Scarlet rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus.
Related species: None in British region.
Description: A medium-sized finch with a large, stubby bill. All ages and all plumages show two wingbars. Mature adult males are distinctive with a red head, breast and rump. Wings are brown with wingbars tinged pink, and underparts are white. Immature males and adults, in winter, have a less intensive colour, whereas females and juveniles have brown plumage, with pale and streaked underparts.
Length: 14cm (51/2in).
Status in the wild: Rapidly expanding westward. The scarlet rosefinch has bred in the Highland Region of Scotland and in eastern England. It mainly occurs in the UK as a scarce passage migrant, mainly in September, though spring migrants are quite regular in Shetland and along the east coast of Britain. Singing males are becoming more regular, though most are dull-plumaged immatures.
Hardbill or softbill? Regarded as a hardbill.
Availability for birdkeepers: Vary rarely available in the UK, though breeders of these birds exist in Europe.
Advantages to keepers: These pretty little finches would no doubt be accepted on the British bird hardbill benches, making wonderful additions. Rosefinches are not new in British aviculture – plenty of specimens from various species are being bred.
Diet: A good finch mixture with a few added mealworms and plant material would act as a staple diet.
Housing: An outside aviary that is partly sheltered, measuring 1.8m x 1.8m x 2.1m (6ft x 6ft x 7ft). An aviary planted out with shrubs and climbers, would suit a pair of these delightful finches. A shallow pool would also be of benefit to them. Wicker baskets need to be affixed within the shrubbery to induce nest-building.
Breeding: In the wild it breeds in swampy areas, or by water in damp woodland with undergrowth, copses, scrub thickets, and cultivation with bushy cover. Nests are built in a shrub or low tree, from ground level up to 2.7m (9ft) high, and are loosely built from a structure of plant stems and grass. The nest is lined with roots and hair, and is built by the female alone. The breeding season begins in mid-May. Single brooded. Five to six eggs are laid in a clutch. Eggs are smooth, glossy and light blue in colour – but deeper in colour than other finches – sparingly marked at the large end with spots. Incubation is by the female only for 12-14 days. Young are tended by both parents. In home-bred conditions, birds will require a multitude of insects and spiders when rearing their chicks. Mini-mealworms, buffalo worms, fly maggots and waxmoth larvae would be readily consumed.
Call: Males have a distinctive, far-carrying musical song.
Ring size: Code E, which has an internal diameter of 2.9mm.
Showing requirements: No. 3 hardbill show cage. Exhibit should be as large as possible, with good feather, bright eyes, and good wing and tail carriage. Confident when in exhibition arena.
Legal requirements: Listed on Schedule 1 Part 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Birds protected by special penalties at all times. Can be sold or shown under current legislation if ringed and bred in captivity.
Special notes: Other name is common rosefinch.
Expert breeder and exhibitor Bernard Howlett has won gold medals at three successive World Shows with his British softbills.