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Gouldian Finches

By Craig Sernotti

Gouldian Finches in Brief

Scientific Name: Erythrura gouldiae
Adult Size: About 6 inches (15 cm)
Weight: About 0.5 ounces (15 g)
Life Span: 8 years on average

Gouldian finches are colorful and energetic birds commonly kept as pets. Let's learn a little more about Gouldian finches to help you decide if one is right for you. If you already have a finch, I'm sure that you will learn something new.

Appearance

This stunning little bird was named after the wife of famous explorer John Gould. He is a strikingly beautiful Australian grass finch who comes in three natural color forms—black-headed, red-headed, and yellow-headed—as well as numerous mutations in aviculture. All have a wide turquoise band across the back of the head, and the nape and sides of the neck are a light green. The finch's back and wings are a purple-blue. The lower breast, sides of the body, and abdomen are yellow, fading to white. Hens and immature males look similar to adult males but with much more muted coloration.

In the Wild

Despite the tremendous number of Gouldian finches in captivity, he is extremely endangered in his native habitat of northern Australia. Excessive cattle grazing and altered fire regimens are thought to be the cause of the species' decline. The finches depend on grasses and seeds, specifically sorghum seeds, and the disruption of the natural growth of these grasses makes it difficult for the species to survive.

Gouldian Finches as Pets

The Gouldian finch has been a favorite aviary bird for more than 100 years and not just in the United States. He's also popular in the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand, Holland, and Japan. This finch was first bred in Australia in 1886. Although the Gouldian can be a prolific breeder in captivity, he can be delicate if not kept in the appropriate conditions. In fact, these finches tend to succumb easily to cold, damp weather and must be kept in sufficiently warm, dry conditions. They thrive in heat that simulates their native Australia.

A Gouldian finch (or a few) makes a fun pet for the right family. While these birds are colorful, active, and pleasantly vocal, they are not "hands-on" pets. They are too small, fast, and nervous to be handled. However, if you enjoy watching birds and listening to their interesting sounds, a Gouldian finch is likely the perfect pet for you.

One Finch or Two?
Although a Gouldian finch does not necessarily need another finch for company, he will live a more interesting life if he has a friend. It will also be more fun for you to have two finches because you can watch their interactions. If you have the room and budget for one finch, you probably have the room and budget for two.

Finch Supplies
You can keep a Gouldian finch in a cage or aviary, which is essentially a room-sized cage that houses several pairs of finches. An aviary can be located indoors or outdoors. If outdoors, it must offer protection from the sun, harsh weather, and predators, such as cats and hawks. An aviary should have two doors so that it is more difficult for the finches to escape when you enter and leave. Aside from these considerations, aviaries are much like normal cages.

If you are using a cage, buy the largest one you can afford; horizontal space is more important than vertical space because it gives your finch more room to fly. The minimum size should be about 20 inches (51 cm) long. The best cages are made of wrought iron or powder-coated steel. Make sure that the bars are spaced so that your finch cannot get his head out, or he may escape or become stuck.

Your finch will need several perches in the cage. Vary the sizes and materials that the perches are made of to provide his feet with exercise. Natural wood perches with bark still on them are an excellent choice, but wooden, rope, and concrete perches are fine as well. Space them out so that your finch has plenty of space to fly.

The bottom of the cage should be lined with newspaper or plain paper towels. Do not use gravel or corncob, as these are dangerous if your finch ingests them.

You may want to get a birdbath because finches tend to like to splash about. You can use just about any clean, shallow dish, however. Some finches like to be gently misted with a plant sprayer rather than actually bathe.

Diet
Although Gouldian finches have evolved to eat seeds, an all-seed diet does not provide adequate nutrition. Plan to feed your finch a mix of seeds along with some fruits, vegetables (especially leafy greens, such as spinach, dandelions, romaine, and parsley), and perhaps live insects. Use a seed mix packaged for finches, and check it for freshness. For more nutritious and possibly more palatable seeds, sprout them yourself. Your finch should have seeds available at all times. Provide fresh fruits and vegetables in the morning, and remove them in an hour or so before they spoil.

Finches must always have access to fresh, clean drinking water.