Gouldian Finch (Gould's Finch)

Bloedel Conservatory, Queen Elizabeth Park
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The Gouldian finch is one of the most beautiful of all pet bird species, a brilliant multicolored bird whose beautiful plumage and shyness with humans make it a favorite for pet owners who enjoy looking at their birds but don't need to handle them. This finch is very social with its own kind, however, and a small group of these diminutive birds makes for an excellent display in a large enclosure. It is fortunate that the Gouldian finch is widely bred in captivity since wild populations are endangered and shrinking.

Common Names

Other common names for the Gouldian finch include Gould's finch, rainbow finch, Lady Gouldian finch, and painted finch.

Scientific Name

The taxonomical name for Gould's finch is Erythrura gouldiae. The bird was first described by the British ornithological artist John Gould in 1841 and is named for his wife, Elizabeth—hence one of the common names, Lady Gouldian finch. 

Origin and History

The Gouldian finch is native to the grasslands of Australia, but more birds are now bred in captivity than exist in the wild. After John Gould named the bird for his wife 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 pet birds led to widespread trapping and export from Australia until the late 1960s, greatly reducing the number of wild birds. Today, 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. Virtually all pet specimens are now bred in captivity.

Size

This finch reaches an adult size of between 5 and 6 inches in length, from the beak to the end of the tail feathers.

Average Lifespan

The Gouldian finch can be expected to live approximately 6 to 8 years in proper captive conditions. They are easily stressed, however.

Temperament

Gouldian finches are social birds who love interacting with other finches but do not tolerate human handling as well as other, larger bird species. Because they thrive on social interaction, it is best to keep Gouldian finches in pairs or small flocks. Gouldian finches are relatively quiet birds, making a musical peeping sound that is persistent but unlikely to disturb you or annoy neighbors. 

Gouldian Finch Colors and Markings

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

These finches are generally categorized by the color of the head. For example, they may be sold as black-headed, red-headed, and yellow-headed, among other types. The color variations are most common in captive-bred birds; in the wild, most Gouldian finches have black heads. 

Caring for Gouldian Finches

While most Gouldian finches prefer to spend time with other finches as opposed to their human caretakers, they remain one of the most popular pet bird species.

Their soft, soothing voices and beautiful, eye-catching colors have helped them retain popularity with bird lovers of all walks.

Because of their small size and quiet natures, Gouldian finches are popular choices as pets for children, the elderly, and those who live in apartments or condominiums—provided there is a responsible adult overseeing their care.  While these are tiny birds, they do require flight cages, and many finch owners find that their pets' cages often take up as much space as a larger parrot cage. These birds do very well in groups of different finches, and they are often kept in small aviary settings with different finch species, especially society finches and zebra finches. In aviary settings, Gouldian finches enjoy being among live plants.  

A Gouldian finch is not a good choice as a pet for owners who want a bird that they can handle.

Most prefer the company of other finches to that of humans, and they rarely bond with their owners. Overall, Gouldian finches are rather sensitive birds that may not be the best choice for first-timers. They are delicate and easily stressed, and are susceptible to ailments. Breeding is best left to professionals, as these birds are inattentive parents. However, for experienced bird enthusiasts, the brilliant colors of Gouldian finches make them well worth the effort. 

Feeding the Gouldian Finch

Gouldian finches seem to do best on a seed-based diet supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also wise to provide a cuttlebone inside of the cage for added calcium and to help maintain their beaks and nails.

Exercise

Like all finches, Gouldian finches are active birds and must be provided space in which to fly. Anyone interested in owning pet Gouldian finches should be prepared to purchase the largest flight cage they can for their new companions. Most Gouldian finches shy away from human interaction, so providing out of cage time isn't really an option. Because Gouldian finches spend the majority of their lives in their cages, providing a large cage that gives them access to free flight is key to their health and happiness.

Common Health Issues

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

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

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