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How to Take Care of Gouldian Finches

Updated on June 19, 2014
Gouldian Finch at Frankfurt Zoo
Gouldian Finch at Frankfurt Zoo | Source

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.

Nigel Jacques, photographer. Sharing under Attribution 2.5.
Nigel Jacques, photographer. Sharing under Attribution 2.5. | Source

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.

Attributed to Dana Sibera, contributor to Wikimedia Images
Attributed to Dana Sibera, contributor to Wikimedia Images | Source

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.

Adult male, double factor yellow back Gouldian Finch
Adult male, double factor yellow back Gouldian Finch | Source

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

Young Gouldian Finch, first day out of nest.
Young Gouldian Finch, first day out of nest. | Source

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


© 2012 Pamela Dapples


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    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      5 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      miacarter, you may be right. Thank you for the correction if you are and welcome to Hubpages.

    • miacarter profile image

      Mia Carter 

      5 years ago from SW Florida

      Just a quick note: The gouldian finch head colors are black, red and orange (you wrote yellow.)

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      5 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      You're lucky to live in a place with so many birds -- beautiful birds.

      Thank you for visiting.

    • David Trujillo profile image

      David Trujillo Uribe 

      5 years ago from Medellin, Colombia

      Beautiful pictures you got there. I live in a farm in rural Colombia, Cauca Valley. Every afternoon flocks of birds come down from the mountains to nest to a nearby lake. The spectacle of colors is amazing! I like to go down there and just watch them play with the wind and water for hours. I usually go with a book, but never get too far while bird-watching.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      DDE, do love drab-colored birds, too, but these little ones sure do draw one's attention in a photo. I love 'em.

      Thanks for your comment and your vote.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Beautiful pictures and helpful to most with interest of keeping such birds they are so colorful! Voted up!

    • LupitaRonquillo profile image


      6 years ago

      Yes they are, and it was my pleasure :) I love watching birds!!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      LupitaRonquillo, Gouldian Finches are gorgeous, aren't they? Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting.

    • LupitaRonquillo profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful little creatures! Birds are especially interesting to watch! Makes me think how nature is all around us, yet most people nowadays are so in a hurry they don't take the time to observe it, much less read about. Voted up!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Yes, they are so gorgeous -- and so sweet. Thanks for visiting, unknown spy.

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      WWoow!! never seen such a beautiful bird! shared

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Well, don't I wish, drbj? A Gouldian Guardian I have truly wanted to be, but my husband has never wanted it with me, so not yet.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      They truly are, as you say, magnificent. Thanks for stopping by to read, aviannovice.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      6 years ago from south Florida

      What beautiful, remarkable rainbow-looking birds, Pamela. Their coloring is extraordinary. With this laudable hub, I nominate you as a Gouldian Guardian.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      What gorgeous little finches. The colors are magnificent.


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