Zebra Finches: Interesting Facts About the Beautiful Australian Finches

Do you like nature docs about bird behavior in the wild? You can also have it live: The lively zebra finches, also known as “Australian finches”, offer close-up insights into their social behavior and family life when kept in groups in a spacious aviary. In addition, the little birds are very pretty to look at and very communicative. Typical is the croaking contact call of both sexes and the simple, chirping song of the roosters.

A Small Ornamental Finch From the Land of Large Flocks

The wild zebra finches live in dry regions in Australia, where they prefer to be close to watering holes, but can get by for a shorter time without water in an emergency. A physiological trick will help you: When you are thirsty, your blood thickens and less fluid is metabolized. Outside of the hatchery, the animals roam in large swarms and are extremely sociable. The first scientific description of the birds comes from the French ornithologist Louis Vieillot in 1817; Zebra finches only became popular as an ornamental bird around 1900. In the 1960s, the Australian government banned the finches from exporting.

Gender Determination Through the Plumage

You can recognize the sex of the zebra finch in adult birds by the plumage. The wild form of the zebra finch has a striking pattern. Its belly plumage is light, with a black chest band, brownish-red cheek patch, and elytra of the same color with a white dot pattern. The throat has a zebra-like stripe pattern, hence the name. In the female zebra finch, the back is grayish in color, the upper tail-coverts are drawn in black and white. Females do not have a cheek patch or zebra pattern on the throat.

Young animals can be recognized by their beak, which is still black; the plumage does not appear until after the first moult. Zebra finch hens have an orange beak. In the domesticated forms of the zebra finches – in addition to the somewhat larger and heavier stature – 50 recognized color varieties have so far developed. These include birds with deviating drawings (penguin and black-breasted zebra finches), in pastel shades, piebalds, cinnamon, and those in which the females also have the typical cheek patch – which makes it difficult to determine the sex of certain colors. In such cases, only careful observation of the animals and their gender-specific behavior or a DNA test at the veterinarian will help.

The Island Cousin: Variants of the Zebra Finch

Among the zebra finches, a distinction is made between the Australian zebra finch and the Timor zebra finch. The latter, however, plays practically no role in the keeping of ornamental birds. The most obvious difference between the two variants is the body size: the Timor zebra finch is slightly smaller than its conspecific from the continent.

Zebra Finches

Australia and the Lesser Sunda Islands;

11 centimeters;

12 grams;

Red or orange beak, red legs, typical “finch stature”;

Characteristic plumage, in cocks with a zebra pattern on the throat and dotted elytra, domesticated many varieties of color;

Life Expectancy:
9 years;

Robust, adaptable, sociable.

Enough Space for Everyone: the Zebra Finch Accommodation

Zebra finches are sociable. You should always keep at least two animals, preferably several pairs. The larger the group, the more balanced the dynamics in the swarm. But don’t keep three animals: such a constellation inevitably leads to quarrels. The minimum size of accommodation for a couple is 160 x 60 x 100 centimeters. If the birds cannot get a free flight, an aviary height of at least 170 centimeters and two square meters of floor space is necessary. The optimal grid spacing is 12 millimeters. The more space zebra finches have, the more lives they can flit around.

Natural wooden poles have proven themselves as perches. Only attached on one side, they bounce like tree branches and also train the foot muscles. Please make sure that the diameter of the rods is larger than the birds can grasp so that the claws wear out evenly. Zebra finches love water. They like to use a heavy bathing bowl on the floor or a bathing house. They also appreciate a sand bath. Climbing opportunities in the form of ladders and swing ropes are also part of the equipment. However, zebra finches do not need toys. Exceptions are fillable willow balls in which you can hide food: Having to work out food yourself keeps the animals fit and busy.

What Do I Have to Consider When Keeping Zebra Finches?

Zebra finches can tolerate temperatures of up to 10 degrees Celsius. Year-round keeping in the outdoor aviary is only possible if the animals have a heated indoor space available in winter. In addition, zebra finches are sensitive to excessive humidity, as they occur naturally in dry climates. Zebra finches are extremely willing to reproduce and practically permanently in courtship, laying, and breeding mood. This can be a problem with keeping pets if you don’t want to breed. One possible solution is to keep same-sex groups or to withhold nests or nesting material: if this is not available, the hens will usually not breed. In the case of females who misuse food bowls and the like in their determination to lay, you should definitely replace the eggs with corresponding dummies made of plaster of paris or plastic. With good care and health in domestic conditions, zebra finches can live to be around nine years old.

That Belongs in the Bowl – the Species-appropriate Zebra Finch Diet

In nature, zebra finches consume the finch-typical mixture of seeds and animal proteins. The bird cleverly captures insects from the air. With your pet birds, you use special exotic feed mixes with millet seeds, gloss, and niger seeds. Zebra finches prefer cucumber, soft fruit, and herbs such as chickweed as green fodder – coarser types of fruit and vegetables are difficult for the little finch bill to peck. It goes without saying that the finches must have a limestone whetstone for the supply of minerals and bird grit as an aid to crushing the food in the stomach.

Do Zebra Finches Become Hand-tame?

Due to their modesty, zebra finches are well suited for beginners, especially for young people and adults who want to learn the basics of aviculture. You can tame zebra finches with a lot of patience. However, they do not become playful and affectionate like parrots: Zebra finches live largely unimpressed by their keepers.

How Do I Get Zebra Finches to the Vet and What Do I Do on Vacation?

In order to bring zebra finches to the vet if necessary, it is best to use a bird transport box and a car as a means of transport: transport on public transport or through pedestrian zones would unnecessarily stress the animals. However, going to the vet is the only occasion you should transport your finches to. Vacation trips with Vogel are not recommended. Organize a reliable replacement in good time to look after the animals during your absence or to take them in for a few days in your own household. For this purpose, provide the required material (feed, litter) and a detailed checklist with care instructions. Some breeders or pet shops also step in as a “pension” for animals purchased from them. When it comes to transport to holiday care, the following applies: A short drive is better than prolonged holiday stress.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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