Black-throated finch (southern subspecies)

Common name: black-throated finch (southern subspecies)

Scientific name: Poephila cincta cincta

Family: Estrildidae

Conservation status: The black-throated finch (southern subspecies) is listed as Endangered in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is ranked as a high priority under the Department of Science Back on Track species prioritisation framework.

Description

The black-throated finch (southern subspecies) is a small, solid bird with a distinctive black throat which contrasts with the blue-grey head and brown back. It has a white rump sharply cut off from the black tail and the breast is cinnamon coloured. The bill is dark grey and legs are orange-red. It is distinguished from the black-throated finch (northern subspecies) Poephila cincta atropygialis, as the later species has a black rump and is slightly duller in colour. The plumage of both males and females is similar.

Habitat and distribution

The black-throated finch (southern subspecies) once extended from Inverell in north-east New South Wales, through eastern Queensland, to the Atherton Tablelands and west to central Queensland. In north Queensland (Atherton Tablelands, north to Cape York Peninsula and west to the Gulf of Carpentaria) the distribution of this subspecies overlaps with that of the northern subspecies. The black-throated finch (southern subspecies) range has contracted by approximately 80 per cent of its former extent over the last 20 years and is now restricted to the northern part of its former range.

The black-throated finch (southern subspecies) inhabits grassy woodland dominated by eucalypts, paperbarks or acacias where there is accessibility to seeding grasses. Recent records from Queensland suggest that riparian habitat is particularly important as it seems to provide shelter within a highly fragmented and modified environment.

Life history and behaviour

The black-throated finch (southern subspecies) appears to be sedentary, although localised movement has been observed. As it requires a variety of habitats to access a year round supply of seed, birds may move between different habitats, and in response to drought.

Flocks of 40 or more are formed by this sociable bird and contact is maintained during the day by calling. When individuals congregate, they will head-bob profusely to each other. Nesting occurs from spring into early autumn and pairs will separate from flocks during breeding. Domed nests are constructed in trees or tree hollows. Between five to nine eggs are laid per brood and up to two broods may be produced per year. Incubation is 12 days with fledging occurring after 21 days. The young are independent at around 40 days.

The diet of the black-throated finch (southern subspecies) consists primarily of grass seed and other vegetative matter. Foraging for small insects such as flying termites tends to occur during the wet season and after heavy rain. These birds also drink regularly during the day.

Threatening processes

Declines in the black-throated finch (southern subspecies) began early in the 20th century with the development of pastoralism. Clearing and overgrazing within the subspecies' preferred habitat is the most likely cause of range contractions as identified by a Scientific review of the impacts of land clearing on threatened species in Queensland (PDF, 11.8MB) (Neldner et al. 2017). Declines commenced in the southern part of the subspecies range in New South Wales and are now evident in its northern range. Potential threats to the subspecies include:

  • Clearing and fragmentation of woodland, riverside habitats and wattle shrubland.
  • Degradation of habitat from overgrazing by domestic stock, rabbits, and alterations to fuel load, vegetation structure and wet season food availability.
  • Inappropriate fire regimes which alter habitat.
  • Invasion of habitat by exotic weed species, including exotic grasses.
  • Illegal trapping of birds for the bird trade.
  • Predation by introduced predators.
  • Hybridisation with the northern subspecies.

Recovery actions

The national recovery plan for the black-throated finch southern subspecies (Poephila cincta cincta) makes the following management recommendations for the conservation of the species:

  • Develop standard survey guidelines and undertake targeted surveys to clarify the extent of the subspecies distribution.
  • Secure breeding sites that contain viable populations for conservation.
  • Address threats on grazing lands by informing landholders of management practices that are appropriate for the survival of black-throated finch (southern subspecies) populations.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of land management practices and review if necessary.
  • Increase public awareness of the subspecies status and threats, and encourage involvement in the recovery program.

What can you do to help this species?

  • Maintain/restore riparian grasslands.
  • Implement control programs targeting exotic weed species (including grasses).
  • Do not trap or collect individuals for private collections or the bird trade.
  • Report sightings of the black-throated finch (southern subspecies) to the Queensland Government by contacting the WildNet Team at

Related information

Black-throated Finch Recovery Team. Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. 2007. National recovery plan for the black-throated finch southern subspecies Poephila cincta cincta. Report to the Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Canberra. Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW), Hurstville and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane.

Department of the Environment. 2017. Poephila cincta cincta southern black-throated finch in Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of the Environment, Canberra.

Garnett ST, Szabo JK and Duntson G 2011. The action plan for Australian birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.

Immelmann, K 1982. Australian Finches, Second Edition. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Neldner VJ, Laidlaw MJ, McDonald KR, Mathieson MT, Melzer RI, Seaton R, McDonald WJF, Hobson R, and Limpus CJ 2017. Scientific review of the impacts of land clearing on threatened species in Queensland. Queensland Government, Brisbane.