12 January 2012

Red-browed Firetail finches

Twenty years ago my husband and I moved into an old house with bare paddocks surrounding it.  Since then we have gone to a great deal of effort to provide habitat for the little birds and have been rewarded with Blue Wrens and Red-browed Firetail finches living here all year round.  Shade trees shelter the house and lots of shrubberies and water sources have been provided for the birds. One small shallow bird bath sits outside my study window and gives me endless hours of entertainment. 

A tiny little bird has been coming for a bath every afternoon for a couple of weeks now and I have been attempting to photograph it so I can work out what it is.  It is so quick and shy that I haven’t managed to capture a decent photograph of it - yet.  Instead I took some photos of a family of Red-browed Firetails finches.  First Mum or Dad came down and scouted out the area.  He or she disappeared and the youngsters appeared one at a time.  This baby is looking to see if it is safe before it flies down for a drink. Very hard to spot isn't it?

Once safety was assured four little ones and their parents came down for a drink and then they disappeared almost as quickly as they had come.

Mum or Dad is keeping watch and four little youngsters all in a row are having a drink.  Notice the parent has a red bill and the babies have a black bill.  As they mature their bill changes to red and they develop the red brow like their parents.  Male and female adults are very similar.

Red-browed Firetails usually hang around together in small flocks.  We have seen well over 50 at certain times of the year, generally when the grasses in the "lawn" are seeding. They usually eat grass seeds whilst on the ground. .  It looks messy and untidy I suppose but I would rather see all the little birds than have a perfectly manicured area of grass.

Now with our plantings they remain most of the year. 

Very occasionally we put out seed for them which they seem to enjoy.

We notice they are often in company with Blue Wrens.  Perhaps the seed eaters stir up little insects which the wrens make short work of.  When disturbed the whole flock will fly up a short distance and then move somewhere else as a flock, generally not far away.

Red-browed Firetail finches build an untidy large domed nest with an entrance on the side, generally out of grass and small twigs 2 to 3 metres above the ground in dense scrub.  Both parents share nest building and care of the eggs and young.  They can have 2-3 sittings per year when times are good.  Youngsters are able to care for themselves about a month later.
We were delighted to see that the Fire Tails are breeding successfully in our garden.

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