The Gouldian Standard

What should a captive Gouldian look like? Should there be specific cosmetic requirements that as breeders we aspire to? Should we create a standard that all breeders can work towards, like an improvement in their size, colour, and type, helping us all to become more knowledgeable on how we view a good bird. But more importantly for the continuous quality of the Gouldian in the future.


In my research for a correct Gouldian standard, I could not find anything written that satisfied what I was looking for. My conclusion was there is no Gouldian standard, only a basic outline of what we have all become accustomed to reading, like colour, length, and the overall description of the Gouldian. Maybe it is time to create a Gouldian model of excellence, like the Zebra finch breeders did many years ago. They have specialist clubs – WE HAVE NOT. They breed for perfection and all want to be known as breeders of quality, not quantity. They also have an understanding of genetics and a knowledge of how to reproduce champions from their stock birds. I believe it would be an advantage for us as Gouldian breeders, to copy some of their successful breeding principles.

The Gouldian Model of Excellence
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Breeding Stock

When selecting potential breeders from your stock birds for the breeding season, breeding principles of selection should be critically followed. Things as simple as NOT putting two obvious faults together, not breeding with inferior or weak individuals. Also while in the selection process, consider their self-rearing ability. Are they from good parenting stock, which is all related to genetic inheritance?


There are some small breeding faults starting to show in the Gouldians of late, which maybe a newcomer to the hobby would not be aware of. So lets visit these obvious inherited faults.

When looking for a quality Gouldian the first thing that you notice is the Head, which is the standout feature of a good bird. Heads that are flat on the top are not a good overall look to the Gouldians appearance, as this fault will normally feature a beak that is also flat, as if the beak has followed the continuous shape in line with top of the birds head, also making the head appear smaller because it is flat. This fault should be easy to breed out.

Gouldians should have a nicely rounded head with a continuous flow over the head and a nice smooth line down the neck across the back, all the way to the tail. This rounded flow should also have a similar appearance at the front of the head, with the beak (Upper Mandible) looking like it is following the rounded shape of the head, say from the centre of the head (Crown) to the tip of the beak. This rounded shape of the beak is very important to the correct shaped head.

Small beady eyes is another noticeable fault related to the head. Inbreeding is a probable cause of this fault, and should not be allowed in your breeding package. The correct eye should be large and round of a blackish colour. When you see a bird with big round black eyes, it is a very nice feature to the appearance of a quality standout bird.

Destructive Faults

One very noticeable fault, is a bird with too much ‘thigh’ showing or ‘long thighs’. This fault is very destructive to the correct position of a bird when sitting (perching). This long-legged look has a tendency to make the bird lean forward when standing or perching so it looks like it is on stilts. Where as with short thighs or no thigh showing, the bird will stand more upright on the perch. This is the right and natural position. The Cock bird can then do his best ‘displaying’ to the hen to bring her into breeding condition, after impressing her with his display of confidence.

What also helps to rid the bird of long thighs and bad position is the fullness of the area behind the legs (the Draw or Vent area). This area from the legs to the tail should be full and tapered well down to the tail, as if it is an extension of the body behind the legs. Without this area being full and rounded, you will never breed a bird that looks of good size and quality and possesses that special look.

The Fusion Bar

The Fusion Bar, or Blood Line, as I have always known it, has done a disappearing act. Why? My guess – lack of selective breeding.

I have read that the colour on the belly should be yellow on all Gouldians. Maybe on hens I would agree, because hens don’t have a blood line and are much paler in colour than a cock bird. However, the cock bird should be darker, leaning more to a very orange yellow colour that can be created by selective breeding, as you are not going to create a blood line from pale yellow but you will from red and yellow mixed to a yellow orange colour. Why do I have the belief that orange shade on the belly is so important? Simply because of a bird that I bred some years ago. This bird was a White Fronted Normal, that surprisingly being a White Fronted had the strongest Blood line that I have ever bred, and did also have a very nice pale orange belly that actually looked like it was bleeding through the orange. It looked great!!!

It is not easy to breed all the qualities that make a top Gouldian. While we are concentrating on a specific, we can neglect other breeding points. Maybe this is how we lost the blood line.

Did You Know about … The Marker Hair ???

It would be amiss of me not to mention a peculiarity that very few breeders are aware of and is related to only the very absolute top feathered birds. I have never heard it discussed or even seen it written in any book or magazine. This phenomenon I call the “Marker Hair”. As the name suggests, it is a marker for a bird that has PERFECT FEATHER QUALITY!!!

This hair is similar in appearance to a human hair, is placed in the centre at the base of the head (nape) and lays down the neck area. There are usually only one or two hairs showing, approximately 25mm long. They are very noticeable when the bird turns its head and if you know where they are and what to look for, they are quite distinctive!

The hairs are common on African finches, as they are mostly beautiful feathered birds but not as common on Australian birds, although I have seen the hairs on Canaries, Gouldians, Rosellas, Neophemas, Hooded Parrots and Golden Shoulders. And these are only birds that I have come into contact with – I am sure there would be many more. I became aware of the hair many years ago when showing birds. All the winners had it – all of the losers didn’t have it. We hope this information may be helpful when trying to improve feather quality of your birds.

As I am not aware of anyone else having any knowledge of the Marker Hair or what it represents, I am bringing it to the attention of current breeders so that this small bit of knowledge is not lost. I would be interested to know if you find it on any of your birds.

My Sketch

The pencil sketch that I have done is what I personally like in a bird, and is what I consider to be the correct Gouldian type for a Gouldian Standard. The research for these pencil drawings, did show how the Gouldian looked in the late eighteen hundreds. All the birds appear to be identical in their appearance, and of similar type, with no obvious faults – a bird with a superior confident look.

For now ‘Adieu’,
Nov 2012

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