Threatened Species Day Fact Sheet
Environment Australia, 2002
Helping the Finch fly free!
The nationally endangered Gouldian Finch is a small, brightly coloured bird, sometimes known as the Painted or Rainbow Finch. Once common throughout savannah woodlands across Northern Australia, it is now restricted to a few small and scattered populations.
The Gouldian Finch so impressed discoverer John Gould with its gorgeous plumage that he named it after his late wife. The beautiful colour of their plumage also appealed to bird enthusiasts, and large numbers were harvested for the local and international captive bird trade up until the early 1980's.
In the dry season, Gouldian Finches inhabit wooded hills, where they can breed in the tree hollows of smooth-barked eucalypts. During this time they only eat seeds that have fallen to the ground.
At the end of the dry season they fly to lowland drainage areas where they can feed on native grasses such as Sorghum. They collect the seeds by climbing between the vertical grasses.
Fire plays a large role in influencing their local distribution. In the dry season they are dependent on fire to burn the undergrowth so that they can find seeds on the ground. In the wet season they prefer to live in areas which have been burned in the previous dry season. This produces lush new growth with plenty of seeds for food.
Grazing by feral horses and pigs and inappropriate fire regimes are thought to be the most likely activities to have impacted upon Gouldian Finches. The Gouldian Finch is also threatened by over-harvesting by unlicensed bird trappers, competition for resources, introduced diseases and vegetation changes as a result of fire and land clearing.
Waterhole monitoring is being undertaken in the Yinberrie Hills in the Northern Territory, where the highest number of Gouldian Finches occur. This is helping to provide more information about their biology and ecology, and to gain a better understanding of this fascinating bird.
Radio tracking is also being used to monitor the daily home ranges of Gouldian Finches and to learn more about what species of grass are used as food sources. The results from the radio tracking will be used to identify feeding sites and to work out how far the finches will fly to find food. This information will help to develop management strategies to protect entire Gouldian Finch populations.
You can help protect the Gouldian Finch and other threatened species by:
- volunteering to become involved in water hole monitoring of Gouldian Finches;
- protecting the habitat of all our native species including the Gouldian Finch; and
- supporting local efforts to conserve threatened species in your area by joining a local conservation, 'friends' or Bushcare group, or by volunteering for Conservation Volunteers Australia.
For more information on helping threatened species in Northern Territory contact the Threatened Species Network Coordinator:
Telephone: 08 8952 1541
You can also find out more information about Australia's threatened species by calling the Department of the Environment and Heritage's Community Information Unit on free call 1800 803 772 or by visiting the Department of the Environment and Heritage's threatened species web site at www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened
Cycads existed over 250 million years ago - before the age of the dinosaurs. On the surface cycads appear similar to palms, however they differ in their structure and their reproductive behaviour. They are slow growing, reproduce infrequently and their distribution is often highly restricted. Several species have become extinct in the wild, and many more are seriously endangered.
The MacDonnell Ranges Cycad is nationally listed as vulnerable. It grows to 3 metres tall and is characterised by its massive female cones (up to 20 kilograms) and huge seeds. It is restricted to the southern ranges in the Northern Territory.
The Cycad is found in sheltered gorges and in shaded sites on and around hills. Its severely fragmented populations are threatened by fire and illegal collecting. It is thought that the decline in the Black-footed Rock-wallaby populations may also have had an adverse effect on dispersal of cycad seeds.
Illustration: Barbara Cameron-Smith