The head, chest, abdomen, and back show an elegant rainbow of different colors. Unsurprisingly, this species is highly sought after in the pet trade. However, after decades of decline, the Gouldian’s finch now faces the prospects of an uncertain future.
- The standard Gouldian finch comes in three different facial varieties. About 70-80% have black faces. Another 20-30% have red faces. Gould’s yellow finches are the rarest of all. Only one in 3,000 members of the species is born with this variation.
- This tropical bird prefers warm temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or 27 degrees Celsius).
- The male’s brighter plumage and singing ability have evolved to attract mates in the breeding season. The intensity of the colors and the song can serve to signal the strength and health of the bird to the female.
Where to Find
Gould’s finch was once found across much of northern Australia. It now occurs only in some places in the Northern Territory, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and sometimes as far as Queensland. It prefers to live in open grasslands and lowlands with a nearby water source and enough smooth-barked eucalyptus to live. The species requires a precise mix of herbaceous species it feeds on.
The scientific name for Gould’s finch is Erythrura gouldiae. Gouldiae is simply the Latinized name of the British ornithologist John Gould, who first classified this finch and named it in honor of his wife (hence the alternative name Lady Gouldian finch). The Lady Gouldian finch is sometimes placed in the genus Erythrura with other parrot finches or with its separate genus, Chloebia. It also belongs to the Asian and Australian tropical finch family known as Estrildidae.
Gouldian Finch Size and Appearance
Gould’s finch displays a true rainbow of colors. Most birds have a red, yellow or black “hood” on their heads, a turquoise or light green band around their shoulders, a purple back and wings, and a yellow abdomen that turns white. This is in addition to several unique mutations, including a silver color.
The main difference between the sexes is that males display brighter purple feathers, while females have paler purple breasts. The male is also the only one who sings explicitly, but both genders can chirp, hiss, click, and trill to communicate with each other. This bird is about 5.5 inches long and has a wingspan.
The Gouldian Finch is a social species that congregates in large flocks of hundreds outside the breeding season. These mixed flocks also contain long-tailed finches and masked finches, both members of the same taxonomic family. During the day, when the bird is most active, the dense foliage of the eucalyptus protects it from the sun’s rays. They can also go ashore to feed.
Gouldian Finch Predators and Threats
Over the past few centuries, the Gouldian’s finch has faced numerous threats from habitat loss (especially rampant fires), predators, herbivorous competitors, diseases, and pests (such as spider mites). This species has paid a high price for its striking colors, making it a conspicuous and notable target for both hunters and predators.
A large number of them have been trapped by humans for private use. Australia banned capture and export in the 1980s, although the species continues to breed in captivity. The IUCN Red List currently considers them almost threatened. The Australian government classifies them as endangered.
Gouldian Finch Reproduction
As the breeding season approaches, usually between December and April, the male finch makes a brilliant display of courtship by expanding its chest, ruffling its feathers, and moving its head up and down. The female corresponds to his advances by cleaning the beak.
After mating, the female produces one egg per day until she lays four to eight. Both parents play a vital role in egg incubation and rearing of the young. After about two weeks of incubation, the chicks hatch from featherless eggs with blue nodules at the corners of their beak to help parents find their mouths in the dark.
Although they are completely dependent on their parents for food and protection, these chicks will get their full flight feathers after about three to four weeks of life. At this stage, both males and females sport a duller greenish-gray plumage. Only after they have developed all adult feathers between eight months and one year of age will their sex become evident, as they reach sexual maturity and begin to reproduce. These birds live for up to eight years in captivity, although many wild birds do not survive to adolescence and have a shorter lifespan.
Millions of these finches once roamed Australia. Now only 2,500 mature individuals remain in the wild, although the population appears to be stable. These finches are dependent on healthy, mature trees, so conservationists have focused their efforts on fire management and habitat maintenance.