Finchkeepers, The Untold Story !!
Hi. My name is Marcus. I'm a finchaholic. I haven't kept a finch!!!

Sound familiar? Most of us that have fallen under the spell of the finch group must have felt like this from time to time. Why you may well ask? Well, I guess it all began for many of us with the ubiquitous "pair of zebra finches" back in the dim, dark past. After breeding your first 500 or so you think "this finch breeding is a breeze, those world-weary finch types in the bird club don't know anything - I'll show them!!" The world-weary finch types merely smile and nod - "They'll learn" they seem to say. And learn we do.

Off to the dealer/breeder we race and procure a couple of pairs of 'better finches' - perhaps Double bars, Chestnuts or Painteds. First season, Zebs 100 Chestnuts nil!! "Hmmm. Better consult a book to try to find out what is wrong." Exit the Zebs. "Maybe if I just get another pair, or two, and I'll be right!" The beginning of the end is nigh!! Next thing you know your small aviary is 3 small aviaries and you now possess a 'collection' of finches. They're addictive little beggars because they never sit still (worry if they do!!) and are always doing something unlike many of their hookbilled relatives.

The problem for the finch keeper is that he/she is now perpetually looking for something new or interesting with which to tempt their charges. Now, unfortunately, this quest can lead to rather embarassing and bizarre behaviours. For example - racing through Cremorne mudflats waving a butterfly net while a number of bemused 'tourists' stop to decipher your behaviour before calling for a strait jacket - grasshoppers for the weavers! Or perhaps heading to the beach for a surf in a mates panel van only to make them stop and fill their car with swamp grass while he turns the air blue with comments about missed surfs and the mental instability of "bird people". Surely you have been out on a courting drive only to spot a great, green patch of rye grass. You stop, cut it and place it in the back of your girlfriends car - at first she is bemused, then it becomes "It's the birds or me!" Hmmm. Bad set of choices!!

Now can you imagine the euphoria that was created when the Spotswood Quarantine station was opened. Finchaholics all over Australia had visions of exotic finches flash before their eyes. Black-cheeks, Violet-ears, Tanimbars, Bamboos............the list seemed endless. Lo and behold the Macaws, Lories, Caiques and Grassies pour in, but when its "our" turn they close the station!! Budgies!! Pigeons!! But even the Blue-capped waxbill is considered too 'dangerous' to import.

Still, there are a lot of finches out there, so our finchaholic settles back and breeds a few 'better finches' and decides to move on up to some of the 'dearer finches'. At about this time our hapless fincho finds that dreaded bird the Red-winged pytilia. This beautiful finch must have been created to push the finchkeeper to the brink of despair. I'm willing to bet that this bird has caused many a finch keeper to give up and go into hookbills!! After the third nest of 5 young is deposited on the floor you ring around on the mainland only to be told, several times, that: "Hell, they're easy to breed-just give 'em plenty of termites!" Fantastic news to the Tasmanian finchaholic! But wait - help is at hand! Just consult Russell's bible of 'Keeping and Breeding Finches and Seedeaters." Oh, no!! Pytilias need termites, as do Twinspots, Melbas, Blue-caps, Green strawberries............. What to do? It is at about this stage of frustration that he/she commences something that makes him/her a pariah to the majority of the normal population. Fly cultures.

If the finchaholic was regarded as an oddity before he is now elevated to looney status. The neighbours are heard to mutter about the high numbers of black bush flies about this summer while the finchaholic shuffles his/her feet and nervously stares fixedly at the ceiling. A thank you here to a past member of the ASST, Roger Curren, who is the undisputed father of the 'cultured fly' population in Tasmania. Now, armed with his/her maggots they try the pytilia "one last time" - ever heard that before!! This time at least they have feathers when they hit the floor. "Oh, well. Maybe next year!!!!"

Well, you've probably got a fair picture of your average finchaholic. A weed collecting, swamp grass hording and insect cultivating nervous wreck. Looked down upon by many hookbill keepers as those strange people with the 'little birds'. Yet they bear it all stoically for they know that, as parrot prices continue to tumble, the demand for their 'little birds' is always greater than they can supply. Maybe being a finchaholic isn't so bad after all? Maybe? However, keep attending meetings and double your medication - you'll be right!!

Written by Marcus Pollard - Copyright remains with the author.