AWC research at Newhaven in Central Australia has shed new light on the boom and bust cycle of Australia’s deserts – challenging the perception that all arid zone bird populations rise and fall in correlation with high and low seasons of rainfall. For many iconic species at Newhaven, such as the Rufous-crowned Emu-wren, the newly published research suggests it is all boom and no bust.Read more...
Range and abundance
The Zebra Finch is found in most areas of Australia except the wetter coastal districts of the south-west and south-east, and northern parts of the Kimberley, the Top End and Cape York Peninsula. They are the most common and widespread finch in Australia.
An adult Zebra Finch is around 10 cm in length and weighs only 12 g . They are mostly grey and have a black teardrop below the eye which is distinctive among Australian grass-finches. Adult birds have orange-red bills and black and white tail markings. Adult males have an orange cheek patch and orange flanks, while the female is grey. Juveniles look similar to adult females, but with a black bill.
Zebra Finches are one of the fastest maturing birds with only 70 - 80 days between hatching and sexual maturity. This allows them to make the most of good conditions following heavy rainfall. They are social birds, found in flocks of up to 100. They feed mostly on fallen seeds on the ground but may also take insects. Zebra Finches pair for life and both parents care for the eggs and young.
While Zebra Finches are common and widespread, seed-eating birds (including finches) have suffered declines, particularly in tropical and sub-tropical savannas and arid Australia. In Northern Australia these declines have been correlated with grazing intensity. Changed fire regimes are also implicated, as both fire and herbivores affect productivity, species composition and seed yields of the grass layer.
What is AWC doing?
AWC protects zebra finches on many of its Sanctuaries, with a large population at Newhaven. We deliver effective conservation for granivorous birds by implementing effective fire management (prescribed burning) and removal of feral herbivores, including the removal of all cattle from Newhaven Sanctuary. In addition, our ecologists are undertaking strategic research and monitoring designed to annually assess the ecological health (relative abundance and species richness) of granivorous birds on Newhaven Sanctuary.