A pair of Cut-Throats

(Amadina fasciata)
Waxbill Finch

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Cut-Throat male

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  • The Cut-throat or Ribbon Finch is a rather stocky Waxbill with a sturdy beak.

  •  It's plumage is predominantly different shades of brown with a complex barred and spotted pattern.

  • Superficially it resembles a Mannikin (Lonchura)

    • but shares certain traits with the Pytilias,

    • such as the mouth markings and downy cladding of its nestlings

    • some aspects of its voice and behaviour are similar.

  • It is 11-12 cm (4½-4¾ in) in length

  •  Females tend to be more delicate than the males but once acclimatised, it can be quite a long-lived bird
    reaching 10years+

  • In the wild the species may be taken for a small ‘sandy speckly’ sparrow-like bird with white tips to its
    outer tail feathers.

  • However, the broad bright red band running right across the throat, cheeks and ear coverts is diagnostic
    of the male.

  • It is extremely sociable and the pair-bond is strong so females are unlikely to be seen alone.

  •  Fairly Hardy but needs extra warmth in cold weather


  • It's Dimorphic i.e. the sexes differ in looks therefore easy to sex once past juvenile moult.

    • The nominate, A. f. fasciata, is a pale sandy brown or sandy fawn with a slight pinkish tinge
      on its forehead, crown and nape with delicate crescentic black bars across each feather.

    • The wing coverts are a darker and more greyish brown with black sub-terminal bars,

      •  usually in the inverted V-shape, and broad pinkish fawn tips.

    • The under wing ~ pinkish fawn.

    • The central tail feathers are brownish black, usually with very small white spots, which soon wear off.

    • The outer tail feathers are broadly tipped with white and the outer webs of the outermost pair are
      entirely white.

    • The upper throat and the front of the face are creamy white.

    • A broad, bright dark red band runs across the lower throat and extends up the sides of the face
      to above the ear opening.

      • HENCE it's name "CUT-THROAT"

    • Otherwise immediately beneath the red band the upper breast is creamy white, shading to
      pinkish fawn on the breast.

    • On the lower breast and upper part of the abdominal area there is a patch of dull chestnut,
      broadly enclosed at the front and sides by conspicuous pale spotted plumage.

    • The flanks are pinkish fawn, with narrow blackish fringes to the feathers forming a delicate barred
      or scaly pattern.

    • The lower belly and ventral areas are pale fawn to whitish.

    • The under tail coverts have extensive whitish tips backed by blackish crescentic subterminal bars
      and greyish bases.

    • The BEAK is horny grey, pinkish grey, grey and pinkish or bluish grey 

    • The EYES are brown, reddish or light brown.

    • The LEGS and FEET are pale flesh-coloured.

  • In older birds the pink tinge in the plumage disappears and the bird becomes paler and more sandy.


  • The female lacks the red on the throat and face and is pale fawn, speckled with blackish in these areas.

  • Her under-parts are primarily pale fawn, with blackish markings on the sides of the breast and flanks;
    the blackish markings sometimes extend right across the breast.

  • The juvenile male is almost intermediate in pattern between the male and female

    • but the red band is clearly noticeable though it is paler than in the adult.

    • The tips of its wing coverts and inner secondaries are also paler and more sandy in tone.

    • The juvenile female is like the adult but with paler feather tips as in the juvenile male.


  • There are four different races:

    • A. f. fasciata, from Senegal, The Gambia southeast, Southern Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, Chad to central Sudan, northeast Uganda and northwest Kenya;

    •  A. f. alexanderi, from south-east Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, south through Kenya to
      central and southern Tanzania;

    • A. f. meridionalis: central and southern Malawi, southern Zambia, Zimbabwe, central and south Mozambique, east Botswana

    • A. f. contigua, from Zimbabwe (the midlands), southern Mozambique, eastern Swaziland


  • 25ºC (77ºF) is the recommended temperature for new arrivals

  • and it is important not to let the temperature drop below 15ºC (60ºF),

  • especially at breeding time as females can be susceptible to egg-binding.

  • Higher temperatures help to alleviate this problem.


  • It is found below 1500metres in arid country where it inhabits dry Acacia Savanna, semi-desert or desert with some trees or bushes and available surface water.

  • It is usually seen in flocks, both large and small, or in pairs, and frequently on bare branches perched high
    in the treetops.

  • Single birds may be seen during the breeding season while their mate is on the nest.

  • It usually hops on the ground but can also walk or run short distances.

  • It forages for food on the ground, which consists primarily of grass seeds but termites and other insects
    are also eaten.


  • The male, who may or may not hold nesting material in his beak, takes on an upright posture and
    faces the female:

    • his head taking on a triangular appearance or the feathers on his head are erected more evenly.

    • Most of his body plumage is also erected but to differing degrees, so that the dull chestnut belly patch and its white-tipped surround are made prominent.

    •  He dances with all his feathers bristled up, and holds his neck high, stretching it out as far as it will go.

    • The male then performs an inverted curtsey, where he bobs up and down 

    • Though the display may start in silence he sings at the female and usually turns his head and the upper part of his body jerkily from side to side through an angle of about 90 degrees as he does so.

    • Copulation may follow the display if the female is willing and solicits the male by crouching down
       and quivers her tail.


  • Nests are built at the end of the rainy season ~ in the dry season

  • They are sited in trees, shrubs, bushes and occasionally in holes in trees and buildings.

  • Weavers’ and other species’ nests are often utilised and are used to sleep in.

  • Natural nests are rather untidy roundish structures made out of grass stems and similar materials
    lined with feathers.

  • The nest is sometimes constructed with a short funnel entrance.

  • Occasionally the bird nests in colonies.


  • Cutthroat finches breed easily, and fast!

  • One of the simplest birds to raise, and babies can be hand-trained.

  • A wooden nesting box is recommended, and they will build the nests with many available materials

    • yarn, twigs, bits of cloth, grasses and feathers.

    • A good way to get rid of old hair from hairbrushes too.

  • Opinions differ as to the reliability of the Cut-throat’s breeding success in captivity

    • some pairs are nervous will abandon eggs and/or young at the slightest intrusion

    • while others will tolerate nest-inspection and  handling of their chicks.

    • It is far safer to err on the side of caution and allow them plenty of privacy and quiet.

    • Once a pair has a proven track record of successful breedings they are less likely to be easily disturbed.

  • Nest-boxes and baskets are utilised and it is important to provide various types of coarse building materials,

  • such as hay, grass stems and shredded paper, as well as feathers with which to line the inside of the nest.

  • when provided with coconut fibres or long, fine grasses, they'll weave elaborate nests that are quite sturdy.

  • They will weave a globular nest with a tunnel entrance in a large finch box


  • Standard finch mix (they do have a preference for the larger millets so a parakeet mix would be fine too),

  • Egg food,

  • Gamebird crumbles (optional)

  • Green food

  • some Live food.

  • If kept in an outside aviary with a dirt floor, the birds will dig in the dirt looking for bugs.

  • Otherwise, if kept in a cage, they will love to scatter and dig in their food dish.

  • Calcium in the form of crushed egg shell, crushed oyster shell and cuttlefish should always be available.

    • If using chicken egg shells, bake in the oven until they are a slight yellow shade,

    • grind up and feed to them.

  • Liquid calcium additive in the water or drizzled on their egg food while Breeding to avoid egg-binding

  • Since they have a high-fat diet, nutrition supplements should be used.

  • The best way is to add vitamin drops to their water.


  • Live food (mealworms, termites, ant pupae), millet, green food, egg food, some fruit (oranges, pears, apples).

HABITS & Considerations

  • Cut-throats form strong pair bonds and are a social species.
  • Members of a pair may engage in allopreening.
  • Outside of the breeding season, these birds live in large flocks.
  • They enjoy "dust bathing" and may benefit from access to a shallow dish of dry (chemical-free) earth
  • Cut-throats have been known to investigate the nests of less-bold species and throw out their eggs and
    young then commandeer the nest.
  •  They tend to remain peaceful towards other cut-throats even while breeding (if a spacious enough enclosure is provided).
  • In a non-breeding mixed aviary, Cut-throats may be peaceful inhabitants, but if they show signs of aggression, they may need to be separated from the more passive species.
  • Cut-throats are prone to induced melanism if they are not housed adequately with plenty of natural light.
  • To avoid this plumage problem, make sure to provide your birds with adequate lighting and a quality diet.
  • If housed in small enclosures, Cut-throats have a tendency to become lethargic and obese;
    • keeping Cut-throat finches in a spacious, well-planted aviary is advised.



  • Some pairs require Livefood with which to rear their young, such as waxworms, mealworms and spiders,

  • While others need only dry and soaked seed, egg-food and a little green food.

  • Livefood, therefore, should be considered essential until proven otherwise.

  • Hens of this species also tend to suffer from egg binding; therefore, providing a constant source of
    calcium and a balanced diet is important, and breeding should be limited to warmer weather.



  • 4-5 eggs are laid

  • Because hens are prone to egg-binding, Cut-throats should not be bred until they are at least 1 year of age.

  • They start laying and breeding at different times in their native homelands but in U.K. they start in the spring.

  • They are incubated by both sexes in turn during the day.

  • During the night the pair roosts together in the nest.

  • Incubation takes 12-13 days

  • The young fledge at 21-23 days.

  • The parents continue to feed the parents up to about 21 days after fledging.

  • Closed Ring size E



  • The Cut-throat emits contact calls that resemble sparrow-like chirping and there are also wheezier notes.

  • The nest call is not unlike the sound made by a creaking door

  • The song has been described as low pitched with a humming or buzzing sound

  • also as a fruity warble which may be repeated several times without a break.

  • The female’s song consists of low, toneless warbling sounds.

  • The male sings both undirected song and in display and usually the feathers of the bird’s head and
    underparts are more or less erected and the head is turned from side to side.


  • Cut-throats are best housed one pair to a spacious cage or a small group to a spacious indoor flight.

  • It is essential that they are not housed with timid finches and waxbills, especially during the breeding season,
    as these will be bullied.

  • Birds larger than themselves are not always immune, either.



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