Garrie P. Landry

2512 Chatsworth Road

Franklin, Louisiana 70538

Phone 337-828-5957




(Padda oryzivora)

e-mail Garrie@zebrafinch.com


An introduction to the Java Sparrow

© 1977 Poule d'eau Publishing


Java Sparrows (Padda oryzivora), also known as Java Rice Birds and Java Temple Birds, are one of the most attractive of all finches. They are hardy, colorful, easy to breed and relatively inexpensive. The Javas are well known for their impeccable, slick plumage. They have been popular throughout the ages and are often depicted in both modern and ancient Oriental art.

The Java Sparrow originates from Southern Asia, where it can be found in Java, Bali, and Sumatra. Here they are regarded as a serious agricultural pest in rice fields. Just look at their scientific name for evidence. Padda stands for Paddy, the method of cultivating rice. The word Oryza is the genus for domestic rice, Therefore, Padda oryzivora in translation means rice paddy eater. Many thousands of wild Javas are destroyed each year as farmers wage a never ending war against them. Despite this battle, the species continues to thrive in its native homeland and is very abundant. Java Rice Birds have also been successfully introduced and naturalized in many regions around the world (intentional or accidental?). For example, they are established in China, Japan, Borneo, several regions in Africa, the Hawaiian Islands, and there are even documented reports of a colony in a suburb of Miami, Florida. Apparently there have been many other introductions elsewhere but these did not persist for any length of time.

It was not to many years ago that Java Rice Birds were very low in price, and readily available. Prior to the early 1970's when an band on the importation of Javas was enforced by the US, Javas were probably the most numerous of cage birds in the United States, second only to the Canary or Zebra Finch. They were imported as wild caught birds by the tens of thousands. It has been speculated that during the height of importation, there were more Javas in the US than any other finch. I can vividly remember going in to a T G &Y Department store in the near by town of New Iberia, LA, and seeing a large number of Javas Rice Birds for sale for $1.70 each. Nevertheless, these birds were not so easily bred. With certainty it can be said that only a small percentage of these wild caught Javas ever bred for their owners. While there were captive bred Javas, they were few in number and virtually unknown in the pet trade. Furthermore, the captive bred Javas commanded prices many times that of the wild caught birds. If they had been available to pet shops, they were probably reluctant to purchase these birds, considering the price and availability of the wild caught ones.

Wild caught Javas out numbered captive bred birds to such an extent that the species developed a peculiar misconception for being difficult to breed. The common misconception which often appeared in the literature and ironically is still perpetuated today, was that White Javas bred better than the Normal Grey Javas. The apparent reason for this idea was that every White Javas was naturally of captive origin. White Javas do not exist in nature anywhere. The preponderance of wild caught Greys to the scarcity of captive bred Greys gave credence to the story that Whites were easier bred than Greys. Truthfully, wild caught Javas are reluctant to breed, just as reluctant as are all of the wild caught nuns and other "munias" we have access to. In fact, domestic Grey Javas were completely free breeding. It was only the more common wild caught Javas that were the reluctant ones. Even so, with the reputation of the wild caught Javas being difficult to breed, they were very popular finches. Javas are exceptionally hardy and long lived. They are a perfect finch for the beginning aviculturist, the specialist, or any pet bird fancier.





Java Rice Birds are available in several different color forms. The original, or wild type, is called the Grey Java. The young and immature Javas are dull brown and grey, and color up gradually over several months. Usually by the time a young bird is 4-5 months old it is in full adult plumage. These young birds will breed in the upcoming breeding season. Other color mutations originating in captivity are the White Java, the Pied Java , also occasionally referred to as the Calico Java, which occurs in two distinct forms, Mottled Pieds and Saddle Back Pieds. the Cinnamon or Fawn Java, and the most recent mutation the Silver Javas, which apparently occurs in two color forms, a Dark Silver* (Sex-Linked gene) and a Light Silver.* (Recessive gene) (these photos courtesy of Richard Uden from the UK) The silver mutation is new but it seems to be very easily bred and is seems common in many parts of Europe. There are none in the US or Canada yet. All are in European collections. There is some speculation that the two forms of silver might even represent two distinct mutations. The Silver Java can be bred with the Cinnamon Java to produce very pale Cream Javas*. Additional oddities such as the Black Headed Java has been reported around the world on several occasions but apparently this "sport" has not yet been established as a true breed. In all of my years of breeding Javas I have only encountered one of these black headed birds. I produced the bird in a mixed colony of Greys, and it held the black head for about 9 months and then suddenly molted and assumed the normal plumage color. The Agate Java (photo taken by Bob Salem of the UK who discovered his first Agate in a pet shop) is a newly recognized mutation but apparently it has been around for a while, just unnoticed. Agates are in Japan, the US, the UK and Europe and are considered to be the rarest of Javas. Little is known about their origin and why they suddenly have appeared in so many places around the world. I currently have 2 Agates and a few splits for the Agate gene.


All of these color varieties of Java Rice Birds are beautiful finches. Each, still retains the characteristic immaculate, sleek plumage so admired in their original wild ancestor. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that wild type grey Java Sparrow remains the most popular color.

As you might expect, I am also working on book devoted exclusively to the Java Sparrow. This bird well deserves its own publication as a testament to being one of the most beautiful of our captive finches. I may have it finished in the Spring of 2000.

Garrie P. Landry


Read about the rare cousin of the Java Sparrow!

The Timor Sparrow