With a dainty and charming build, this little avian stands out from the rest of the waxbill family. Its slim frame is both compact and stylish. Its top feathers feature a relaxing olive brown shade that’s easy on the eyes, while its lower body showcases a striking black color with adorable white flecks.
The painted finch, also known as Emblema pictum, is a small bird that measures around 10-12 cm in length and weighs approximately 11.5 g. Male painted finches are easily identified by their striking red forehead and face, which contrasts with their black breast. The male’s breast features a bright red patch in the middle and black feathers with white spots on the sides, belly, and flanks. Their upper bodies and wings are reddish-brown, while the rump and uppertail coverts are predominantly red, creating a striking appearance in flight. Males have a slender, pointed bill, which is mostly black on the upper mandible with a red tip and mostly red on the lower mandible with light blue-grey patches on either side of the base. Their iris is cream or off-white, and their leg coloration can range from dark brown to pinkish.
The appearance of female painted finches is quite similar to that of males, except for the less vibrant red coloration around their face, restricted to areas like lores, cheeks, and eyes. Moreover, the red patch on their breast is also not as bright as that of males. Female painted finches have relatively duller brownish-black underparts, with slightly more noticeable spotting. While the bills of female birds resemble those of males, they tend to have less red on their upper mandible. The iris color of female painted finches is usually off-white or cream, and the color of their legs can vary from dark brown to pinkish. On the other hand, juvenile painted finches have similar physical features to females, but with duller, browner underparts. They lack the red facial coloration seen in adult birds, and their bills are black, which gradually fades into a paler, almost pinkish color on the lower part. Juvenile painted finches usually have gray-brown eyes.
Australia is home to the delightful painted finches, which can be found in different areas of the country such as Western Australia, Northern Australia, Queensland, and South Australia. In 2007 and 2008, a remarkable number of these birds appeared in western New South Wales and have since been seen breeding, indicating the possibility of a permanent population. The painted finches prefer arid and semi-arid environments, specifically rocky surroundings covered in spinifex grass.
Painted finches mainly eat insects and grass seeds from Triodia species. They gather food by hopping and bouncing on the ground among rocks and grass tussocks. Although they may sometimes consume fruits and blades of grass, their diet primarily consists of fаɩɩeп seeds. Despite reports of captive birds feeding on flying termites and aphids, there is limited evidence of painted finches feeding on insects in the wild.
The painted finches are capable of breeding year-round as long as they have suitable living conditions. They have been known to lay eggs in all months except for November and December while their nestlings have been observed from March to October. The courtship rituals of the painted finches usually occur on the ground, where both males and females participate by picking up and dropping twigs or other objects. Another type of behavior that replaces this ritual is the greeting display, where the male sings to the female in a vertical posture, raising its body feathers, and moving its head from side to side.
These finches are monogamous and form simple pairs for nesting. They often choose concealed clumps of spinifex grass as their nesting sites. The nests they build are loosely constructed, have a wide entrance, and are primarily made of spinifex stems, but may also contain other grass stems, twigs, or rootlets. The interior of the nest is often lined with feathers, plant down, hairy seeds, grass, wool, fur, or fluff balls, and sometimes adorned with a piece of charcoal at the entrance. When laying eggs, the female painted finches typically lay a clutch of three eggs.
The IUCN red list categorizes this bird as having the lowest conservation concern.