It’s a bird seemingly too colorful for reality, but the Gouldian Finch really does exist – barely. It’s one of Australia’s rarest, most endangered, and most sought-after birds, and Mornington happens to be one of the best places to see it. In fact, the Gouldian Finch is one of the main reasons the Australian Wildlife Conservancy acquired this property at all.

Gouldians formerly ranged across northern Australia but populations were decimated by trapping (for the pet trade) and habitat loss. Today they’re found in just a few scattered areas, and may number fewer than 2,000 wild birds. At Mornington, though, they’re fairly common, and I see these guys just about every day. Researchers here have studied Gouldians intensively over the last decade since they’re a good indicator of tropical savannah habitat quality.

Interestingly, there are three color morphs. About 80% have fully black heads, but 20% have red heads (like the one in the photo, which I took this morning). If you’ve done your math, that leaves zero percent for the last morph, the near-mythical golden-headed Gouldian, which is so rare that it basically exists only in captivity. The genes are out there, though, so, even though a golden-headed one has never been seen at Mornington, it could happen…

4 replies
  1. John Sullivan
    John Sullivan says:

    Wow, what an amazing display of fantastic, contrasting colors! At least seven not counting the bare parts, I’m guessing the back and tail will add at least a couple more. We’ve enjoyed following your Awesome Aussie Adventures posts, Noah. May the Golden-headed Gouldian appear before you one day!

    John & Laura

  2. Diane Strycker
    Diane Strycker says:

    I continue to enjoy your blog very much. But I was wondering a couple of things. How is it decided what your tasks are, and secondly, how is it decided who does what (who goes on these long camping trips, canoe trips, etc.)?

  3. Denise Hamilton
    Denise Hamilton says:

    Greetings, Noah! This is the first time I checked out your blog. Wow! I would have succumbed to the heat long ago. My husband and I stayed at Mary River Park, on the Arnhem Hwy, NT, in Aug ’05. The local guide gave us directions to a small, wet area (also looked like it was used as a dump) where a Gouldian Finch flock can be found in the early morning. It was a good size flock of those beautiful little birds! (I’ll have to look back at our pics to check out head color.) We are in the midst of planning our trip to Australia in Nov.- when it will be much cooler weather.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog, and seeing those beautiful bird pictures you take!

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