on the needles

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Chicks Update

Ok - here are the pictures I took of the chicks three days ago. Warning - serious bird poop included!! Believe me - it is getting nasty in there. All the advice books say don't clean the nest but it's taking all I have not to. It's super gross. I can't wait til the babies leave the nest - the minute they do I'm giving it a through scrub down.

Anyhoo - here are the babies at about 2 and a half weeks old.

From the left we have chicks 1, 3 & 2. That was the order of their hatching and their size so that's how I banded them as well. (You can click on the photos to make them bigger - but that only makes the poop bigger too so use your own judgment here!)

I've been doing some more research and I think I have found that my theory of skin color = feather color is true. Here's the thing - when the babies get their first feathers they will look nothing like their gloriously colorful parents - nope - Gouldian babies fledge out in drab olives, tans and greys. Can you believe it?! I'm sure it is an evolutionary advantage of some sort - probably safer to be drab colored until you learn how the world works. The chicks don't get their adult plumage until they go through their first moult which may not be complete until they are nine months old!!! Now - I already knew this, and being the totally impatient person that I am I decided there must be some way of getting a hint of what their eventual color will be. I mean seriously, I cannot be expected to wait nine months!! Hence, my theory and subsequent research.

The normal colors for a Gouldian finch in the wild are black head, vivid purple breast and dark green back. Everything else is a mutation. The closest thing I have to the normal Gouldian finch colors is the babies mommy Minerva.

She has all the right colors but because she is female they are a bit duller. In the normal male the breast would be electric purple. When Gouldian normal chicks fledge their first feather colors will be a sort of dullish olive. What I have found in my research is that the mutations, like yellow back for instance, will fledge out differently. A yellow back will have much lighter olive feathers.

So - hooray! I have looked at lots of photos of Gouldian chicks and now I'm just about positive that chick #1 is going to be yellow backed and possibly with a yellow/orange head too. I'm less certain of the others but I still think that chick #2 may be a dilute - where the back feathers are light green. The one I am super curious about now is chick #3. I can't find any photos of chicks that have skin that dark. At first the only guess I had was that #3 will fledge out as a normal - but since it doesn't look the same as any of the photos of normal chicks I have seen now I think there is a possibility that #3 will be blue! Blue backs are sort of the Holy Grail of Gouldianland. They cost about $250! So naturally I'm really hoping for a blue.

Close up of #1 & #3:

(Maybe I should start calling the chicks "The Borg". All of this number stuff makes me think of the Borg.)

I also think #1 & #2 are boys and that #3 is a girl because of her dark beak. Adult females have dark beaks.

So - as you can see I have hours and hours of entertainment in thinking about the possible genetic combinations of baby finches. I think the obsessive compulsive side of me loves this kind of stuff - endless thinking about "if x = something, then y must = something else, but if x = some other thing, then y = something totally different....All of my theories may come crashing down around me at any moment but that's part of the fun. :)


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