Within Thala’s stunning surrounds, it’s the native residents which often lend the resort its vibrant setting. One such resident, which you may occasionally spot around the grounds, is the crimson finch, a flustered looking bird with a bright red face that often enjoys to snack on a hearty spider.
Found in both Papua New Guinea and the east and west side of Far North Queensland, the crimson finch – also known as the blood finch, pheasant finch and the Australian firefinch – likes hanging out in vegetated areas surrounding fresh water, such as rivers or swamps.
Unfortunately for this glowing little flitterer, their preferred habitat is regularly burnt out by fires, which includes back-burning. At present, they are listed as a vulnerable species, with their numbers stabilising at an estimated 2000 in Australia alone.
Interestingly, the crimson finch also appears to be a highly endemic bird, as the majority of their habitat covers an area of 139 kilometres square. This area is alleged to have declined since the 20th century, so spying one of these fire faced flyers near Thala is often a real treat. The photo here was shot by Thala owner Rob Prettejohn not far from the resort.
If you do see one, it will likely be in pairs or small groups, as they are a social bird. Following their breeding season, it’s not uncommon to see the crimson finch flying in flocks of 40 to 60 of their kind (perhaps in celebration of a good season).
Identifying traits: it’s a small bird, about 13cm long, with a wingspan of around 16cm. The females differ from the males in that they have brown flanks, breast and thighs, while the males are bright red in these areas. Both species have irises that are predominantly auburn in colour.
The bird’s breeding season occurs from January to May in Australia, often among nests within pandanus palms, or occasionally bushes. These nests are dome shaped and constructed mainly from grasses, and each clutch laid by the finch usually consists of five or six eggs.
Besides spiders, which the adult males and females readily eat, food for the crimson finch mainly consists of seeds from grasses and herbaceous plants, however they will also eat larvae and insects when the need arises.
Whatever stokes the fire of these radiant residents of Far North Queensland.