Plumage patterns of the Gouldian finch

An endangered Australian bird is about to answer how birds have maintained their beauty.

Two variations of the Gouldian Finch. One finch has a black head and the other has a red head.
Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae)

The Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae) is one of the most popular birds amongst pet lovers. In the wild, this finch shows three heritable and naturally co-occurring head colours: black, red and yellow in both sexes.

In addition to the head colour variations, the Gouldian finch is one of the most brightly coloured song bird with a black and white tail, deep blue rump, bright green wings and back, yellow belly, violet-purple breast and a brilliant azure-blue collar bordering the head mask.

Interestingly, red birds are in the highest rank followed by black and yellow birds; birds with same head colours seem to have preferences to mate with same coloured birds. Then do we have to consider these birds as the same species? Unfortunately we don't know yet much about how these colours have been maintained through evolution and speciation.

The project is mainly focused on the genetic basis of these colour morphs in the Gouldian finch. By linkage mapping of pedigreed birds, we are trying to locate and identify some genes involved in the colour patterns. With these genes in our hands, we would be able to test whether social relationship derived from the face colour could influence their genome evolution by comparing DNA sequences.


Kang-Wook Kim, Postgraduate student (2008-2012)

Email : Kang-Wook Kim

Sue Bird (2006-2007)

Dr Deborah Dawson (2006-2012)

Dr Gavin Horsburgh (2008-2012)


Professor Terry Burke

Email :


Dr Simon Griffith, Associate professor, Macquarie University, Australia, Centre for Integrative Study of Animal Behaviour.

Dr Sarah Pryke, Postdoctoral fellow, Macquarie University.

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