Ian’s Bird of the Week – Plum-headed Finches ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 6-28-14
Bird of the week numbering has been a bit wonky lately, two #502s, no #503 to compensate, and two #504s and the one previous to this, Halls Babbler was #506 and should have been #507. Hopefully, we are back on track now with #508, the Plum-headed Finch. One of my favourite methods of bird photography is to relax by a water-hole in a comfortable camping chair and see what comes along. I did this at Bowra in April, and was treated to several pairs of Plum-headed Finches, presumably breeding as a result of rain several weeks earlier.
The ‘plum’ bit refers to the gorgeous cap, dark and extensive in the male, above, or paler and less extensive in the female, which has consequently space for a white eye-stripe. Males have black chins, females white ones. The specific modesta presumably refers to the understated colours, but I think the barred breast and flanks make them look very smart, and it’s always a pleasure to see them.
The genus Neochmia contains only three other species, all of them Australian: Star, Red-browed and Crimson Finches, and none barred, so the Plum-headed looks quite distinctive. In the past it has been placed in its own genus, but mitochondrial studies show that it’s quite closely related to both the Star and Red-browed Finches.
They have quite a widespread distribution in Queensland and New South Wales, but mainly inland and rather patchy. With an average length of 11cm/4.3in, they’re quite small. They’re popular as cage birds and used to be trapped a lot, but have been protected since 1972.
The bird in the fourth photo was photographed in the light of the setting sun, hence the lovely glow. I’ve been on the road for a few days taking (almost) the last location photos for Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland so I’ll keep this short. One more day trip along the inland route to Paluma, and that’s it.
Links to the other members of the tribe:
Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. (Genesis 1:30 NKJV)
What a neat looking Finch, Ian. Thanks again for sharing with us. Plum-headed Finches belong to the Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias & Allies Family which has 141 species.
- Estrildid Finches, Firetails, Munias & Allies
- Plum-headed Finch
- Red-browed Finch
- Crimson Finch
- Star Finch
- Ian’s Bird of the Week
- Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias & Allies
- Waxbills (Estrildidae) – IBC
- Estrildid finch – Wikipedia