Topic : Land Birds
Article 34 06 August 2007
Hybrid Red-headed x Cut-throat Finch
In a recent issue of Africa Birds & Birding (vol 12, no 3, page 8; 2007) there is a letter and photograph by Clive & Debra Townsley of a Red-headed x Cut-throat Finch hybrid that was recorded at a feeding tray in Gaborone. An attached comment suggests that this is the first such record in the wild. In the area where I live (Sericea Farm, near Nylsvley) both these finches are sporadic in their occurrence, sometimes being absent for years, and then present, at least for a while, in abundance. In some years it is just one of the two species that is present, at other times, both. I have seen hybrids on at least three occasions and at the moment have two hybrid males visiting a feeding tray along with about 15 Cut-throats. One of these males is shown here, alongside males of normal Cut-throat Finch Amadina fasciata (photographed at Nylsvley) and normal Red-headed Finch Amadina erythrocephala (photographed at Potchefstroom). Both the current hybrids have the scalloped breast and unmarked back of the Red-headed Finch, but the chestnut belly and red throat of the Cutthroat, and the top of the head is a grizzled mix of the two. The hybrid’s bill is most like that of the Red-headed Finch, being substantially heavier than that of the Cut-throat. Another hybrid that I photographed in about 1995 is shown on my website www.warwicktarboton.co.za I suggest that detecting such hybrids is not easy unless the birds are photographed and one can examine them at leisure; at a glance they are easily passed off as being Cut-throats. If the ratio of 2 in 15 is anything to go by, such hybrids could form a substantial part of the population.