What to Know About the Gouldian Finch


In this Article

  • Gouldian Finch Characteristics
  • Gouldian Finch Care
  • Gouldian Finch Health Issues 

Out of the thousands of bird species worldwide, the finch is just one of them, and its subspecies are found across the globe. In North America alone, there are 17 subspecies of finch, including the evening grosbeak, the black rosy-finch, the house finch, and the American goldfinch.

Outside of North America, there are even more finch subspecies. One of these, native to northern Australia, is Chloebia gouldiae, or the Gouldian finch. Some consider the Gouldian finch to be the most colorful bird in the world.

Famous for its bright patchwork plumage, the Gouldian finch is also sometimes referred to as the rainbow finch or Lady Gouldian finch. As a wild bird, it’s threatened in its natural habitat in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Gouldian Finch Characteristics

Once caught from the wild in large numbers, many avid bird breeders now breed Gouldian finches for sale as pets. When considering getting a Gouldian finch, it’s important to understand its physical and behavioral characteristics first. 

Gouldian finch physical characteristics. Gouldian finches are relatively small birds. They grow to be around 5.5 to 6 inches long and weigh about half an ounce on average. 

The Gouldian finch can have one of three main head colors: black, red, or yellow. Typically, they also have a black or red face, a yellow underside, and a purple chest. Their faces and rumps are usually marked in blue.

Male finches, known as cocks, are brighter in color than female finches, known as hens. Based on the coloring of their face, their beak color may differ as well. For example, a red-headed or black-headed male Gouldian finch will usually have a red-tipped beak. A yellow-headed male Gouldian finch will have a yellow-tipped beak similar to that of female Gouldian finches.

Juvenile birds are less colorful than their adult counterparts. Their coats are dull olive with pale heads and even paler beaks.

Gouldian finch behavioral characteristics. Gouldian finches are popular aviary birds, But while they’re beautiful to watch, they’re not considered fully domesticated, so they’re not great picks if you want to play with your bird. Gouldian finches can get scared and hurt themselves easily, and great care needs to be taken when handling them. 

Gouldian finches are diurnal, meaning they are most active during daylight hours. 

Gouldian finches aren’t as noisy as other finches and communicate with soft chirps, trills, hisses, and clicking sounds. Only the male Gouldian finch sings.

The Gouldian finch mates from January through April, but breeding can sometimes occur in later months. It’s best to breed them in single pairs, but colonies can also be bred. They use fine grasses to build their nests in boxes or logs and usually lay between three and eight eggs. Both the male and female take turns incubating over a 12 to 13-day incubation period.

Gouldian Finch Care

If you want to bring home a Gouldian finch as a pet, you’ll need to understand its habitat and diet to properly care for it.

Gouldian finch habitat. While the Gouldian finch isn’t a colony bird, many people keep them in paired groups. You’ll need at least two — finches are a social species and mate for life. Your Gouldian finch’s enclosure should be large enough to provide plenty of space for both birds. The enclosure should also contain a daily supply of fresh food and water, and the birds should have access to perches, gravel, and nesting material. The Gouldian finch requires warmer temperatures, so they need to be kept in indoor shelters if the temperature is too cold outside. 

Gouldian finch diet. Gouldian finches are herbivores. They feed on seeds, grains, and greens but can also be provided with supplements. A basic finch feed mix includes white millet, rape seed, hulled oats, panicum, Japanese millet, and Niger seed. They can also eat endive, lettuce, chickweed, and green panic seed heads. It’s also a good idea to offer them mineral supplements like cuttlebone, charcoal, and shell-grit. 

The Gouldian finch may also occasionally eat insects, especially during mating time.

Gouldian Finch Health Issues 

Gouldian finch birds are endangered. This is partly because the Gouldian finch has been trapped for sale in the past. However, it is also believed that the Gouldian finch population has fallen due to a respiratory illness called air-sac mite. This illness is commonly found in wild birds and is currently being treated by adding chemicals to wild Gouldian finches’ drinking water supplies. 

The Gouldian finch is more prone to diseases when kept in cages. Fast temperature changes, like when moving cages from outdoors to indoors, often cause issues. 

Gouldian finches have a lifespan of around six years. However, in the wild, certain risk factors may decrease their average lifespan. Lung parasites and stress have both contributed to a decline in the natural Gouldian finch population. Other threats include inappropriate fire management, feral predators, and cattle grazing.

Show Sources

American Bird Conservancy: “Finches of the United States: A Photo List of All Species.”
Animal Humane Society: “Finch Care.”
Australian Wildlife Conservancy: “Gouldian finch.”
Avicultural Society of New South Wales: “Gouldian finch.”
BirdWatch: “Gouldian finch.”
eBird: “Gouldian finch.”
Finch Information Center: “Basic Housing Needs.” “Gouldian finch head feathers coloring.”
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance: “Gouldian finch.”
WWF Australia: “Gouldian finch.”
Zoo New England: “Gouldian finch.”

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