Gouldian chicks shine light on fresh season

After a long wet, Gouldian finch chicks are among the wild babies starting to hatch in the East Kimberley.

Macquarie University behavioural ecologist Sarah Pryke is hoping for a bumper season, with heavy rains fueling more grass for the endangered birds to eat during the nesting period.

“We definitely have loads of nests started and chicks looking really good and healthy and doing well,” Dr Pryke said.

She said although finches in some areas would be affected by bush fires, which razed the grasslands on which they fed, those birds were still nesting.

Gouldian finch eggs incubate for about two weeks. The chicks are born naked and don’t start to grow feathers for about 10 days.

Their only distinctive marking is a series of blue dots inside their mouths, which show ultraviolet light so their parents can find them inside the dark cavities where they nest.

“The markings reflect really strongly in ultraviolet light which we obviously can’t see but birds can,” she said.

“The mouth markings are like little fluorescent glow markers so they guide the parents when they come into the nest to feed them to where the chick’s mouth is.”

Once hatched, the young finches stay in the nest about 30 days.

“To get the chicks out the nest the parents actually starve them, then they call and call and it takes forever and finally they come out of the nest,” Dr Pryke said.

The Gouldian finch is a popular aviary bird which is native to the East Kimberley, but only about 2000 remain in the wild.

Dr Pryke monitors the birds in conjunction with the Save the Gouldian Fund at Wyndham.

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