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What Is a Gouldian Finch?

By Kathy Dowling
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The Gouldian Finch, also known as the Rainbow Finch or Lady Gouldian Finch, is a brightly-colored grass finch native to the northern coastal regions of Australia and migrates during breeding season. Recognizable by its bright yellow belly, purple breast, and green back, the Gouldian Finch usually has a black face, but red-faced, and, in more rare cases, yellow-faced varieties exist, with some slight variations depending on sex and age. Also known as Erythrura gouldiae or Chloebia gouldiae, this bird is small in size, enabling it to nest in holes found in termite mounds and in the hollows of trees. It usually feeds on ripening or ripe grass seeds and consumes water regularly throughout the day. Due to its colorful appearance, the exotic bird has become a popular choice for aviaries and usually lives, on average, up to six years, but this has led to severe population depletion, causing the species to be classified as an endangered species.

Depending on the season, the finch migrates between different regions of Australia. Breeding season occurs during January and April each year and, during this time, the finch travels in large flocks to inland Australia, often breeding in small groups. When the season concludes, the bird migrates back to the coastal areas of the tropical regions spanning across Western Australia to Cape York Peninsula. Along these regions, the Gouldian Finch is generally situated near mangroves and in trees found in savannas.

While both sexes are brightly-colored, the males have brighter colored feathers than the female. The younger Gouldian Finch also differs in appearance from the adults, having a faded yellow belly and grey-colored head. The small birds are generally silent most of the time, making an occasional high-pitched call every so often.

The bright colors are one of the main reasons why the finch has become a popular choice for aviaries; however, raising them in such conditions can often be a difficult task. The Gouldian Finch is more easily susceptible to diseases when housed in cages, and quick changes in temperature when moved out of its habitat often cause problems. As it requires warmer climates, the finch usually needs to be housed in indoor aviaries if the weather is cooler.

Populations of the Gouldian Finch have reduced since large amounts were harvested for pet trade both within Australia and internationally. This was banned in 1981. but the finch has still become extinct in certain areas of northern Australia where it was once largely populated. While the illegal pet trade has contributed to this decline, lack of food and the loss of habitat are also contributing factors. As a consequence, the finch is now considered to be an endangered species.

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