Saving the RB Finches

To: 'John Harris' <>, 'chatline' <>
Subject: Saving the RB Finches
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Fri, 6 Mar 2020 02:19:16 +0000

It is a nice story. Interesting that “all those nice people” did not send messages via  I am currently reading a big book (327 pages): “The birds at my table” by Prof. Darryl Jones (who also wrote the book “Magpie Alert”). It goes into all of those issues (related to feeding of wild birds). Even though he is based at Griffith Uni in Brisbane, much of the context is based on Europe & North America, where the issues are in part different. I also have a contact who lives near Mt Taylor in Kambah and he has a sort of similar story with a flock of Double barred Finches. Many years ago (mid 1970s) when I kept finches, I always noted that apart from the always available commercial seed, whenever I would go and collect just ordinary seeding grasses from suburban lawns and parks and put that down, all the finches would immediately come to that. They obviously liked it.




From: John Harris [
Sent: Friday, 6 March, 2020 9:55 AM
To: chatline
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Saving the RB Finches


Thank you to all those nice people who have contacted me and encouraged me to keep trying to look after the Red-browed Finches. It is WE who have degraded their habitat so the least we can do is try to supplement their now meagre resources. We just have to be sensible about what we do. I buy clean seed from Hall produce but I think you can get untreated seed at pet shops too. I avoid supermarket packets which have vitamin and mineral supplements (sometimes dyed bright colours so you can see they stuff is there! Dye can’t be good for caged birds  either.) I don’t believe that I am creating dependency but surely even dependency is better than death!

I wonder how I could explain to a finch that I was not going to feed them any more to avoid dependency? I wonder what they would think?

Seriously, however, I  will keep the chatline informed on the status of the flock.






From: John Harris <>
Date: Thursday, 5 March 2020 at 6:18 pm
To: chatline <>
Subject: [canberrabirds] Saving the RB Finches


I think I have managed to rescue the little local flock of Red-browed Finches which inhabit the native grasses on the little Ginninderra Creek floodplain behind Kangaroo Close Nicholls.

I have always fed them and I know that there are those who say we should not. However, over the past few years I have become certain that I have ensured their survival.

Over 20 years, I have seen their numbers increase from half a dozen to a little flock of 30. All 30 came to my seed tray. I don’t claim responsibility for the increase but I am part of their foraging environment. They brought their young here and fed them. And of course I daily saw the flock wheel above the grasses. If I whistled them they would come to the back patio.

For about 3 years the flock has been gradually reducing. The native grasses have suffered due to drought and ever increasing areas of native grasses did not seed except those closest to the bank of Ginninderra Creek. However, before this breeding season, Ginninderra Creek totally dried up and the native grasses browned off and flattened completely.

The RBFs became much more frequent visitors to my back patio and began calling to me. They started coming to me every time they saw me in the back yard and being very insistent that I put out more seed.

They eventually took up semi-permanent residence in my shrubbery, drank from the bird bath and waited around all day for food.

While the rain has brought growth to the grasses, they have not yet seeded and even on a rainy day like today the finches shelter in my fruit trees and wait for me or fly about if they see me. I do not think there are any other food sources now.

The flock now numbers 15, a 50% reduction.  It is a while since I have seen any young fledgelings.

I don’t think I have changed their normal habits. I think they had nowhere else to go and I became the only alternative.

But I think I have managed to save the flock. I am excited at the prospect that I will see more native food available and that the flock will once more increase.






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