Finch Frolics

Twenty-one—A Real Coming of Age

Words and Photographs by Russell Kingston

The year was 1987 and we had seen it all before—the launch of a new commercial avicultural publication onto the market.  Here we are 21 years later and Australian BirdKeeper not only reigns supreme in this country but is now one of the leading avicultural publications in the world. If anyone deserved ‘the key to the door’ upon their coming of age, it is ABK Publications. I well recall my first tentative visit to their headquarters at Tweed Heads two years later as a very new Avicultural Federation of Australia Inc chairman to meet Nigel and his team. I have to say that I was impressed right away with the professionalism and forward thinking of what was obviously a very skilful team. Not only have they set the benchmark for other periodicals to follow, but yours truly is also now one of the disciples.

Their foray into the A Guide to… series of books was a stroke of genius and further cemented their place in Australian avicultural history while, at the same time, introducing numerous readers to the scores of special bird keeping subjects. After a long and successful period as Editor in Chief, Nigel has relinquished his role, which has been taken over very successfully by Sheryll Steele-Boyce. No doubt, if one were to suggest to Sheryll many years ago that she would one day be running one of the world’s top bird breeding publication companies, she would have had you committed. But there she is—and doing a wonderful job at that.

ABK Publications, however, is much more than a flourishing enterprise. Their generosity to the avicultural organisations throughout Australia and beyond our shores goes far beyond the occasional donation. Almost from their inception, they have provided financial and tangible support for virtually all major events staged by clubs and societies around the country. ABK Publications has become synonymous with the staging of events and giving a helping hand to clubs everywhere. There is no doubt that, without their very generous support, aviculture would not be in the sound position that it commands today.

Sheryll and staff—take a bow on this very important coming of age. A milestone not just for ABK Publications, but also for the role that you have assumed in promoting and supporting this magnificent hobby of ours.

Exotics? Which Exotics?

I recently received the following email through ABK Publications. Greg Brandon wrote:

I have just read your article in the latest edition of ABK and was wondering if you could put together a list of what species you think are under threat. I’m going to approach our club and see if there is enough interest to take on a species or two and see if we can’t do some good.
Thanks, Greg Brandon
Namoi Valley Aviculture Club

Yes Greg—a wonderful project. I have listed the species into four categories. These are:
Common—species readily available and considered to have sufficient genetic diversity
At Risk—those species deemed to be sufficiently low in numbers so as to pose a risk to their long term viability
Endangered—birds that are difficult to obtain, have a high monetary value or are producing low numbers, and
Critically Endangered—those species for whom it may already be too late.

In composing this list I am aware that there are areas or regions in Australia where there are significantly varying concentrations of specific species. I am directing my protocol to a nationally accepted consensus. Other factors such as the export market and fashions in taxonomy also provide inconsistencies. Whilst I have taken purity of strain at face value, I haven’t taken into account the likelihood of past integration between subspecies and hybridisation with allied species. I have directed my assessment towards Normal birds and where the normal strains are threatened by the proliferation of colour mutations, I have placed those species in a higher risk category.

Common At Risk Endangered Critically Endangered
African Firefinch
Red Avadavat
Bengalese Finch
Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu
Cuban Finch
European Goldfinch
European Greenfinch
Jacarini Finch
Tri-coloured Parrotfinch
Pytilia Aurora
Pytilia Melba
Saint Helena Waxbill
Green Singing Finch
Yellow Siskin
Orange-breasted Waxbill
Grenadier Weaver
Madagascar Weaver
Cut-throated Finch
Oriental Greenfinch
Java Finch
Rufous-backed Mannikin
Black-headed Munia
Tri-coloured Munia
White-headed Munia
Red-faced Parrotfinch
Red-crested Finch
Red Siskin
Spice Finch
Peter’s Twinspot
Pin-tailed Whydah
Red-headed Finch
Blue-headed Cordon Bleu
Himalayan Greenfinch
Eurasian Linnet
Javan Munia
Red-faced or Yellow-winged Pytilia
Pelzelin’s Saffron Finch
European Serin
Grey Singing Finch
Golden Song Sparrow
Black-rumped Waxbill
Orange-cheeked Waxbill
Purple Grenadier Waxbill
Orange Bishop Weaver
Napoleon Weaver
Yellow Bunting
Red-shouldered Whydah
Green Avadavat
Red-crested Cardinal
Violet-eared Waxbill
House Finch
Bamboo Parrotfinch
Peales Parrotfinch
Pin-tailed Parrotfinch
Yellow-rumped Seedeater
African Silverbill
European Siskin
Dybowskii Twinspot
Red-headed Fody

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Having One’s Wings Clipped

img Seems moving about is not so easy anymore. After attending the United Birds of South Australia seminar a couple of months ago I purchased two pairs of finches to bring home. The airline staff promptly informed me that birds were no longer permitted to be carried as accompanied luggage. No problem if it had been a dog or cat—and the cost would have been minimal. I was left with no choice but to send the birds, as normal airfreight—on the same flight as mine—organised through a crowd specialising in pet transport. The cost for the small box containing four little finches weighing less than 600 grams was around $200.00—more than I paid for the birds. Talk about discrimination against bird fanciers!

Even getting there can become a trial these days. Due to present a talk at a Saturday dinner for the Riverina Finch Society in Wagga Wagga, I arrived at the airport on Friday only to be informed that my flight had been cancelled. The plane had apparently been struck by lightning. Not to be deterred, I took the same flight the next day, which would have got me to Wagga a little late for my liking but still in time. I arrived in Sydney for my connecting flight only to be advised by the regional airline that the flight to Wagga was now cancelled. Shortage of pilots it seems. I eventually conned a flight to Albury where RFS committee members picked me up and drove the one-and-a-half hours to Wagga Wagga. Needless to say my presentation commenced at 10.00pm and concluded around midnight. Thank heavens for the dedication and patience of the Riverina Finch Society!

Big Weekend For Zebras

img I spent a very enjoyable weekend on the 2−3 August chairing the Zebra Finch Federation Conference on the Gold Coast, Queensland. Anyone who considers the Zebra Finch to be a humble beginner’s bird should attend one of these conferences. This dedicated bunch of people has elevated Zebra Finches to celebrity status par excellence. The weekend involved aviary visits, a photo competition, gala dinner and bird auction. Judging by the enthusiastic bidding and prices paid, there is nothing humble about Zebra Finches. The conference culminated in the interstate competition. The West Australians pulled it off again—must be something in the water over there! See Showcase on the next page. It’s always good to get home and become immersed in one’s birds.

Good breeding, Russell Kingston

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