Australian finches are small birds, only 10 to 11 cm long but they make up for their size in their appeal to people.
They are popular with breeders around the world for their beautiful and distinctive colours, quiet songs and lively behaviour.
There are several varieties found in the Maitland area, the most common being Red-Browed and Double-Barred Finches.
Red-Browed Finches are often also referred to as Red-Browed Firetails, largely due to their bright red rumps.
They also have a red eyebrow and beak, while the rest of the bird tends to be olive green and grey.
Both sexes are similar, while juvenile birds lack the bright red colouring. They are widespread along coastal, east and south-east Australia and prefer grassy areas interspersed with dense understory, often along creek beds or near water. Farmlands, parks, orchards and parks are suitable.
Finches are ground feeders, eating grass seeds and insects and are usually found in small inconspicuous flocks or groups and will fly into dense undergrowth when disturbed.
This can often be a surprise as these tiny birds take flight from the grass almost under your feet.
They can survive in weedy areas along railway tracks and creeks and anywhere in the urban environment where seeding grasses escape mowing.
They can often be seen perching on seeding grass heads, causing it to bend to the ground.
Red-Browed Finches are locally common and are resident all year at Walka Water Works.
The nest consists of an untidy domed construction of twigs and grass stems with a side-tunnel entrance. It is usually built in a dense shrub, one or two metres from the ground.
Four or five white eggs are laid and the young cared for by both parents.
Double-Barred Finches are a more nomadic species found from Cape York to south-east Victoria.
They are also found at various times in the Hunter area and have been seen in the Kurri Kurri Woodlands, Stockton and at Walka Water Works.
These lovely finches have a rather startling owl-like appearance with a white face bordered with black, grey-brown underparts banded black and black wings, spotted white. They have very similar feeding habits as Red-Browed Finches.
The nest is scruffy bottle-shaped, made of dry grasses and lined with plant down, placed in shrubs, stumps, fence posts and verandahs.
Hunter Bird Observer’s Club website can be found at www.hboc.org.au or follow the organisation on Facebook.