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Conserving the Gouldian Finch – How One Man’s Efforts are Making a Difference

Gouldian FinchesThe brilliantly-colored Gouldian Finch is something of an avian anomaly.  One of the most sought-after of all cage birds, it is bred in huge numbers by aviculturists worldwide.  Wild populations, however, are in serious decline, and have been so for over 30 years.  But, in conjunction with governmental and private groups, one dedicated conservationist is helping to brighten the species’ prospects.

Taking Action

Self-made millionaire Michael Fidler was first captivated by Gouldian Finches over 40 years ago, when he chanced upon a group in a store in Manchester, England.  From that point on, he has been concerned for their future.   And while few people can afford to follow in his footsteps, his efforts illustrate the importance of doing whatever is within one’s abilities on behalf of conservation.  Be it through money, ideas, teaching or a new observation, we all have some potential to help.

Fire Management Changes a Unique Habitat

The Gouldian Finch is limited in distribution to Australia’s tropical north (please see map), where its lifestyle and feeding habits are uniquely influenced by rain and fire. Having evolved in a harsh, ever-changing habitat, the Gouldian Finch is, in many ways, highly specialized.

For millions of years, fires and varying rain cycles necessitated a diet comprised largely of grass seeds for one part of the year, and insects for another.  Researchers believe that modern fire management practices are the most important reason for the 30-year-long decline in Gouldian Finch numbers…and despite 20 years’ worth of conservation programs, the downward trend continues.

Cattle Ranching

Gouldian Finches first began having problems in Queensland, on the eastern edge of their range.  Studies indicate that the population declines progressed westward…just as did the change in fire management practices and the growth of cattle ranching.

Cattle consume grasses upon which the finches depend, and the manner in which they feed stifles re-growth and encourages the establishment of non-native plants. The spread of cattle ranching has also been implicated in the recent scarcity of other animals, including the Carpentarian Rock Rat and the Partridge Pigeon.

Eco-Tourism and Release Programs

Gouldian Finch Range MapConservationists believe that many species will benefit if birding is encouraged as a form of eco-tourism on cattle ranches, but progress has been limited.  Captive-bred Gouldian Finches are easy to come by, but when released into the wild most are quickly captured by kites, hawks and other avian predators.

Noble Efforts

Mr. Fidler relocated from his native UK to New South Wales, Australia, and now lives close to prime Gouldian Finch habitat.  Over the past 20 years, he has donated vast sums to Gouldian Finch conservation programs and personally participated in captive and field research.  One gift of $600,000 has helped to insure the survival of central Kimberley’s Gouldian Finches, one of the largest remaining populations.

Mr. Fidler also funds researchers at the University of New South Wales, and allows them access to his huge private aviary, home to several hundred birds…hats off!



Further Reading

Annual Gouldian Finch Count and other conservation efforts

Gouldian Finch Hens “Cheat” to Acquire Better Genes

Australia’s 10 Top Bird-watching Spots

Gouldian Finch Care & Newly-Discovered Facts


Gouldian Finches image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Nigel Jacques
Gouldian Finch range map image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Nrg800


  1. avatar

    Hello again Frank,
    what a nice page on gouldian finches!

    I’m also taking consideration in keeping and breeding these pretties.
    But after researching I’ve found out they are prone to air sac mites… How vulnerable are these birds?
    I’m reconsidering this because they can be quite pricy where I live… That, and because I have other birds whom I plan on mixing with them in my aviary…

    How do you check for air sac mites, and how do you stave off these pests off?
    Thank you

  2. avatar

    Hi Raymond,

    Nice to hear from you; I hope all is well. Air sack mites occur in most environments; much mention of them is made in connection with gouldians, but most birds are susceptible,,..in the zoo, we found them and related pests in birds ranging from hummers to ostriches. Gouldians and others respond well to ivermectin applied to the skin…simple and effective as long as full course of treatment is given. Symptoms of infection vary widely and are common to many other ailments…listlessness, wheezing, change in voice, but some birds will appear fine until many mites become established; vet check is the best way to diagnose,

    Enjoy, best, frank

  3. avatar

    In a response to someone’s question about air sac mites you wrote: ivermectin applied to the skin…simple and effective as long as full course of treatment is given.

    What is the full course of treatment? Thanks for your help.

  4. avatar

    Hi Fran…many variables, i.e. species, bird’s general condition, degree of infestation etc; exact protocol would be set-up by the vet. Best, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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