Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

First record of cooperative breeding in an Australian estrildid, the Long-tailed Finch (Poephila acuticauda)

Erica P. van Rooij A B and Simon C. Griffith A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for the Integrative Study of Animal Behaviour, Macquarie University, 209 Culloden Road, Marsfield, NSW 2122, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: erica@galliform.bhs.mq.edu.au

Emu 109(1) 63-65 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU08061
Submitted: 4 November 2008  Accepted: 12 January 2009   Published: 5 March 2009


Long-tailed Finches (Poephila acuticauda) breeding in natural cavities and nest-boxes were monitored during the breeding season, between March and September 2008, as part of an ongoing field study near Wyndham, northern Western Australia. Towards the end of the breeding season, two adults and their son, who had fledged 4 months earlier, were observed together over many days feeding nestlings (10–17 days old) produced by the adults in another breeding attempt. This is the first description of cooperative breeding in an Australian estrildid finch. Based on these observations, we do not intend to suggest that the Long-tailed Finch should be considered a cooperatively breeding species, but such data help us to understand the variation that exists with respect to familial relations and parental care and provides a foundation for work addressed at understanding the evolutionary origins of cooperative behaviour in birds.


We would like to thank James Brazill-Boast and Rowena Hamer, Dhanya Pearce, Marjolein Schoe and Hanneke Wiggers for help with collecting data; Clare Holleley for the molecular sexing of these birds; and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript. This research was funded by an ARC-Discovery Project grant awarded to SCG.


Arnold, K. E. , and Owens, I. P. F. (1998). Cooperative breeding in birds: a comparative test of the life history hypothesis. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. Biological Sciences 265, 739–745.
CrossRef |

Clarke, M. F. (1997). A review of studies of the breeding biology of Australian birds from 1986–95: biases and consequences. Emu 97, 283–289.
CrossRef |

Cockburn, A. (1998). Evolution of helping behavior in cooperatively breeding birds. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 29, 141–177.
CrossRef |

Cockburn, A. (2003). Cooperative breeding in oscine passerines: does sociality inhibit speciation? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. Biological Sciences 270, 2207–2214.
CrossRef |

Cockburn, A. (2006). Prevalence of different modes of parental care in birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. Biological Sciences 273, 1375–1383.
CrossRef |

Emlen, S. T. (1982). The evolution of helping. I: An ecological constraints model. American Naturalist 119, 29–39.
CrossRef |

Fry C. H. , and Keith S. (Eds) (2004). ‘The Birds of Africa. Vol. VII. Sparrows to Buntings.’ (Christopher Helm: London.)

Gill, S. A. (2004). First record of cooperative breeding in a Thryothorus wren. Wilson Bulletin 116(4), 337–341.
CrossRef |

Griffiths, R. , Double, M. C. , Orr, K. , and Dawson, R. J. G. (1998). A DNA test to sex most birds. Molecular Ecology 7, 1071–1075.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Higgins P. J. , Peter J. M. , and Cowling S. J. (Eds) (2006). ‘Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 7: Boatbill to Starlings.’ (Oxford University Press, Melbourne.)

Immelmann K. (1965). ‘Australian Finches in Bush and Aviary.’ (Angus and Robertson: Sydney.)

Langmore, N. E. , and Bennett, A. T. D. (1999). Strategic concealment of sexual identity in an estrildid finch. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. Biological Sciences 266, 543–550.
CrossRef |

Putland, D. A. , and Goldizen, A. W. (2001). Juvenile helping behaviour in the Dusky Moorhen, Gallinula tenebrosa. Emu 101(3), 265–267.
CrossRef |

Russell, E. M. (1989). Co-operative breeding – a Gondwanan perspective. Emu 89, 61–62.

Zann, R. (1977). Pair-bond and bonding behaviour in three species of grass finches of the genus Poephila (Gould). Emu 77, 97–106.

Export Citation Cited By (1)

View Altmetrics