Gouldian Finches reoccupy old breeding grounds
Gouldian Finches Chloebia gouldiae have been sighted, for the first time, outside the reserve in North Queensland where a reintroduction project began five years ago. Four adults and up to 16 juveniles were observed in perfect breeding habitat, a few kilometres north of the Mareeba Tropical Savanna and Wetland Reserve.
From millions of birds in the 1950s, the finch has declined steadily across northern Australia. Cattle-grazing deprives the birds of their near-exclusive food source, by preventing grasses from seeding, and changes in fire regimes have created too uniform a landscape for a species that requires a mosaic of habitat.
"We have long suspected the birds were prospecting other areas in the vicinity. This sighting of two breeding pairs and their offspring proves we have established a breeding population in the Mareeba district, after an absence of over 40 years." —Julie Deleyev, Warden, Mareeba Wetland Foundation
Gouldian Finches died out in Mareeba and the surrounding area of North-east Queensland in the 1960s. The total wild adult population is fewer than 2,500 individuals. The species is common in captivity, though many are bred as colour mutants, and have lost genetic variability and resistance to disease.
In March 2002, 20 juveniles were released at Mareeba, following a collaboration between the Mareeba Wetland Foundation, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, James Cook University and local amateur aviculturalists, to source a genetically variable population of local provenance. The Foundation also introduced a sustainable fire regime, similar to that traditionally used by the indigenous Muluridji people.