The red strawberry finch is the sweetest songbird

By Bec Crew 17 August 2020
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Looking absolutely gorgeous in its vermillion and white-speckled plumage, it’s not hard to see how the red strawberry finch got its name.

Also known as the red avadavat (Amandava amandava), this sparrow-sized songbird is found throughout tropical South and South East Asia, including in India, China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

Once popular in the pet trade, the names avadavat and amandava come from Ahmedabad, a city the state of Gujarat, India, where the species was bred and exported to collectors all over the world more than 200 years ago.

The spectacular colouring that made the bird such a commodity is worn by the males during the breeding season. Referred to as its ‘nuptial plumage’, the bright red attracts females, which are predictably dull to look at, but have the same beautiful red beak and cute white speckles.

Unlike many other species of birds, where the males are brilliantly adorned and the females are plain, the red strawberry finch’s signature look is only temporary. Once the breeding season is over, the male will take on a more modest look, retaining its red feathers only along its rump.

But how adorable are those spots?

Credit: Yogesh n patil / Wikimedia

Red strawberry finches are relatively common, particularly throughout India, but one of their closest relatives, the green strawberry finch (Amandava formosa), is a rare sight. 

Found primary in central and north-western India, this rare bird’s numbers have suffered due to relentless trapping and trading – a practice that has more recently been discouraged by local governments.

Unlike the red strawberry finch, which looks exactly like its namesake, the green strawberry finch is more zebra than fruit:

Credit: Pkspks/Wikimedia

There’s one more species in the Amandava genus: the orange-breasted waxbill (Amandava subflava), found in several countries in Africa, south of the Sahara. This striking bird practically glows with all that golden plumage.

The three Amandava species belong to the family of estrildid finches, a bunch of which are native to Australia. 

There are the well-known species, like the Gouldian finch and zebra finch. And there are species that share similar characteristics with the red strawberry finch such as the painted finch (Emblema pictum), found throughout the arid and semi-arid zones of Australia, and the diamond firetail (Stagonopleura guttata), endemic to south-eastern Australia.

Then there’s the star finch (Neochmia ruficauda), which looks like someone was trying to print a red strawberry finch and ran out of red ink:

AGAMI Photo Agency / Alamy

We’ll leave you with the red strawberry finch’s ‘other’ wonderful trait – its wonderfully sweet singing voice: