Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Finch

Masked Finch (Poephila personata) by Ian

Masked Finch (Poephila personata) by Ian

Newsletter: 12/26/2009

Here is yet another beautiful finch from northern Australia, the Masked Finch, which we encountered on the recent trip to Cape York Peninsula. There are two races. This one, the ‘White-eared Finch’ (Poephila personata leucotis) occurs only on Cape York, while the nominate brown cheeked race (personata) occurs from northwestern Queensland through the top end of the Northern Territory to the Kimberley district of northern Western Australia. Both races are distinguishable from the closely related Black-throated and Long-tailed Finches (P. cincta and P. acuticauda respectively) by having large yellow bills, brown, rather than grey, crowns and only a small area of black on the chin.

Masked Finch (Poephila personata)2 by Ian

Masked Finch (Poephila personata)2 by Ian

We encountered these individuals at the fruit quarantine station near Coen in central Cape York Peninsula. The station provides a bird bath in the small park where we finished off some fruit and the bath was popular with both Masked Finches and the northern (black-rumped) race of the Black-throated Finch.

Masked Finches feed, like their, relatives mainly on grass seeds. So they feed mainly on the ground, but will retreat into bushes and trees when disturbed. The easiest way to find them is usually at waterholes in the dry season where they come in, often in large numbers, to drink and bathe. Masked Finches build globular nests in bushes and trees and will sometimes use the old burrows of kingfishers in termite mounds.

Links:
Black-throated Finch
Long-tailed Finch
Masked Finch (including the western brown-cheeked race)
Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Black-throated Finch (Poephila cincta) by Ian

Black-throated Finch (Poephila cincta) by Ian

Long-tailed Finch (Poephila acuticauda) by Ian

Long-tailed Finch (Poephila acuticauda) by Ian

Lee’s Addition:

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? (Luke 12:6 KJV)

These are in the Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias & Allies family of the Passeriformes Order.

“The Masked Finch (Poephila personata) is a small passerine bird in the estrildid finch family, Estrildidae. The estrildid finches are small passerine birds of the Old World tropics and Australasia. They can be classified as the family Estrildidae (weaver-finch), or previously as a sub-group within the family Passeridae, which also includes the true sparrows.[It is a common resident of dry savanna across northern Australia, from the Kimberley, across the Top End, the Gulf country and the southern part of Cape York Peninsula, as far east as Chillagoe, but always near water.

It is 12.5-13.5 cm (4.9-5.3 in) long. The male is larger but the sexes are otherwise similar. It is cinnamon-brown above and paler below with a white rump, black mark on the flanks and black face mask. It has a heavy yellow bill and a pointed black tail. The eastern subspecies P. p. leucotis has whitish cheeks.

Pairs or small flocks forage through the day, mostly on the ground for fallen grass seeds. In the evenings and early mornings, large numbers—sometimes thousands— can gather around waterholes to drink, bathe, and preen, flicking their tails sideways and chattering incessantly.

Pairs build a domed nest from grasses, lined with fine grass, feathers, and charcoal, in the late wet season or early dry. The nest position varies: it can be as high as 20 metres or simply hidden in long grass. Five to six white eggs are laid.” -From Wikipedia

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