The silver diamond firetail barely even looks real
Becky Crew is a Sydney-based science communicator with a love for weird and wonderful animals. From strange behaviours and special adaptations to newly discovered species and the researchers who find them, her topics celebrate how alien yet relatable so many of the creatures that live amongst us can be.
MEET THE silver diamond firetail, a rare variety of native Australian finch that looks like a Christmas angel with flames spilling from beneath its robes.
Only the most experienced breeders can reliably produce this variety of the diamond firetail (Stagonopleura guttata), selecting parents that carry the recessive genes that give rise to this almost pearlescent plumage.
Here’s what these stately little birds look like in the wild:
Endemic to the southeast of Australia, ranging from the Carnarvon Ranges in Queensland to the Eyre Peninsula and Kangaroo Island in South Australia, the diamond firetail grows to 10-12 cm and weighs 17 grams, which is positively gargantuan when you compare it to the mini emu-wren, at just 4 grams.
It’s one of three firetail finches from the genus Stagonopleura, all of which are endemic to Australia.
The other two are the red-eared firetail (Stagonopleura oculata), found in the southwestern corner of Australia, and the beautiful firetail (Stagonopleura bella), endemic to the southeastern corner of the country.
Ranging from Newcastle to Kangaroo Island, the beautiful firetail is also found throughout Tasmania. In fact, it’s the only finch species that occurs naturally on the island.
While it might not have the most creative name in the world, it sure is apt. With a fat little body, a wide red beak, eyes rimmed in sky blue, and the most brilliant crimson tail, the beautiful firetail is a striking species to spot in the wild:
Keeping to coastal scrublands and forests, it’s a tricky bird to track down, but if you’re going to find it anywhere, it’ll be near water. And let’s just say when they get there, they’re not exactly quiet.
Look how excited they all are:
Australia’s firetail finches are not technically classified as threatened, but their numbers are declining, and things like habitat loss, feral cats, and other native birds such as the pied currawong are serious threats.
The good news is there are active measures being taken to ensure their numbers don’t continue to dip to dangerous levels.
Here’s one more picture for the road, because we just can’t get over how striking these little finches are:
The aptly named Beautiful Firetail (Stagonopleura bella) is both beautiful & has a fiery tail!
They are the only finch species that occurs naturally in Tasmania
— David Hamilton (@davidghamilton1) June 16, 2019
You can read more about our wonderful native finches here.