Finches of Far North Queensland

To: "Michael J Hunter" <>
Subject: Finches of Far North Queensland
From: Michael Todd <>
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001 17:49:52 +1100
Hello Michael and other finch-lovers,

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study some northern Australian finches between 1998 and 2000 when I was working for the Tropical Savannas CRC. I was employed to investigate the ecology of the Star Finch (particularly Neochmia ruficauda clarescens) and the Crimson Finch (particularly Neochmia phaeton evangelinae) but I collected some info on other finches as well.

One of the most interesting finches I encountered was the Lesser Red-browed Finch, Neochmia temporalis minor, as you say. One of the reasons that I found it most interesting was that I studied the Greater Red-browed Finch (as I love to call it!) for my honours project in Newcastle in around 1995. So, I was very familiar with this bird in the hand and it was quite a shock when I first handled Lessers. They are a good 2 grams lighter than Greaters, which is quite a lot when you consider that Greaters are only around 10 grams to start with! The Lessers are noticeably brighter in colour, paler below, and brighter above. They lack the green-golden mantle of the greaters. The other interesting feature is that approximately 50% of birds have black undertail coverts, the other 50% having grey undertail coverts like the Greaters do. Now, aviculturalists swear black and blue that only the males have black ut coverts. While I can't say that I know absolutely that this is true, I'll be surprised if they aren't sexually dimorphic. Surely this feature alone makes them different to Greater Red-brows.

There was one other feature that I believe to be consistently different between the 2 subspecies. The Lesser seems to have a disproportionately narrower bill than you would expect when compared to the Greater. We are still in the process of analysing the measurement data.

Anyway, I agree that north Queensland has some wonderful finches, certainly in comparison to finch-poor Griffith! Give me a Red-browed Finch for a House Sparrow anyday!


Mick Todd
Griffith, NSW

At 09:18 PM 13/11/01 +1100, you wrote:
  Hi All,
  Of the nine native finches of FNQ, three, namely the Crimson, Masked and
Red-browed, have local races with particularly attractive colours.
  The back and mantle of Red-browed Finches from about Cooktown north are
bright golden and glow in the sun. The scarlet browline becomes wider
behind, and neck and throat are off-white rather than grey, altogether a
brighter bird than the southern races, and it is smaller, thus the
subspecific name of  "minor".
  We saw a flock of about twenty behind the mangroves at Portland Roads last
week, quite a sight.
  The Cape York form "leucotis" of the Masked Finch is a richer brown than
the  WA/NT race, and has white cheeks which accent the black face and yellow
bill.. Seen near Lotusbird Lodge with Black-throated Finches (black-rumped
race) in open woodland having been flushed from seeding grass on the
   The beautiful "evangeline" is a white-bellied form of the Crimson Finch
rather than the black-bellied, the latter occurring in WA/NT and
north-eastern Qld south of Lakefield N.P.We mistakenly looked for
evangelinae at the crocodile farm south of Cairns, finding
the black-bellied instead.
  The other six finches in FNQ are Double-barred Finch (white rumped race),
yellow-bellied "clarescens" race of the Star Finch, Chestnut-breasted
Mannikin, Gouldian, and Blue-faced Parrot finch. Other than the Blue-faced,
seen on Mt. Lewis, these are variously more easily seen in the Top End or
around Kunnunurra, or even as far south as Sydney.

Michael Hunter
Mulgoa Valley
50km west of Sydney Harbour Bridge

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