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Cute, but …

April 5, 2017

European Goldfinch – in Jean-Paul Gaultier outfit?

A property that adjoins ours abounds with blackberry thickets, some sprayed with herbicide in a half-hearted attempt at control. These thickets, both live and dead, currently provide great habitat for a large flock of European Goldfinches, estimated to be perhaps 100 or more. The goldfinches are primarily seed eaters and spend much of their time on the ground, but they are also often seen in among the blackberries, apparently feeding on the shrivelled berries.

And they are extremely wary, flying off in a swirling flock to the nearest tree when disturbed. This makes photographing them difficult, with our limited zoom capacity – thus the poor long-distance shots shown here.

Just a few of the large flock of goldfinches

Introduced as far back as the 1860s, the Europeant Goldfinch has not been as successful as some other introduced birds in spreading across the country, and they are mostly confined to south-eastern Australia.

It’s hard not to like these pretty little birds with their tinkling song (click on the audio bar below to hear it). Perhaps in recognition of this, the collective name for goldfinches is a “charm”.

A rather drab-looking immature goldfinch

But they do seem to feed on many weed species, dispersing the seeds as they move around. And we have seen very large flocks in this district feeding in the vicinity of, and presumably in competition to some extent with, ground-feeding native birds such as Red-browed Finches, Southern Whiteface and Yellow-rumped Thornbill.

So we feel a bit ambivalent about these birds – cute to look at and listen to, but, as with many other introduced species, we’d probably be better off without them.

For more information on the goldfinch, and a much clearer picture, go to BirdLife Australia’s Birds in Backyards website.

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