Neochmia ruficaudastar finch

Last updated:

Geographic Range

Star finches, Neochmia ruficauda, are found in the northern parts of Australia. They have been known to live in the New South Wales in the southern part of Australia and as far west as the Coongan River (Cayley, 1935).

Habitat

Star finches can be found in tall grassy areas near swampy rivers and creeks (Simpson and Day, 1996). They avoid humans (Immelmann, 1935).

Physical Description

Star finches are also called red faced finches because of their bright red faces and colored bodies (Simpson and Day, 1996).

Males have very different coloration from females. Males have a bright red face, duller on the top and yellowish-olive below the head. The chest, flanks, rump and tail have white spots (Simpson and Day, 1996). The wings males are a little more brown that their overall color (Immelmann, 1965).

Females, in contrast, have a much duller face, with bright red showing only on their lores and forehead (Simpson and Day, 1996).

As these birds age, the color of their bodies gets brighter, and they are more distinctively marked (Pizzey, 1980).

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently

Reproduction

Females of this species lay three to five white eggs. Their breeding season is during the months of September and January (Cayley, 1935). They can lay up to seven eggs (Pizzey, 1980).

Their nests are built out of dried grass, lined with feathers and fine grass (Cayley, 1996). Nests are domed, rounded and without an entrance. They are found one to six meters high in tall grass or shrubby trees (Pizzey, 1980).

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs between September and January.
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 7

Behavior

Females attract males by casually walking around them as if flirting. While doing this, a female carries a long piece of grass in her beak.

If the male bird is intrigued by the female, he courts her by placing a piece of grass in his beak also (Cayley, 1935). At the end of the courtship, the number of times the male bobbs his head up and down increases. While giving his perfomance, he sings his song (Immelmann, 1935).

When copulation takes place, the female quivers her tail. Males may drop the piece of grass during copulation, but some hold onto it (Immelmann, 1935).

These birds communicate by making loud 'sseet' noises (Simpson,1996; Immelmann, 1935).

A mated pair usually stays together when the breeding season is over (Immelmann, 1935).

These birds fly in pairs or in flocks of around 20. As they fly, they make numerous sharp turns and rapid changes of direction (Pizzey, 1980).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Star Finches feed mostly among grass and low vegetation. They eat flying insects (Pizzey, 1980). During their breeding season, they eat flies, flying termites, moths and flying ants. When the dry season has reached its peak and towards its end, they feast on dry seeds on the ground (Immelmann, 1965) and on the heads of rape or spinifex in the process of ripening found on the ground (Clement, 1993).

They drink water from swamps using the same drinking method as pigeons (Immelmann, 1965 and Clement, 1993).

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts

Conservation Status

These animals can be bred in captivity, but there is no reason to do so (Immelmann, 1935).

Other Comments

The word rufus means red and cauda means tail (Cayley, 1935). Star finches are alternatively known by the names rufous-tailed finch, red-tailed rinch, and red-faced rinch. In Germany, star finches are called binsenastrild, in French speaking countries, diamant ruficauda or diamant à queue rousse and in Dutch speaking countries, these birds are called Binsenastrild or Roodstaart astrild (Immelmann, 1965).

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Stephanie T. Greene (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

1975. Every Australian Bird Illustrated. NSW: Rigby Publishers.

Cayley F.R.Z.S., N. 1935. What Bird Is That: A Guide To The Birds of Australia. Sydney: Angus and Robertson Limited.

Christidis, L., W. Boles. 1994. The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and Its Territories. Victoria: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Clement, P., A. Harris, J. Davis. 1993. Finches & Sparrows. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Immelmann Ph.D., K. 1965. Australian Finches. Sydney: Angus and Roberston.

Pizzey, G. 1980. A Field Guide To The Birds of Australia. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Simpson, K., N. Day. 1996. The Princeton Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.