Australia’s Gouldian finch populations have dropped significantly in the last century. There once were hundreds of thousands of Gouldians in the wild, but habitat clearing, fires, parasites, and trapping reduced them to just a few thousand speciments in the mid-2000s.
The Gouldian finch’s fortunes may be changing though, with increasingly large flocks of birds being spotted in the Kimberly and north Queensland in recent years.
Earlier this year, volunteers from the Queensland Gouldian Finch Study were understandably stunned to encounter flocks of up to 200 birds near Cairns, an area where they were thought to have largely disappeared.
From Australian Geographic:
Happily, since 2018, QGFS volunteers have located sizeable flocks, found nests and confirmed successful breeding, none of which had been documented in Queensland for decades. By understanding why the birds are now recovering on some properties, QGFS is aiming to develop Gouldian-friendly land management guidelines.
Light grazing and relatively infrequent fire are likely key factors in creating the ideal habitat for Queensland populations. Most areas with breeding birds haven’t burnt for seven or eight years according to a 2019 QGFS report, a comparatively long time for Queensland’s savannahs.
Hopefully this trend continues and we see giant flocks return to the skies of northern Australia once more.