Russell Kingston has been honoured with an Order of Australia Medal for his service to aviculture.
Russell Kingston has been honoured with an Order of Australia Medal for his service to aviculture. ALISTAIR BRIGHTMAN

Bird man honoured for his work

WHEN Russell Kingston was 11 he discovered a passion that would last a lifetime.

The Torbanlea resident had a father with a strong love of birds and when he got his own aviary, and a few birds to go with it, it wasn’t long before he found he had a love for it too.

“I had always been interested in wildlife of all descriptions and from that I just gravitated towards birds,” he said.

Mr Kingston has received an Order of Australia Medal for his service to aviculture in Queensland this Australia Day.

But, as he explains, the passion that would see him fight for the conservation rights of rare birds was born with the first bird he brought into his aviary.

In 1964 Mr Kingston started getting involved with a variety of bird societies and committees and in 1965 he formed the Queensland Finch Society.

To this day, finches are Mr Kingston’s favourite bird and the society is still operating today with more than 1000 members worldwide.

Mr Kingston soon became involved in several other organisations, including the Queensland Council of Bird Societies, the peak body looking after bird societies and breeders in Queensland.

He also became the chairman of the Avicultural Federation of Australia in 1989, which looks after all bird clubs in Australia.

He was then appointed to a ministerial position in the Federal Government, investigating a variety of ways to prevent bird smuggling into Australia.

Mr Kingston has also written a number of books, all of which have sold out, and travelled around the world giving lectures on finches.

He has just returned from South America, where he saw a wide variety of exotic birds. He says he has seen some amazing sights in Africa and South America – and plans to return to South America soon.

When asked why he has such a strong fascination for birds, he replies: “Maybe because they can fly and I can’t.”

He says it is something he has often thought about – why he is so passionate about the creatures he says never cease to amaze him – and says he has much the same enthusiasm for birds as others have for quilting or stamp collecting.

“Every day there is something new,” he said.

“The behaviour of birds, their colours, the conditions they can live in.”

Some of the most amazing sights he has seen are during breeding season, when colours and behaviours are often at their most beautiful and intriguing.

“The African weaver finch will roll up into black and orange balls and chase each other around,” he said.

Mr Kingston said he was “stunned” to receive the award but also grateful for the opportunity to look back at his achievements.

“I’m a very proud Australian and that makes it extra special,” he said.

Mr Kingston’s work continues today, with the formation of the Rare Finch Conservation Group. He is deeply concerned with saving rare birds from extinction.

He can’t say which bird he thinks is the most beautiful out of all he has seen – to do so, he says, would be an injustice to other, equally beautiful, species – and even the plainer varieties can be well-shaped and elegant, he says.

Mr Kingston cannot see his passion ever fading: “I see myself still doing this when they have to prop me up against a tree to see the birds,” he said.

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