One look at the vibrant Gouldian finch and it is easy to see why it has been called the “jewel of Australia”. It is one of the more colorful birds on the planet.
Remember that scene from Batman Returns in 1992 when Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman pops a bird in her mouth? That was a Gouldian finch!
Its movie cameo aside, the Gouldian finch is showy, gregarious, and social. Let’s look at 14 fascinating facts about the Gouldian finch.
1. It Is A Bold And Vibrant Bird
You can’t miss the Gouldian finch. Their wings and backs are purple, the underside is yellow, the sides and back of the neck are light green, and the back of the head is turquoise.
The head of the Gouldian finch could be either red, yellow, or black. Scientists have observed that Gouldian finches with red heads tend to be more aggressive than yellow-headed and black-headed birds.
2. It Was Named After A British Ornithologist
John Gould was a noted ornithologist in the 1800s who published several books on birds, including birds native to Australia. His wife, Elizabeth Gould, assisted his work by illustrating the books.
Although the colorful bird is officially called the Gouldian finch after John Gould, many people refer to it as Lady Gould’s finch, a nod to John Gould’s artist wife.
3. Only The Male Gouldian Finches Sing
Female Gouldian finches can produce soft coos and warbles, but only the males can truly sing. Biologists believe they use their songs to impress potential mates and to announce their territories.
Gouldian finches are not overly noisy birds. In their flocks, they communicate through low chirps, clicks, and occasional trills.
4. They Don’t Mind Communal Living
The Gouldian finch is unique among finches in that they make their nests inside hollow trees. Within the tree cavity, the birds will construct nests of loosely woven grass.
It is not uncommon for several nesting pairs to all share the same tree cavity, although they each make their own nest.
5. Gouldian Finches Are Well-Adapted To The Land Down Under
Gouldian finches are well-suited for life in their native Australia. They thrive in hot temperatures, preferably warmer than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
They often make their homes in places where eucalyptus trees are common, such as open grassy areas with nearby water sources.
6. Their Populations Are Declining
The Gouldian finch was once a common sight across northern Australia, but their populations are in a decline.
It is estimated that there are between 2,500 and 3,000 Gouldian finches left in the wild. This species is listed as ‘near threatened’.
The cause of the decline is due in part to the destruction of their natural habitats. Overgrazing of cattle, the construction of new housing developments, and wildfires have all played a part.
7. Gouldian Finches Love Seeds
Although Gouldian finches love all grass seeds, their favorite is sorghum seeds.
They forage the seeds right from the sorghum plants during the rainy season and, during the dry season, spend their days searching the ground for dropped seeds.
Cattle grazing and wildfires that quickly eliminate sorghum grasses from an area make it difficult for the Gouldian finches to survive. They are not migratory birds, but they will travel to new areas in search of food.
8. Gouldian Finches Are Quite Social
The Gouldian finch craves companionship. These highly social little birds live in large flocks or colonies, even when it is not mating season.
A flock could have as many as three hundred Gouldian finches, making it an impressive and colorful sight to witness.
9. Male Gouldian Finches Dazzle Potential Mates With Their Courtship Rituals
Well before mating and nesting take place, the male Gouldian finches will start courting potential mates using an elaborate courtship ritual.
The boastful males will ruffle and puff out their feathers to show off their colorful plumage. They will also puff out their chests and fluff up the feathers on their heads to make themselves look bigger and more attractive.
Male Gouldian finches also attract mates by bobbing their heads and wiping their beaks. They will strut around with their bodies erect and their tails held high, too.
10. Hatchlings Reflect Light So Their Parents Can Find Them
When Gouldian finches are hatches, they are completely naked, but they have a unique adaptation. They have nodules at the sides of their beaks that reflect light.
Their parents can see where their offspring’s beaks are, even in the dark.
When the chicks approach two weeks of age, they will begin to get their feathers. Those feathers, however, are dull and muted.
They have to wait until they are between eight and twelve months old before they get their vibrant, colorful feathers.
11. Gouldian Finches Have Back-to-Back Broods
Gouldian finches will produce two broods per year, but they do it in quick succession.
The female Gouldian finch will lay between four and eight eggs which hatch in about 15 days. When those chicks leave the nest, the breeding pairs immediately mate again and the female lays her second brood.
12. Gouldian Finches Are A Tasty Treat For Predators
In the wild, Gouldian finches have a life span of about five years. That is, if they can avoid predators that want to dine on the bright, flashy birds.
The main predators of the Gouldian finch are hawks, snakes, and feral cats.
13. Birds Of A Feather…
When selecting a male, the female Gouldian finch usually picks a male with the same head color as her.
Biologists have noticed that when a female is paired with a differently colored male, her body produces higher levels of stress hormones.
As a result, she will lay fewer eggs. This practice, however, means that flocks of Gouldian finches lack genetic diversity.
14. Caged Birds
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Gouldian finches were often captured and sold to bird lovers to keep as pets. In fact, these colorful finches are still traded and sold around the world.
It is no longer legal to capture and sell wild Gouldian finches. Pet Gouldian finches are bred and raised in captivity and, as a result, have different color mutations.