Black-throated Finch habitat has contracted by upto 80% in some areas

27 Aug
Black-throated Finch. Photo courtesy Geoff Jones

Black-throated Finches are now listed as threatened in New South Wales and vulnerable in Queensland, Australia . Photo courtesy Geoff Jones

Black-throated finches are monomorphic. Sexually they look the same, but a very well trained eye will be able to see the difference. Photo courtesy Geoff Jones

Black-throated finches are monomorphic. Sexually they look the same, only a very well trained eye will be able to see the difference. Photo courtesy Geoff Jones

Black-throated Finches are virtually extinct in some of its previous habitat areas in south western Australia. Photo courtesy Geoff Jones

Black-throated Finches are virtually extinct in some of its previous habitat areas in south western Australia. Photo courtesy Geoff Jones

The black-throated finch (Poephila cincta), or parson finch as it is sometimes referred to, is a species of estrildid finch found in grassy woodlands throughout north-east Australia from Cape York Peninsula to north-east New South Wales. It is often seen near water and rivers.

The black-throated finch has two subspecies, with intermediate forms found between the two.

  • Poephila cincta cincta is a white-rumped form found south of Townsville
  • Poephila cincta atropygialis is a black-rumped form found north of Cairns and it is believed it is extending its range southwards. 
  • For the past few decades, the population of this species has declined; the southern subspecies has now been declared threatened in New South Wales and vulnerable in Queensland. According to various  published scientific reports it appears to have vanished from 80% of its former range. 

    Today a lot of excellent research work on the species is being done by the Black-throated Finch Recovery Team, Department of Environment and Climate Change ( NSW ) and the Wildlife Service.

     The Rare Finch Conservation Group would publicly like to thank Geoff Jones from Australia who kindly donated the 3 photographs of the Black-throated finch to the RFCG, in the interest to help advance the public awareness and beauty of finches on an international basis

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is dependant on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches in the wild. For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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The Gouldian Finch

7 Aug
Gouldians gather at a waterhole at first light. Photo courtesy and copyright Kev Solomon

Gouldians gather at a waterhole at first light. Photo courtesy and copyright Kev Solomon

In the wild Black Heade Gouldian dominate. Photo courtesy and copyright Kev Solomon

In the wild Black Headed Gouldians dominate. Photo courtesy and copyright Kev Solomon

Gouldians catch a quick drink on the road to Wyndham- Western Australia. Photo courtesy and copyright. Kev Solomon

Gouldians catch a quick drink on the road to Wyndham- Western Australia. Photo courtesy and copyright. Kev Solomon

A male Gouldian is leg banded to study movements in the Wyndham area. Photo courtesy and copyright Kev Solomon

A male Gouldian is leg banded to study movements in the Wyndham area. Photo courtesy and copyright Kev Solomon

 Probably one of the most spectacular finches in the world is found in the very northern parts of Australia. Ranging from the Kimberley’s in Western Australia all the way across to the eastern side towards the northern part of  Queensland. The bird can either be seen with a black head, red-head or the very seldom seen yellow head, or as it is sometimes referred to as the golden-headed gouldian. The black headed gouldian is the one that is most often seen. Read what Kev Solomon , who lives in Queensland Australia had to say about these beautiful birds.

Kev Solomon doing what he really enjoys. Photographing finches wherever he can. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Kev Solomon doing what he really enjoys. Photographing finches. Photo Eelco Meyjes

” I am sitting by a string of waterholes as the sunlight slowly touches the water. There is a familiar two chirp call somewhere behind me. I dare not move. All at once there is a purple, green and yellow flash as a dozen birds touchdown on the brown and ochre beach right in front of me.

The Gouldian finch is considered endangered in Australia and vulnerable in the Northern Territory. My involvement concerned voluntary waterhole counts in 2002 and 2003 in the Yinberry Hills and at Nathen River.

Black headed morphs dominate with the occasional red-headed bird seen. Current year juveniles are plentiful. Flocks are now fragmented into pockets, thereby reducing their genetic diversity.

Gouldian’s feed mainly on dry sorghum seed which, in winter, falls to the ground. Threats are late dry season fires which destroy any green seeding heads as well as the fallen dry seed. Cattle grazing also depletes wet season grass stocks of cockatoo, spear, golden beard and spinifex grass. Gouldian’s are dependent on seed much more than other savannah finches which can survive a ‘resource bottleneck’ at the onset of the wet season by switching to live food. It is thought that this critical period for Gouldian’s is when spear grass seed germinates and is unavailable to birds, and the first of the wet season grasses are yet to produce seed. Many juvenile birds perish at this time.

Numbers overall appear to have stabilized. A trip to the Northern Territory and Eastern Kimberly in 2010 confirmed that Gouldian finches are still making their morning pilgrimage to drink at remote waterholes in the early morning sunlight.”

Kev Solomon was a guest on the 2013 year end RFCG EcoTour to Africa. We would sincerely like to thank him for sharing his personal story, observations and outstanding copyrighted photographs for the rest of us to enjoy.

Editors Comment : The Gouldian was for many years listed by BirdLife International and the IUCN Red Data list as Endangered and in 2011 the bird was downgraded as Near Threatened

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is dependant on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches in the wild. For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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AFRICA CALLS ! See stunning wildlife and spectacular finches

22 Jul
Cheetah in the Kruger National Park. Photo Kevin Solomon. RFCG 2013 EcoTour guest

Cheetah in the Kruger National Park. Photo Kev Solomon. RFCG EcoTour guest

Join the 2014 RFCG EcoTour to Africa. Following last year’s highly acclaimed tour it’s been decided to organise another tour this year following the same itinerary. The 23 day EcoTour to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe  will depart from Sydney 21 November and return 14 December*. The tour has been designed to not only see a lot of Africa’s  impressive wildlife, but to take maximum advantage to see many of Africa’s wonderful weavers, whydahs and widow finches in their summer nuptial plumage ( Some of the magnificent finches that our guests can expect to see are: Long-tailed Widowbirds, Red-collared Widowbirds, White-winged Widowbirds, Golden Bishops, Red Bishops, Pin-tailed Whydahs, Paradise Whydahs, Shaft-tailed whydahs, Steel-blue widow finches, Black widow finches, Village indigo birds, Dusky indigo birds, Masked Weavers, Thick-billed weavers, Red-headed weavers, Red-billed buffalo weavers, White-browed sparrow weavers and with a bit of luck the spectacular Broad-tailed Paradise whydah plus many of their host species such as Melbas, Violet-Eared waxbills,  Scaly feathered finches, Common waxbills, Black-faced waxbills plus many, many more )

We will be looking for Red Billed fire finches and Blue waxbills next to the mighty Victora falls in Zimbabwe. Phote Eelco Meyjes

We will be looking for Red Billed fire finches and Blue waxbills next to the mighty Victoria falls in Zimbabwe. Phote Eelco Meyjes

The trip will include a 6 day stay in the world famous Kruger National Park at different camp sites. From there the tour will move onto Botswana to experience the majestic and silent beauty of the Okavango Delta. A 3 day stop over near the Chobe river game reserve, in Northern Botswana, has also been included not to mention a visit to the mighty and thunderous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where we should see red billed fire finches and blue waxbills in the Victoria Falls rain forest nature reserve. All along the route, between these three countries, the group will stop at various key locations to see many of Africa’s most beautiful finches.

Safari tent accommodation example at Nata Lodge. Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Safari tent accommodation example at Nata Lodge. Botswana. Photo Eelco Meyjes

Accommodation will be comfortable and every effort will be made to ensure that this tailor made finch safari is a truly once in a lifetime experience for all our guests. The tour will once again be hosted by Russell Kingston and Eelco Meyjes. Space is limited to a maximum of 8 guests only. This is to ensure best viewing opportunities. All guests will be required to sign an indemnity prior to the tour commencing

For more information on this exciting 2014 summer RFCG EcoTour to Africa contact RussellKingston indruss@bigpond.com or Eelco Meyjes editor@avitalk.co.za.

* Guests can come from any country, but everyone will need to be in Johannesburg on Saturday 22 November at the commence of the tour.

All profits are donated to the Rare Finch Conservation Group which is a registered non-profit organisation.This specialist conservation group is totally dependant on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches in the wild.

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Painted Finches. Col Roberts again shares his magic !

17 Jul
A painted finch. Photo Col Roberts

A painted finch. Photo Col Roberts

A painted finch having a good stretch ! Photo Col Roberts

A painted finch having a good old stretch ! Photo Col Roberts

Painted finches are quite often seen on rocky outcrops in western and central Australia. Photo Col Roberts

Painted finches are quite often seen on rocky outcrops in western and central Australia. Photo Col Roberts

A pair of painted finches. Cock bird left. Hen bird right. Photo Col Roberts

A pair of painted finches. Cock bird left. Hen bird right. Photo Col Roberts

Painted finches often enjoy rocky areas that are covered in Spinifix grass. Photo Col Roberts

Painted finches often enjoy rocky areas that are covered in Spinifix grass. Photo Col Roberts

 Col Roberts, from Perth in Western Australia, has once again shared his incredible photography with our RFCG supporters and followers. Always looking for the perfect finch pic Col never fails to disappoint us .

The Master at Work. Col Roberts from Perth Australia Photo Eelco Meyjes

Painted Finches, in essence, are desert birds that can be found in the Western and Central parts of Australia. This is what the authoritative book on Grassfinches of Australia by Joseph M Forshaw and Mark Shephard says about the species. ” Of the Australian grassfinches, the painted finch is the species most closely associated with the arid interior, where it typically frequents rocky outcrops with a groundcover of Spinifix in the vicinity of  surface water, preferably permanent rockpools at the bottom of steep gorges in stony ranges…Painted finches are normally encountered in pairs or small flocks, but are rarely seen singly or occasionally in large flocks “.

Col Roberts is an honorary member of the Rare Finch Conservation Group and we thank him for supporting the group with his brilliant work. Visit our 14 June 2014 and 27 Feb 2014 blogs for more examples of Col’s stunning finch photography

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is dependant on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches in the wild. For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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RFCG Receives an exciting new photo of the elusive and threatened Shelley’s crimsonwing

7 Jul
The world's second known photograph of a  Shelley's crimsonwing cockbird. Photo Colin Jackson

The world’s second known photograph of a Shelley’s crimsonwing. Photo Colin Jackson

Last week Colin Jackson made contact with the Rare Finch Conservation Group and informed us that he had photographed the Shelley’s crimsonwing, whilst on an expedition in the Mt Tsiaberimu area, in the DRC, in 1997. We informed him that the only other known photograph of the species in the world, taken in 2008 and sourced from the website http://www.gorilla.org, was also photographed in the Mt Tsiaberimu area in the Virunga National Park, DRC.

Colin Jackson who photographed the Shelley's crimsonwing in 1997 whilst on an expedition in the DRC

Colin Jackson who photographed the Shelley’s crimsonwing in 1997 whilst on an expedition in the DRC

This is what Colin Jackson shared with us ” Very interesting to hear of the story behind the other image of the crimsonwing – that it also came from Tsiaberimu…. We caught ours in the heart of the forest not far from where we first camped in nets going through the edge of bamboo and bordering an open area that included some swampy vegetation. The expedition was one of National Museums of Kenya staff, funded by the Berggorilla and Regenwald Direkthilfte and the Atlanta Zoo. A key objective of the expedition was to survey the surviving gorillas and Titus Imboma (whose hand is holding the bird in the image) and myself were taken along to do bird surveys.”

Ever since 2008 this has been the only known photograph of a Shelley's crimsonwing. Photo courtesy www.gorilla.org

Ever since 2008 this was the only known photograph of a Shelley’s crimsonwing in the world. Photo courtesy http://www.gorilla.org

The RFCG would like to sincerely thank Colin Jackson for sharing this exciting new photograph of the species, with the rest of the world.

This is what the authoritative Birds of Africa Volumn 7 by C Hillary Fry et al tells us about the species. General Habits : Inhabits closed moist understory in montane forest, low secondary growth at forest edge, clearngs with Sericostachys, mixed bamboo thickets; Sometimes in more open areas by streams. Singly or in pairs : forages on ground for seeds; associates with other crimsonwings ( Unconfirmed reports given to the RFCG is that they are normally Dusky crimsonwings : Senegali de Jackson ). Shy elusive, seldom seen ; when flushed flies rapidly for short distance and dives for cover, and does not reappear.

These exact same observations have also been shared with the RFCG by bird guides working in the Ruhija area in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. The breeding habits of the species are unknown. The IUCN Red data list classifies the species as Vulnerable ( A high risk of extinction )

The Rare Finch Conservation Group is registered in South Africa as a non-profit organisation and is dependant on donors and sponsors to carry out its conservation work on finches in the wild. For more info visit http://www.rarefinch.org or write to the secretary at editor@avitalk.co.za

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