How to Take Care of Gouldian Finches
Chloebia gouldiae (Gould) 1844
In 1844, John Gould named this colorful little finch Amadina. Over the decades, other ornithologists renamed this species several times. Today its scientific name is Chloebia gouldiae (Gould) 1844. It is of the family ESTRILDIDAE which includes the finches and waxbills. There are 107 species in the family, including Zebra Finches, Society Finches and Java Sparrows.
It is sad to see any birds caged and kept in captivity. It seems to be human nature to want to rescue birds that are in crowded cages in pet stores. One’s reasoning, whether logical or not, is that the poor little birds are too crowded together in there, perhaps not looked after properly and they need to be purchased and taken to a good and safe home where people are not knocking on their cage all day, scaring them. I know. And then, of course, the dilemma becomes, “What if I accidentally buy a female and a male – and they mate? Then I’m as bad as the people who capture these poor little birds in Australia and other tropical countries.”
I will leave the subject of ‘To Breed or Not to Breed’ for someone else to write about. This article is written under the assumption that someone reading this might want to buy only one gender of Gouldian Finches and thus relieve us both of any pricklings of conscience.
Gouldians are Native to Australia
Gouldians are indigenous to Australia – Northern Australia – and into Southern Australia only to the 19th parallel of latitude. Gouldians are accustomed to higher humidity than many birds. If these birds are kept in the house, the bird room needs to be misted several times a day. A temperature above 68 F with humidity at 60% is acceptable. A temperature of 75 F with humidity close to 70% would be better.
A Gouldian is a Delicate Little Bird
A Gouldian is a delicate little bird. On average, a Gouldian is five and one-half inches long from the tip of its bill to the end of its tail feathers. The face or head colors of the females and the juveniles are paler than the males. The main colors of the Gouldians are black-faced, red-faced or yellow-faced. Some bird keepers label these colors instead as black-headed, red-headed and yellow-headed. There are other mutated varieties due to breeding in captivity such as lutino, pied and blue-breasted.
Keeping Gouldians Safe From Enemies
If you live in an acceptable climate for Gouldians and build an outdoor aviary for them, the mesh should be three-eights by one inch in order to protect the birds. Galvanized wire mesh needs to be buried deep in the ground around the aviary area to keep mice, weasels, cats and rats out. The mice will not eat the birds but can contaminate the drinking water and the food. Also the mammals can bring other enemies into the aviary: parasitic arthropods such as ticks, lice, mites and fleas.
Providing for your Gouldians
Necessities in the cage or aviary of the Gouldians are proper types of food, drinking water/ bathing water, grit, perches and a cuttlebone. (Nests, the proper type and size, are needed if breeding is expected, but that’s not my subject here.) The perches should be of varying diameters so that each bird can develop muscle tone. The perches should not have abrasive textures for the purpose of keeping the birds’ claws clipped. Clipping of the claws should be done by hand carefully – and not so short that the blood vessel is cut.
Birds should not be crowded into small cages. Three cubic feet will nicely accommodate two Gouldians. For each additional bird in the cage, another cubic foot is needed.
Eating and Drinking
The main staple of food for these little birds is millet, but it cannot be the only food offered. The Gouldian Finches need a variety of types of millet and also canary seed, poppy, sesame and hemp. Hard-boiled egg, eggshell, charcoal, cuttlebone, grit and some fresh vegetables should be offered regularly. A mineral block is also important to the Gouldians in captivity. The mineral block can be purchased at the pet shop.
The mineral block should contain:
- sodium chloride
- calcium carbonate
- traces of iron
- trace of copper
- trace of potassium
- traces of phosphorus
- trace of sulphur
- and trace of iodine.
The cuttlebone should not be used as a substitute for the mineral block. The cuttlebone is for the bird to sharpen his or her beak, but is also a good source of calcium. However, it does not provide the traces of other minerals the Gouldians require. And it is important to note, Gouldians, like all birds, need direct, unfiltered sunlight to obtain Vitamin D which is required in order for the calcium in the cuttlebone and egg shells to be utilized properly.
Gouldian Finches need their diet to contain at least 19% protein. These birds take the hull off each seed and eat the little kernels within. Canary seeds are especially good for Gouldians because they have the very amino acids Gouldians need and do not get from millet.
If left alone in their native habitat, Gouldians are eaters of insects or, one could say, they are highly insectivorous. One of their favorite delicacies is termites. Experienced Gouldian bird keepers say if you go to your local pet shop and pick up some fresh insects for the Gouldians in your aviary – and if they have never dined on live food previously – they likely will not partake. But if you have other species of finches in the aviary who regularly eat live insects, the Gouldians will soon learn to do so. Society Finches are very sociable and helpful as role models this way.
Don't be Obsessive about Their Drinking of the Bathwater
Gouldians thrive on a high-protein, high-fat and high-vitamin food supplement or a source for these such as French Toast in small portions. This should not be in lieu of their regular diet, but as a supplemental treat. Most Gouldians really like orange juice, honey and tastes of peanut butter.
Birds need water. The Gouldians will drink the bath water and they will bathe in the drinking water. There is no stopping this. Scrub the water dishes a couple of times a day. Always have clear, fresh water set out for the birds.
First Day out of Nest -- Young Gouldian Finch
Inquisitive, Careful little Creatures
Gouldians are smart little creatures and inquisitive, but they are not the kind of bird that will sit on your shoulder and put their head down for you to scratch them on the neck. If the aviary owner has a nice, calm routine of cleaning the aviary, leaving food and water and talking to the birds every day, Gouldians do show their trust by learning to bath with their human aviary-keepers nearby. Birds instinctively know they cannot fly to safety if they are drenched in water, so they are very careful about their whereabouts while bathing. When they enjoy a splashy little bath with their caretakers in close proximity, it is a sign that there is a bond of trust.
Almost Too Beautiful to Be True
Gouldians are an artist’s dream for colors and variation. And yet, when drawn and painted, the finished picture does not look real – no matter how realistically depicted. Gouldians are so exquisitely beautiful; they seem too good to be true.
Source of this information
Information for this hub was taken from the book, "Gouldian Finches" by Mervin F. Roberts. TFH Publications Inc. 1984
Save the Gouldians, a non-profit agency in Australia
- Lady Gouldian Finch Photographs
Our collection of beautiful photographs of Lady Gouldian Finches with several other species of finches including the Owl Finch, Zebra Finch, Double Bar Finch, Long-tail Finch, Star Finch, Masked Finch, Budgie, Budgerigar, Chestnut Breasted Mannikin a
© 2012 Pamela Kinnaird W