The Brown-rumped Seedeater (Serinus tristriatus) of Ethiopia is a very common bird in the city of Addis Ababa. It is the common finch like bird of the suburbs and I observed it on my recent trip there in large numbers. In some respects it is like the House Sparrow here in Australia and its habits and habitat is very similar. They even look similar.
It was very common in the grounds and gardens of the school where my daughter was teaching. Like the sparrows we know, they were the ground cleaners in the lunch areas and other parts of the school where the children ate their lunches. Any little scrap or morsel was pounced upon and devoured.
It actually took me quite a while to accurately identify this bird. This is because Ethiopia has many “little brown birds” that can cause so much confusion.
Earlier this year we stayed with friends in Victor Harbor on the south coast of South Australia. While we were there they took us to look at his sister’s extensive garden. While the others were having a good look around at the various plants, I found myself a seat near a bird feeder next to the house.
It wasn’t long before several Red-browed Finches came along for a snack. This sighting was a delight for me as we don’t have finches regularly in our garden and certainly not this lovely species. We occasionally will play host to Diamond Firetail Finches and I’ve also recorded Zebra Finches a few times.
We’d just finished lunch a while ago and were sitting on our back veranda enjoying a cuppa. The barbecue I’d coked had been delicious and the weather was fine. I was absorbed in a novel I’m reading when my wife suddenly drew my attention to a canary on the ground about three metres away.
I quietly went inside to get my camera and it stayed long enough for me to take about a dozen photos. The best ones are shown here. It has obviously escaped from someone’s aviary; they are certainly not native to Australia. Two or our nearest neighbours keep canaries so it may well have escaped from their aviaries. It was very tame, allowing me to approach to within a metre or two, but wary enough to keep out of reach. Catching it poses a few problems.
The Gouldian Finch of northern Australia is one of our more spectacularly coloured bird species. Sadly, it is one species I have yet to see in its natural environment. (The photo above was taken through the wire netting of an aviary at the Adelaide Zoo.)
Gouldian Finches are unusual in that their heads are usually black, but about a quarter of them are red with a few being yellow. Both males and females show this colour variation.
Finches are very popular cage birds both here and overseas. The Gouldians are much prized aviary birds, probably due to their stunning colours.
Being predominantly seed eaters, Gouldian Finches are found in grasslands, open scrublands and spinifex country. Due to disease and seasonal burning of their habitats, this species has endangered status.
I regularly receive comments and questions about birds on this blog. I also receive comments and questions via my contact page here. I welcome these interactions with my readers.
This morning I received a question from a reader who is concerned about the finches in their garden.
We have been establishing a large area of garden for finches. Unfortunately I have a few crows now living around as they have decided my chook pen is a good restaurant. I have now cut off the egg supply but they are still around. Will they be deterring the finches from living here and are they a threat to them?
Thanks to Lee for that question.
Lee should be congratulated for these gardening aims. I assume that you have done your homework and planted bushes and grasses suitable to attract birds in general, not just finches. Finches – along with many of our smaller birds like honeyeaters, thornbills, weebills, chats, wrens and pardalotes – require a certain level of bushy shrubs to feel safe from predators. Plants like callistemons, grevilleas, melaleucas and hakeas provide protection, food sources, nesting sites and roosting sites.
Finches, being primarily seed eaters, also require a range of native grasses. These are becoming increasingly popular in gardens, not just to attract birds. Their colours and textures add significantly to the Australian feel of a native garden. Finches also love a reliable source of water, so a bird bath is essential to keep them around.
Crows, ravens, butcherbirds, currawongs and even magpies are all species that will raid the nests of smaller species of birds, including finches. They often take eggs and will also raid nests for the hatchlings. This is the natural cycle of life. Birds of prey such as falcons, hawks and kites will also raid nests, and also have the ability to take the adult birds resting or even flying.
The crows in your garden are probably resident birds. This means that they are not only present every day, they breed there or nearby. Your chook pen just provided them with an easy option. Closing access to the chook eggs was just a temporary setback to them. There must be sufficient food available for them to hang around.
Providing the finches have sufficient protection, a reliable food source, nesting and roosting sites, they should thrive in your garden. The crows and other predatory species I mentioned are a threat but probably not a deterrent.
For more information about Australian plants go to my wife’s blog: Mallee Native Plants
Good gardening – and enjoy your birds.