes bicker with each other.  This means they can live in a mixed aviary or in large flight cages as well as good sized cages.  Much depends on what they have been raised in as to how they adapt to different surroundings.

In terms of diet, they will eat both a standard foreign finch mixture and also a parakeet mixture as they enjoy some of the larger seeds, especially oats.  Egg food is usually taken easily as well as green food such as kale and spinach as well as fruits such as apple.  Calcium should always be available such as cuttlefish, grit or oyster shell.  For all their name and reputation says they are rice eaters, many breeders have found they rarely bother with it much.


One of the biggest problems with Javas and any other birds that cannot be visually sexed is getting a pair.  As with most finches, one sure sign is when a bird signs – this is definitely a male.  But catching them singing can be tricky so this isn’t always the easiest method to use.

Another suggestion is that the shape of the beak and the eye ring can be used to sex the birds.  While not guaranteed, many breeders do use this system.  The colour of the beak is one indicator, with the male’s being bright red and the red area stretching further down the beak that the females.  A male’s eye ring is often more pronounced and brighter than a female, particularly when in breeding condition.

A third theory draw a line from the centre of the beak up through the eye.  If the line is along the bottom of the eye, the this is a male bird while if the line cuts across the bottom of the eyeball then this is a hen.

In mutations, there can be a difference in the head colour of the birds, with males having a darker head colour that females.  In wild types, because the head colour is black then this doesn’t really show through.


Java Finch are said to be quite prolific breeders (I hope to find this out for myself this year) and can have clutches of 6-8 chicks at one time, though an ideal size is around five.  They like different nest boxes depending on what they themselves have been reared in so offering different options never hurts.  Standard and larger finch boxes are a good idea, being they are good sized birds.  They aren’t the best nest builders and tend to just add a little material to the box and get on with it.

Juvenile Java Finch
Juvenile – By Padda_oryzivora_-University_of_Hawaii_at_Manoa_campus,_Honolulu,_Hawaii,_USA_-juvenile-8.jpg: Kim Bridges derivative work: Snowmanradio [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Incubation lasts for 13-15 days and the chicks are naked when born.  It takes them nearly a month to fledge, longer than others in their family and another 2-3 weeks before they are weaned from their parents.  Juveniles look like dusky grey versions of their parents with dark beaks and adult plumage takes a few months to come through.

The Java Finch is a larger member of the Estrildidae family that has a bit of a reputation. But are they really troublesome in the aviary? And what are they like to keep and breed? Click to find out more

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