Australian Bush Birds
Double-barred Finch  -  Taeniopygia bichenovii
Double-barred Finch
Double-barred finches are distinctive little birds with white breasts and two dark horizontal bars. They pair permanently and live in small flocks; the rest of the flock this pair belong to is in other parts of the tree. The female has a narrower black bar.
Double-barred Finch
Double-barred finches need to drink water frequently and visit fresh water many times a day.

map map The Double-barred Finch - Taeniopygia bichenovii - is a small (10 to 11 centimetres) bird with a light-coloured front, darker back and two black lines across the front (the double-bars of the common name).

The face is white with a black border, the short bill is blue-grey. Top of the head, neck and back are brown-grey. Breast is white with horizontal black line at the throat (this line continues as the border around the face). Underparts are white with a second black line below the chest. Legs are blue-grey, feet are slate-grey. Eye is brown. Wings are black covered with white spots. The rump is black in the version found in the Northern Territory and Kimberley, the rump has a white patch on black in in the eastern states. Male and female are similar except that females have a narrower black band. Immature birds are duller than adults with indistinct barring and upper parts tinged olive-grey.

Double-barred Finch - page 2
This is a highly social bird living in small flocks up to about 40 birds (usually less) all year. It needs to drink frequently (as often as hourly) and is not a strong flier so always lives close to water. It drinks by standing at the edge of pools with its face in the water.

Social groups feed and drink together, preen one another and sleep together with up to six birds cramming into domed, unlined roost nests built for the purpose in thickets. Group activity continues during breeding with several pairs building nests in the same bush for company.

The Double-barred Finch lives in pockets of grass and thicket near surface water in open forest and grassland from the Kimberley through the Top End, north and eastern Queensland and eastern New South Wales to the Murray River. The species appears to be expanding its range as human settlement spreads and is one of the few bird species appearing to benefit from human settlement.

photograph photograph
Left: The upper surface is mainly darker coloured. The wings are black or dark grey and covered with white spots.
Right: Lower breast and belly are white, the under tail black.
Birds feed mostly on the ground, hopping about picking up fallen grass seeds and jumping up to pull down half-ripe grain from overhead seed stalks. Many insects are also taken from foliage and the ground, not caught in flight. If disturbed, the finches fly to the nearest thicket for cover, hopping and jumping about. Agitated birds continually flick their tails in a semi-circle.

Breeding takes place at different times in different parts of Australia. In the north-west, breeding takes place in January to March towards the end of the Wet Season when seeding grasses are common. In the southeast, breeding takes place mostly in spring and autumn, extending into summer. In Queensland June to November is breeding time. The nest is almost spherical, 14 centimetres long, 12 centimetres high and 9 centimetres wide with a short side entrance tunnel; built of dry grass stems, coarser outside, finer inside and lined with feathers in the east or plant wool in the northwest. Both parents contribute to the nest, the male finds and collects most of the material while the female does the building. Located in twiggy branchlets in small shrubs and trees, or occasionally in stumps and hollows 1 to 4 metres above the ground.

Eggs, usually four or five, are plain white; oval, about 16 by 11 millimetres. Both parents incubate the eggs for 12 to 14 days, spending two to three hours at a time on the eggs during the day. Young fledge in about 21 days.

annulosa - has an all-black rump and upper tail, found in the Kimberley and Northern Territory.
bichenovii - has a white section on the black rump and upper tail, found in Queensland and New South Wales.