Rainbows in an Endangered Finch
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. —Aristotle
I captured this brave little fellow at Butterfly World’s Jewels of the Sky Aviary, the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the United States. It’s a most amazing, beautiful, and fairy-like place — a huge and lush flower-filled habitat of Hummingbirds, Honeycreepers, and Euphonias.
The Gouldian Finch (Erythrura gouldiae), also known as the Lady Gouldian Finch, Gould’s Finch, or the Rainbow Finch, was named for Elizabeth Gould, wife of British ornithological artist John Gould. This spectacularly-colored little bird is native to Australia, where their numbers have decreased dramatically throughout the 20th century due to habitat loss. They remain an endangered species in their natural habitat, with less than 2,500 remaining.
In 1992, the species was classified as endangered in the wild. That same year, Catwoman stuffed a poor Gouldian into her mouth in Batman Returns— some say, to raise awareness for their plight.
However, they’re popular birds in captivity and among breeders, which keeps their general populations higher. The delicate Gouldian Finches are difficult to breed outside of their native Australia — they demand a clean environment and excellent nutrition to survive and thrive, and aren’t suggested for novice breeders. (I personally have issues with caged birds, but wanted to include this tidbit.) While attempts at their reintroduction have proved unsuccessful, thankfully these lovely finches are the subject of a conservation program in Australia. There are currently plans to recover and conserve their natural habitats, with management guidelines discussed to educate landholders about land management, promoting the recovery program, and Gouldian Finch conservation.
Gouldian Finches gather in flocks in the wild, most likely to protect against predation. They’re highly sociable birds, but more often with other birds than with humans. Both sexes are brightly colored, with black, green, yellow, and red markings — but with selective breeding, there are now many color mutations. As usual, females tend to be less brightly colored (the males do the strutting). Gouldians bond and mate for life.
In honor of this beautiful, endangered, and brave little finch, may you have an equally bright weekend!