Jonathan Jones: Extraordinary Finches

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Finches are small birds, about 10cm long, that feed on grasses and seeds. They are found all around Australia, with many being endemic.

Although small, these flocking birds are extraordinarily beautiful, like the endangered Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae), which is bright green and yellow with a purple breast. While most Gouldian finches have a black face, some have red or yellow faces. They are found only in Northern Australia.

In the south-east we have the diamond firetail finch (Stagonopleura guttata). With a white underside, grey head and brown back, they have a brilliant flash of crimson red on the rump, giving rise to their name.

Australian finches, like budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), have become popular pets around the world. The most popular species is the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) from Central Australia, with their distinctive banding along their throat. Finches are fast and small, making them hard to see unless they’re perching. You can often hear them calling, and like many birds in the bush, they can lead you to water.


Each week Jonathan Jones shares stories of native Australian birds, touching on their importance, the issues they face and what we can learn from them. Jones' upcoming artwork for the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art requires thousands of native Australian bird feathers, which he needs your help to find.

Image 1: Gouldian Finches on a branch, photo by Mike Fidler via WWF

Image 2: Diamond Firetails via BirdLife Australia

Image 3: Zebra Finches via BirdLife Australia