Meet the Gouldian Finch

Gouldian Finch

When an English ornithologist named John Gould first saw the finches to be named Lady Gouldians or Gouldian finches (Erythrura gouldiae), he was enchanted by their beauty. He named the finch after his late wife, Elizabeth Gould, who was an ornithologist herself and the illustrator of his book, “The Birds of Australia.” It was quite an honor, as the Gouldian finch is still considered one of the most beautiful birds in the world.

Native to Australia, these colorful birds have drawn the eyes of aviculturists for decades. So how are they have pets? Easy to care for and on the quieter side, Gouldian finches are great for bird owners of every experience level. They’re relatively inexpensive too, in comparison to the rarer finches or even parrots. And while they are mostly a hands-off bird, they provide hours of enjoyment.

“They’re wonderful to watch inside their cage,” said Alan Loahr, manager of Fly Babies Aviary in Florida, “They’re calm birds; they’re not flighty and jumpy like other finches.”

What to Feed
The best diet for Gouldian finches varies, depending on your preference. You can feed a high-quality finch seed mix supplemented with fruits, vegetables and calcium sources like cuttlebone. You can also feed a pellet designed explicitly for finches. Loahr himself feeds pellets to his finches and said his birds love it. “It gives them a balanced meal,” he said.

Housing These Finches
Gouldian finches do well in groups, no matter the pairings. “Males can be paired with males, females can be paired with females, or both sexes can be paired with each other,” Loahr explained. “They just like to be with each other.”

Loahr added that Gouldian finches need cages that are wider rather than taller. Gouldians can also be paired with finches of similar size and demeanor, such as society finches or parrot finches. The key is to give everyone enough space to fly back and forth, so the larger the housing you can provide the better. Up to six Gouldians can be housed in a cage that is 24 inches wide, according to Loahr. Give them plenty of food and water, and a place to take baths.

Provide them with plenty of perches of various types, such as ropes or swings. Give them a few toys, too! While they won’t play with their toys like parrots will, Gouldians love to explore new textures or foraging opportunities.

Gouldian Finch Colors
Gouldian finches are sometimes called rainbow finches, and it’s no surprise given their color scheme. They have purple chests, yellow plumage on their lower bodies and green-colored backs with hints of blue around their necks. Males are brighter than females, and young finches are brown or olive in color. The head colors of adult birds can vary, too, with a finch either having a black, red or yellow-colored face.

There many mutations of Gouldian finches out there, as well, with all sorts of color combinations now available. You can find Gouldian finches that are mostly yellow in appearance, with chest colors ranging from purple to white; with faces red, orange to white in color. There are mostly blue Gouldian finches out there too, with purple to white chests, and black to tan faces.

Gouldian Finches in the Wild
While popular in aviculture, Gouldian finches aren’t doing as well in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists them as near threatened and estimates the population ranges from 2,500 to 10,000 adults. Due to female Gouldian finches’ breeding habits, experts are worried there may be more males than females in the population too. The biggest threat to wild Gouldians is ongoing habitat loss due to fire patterns and grazing cattle, which reduces the amount of grass seeds the finches eat.

All is not lost though: Many groups and organizations are working to conserve the Gouldian finches’ habitat and help the species thrive.

Loved this article? Then check out the full version in the August/September issue of Bird Talk Magazine! 

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  • Is bird talk magazine available for home delivery

    Cynthia R kops
  • Gouldians also make wonderful hand-fed pets. They’re a bit easier to feed due to their larger size (the first finches I ever fed were societies!), and they have beautiful blue “feed spots” on the undersides of their upper beaks, which fade as they age. They’ll sit on your finger for skritches just like the bigger birds!


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