Getting to know the Gouldian Finch
The Lady Gouldian Finch originates across northern Australia from Derby in the west across to the Cape York Peninsula. The range of the Gouldian finch in recent years has declined sharply. Legal and illegal trapping up until the 1970s resulted in numbers being taken for the aviculture trade. There have not been any finches exported. However more recently Australian Government studies show that the Gouldians decline may be attributed to rural development, particularly in the cattle and mining industry. There is another barrier to the Gouldians becoming wide spread. This barrier is the airsac mite which has permeated the flocks of the Gouldians in the wild. This mite attacks the lungs of the Gouldian causing respiratory distress within the respiratory system. The Australian Government estimates that there are fewer than 2,500 mature Gouldian's in the wild.
According to the English "Legend", which we believe to be a misnomer due to the lack of historical documentation available... In 1841, an English Ornithologist, John Gould, while on an Australian expedition came across what most believe to be the most beautiful finch in the world. John Gould named this magnificent finch, "The Lady Gouldian", to honor his artist wife, Lady Elizabeth Gould. The first living Lady Gouldian finches arrived in England in 1887.
THE LADY GOULDIAN FINCH
The Lady Gouldian Finch, Chloebia gouldiae, is arguably the one of the most vividly colorful birds on earth. Its native habitat is the northern region of Australia. The Gouldian Finch is now an endangered species. Australia has a closed door policy prohibiting the exportation of animals from the country. Exportation of Australian finches was banned in 1960.
The following link is to a free e-book discussing the ongoing Gouldian Finch Recovery Project in Australia: A 2000 "Recovery Outline" (.PDF Format) produced by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage estimated Australia's wild Gouldian Finch population to be approximately 2500 mature birds.
Gouldians are between 5 to 5.5 inches in size or 13-14 cm long. The coloration of the cock is far more brilliant than that of the hen. The male has a noticeably longer center tail feather.
Lady Gouldian finches require more vitamins, nutrients and supplements in captivity than heartier breeds such as the zebra and society finches. Therefore, Gouldian finches are not recommended for the novice having little or no experience with these captive birds unless using proven products to ensure healthy happy "Frisky Finches".
There are three varieties of Lady Gouldian Finches which are naturally occurring in color:
Although these are the color varieties generally recognized, there are many other combinations derived from these basic colorations. Including blue, yellow and silver mutations. These ultra hybrid verities of the Lady Gouldian finch can prove to be rather delicate and often require a controlled indoor environment.
Gouldian finches, like many other finches, have a beautiful soft chirp, but do not like to be petted or held. Individuals seeking pets that enjoy being held should probably shy away from the Gouldian finch. Gouldian finches should be kept in one or more pairs to satisfy their need for social contact. Gouldians sing, but only the males (some better than others).
Gouldian finches, whether in a cage or aviary, need the largest flying space affordable. A minimum flying space of 24 inches is recommended. Cages, either metal or wooden, are the most frequent cost-effective choice for housing Gouldian finches. The space between cage bars should never be greater than one-half inch. Experts report good results when employing box cages which are closed from every side but the front. Gouldian finches are susceptible to health problems with cold drafts or wind. It is recommended there is an area in their cage or loft where they can escape the breeze. Actual brass cages are not recommended because of potential toxic qualities (although, most cages brass in color are not actually made of brass).
Gouldians are easily disrupted by frequent changes in their housing environment or by movement of their cage. Frequent stress can eventually weaken a birds resistance to disease.
Gouldians need natural sunlight as well as shade. Its housing should allow the birds access to natural sunlight. If this is not possible, full color spectrum "artificial sun light" should be provided (with a timer).
DIET & NUTRITION
The Gouldians primary food is seed (various millets, canary, flax and niger seeds). Although, seed is the principal item in any finches diet, even a good mixture of seeds in not completely sufficient to insure a balanced diet. Nutrient needs change throughout the life of the Gouldian finch and according to the various stages in its life cycle. Other more detailed resources should be consulted to adequately cover this topic.
NOTE: Calcium is extremely important to the Gouldians health in captivity. Generally, a cuttlebone, available at many pet stores, is the easiest method for assuring that this mineral is available however this alone is not enough. We highly recommend making additional vitamins, minerals and trace elements available in your birds grit. Please see our nutrition page for our proven formula.
Crushed egg shells are also very important to satisfy the need for calcium. All egg shells need to be sterilized at 350 degrees for 40 minutes in the oven to kill any traces of salmonella. Sterilizing the egg shells is "mandatory" before feeding them "crushed" to your birds!
Grit is another very important element to the Gouldians diet. Insoluble grit assists the bird in digestion of seed. Many Gouldian owners provide their pets with a few teaspoons of crushed oyster shells and crushed charcoal is mandatory to insure a healthy digestive tract. Gouldians, not exposed to daily sunlight, should be given some form of vitamin D supplement. In fact, a wide spectrum vitamin supplement is recommended by breeders regularly, especially when the birds are going through their molt. It is also recommended to provide your birds with additional calcium and iodine supplements during the molting season to help in the production of their new "very colorful" feathers. Please see our 12 steps to success breeding Gouldians for more information on this topic.
During the egg laying process, many owners and breeders recommend that a baby bird formula or mash be mixed with additional vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Introducing the hatchling-formula is essential when the birds begin laying eggs because it is much easier to regurgitate because of it's ground or mash consistency and is easier for the fledglings to digest. The reason for starting the baby bird formula before the birth of the offspring is to get the parents accustom to it prior to the time it is needed for feeding the young. It is important to have a good nestling food made available to them before the babies hatch. Often, beginners fail to do this because they think they can add nestling food after the eggs hatch. This is the most common reason for babies to be thrown out of the nest. Please visit our shopping pages for our recommended hatchling mix blended specially by Frisky Finches.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Clean fresh water should be maintained at all times in the Gouldian's cage. Daily cleaning and replacement is "highly" recommended.
In the wild Gouldian finches nested in hollowed out trees, empty burrows and other secluded difficult locations. As a rule, Gouldian's are lousy nest builders. Wicker or bamboo nests are sometimes used in captivity as nesting sites however we recommend wooden nest boxes approximately (6x6x10 inches) with an open, "side entry" in the front or porch entry with the nesting area accessed through a 1 1/2 inch round hole for the birds to access the back of the box. The top should open for cleaning and access if necessary. Nesting material can include different tall fescue grass or commercially sold materials. Gouldians would prefer grass for nest building however the store bought materials will work if that is all made available to the birds. We recommend that some nesting material be placed in the nest box prior to the birds laying eggs to pre-form a bowl shaped nest to insure that the eggs remain in a confined area and are not simply laid on the bottom of a nesting box to float around the box without nesting material. This will cause uneven incubation of the eggs and result in a low or no hatch success ratio.
According to some breeders, Gouldians are aviary birds that do not breed well in small cages and do not like to be with other species of finches. Authorities, however, differ on this issue. Aviaries are much larger structures than cages, approximately 50 cubic feet or more in size.
The mating ritual of Gouldian finches is one of the most interesting events to observe. At one stage of the courtship ritual, the cock will jump straight up and down in order to provoke a response from the hen. Both sexes also proceed to bow and shake their beaks to each other. The hen may flutter her tail feathers and cock them or point her tail towards the male. They are private birds, and copulation occurs most often in their nesting box, out of view.
Egg laying usually involves the formation of clutches of four to six eggs however at times as many as 10 will be laid. The eggs emerge approximately once every 24 hours. Active brooding begins after the third egg is laid. Hatching will begin approximately 15 to 18 days after breeding begins. Gouldians may also wait until the very last egg is laid to start incubation. It is very important not to disturb or disrupt the nest during this period. In other words, do not constantly inspect the nest. Full feathered fledglings should appear after approximately 22 days.
We recommend never inspecting the Gouldians nest 2 weeks after the babies are born. Late inspection of the nest may scare the Gouldians and result in abandonment of the babies or the babies leave the nest early which usually ends up to their demise.
During the breeding of Gouldians, the parent birds need to be fed a special diet. Please see the information regarding this in our 12 steps to success breeding the Lady Gouldian Finch.
Owners of Gouldians should not be surprised by their natural molting which normally takes 4 to 6 weeks. It takes 4 to 6 months or longer sometimes up to a year for baby Gouldians to color up and get their adult feathers depending on what time of the year they are hatched which helps explain why they are so expensive. It usually takes closer to 1 year before young Gouldians are ready for sale. Gouldian finches should not be paired for breeding until they have molted into their colored feathers.
It is important not to allow finches that are closely related to produce offspring. Inbreeding weakens the genes and will result in small birds, washed out colors, a weakening of the offspring and eventually the breed.
The most frequently mentioned Gouldian finch health issues are:
A "must read" article on the Lady Gouldian Finch and protozoan infections; Canker, Guardia, Cochlosomosis & Cryptosporidium.
Air sac mites attack a birds respiratory system. These following link offers a number of articles concerning this health problem: - NFSS Article, Air Sac Mites
Egg binding is an especially serious problem effecting female Gouldian finches during the time that they are attempting to lay eggs. We believe one of the causes of this syndrome is a lack of calcium in their system. The egg gets lodged in the birth canal and the Gouldian female is unable to pass it. The female Gouldian would will become so weak that she sits at the bottom of the cage. This is a serious condition and necessitates immediate action. Preferably, it is always best to consult a qualified avian veterinarian. The following link is to articles concerning this health topic: - NFSS Article, Egg Binding
The calcium supplement (calcium gluconate) with 23% liquid calcium has been very effective in assisting in this problem: Please visit our Nutrition & Heath page for this product.
Please visit our introduction to the Lady Gouldian Finch pages and our articles on the 12 steps to success breeding the Lady Gouldian finch for a complete step by step very detailed guide on how to be completely successful with these birds. We go into great detail on exactly what we do, how and when we do it so anyone can achieve total success with the Lady Gouldian Finch. If you have any questions or concerns please contact us, we would love to hear from you.