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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SEE – CONSERVE – ENJOY

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