Ohmi Finch by Dr Ross Walker

Finch research — フィンチの研究


Preferred seed types of Various Finch Species, including Gold-Breasted Waxbills, Gouldian Finches, Painted Firetail, Owl, Diamond Firetail, and Plum-head Finches

I currently have a total of nine Gold-breasts. I have been feeding them a good quality "standard" seed mix that I have been feeding to my Gouldian finches. After a week on this standard mix I noticed that the larger seeds were being left uneaten, and that makes sense because Gold-breasts have such tiny mouths. I decided to undertake some low-level "research" into which seeds Gold-breasts prefer and in what ratios. The purpose was not simply top provide a seed mix tailored to Gold-breasts (and possibly other smaller finch species) but also to reduce waste and thus cost via the uneaten seed and thus cost. I'd like to point out:

I am also repeating these trials for my numerous other finch species: Gouldian, Plum-head, Painted Firetail, Diamond Firetail, Owl, etc.

Here in Japan the range of available seed appears to be more limited than in overseas countries like Australia (my home) and the USA. Basically speaking we have the following seed varieties suitable for finches that are readily available. They obviously have Japanese names and I am thus unsure, in some cases, as to exactly what the Western equivalent is, so the Western names listed below are "to the best of my knowledge":

Japanese Name Japanese name (in Western script) Western name Latin
1. ニガシード Niga shi-do Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica)
2. 粟 Awa Foxtail millet Setaria italica
3. 赤粟 Aka Awa Red millet, Amaranth Amaranthus hypochondriacus
4. 稗, ヒエ Hie Japanese barnyard millet Echinochloa utilis
5. 赤ヒエ Aka Hie Red Japanese barnyard millet
6. エゴマ Egoma Perilla, wild sesame seed Perilla frutescens
7. 赤パニカムシード Aka Panikamu Shi-do Panicum Panicum
8. 黍, キビ Kibi Common millet, pearl millet, Proso millet Panicum miliaceium
9. 赤キビ Aka kibi Red millet, brown millet (type unknown)
10. カナリアシード Kanaria Shi-do Canary seed Phalaris canariensis
11. ナタネ Natane Rapeseed Brassica napus


Diamond Firetail finch trials

Here are the results for the Diamond Firetail finch seed mix trial. The cage contained a pair of young Diamond Firetail finches from a local breeder. The D-cups were provided for 17 days and then re-weighed. A total of 188 grams of seed were eaten over that period, thus each Diamond Firetail finch consumed around 5.5 grams of seed daily (minus the husks). Commercial egg food and fresh vegetables were also provided to supplement their seed diet.


A pair of Diamond Firetail finches (over 15 days)
Seed type Original weight of D-cup Final weight of D-cup Total eaten % of total
1. ニガシード Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica) 15.70g 15.70g 0g 0%
2. 粟 Foxtail millet 23.40g 13.25g 10.15g 5.4%
3. 赤粟 Red millet, Amaranth 20.50g 15.42g 5.08g 2.7%
4. ヒエ Japanese barnyard millet 23.03g 11.54g 11.49g 6.1%
5. 赤ヒエ Red Japanese barnyard millet 18.18g 12.49g 5.69g 3.0%
6. エゴマ Perilla, wild sesame seed 12.75g 12.03g 0.72g 0.4%
7. 赤パニカムシード Panicum 20.04g 10.11g 9.93g 5.3%
8. キビ, Kibi 89.41g 34.34g 55.07g 29.3%
9. 赤キビ, Red Kibi 20.92g 8.19g 12.73g 6.8%
10. カナリアシード, Canary seed 117.0g 40.68g 76.14g 40.5%
11. ナタネ, Rapeseed 12.68g 11.79g 0.89g 0.5%
Totals: 373.61g 185.72g 187.89g
seed trialDiamond Finch seed trial



Gold-breast Waxbill trials

My experiment involved removing all seed sources from each cage and replacing with separate D-cups for each of seeds numbered 1 to 7 above. One seed set was given to each of two cages housing two and four Gold-breasts, respectively. I didn't try seed types 8 and 9 (Kibi varieties) and 11 (Rapeseed) because the grain size is quite large, and I did not try type 10 (canary seed) in the first trial because I know from experience that they do not eat it (my Gold-breasts at least). Here is a table of results (cup weights before and after, plus total eaten).

Trial 1: Two Gold-breasts
Seed type Original weight of D-cup Final weight of D-cup Total eaten % of total
1. ニガシード Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica) 16.95g 15.60g 1.35g 2.7%
2. 粟 Foxtail millet 29.52g 13.78g 15.74g 31.4%
3. 赤粟 Red millet, Amaranth 24.07g 18.05g 6.02g 12.0%
4. ヒエ Japanese barnyard millet 16.94g 14.50g 2.44g 4.9%
5. 赤ヒエ Red Japanese barnyard millet 21.42g 13.58g 7.84g 15.7%
6. エゴマ Perilla, wild sesame seed 20.15g 18.41g 1.74g 3.5%
7. 赤パニカムシード Panicum 27.12g 12.20g 14.92g 29.8%
Totals: 156.17g 106.12g 50.05g

Trial 2: Four Gold-breasts (2015-01-04 to 2015-01-13, 9 days)
Seed type Original weight of D-cup Final weight of D-cup Total eaten % of total
1. ニガシード Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica) 15.60g 15.41g 0.19g 0.18%
2. 粟 Foxtail millet 55.70g 18.85g 36.85g 34.00%
3. 赤粟 Red millet, Amaranth 42.76g 13.92g 28.84g 26.60%
4. ヒエ Japanese barnyard millet 18.53g 13.94g 4.59g 4.23%
5. 赤ヒエ Red Japanese barnyard millet 26.17g 16.30g 9.87g 9.11%
6. エゴマ Perilla, wild sesame seed 18.41g 18.00g 0.41g 0.38%
7. 赤パニカムシード Panicum 46.87g 19.63g 27.24g 25.13%
10. カナリアシード Canary seed 18.69g 18.29g 0.40g 0.37%
Total: 108.39g

We can see that each Gold-breast ate around 3 grams of seed each day (plus a small amount of egg food, which these wild-born Gold-breasts don't seem to prefer).


Gouldian finch trials

Here are the results for the Gouldian seed mix trials. For trial 1 the cage contained a total of 14, three to four-month old, Gouldian fledglings. The D-cups were provided for approximately four days and then re-weighed. A total of 189 grams of seed were eaten over that period, thus each Gouldian consumed around 3.4 grams of seed each day. A small amount of egg food was also provided to supplement their seed diet (being young fledglings, I did not want to remove such a high-protein source essential for strong growth). Gouldians do like Kibi varieties but I did not have any available at the time, so I will repeat the experiment when the seeds become available again. I did not try rapeseed because I know from previous experience that Gouldians do not eat it (at least my Gouldians).

For trial 2 I used all eleven easily obtainable seed types, so this trial is more comprehensive that trial 1. The 19 Gouldians consumed 286 grams of seed over the three days of the trial. This is 5 grams per bird per day, a considerable increase on the 3.4g per day seen in trial 1 when the birds were younger. The young adolescents are really in their growth phase now. A look at the consumption table below would suggest that rapeseed was being consumed ever, s\ever so slightly. I would not place much confidence in the recorded 0.9% consumption, the reason being I found rapeseed discarded in other seed D-cups, suggesting the Gouldians were simply playing with it rather than consuming it.

Trial 1: Fourteen Gouldians (over 4 days)
Seed type Original weight of D-cup Final weight of D-cup Total eaten % of total
1. ニガシード Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica) 38.80g 32.63g 6.17g 3.3%
2. 粟 Foxtail millet 57.20g 19.18g 38.02g 20.1%
3. 赤粟 Red millet, Amaranth 62.30g 28.27g 34.03g 18.0%
4. ヒエ Japanese barnyard millet 45.85g 32.37g 13.48g 7.1%
5. 赤ヒエ Red Japanese barnyard millet 34.00g 22.09g 11.91g 6.3%
6. エゴマ Perilla, wild sesame seed 36.98g 28.69g 8.29g 4.4%
7. 赤パニカムシード Panicum 52.67g 16.05g 36.62g 19.4%
10. カナリアシード, Canary seed 61.78g 21.42g 40.36g 21.4%
Totals: 389.58g 200.7g 188.88g


Trial 2: 19 Gouldians (over 3 days)
Seed type Original weight of D-cup Final weight of D-cup Total eaten % of total
1. ニガシード Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica) 20.10g 13.90g 6.2g 2.2%
2. 粟 Foxtail millet 68.09g 29.72g 38.37g 13.4%
3. 赤粟 Red millet, Amaranth 70.99g 32.10g 38.89g 13.6%
4. ヒエ Japanese barnyard millet 51.88g 24.51g 27.37g 9.6%
5. 赤ヒエ Red Japanese barnyard millet 36.78g 21.00g 15.78g 5.5%
6. エゴマ Perilla, wild sesame seed 19.57g 14.16g 5.41g 1.9%
7. 赤パニカムシード Panicum 72.30g 28.03g 44.27g 15.5%
8. キビ, Kibi 70.97g 34.55g 36.42g 12.7%
9. 赤キビ, Red Kibi 79.51g 57.15g 22.36g 7.8%
10. カナリアシード, Canary seed 68.01g 19.70g 48.31g 16.9%
11. ナタネ, Rapeseed 16.19g 13.72g 2.47g 0.9%
Totals: 574.39g 288.54g 285.85g
seed trialseed trial


Mask finch trials

Here are the results for the Mask finch seed mix trial. The cage contained four young Mask finches imported from Europe. For this trial I did not provide rape seed because based on previous trials it would appear that most finches do not like rape seed. The D-cups were provided for 7 days and then re-weighed. A total of 105 grams of seed were eaten over that period, thus each Mask finch consumed around 3.8 grams of seed daily (minus the husks). This figure seems a little low, but commercial egg food and fresh vegetables were also provided to supplement their seed diet, and my Mask finches especially love egg food, so I expect each bird was actually eating over 5 grams of food per day.


A pair of Mask finches (over 7 days)
Seed type Original weight of D-cup Final weight of D-cup Total eaten % of total
1. ニガシード Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica) 11.90g 11.35g 0.55g 0.5%
2. 粟 Foxtail millet 32.73g 18.07g 14.66 13.9%
3. 赤粟 Red millet, Amaranth 17.77g 14.23g 3.54g 3.4%
4. ヒエ Japanese barnyard millet 19.97g 14.43g 5.54g 5.3%
5. 赤ヒエ Red Japanese barnyard millet 19.87g 16.25g 3.62g 3.4%
6. エゴマ Perilla, wild sesame seed 17.67g 17.60g 0.07g 0.1%
7. 赤パニカムシード Panicum 32.17g 11.80g 20.37g 19.4%
8. キビ, Kibi 33.20g 10.54g 22.66g 21.5%
9. 赤キビ, Red Kibi 26.74g 15.31g 11.43g 10.9%
10. カナリアシード, Canary seed 32.79g 10.06g 22.73g 21.6%
11. ナタネ, Rapeseed 0g 0g 0g 0%
Totals: 244.81g 139.64g 105.17g
seed trialMask Finch seed trial



Owl finch (Double-Bar) trials

Here are the results for the Owl finch seed mix trials. For trial 1 the cage contained a pair of young Owl finches from a local breeder. The D-cups were provided for 8 days and then re-weighed. A total of 52 grams of seed were eaten over that period, thus each Owl finch consumed around 3.3 grams of seed daily (minus the husks). Commercial egg food and fresh vegetables were also provided to supplement their seed diet.

As is often the case for these small-bodied finches, the smaller seed varieties proved to be the most consumed by my Owl finches, with Foxtail millet and Panicum seed making up over 60% of their diet. What is surprising, to me at least, is that they are the first of my finches to consume sesame seed an even the slightest quantity, being 11% of their diet.

Trial 1: A pair of Painted Firetail finches (over 7 days)
Seed type Original weight of D-cup Final weight of D-cup Total eaten % of total
1. ニガシード Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica) 12.24g 12.24g 0g 0%
2. 粟 Foxtail millet 32.30g 15.38g 16.92g 32.5%
3. 赤粟 Red millet, Amaranth 12.98g 8.77g 4.21g 8.1%
4. ヒエ Japanese barnyard millet 16.12g 13.29g 2.83g 5.4%
5. 赤ヒエ Red Japanese barnyard millet 15.62g 15.10g 0.52g 1.0%
6. エゴマ Perilla, wild sesame seed 14.45g 8.41g 6.04g 11.6%
7. 赤パニカムシード Panicum 32.68g 16.36g 16.32g 31.3%
8. キビ, Kibi 17.77g 16.07g 1.70g 3.3%
9. 赤キビ, Red Kibi 16.14g 13.44g 2.70g 5.2%
10. カナリアシード, Canary seed 19.14g 18.25g 0.89g 1.7%
11. ナタネ, Rapeseed 14.0g 14.0g 0.0g 0%
Totals: 203.44g 151.31g 52.13g
seed trialseed trial



Painted Firetail finch trials

Here are the results for the Painted Firetail seed mix trials. For trial 1 the cage contained a pair of Painted Firetail finches imported from Belgium. The D-cups were provided for approximately 10 days (I forgot to write down the start date and time!) and then re-weighed. A total of 141 grams of seed were eaten over that period, thus each Painted Firetail consumed around 7 grams of seed daily (minus the husks). Commercial egg food and fresh vegetables were also provided to supplement their seed diet. For a small-ish finch they have quite an appetite.

Like their Plum-head counterparts, this pair of Painted Firetails appears to have an obsession, some might argue an unhealthy obsession, with two of the smaller seed types: Foxtail millet, and Panicum, being about 79% of total consumption. It may be particular to this pair and we should not yet consider these results to be indicative of Painted Firetails in general. I will repeat this trial using my second pair of Painted Firetails.

Trial 1: A pair of Painted Firetail finches (over 7 days)
Seed type Original weight of D-cup Final weight of D-cup Total eaten % of total
1. ニガシード Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica) 11.92g 10.30g 1.62g 1.1%
2. 粟 Foxtail millet 95.22g 44.87g 50.35g 35.6%
3. 赤粟 Red millet, Amaranth 18.5g 14.62g 3.88g 2.7%
4. ヒエ Japanese barnyard millet 20.93g 17.60g 3.33g 2.4%
5. 赤ヒエ Red Japanese barnyard millet 18.03g 14.93g 3.10g 2.2%
6. エゴマ Perilla, wild sesame seed 13.01g 13.00g 0.01g 0.0%
7. 赤パニカムシード Panicum 88.92g 27.84g 61.08g 43.2%
8. キビ, Kibi 29.02g 17.47g 11.55g 8.2%
9. 赤キビ, Red Kibi 20.97g 17.07g 3.90g 2.8%
10. カナリアシード, Canary seed 22.81g 20.48g 2.33g 1.6%
11. ナタネ, Rapeseed 13.22g 12.97g 0.25g 0.2%
Totals: 352.55g 211.15g 141.40g
seed trialseed trial



Plum-head finch trials

Here are the results for the Plum-head seed mix trials. For trial 1 the cage contained a pair of Plum-head finches imported from Belgium. The D-cups were provided for approximately 14 days and then re-weighed. A total of 142 grams of seed were eaten over that period, thus each Plum-head consumed around 5.1 grams of seed daily (minus the husks). Commercial egg food and fresh vegetables were also provided to supplement their seed diet.

As per their Painted Firetail counterparts, it is surprising that this pair of Plum-head finches appears to have an obsession, once again, arguably an unhealthy obsession, with the two varieties of Japanese barnyard millet, being about 50% of total consumption. It may be particular to this pair and we should not yet consider these results to be indicative of Plum-heads in general. I will repeat this trial using my second pair of Plum-heads.

Trial 1: A pair of Plum-head finches (over 14 days)
Seed type Original weight of D-cup Final weight of D-cup Total eaten % of total
1. ニガシード Niger Seed (Guizotia abyssinica) 16.05g 15.43g 0.62g 0.4%
2. 粟 Foxtail millet 56.95g 47.17g 9.78g 6.9%
3. 赤粟 Red millet, Amaranth 70.25g 35.40g 34.85g 24.5%
4. ヒエ Japanese barnyard millet 57.31g 22.63g 34.68g 24.4%
5. 赤ヒエ Red Japanese barnyard millet 53.00g 45.80g 7.20g 5.1%
6. エゴマ Perilla, wild sesame seed 21.08g 16.21g 4.87g 3.4%
7. 赤パニカムシード Panicum 50.04g 38.85g 11.19g 7.9%
10. カナリアシード, Canary seed 33.4g 25.54g 7.86g 5.5%
Totals: 475.63g 333.49g 142.14g
seed trialseed trial


In closing I would like to draw your attention to another article on seed mix trials, targeted at African finch species including the Gold-breasts, by Clifton Finch Aviaries entitled THE SEEDS OF AN IDEA!. It is well worth a read.