Gouldian Finch: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Lady gouldian finch

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The Gouldian finch is one of the most beautiful of all pet bird species. It is a brilliant, multicolored bird with vibrant plumage. Its shyness with humans makes it a favorite bird for those who enjoy looking at birds but do not want to handle them. This finch is very social with birds of its kind. A small group of these diminutive birds makes for an excellent display in a large enclosure.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Gouldian finch, Gould's finch, rainbow finch, Lady Gouldian finch, painted finch

Scientific Name: Erythrura gouldiae 

Adult Size: 5 to 6 inches

Life Expectancy: 6 to 8 years

Origin and History

The Gouldian finch is native to the grasslands of Australia. British ornithologist John Gould named the bird the "Lady Gouldian Finch" for his wife Elizabeth in 1841. The beautiful little finch was imported to Europe six years later and quickly became a favorite among bird enthusiasts.

The heavy demand for these pet birds led to widespread trapping and export from Australia until the late 1960s. These practices greatly reduced the number of wild birds. Estimates put the number of birds in the wild at less than 2,500. In 1992, Gould's finch was classified as "endangered in the wild" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Nearly all pet specimens are now bred in captivity.

Temperament

Gouldian finches are social birds that love interacting with other finches but do not tolerate human handling. Though they are intelligent, their reluctance to be held makes them difficult for training to perch on your finger. But, of the finch species, Gould's finches are one of the calmest finches, so with enough persistence, you might be able to get them to come to you.

While inches are not affectionate with humans, they do appreciate being with other finches. They thrive on social interaction, and it is best to keep Gouldian finches in pairs or small flocks. Finches are monogamous and mate for life.

Speech and Vocalizations

Gouldian finches do not sing complicated songs. They make a persistent musical peeping sound that is unlikely to disturb you or annoy neighbors. Gouldian finches are relatively quiet birds and their low, chirping vocalization is pleasant to the ear. Gouldian finches are not known to mimic human speech.

Gouldian Finch Colors and Markings

Gouldian finches are arguably the most beautiful of the finch family. Both males and females display brilliant plumage in blue, purple, yellow, red, black, and green with some variations. Males tend to display more vivid coloring than females—this is common among many bird species. 

Generally, finches fit into categories based on the color of their heads. For example, they are called black-headed, red-headed, and yellow-headed, among other types. These head color variations are most common in captive-bred birds; in the wild, most Gouldian finches have black heads. 

Caring for the Gouldian Finch

Gouldian finches are popular choices in families with children or the elderly in the home, and those who live in apartments or condominiums. Since they stay in the cages, there is little threat of harming these delicate birds.

These birds usually live in small aviary settings with different finch species, especially society finches and zebra finches. Gouldian finches seem content in an aviary with live plants.

Overall, Gouldian finches are rather sensitive birds that may not be the best choice for first-time bird owners. They can get easily stressed and are susceptible to ailments. Gouldian finches are susceptible to cold and require a temperature of between 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Common Health Problems

Gouldian finches are susceptible to air-sac mite infection, especially if they are stressed. They are also prone to scaly face, which is caused by a mite that affects the skin around the beak, eyes, and legs. Any infections require immediate attention from an experienced avian veterinarian. If your finch develops overgrown nails or beak, seek the help of a bird groomer or vet.

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, Gouldian finches eat grass seeds and insects. In captivity, Gouldian finches seem to do best on a seed-based or pellet diet supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Feed them first thing in the morning, and try again at dusk. Fruits and vegetables should make up at least half of the food offered to your finches. They eat up to 35 percent of their bodyweight each day.

Hard vegetables and fruits such as carrots, squash, and unripe pears should be finely chopped or grated. Greens can be left whole or chopped. Dandelion greens are a particular favorite of finches. Any fresh foods that you place in your Amazon’s cage should be taken away when feeding time is over.

Provide a cuttlebone inside of the cage for added calcium. The birds also use the cuttlebone to maintain their beak and nails.

Exercise

Like all finches, Gouldian finches are active birds and need space to fly. Clipping your bird's wings is not recommended, as finches have a very high metabolic rate and flying helps them get ample exercise to burn energy. Since most Gouldian finches reject human interaction, out-of-cage flight time is not an option.

Be prepared to purchase the largest flight cage you can. Expect that this bird will spend its entire life in its cage. A large cage gives them access to free flight whenever they want. Flight cages often take up as much space as a larger parrot cage. The cage should be at least 3 to 4 square feet for a per pair of finches.

Finches need toys and perches in their cage to properly exercise and socialize. Purchase small, chewable toys made of hard plastic. These birds are not strong chewers, so the toys will likely last long. Provide different-sized perches or branches; it enables the birds to stretch out their feet.

Finches enjoy flitting around in the water, so put a shallow bath dish with fresh water at the bottom of the cage three days a week.

Pros

  • Low maintenance, does not require exercise period

  • Quiet, good for apartment dwellers

  • Beautiful, ideal for ornamental display

Cons

  • Requires a large flight cage

  • Will need a companion bird

  • Does not bond with its owners or like to be handled

Where to Adopt or Buy a Gouldian Finch

Breeding is best left to professionals, as these birds are inattentive parents. If you're going the breeder route, ensure that the breeder is reputable by asking them how long they've been breeding the birds and take a tour of the facility. Make sure the cages are clean, the birds are fed a varied diet, and the breeder is knowledgeable and receptive to your questions. Signs of a healthy bird include bright eyes, clean feathers, and full crops. It should appear alert and active. You will pay at least $100 for a Gouldian finch; some color mutations cost much more.

Take a look online at some of the birds available:

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

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Otherwise, check out all of our other small bird species profiles.