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The Masked Finch (Poephila personata) is a small passerine bird of the order Passeriformes. Whilst they have the word “finch” as part of their common name, belong to the group known as estrildid finches, they are not closely related to the finches in the families Fringillidae, Emberizidae or Passerellidae. Instead they belong in the family Estrildidae.

The sexes are similar in appearance except for the male of the species being slightly larger then the female. Their most striking feature is the small black facial mask covering the lores (the area between the eyes and nostrils of the bird), around the eyes and a small throat patch, that contrast with a striking heavy yellow bill. They are a dusky cinnamon-brown above, paler below and greyish flight feathers. They also have a white undertail coverts, white rump and black mark on the flanks, with a pointed black tail. The legs and feet are pinkish.

The juveniles are duller in colour to the adults and have a black bill that turns yellow as they age.

There are two races, the “leucotis” who have white ear patches, and the race “personata” who have greyish ear patches.

The Masked Finch can often be sighted in the dry savannah region across northern Australia, stretching from the Kimberley, across the Top End to the Gulf country and the southern part of Cape York Peninsula. They have a preference for paperbark and other eucalypt woodland. They are found near water.

They are found in pairs or small flocks, as they forage throughout the day, mostly for grass seeds. They are often seen around waterholes, chattering incessantly and sometimes sharing the water with other bird species.

In the following photos the Masked Finch can often be found together with other species such as Long-tailed Finches and Gouldian Finches (especially when sharing water sources).

The Masked Finch build a domed nest from grasses, lined with feathers, fine grass and charcoal. The nesting height varies from up 20 metres in a tree to low and hidden in long grasses. They lay five to six white eggs.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Estrildidae
  • Genus: Poephila
  • Species: P. personata
  • Binomial name: Poephila personata

Footnote & References

  1. Masked Finch, eBird,
  2. Masked finch, (last visited Sept. 15, 2021).