The great pampa finch is a relatively large finch of South America. It has a grey head, olive back, is pale-grey on its underside and has a distinctive orange beak. These finches are usually found perched at the tops of grass clumps and bushes. The great pampa finch feeds on seeds and insects.
This great pampa finch specimen was collected by naturalist Charles Darwin during the famous voyage of the HMS Beagle of 1831-36. This specimen was collected from Maldonado in Uruguay. It has been held by Museum Victoria since the mid-1800s.
Although this finch species was observed and collected by Charles Darwin, it does not belong to the 13 species of finch of the Galapagos Islands commonly referred to as 'Darwin's finches'. The study of this latter group of finches was integral to the formulation of Darwin's theory of evolution, and they continue to be used today to illustrate this fundamental theory.
Charles Darwin (1809-82) is well known for his theory of evolution by natural selection, which has transformed our understanding of the natural world. Following his Beagle voyage around the world, Darwin presented this theory in 1859 in the book 'On the origin of species by means of natural selection'. Darwin's theory states that animal and plant species evolve over time as individuals better suited to their environment are more likely to survive and reproduce, and therefore to pass on their selective advantage to future generations. He presented much evidence to support his view that species evolve from a common ancestor.
Charles Darwin's theory was initially met with much criticism and hostility. It was particularly criticised for the suggestion that humans were animals descended from apes, and for the challenge his book posed to the creationist belief of Christianity.