When we are bird watching we sometimes come across some odd behaviour that we have not seen in the past. It is always interesting watching birds and the different ways they survive in the Australian bush and also in the cities. Every year the weather is incredibly varied across Australia and the birds need to adapt to the changing landscape and environment. It seems we are either experiencing drought or flood and then last Sunday Broome was shaken by a 6.6 earthquake 200kms away under the ocean. We are used to cyclones, but nobody was ready to be shaken!

Painted Finches are found in arid areas of Australia, but like all finches they do require water to survive. On our last visit to Doolena Gorge in late April this year we encountered Painted Finches. What was unusual on this occasion was their behaviour. The Painted Finches were flying down to the old fireplaces around the bush camping area. There were multiple fireplaces all around the bush where people had camped over many years and the Painted Finches were visiting the most recently used fireplaces. As you can see from the header photo, they are a brightly coloured bird.

Painted Finch in the fireplace

However, once they drop in among the charcoal they are easily camouflaged. You may not be able to easily see the Painted Finch in the fireplace above, so I have cropped the photo for you below.

Close up of Painted Finch in the fireplace

The Painted Finches were carefully selecting small pieces of charcoal and flying away with them. We had never observed this behaviour with any of the finch species we have in Australia.

Painted Finch carrying charcoal

We searched the internet for information on any of the finch families collecting charcoal to try and establish what the Painted Finches were using it for. It appears that although we could not find any information on why the Painted Finches were collecting charcoal in the wild it is something that pet bird owners purchase for their pet finches. The information on the pet shop supply websites implies that the finches need charcoal to aid digestion and to help eliminate toxins.

It would appear that we had been observing Painted Finches collecting the charcoal to maintain good health! It is always amazing what you can observe when you spend some time in the bush watching birds go about their daily routine!

Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!