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Demystifying the Lady Gouldian Finch


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Written by Margaret Rizzuto-Smith
Originally published in The NFSS Bulletin, Vol. 22 No. 4. July-August 2005

Not too hot, not too cold, make sure you have enough light, don’t forget the charcoal, and minerals, and iodine – oh my! While it is true that Gouldians have certain requirements that should be met in order for them to thrive, I think that for finch enthusiasts not to include Gouldians in their collection because of fear is regrettable.

Aside from the stunning beauty of the Lady Gouldian, these are delightful birds. They are endlessly curious with the world around them. They notice and are interested in everything they see, more so than some of the smaller, more active finches. Gouldians seem to be aware of your presence, often cocking their head this way and that when you are near their space in what seems like an expression of both curiosity and fascination. They are passive birds who get along well with other finches of the same personality type. I have noticed time and time again a first time Gouldian buyer who just becomes enchanted with these wonderful little birds and is soon adding more to their collection. I always feel sad when people talk about how they would never keep Gouldians because they are “so hard to keep”. While I readily admit that keeping Gouldians rather than say, Zebra or Society finches, requires a little more thought, the payback is tenfold. To be surrounded by their beauty, stunning colours, soft song, and delightful personalities, is truly a gift.

The Normal green-backed, purple-breasted, black and redheaded (and yellow-headed) Gouldians are the ones found in nature. All others, including Yellow-backed, Dilutes, Blues, and Silvers are mutations. According to several books and articles, Gouldians first entered the U.S. around 1960. In that 45 year period we have learned a lot about keeping Gouldians. This year alone, so far 2 new books have been published no Gouldians: A Guide to Gouldians and Their Mutation, ABK Publications and Gouldian and Finch Health by Dr. Marshall. So while Gouldians have the reputation of being “hard to keep finches’ clearly people are interested in them.

I always recommend that someone new to Gouldians start off with a pair of Normal-backed Gouldians as they are most hardy. Take a little time to do your homework and understand the needs of the Gouldian before you bring them home, you’ll feel more confident and both you and your birds will be happier. One quick search for Gouldians on the Internet will bring you more information than you could read in a month!

Basically, Gouldians, not unlike other finches, need a clean environment, that is to say they should never continually walk in droppings, their water should be changed daily, their cages should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. They love to splash and bathe and while this provides entertainment for you and your birds, baths add to their good health. They do want natural light, especially when breeding, however, not having a sun drenched room in which to house them should not stop you.

Fluorescent lights, especially with a CRI (colour rating indicator) of 90 or higher provides the closest simulation of natural light. Aside from a good seed mix, millet, vitamins and minerals, they will enjoy some fruits and vegetables. As curious as they are they tend to be hesitant about trying new foods, so be patient. I usually place new foods right on top of their seeds so they have to try it (or at least move it around) to get to their seeds. Gouldians love sprouted seeds and many greens, especially dandelion. While warmth is important, you needn’t have a 90 degree room in which to house them. Normal household temperatures of 74-76 degrees seem to be fine. Although, of course if you have a bird that is puffy or showing other symptoms of illness, you should immediately place them under a heat lamp.

I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention that Gouldians do get sick so it’s important to buy your birds from a reputable breeder – check their eyes, vents, activity level before purchasing to make sure you are starting out with a healthy bird. Observe them daily so you can tell immediately if there is a change in their health, meet their requirements and you should have birds that are happy, healthy, and provide you with a great deal of pleasure.

NFSS member Margaret Rizzuto-Smith is a Gouldian enthusiast who has a collection of over 100 Gouldians of all mutations. She is currently corresponding with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in hopes of planning a trip to do some volunteer work. Margaret has recently provided The Bronx Zoo with Gouldians which will become part of their permanent exhibit.

Margaret has a website you can visit at:

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Last updated: February 12, 2006