Zebra Finch
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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. Zebra finch
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1415 Toorak Rd, Camberwell Vic 3124
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    photo of zebra finches
  • An Australian Finch                       (Click on photo to enlarge) 
  • Scientific Name:  Taeniopygia guttata (or previously Poephila guttata)
  • Common Name/s:  ZEBRA FINCH.  
  • Sub Species in country / area of origin:  1 sub-species kept in Australia. Another sub-species occurs on islands to the north-west of Australia.
  • Origin / Distribution:  Most of Australia except coastal areas. Mainly found in the arid centre of the continent. Not found in Tasmania.
  • Habitat In Wild:  Diverse:- tropics to southern Australia, including arid inland areas. They have adapted to farmlands but not many are found in urban areas.
  • Status In Wild:  Common.  The most commonly found finch in Australia.
  • Status In (Australian) Captivity:  Common
  • Age To Sexual Maturity:  about 3 months. Breeding should not start before 6 months of age.
  • Adult plumage:  attained at about 3 months
  • Best breeding years (estimate):  12 months to 5th year.
  • Lifespan (estimate):  approx. 7 - 8 years
  • Sexing: Monomorphic / Dimorphic
  • Mutations:  Many colour mutations. Also comes in a crested form. Many clubs/ societies have formed that specialize only in Zebra finches and their colour mutations.
  • Availability:  Possibly the most commonly available bird in captivity. Genetically pure "normal" colour birds are becoming hard to acquire.  Most Pet shops and bird dealers have a range of colours in stock. Special Zebra finch societies can supply show quality birds and special colours.
  • Temperament:  Perfect beginners bird. Easy to sex, easy to feed and easy to breed. Will breed in a "canary" cage or in an aviary. Ideal bird for a colony breeding collection. Will breed year round if conditions are suitable.
  • Cost (Victoria) Per Pair: - Normal colour (Approx.) $20
  • Description Of Adults:
  1. Length: Approx. 100 mm (or approx. 4 inches)
  2. Colour ( "normal" colour ): Refer photo top right. (Click on above photo to enlarge)
  3. Weight: Approx. 16 - 18 gms (or just over 1/2 oz)

The Zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) and the Double Bar finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii) are the two members of the family Taeniopygia.

Aviary Notes:

Read notes on "Finches - Australian" web page and use in conjunction with details outlined on this page.

Level Of Knowledge Required:  Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced / Specialist Breeders Only.

Government Regulations & By-Laws:  Refer to "Government Laws" web page.

Housing Requirements: Click on "Housing birds" web page for general details on the housing of Australian Finches or read on for specific details for this finch.

The Zebra finch will breed well in all sizes of aviaries.  Zebra finches that are bred to produce specific colour mutations are often bred in cabinet style (canary breeding cages) with great success.

They do not need plants in the aviary but natural branches are the preferred choice for perches.

Diet / Feeding:  Click on "Feeding birds" web page for general details on the nutrition of Australian Finches or read on for specific details for this finch.
One of the easiest and least fussy feeders. Basic finch mix along with seeding grasses and some green foods will suffice.  They do not require live foods.  This is a minimal diet and may not give the best results in health or breeding.  The next paragraph is more preferable and gives better results and better health.

In a mixed species collection they will eat a lot of what is offered for the other finches. They will eat a good quality finch mix, seeding grasses, some fruits (e.g. apple) and some leafy green vegetables along with any soft-food .  Live food is beneficial during the breeding season.  Small mealworms are ideal.  Sprouted or soaked seed if available.

Basic seed mix should include Canary seed, White French Millet, Japanese Millet, and Yellow and Red Panicum.

Nesting:  A basic overview only.

  • Roosting nest: No, but will use the roosting nests of other species.
  • Nesting months: All year round if given suitable conditions.
  • Nesting receptacles: Probably the least fussy bird and will accept almost any receptacle they are given.
  • Nest: Both parents build a dome shaped nest with a side entrance and the nest is made of grasses and other soft materials.  Nest is lined with feathers and soft fine grasses.
  • Who incubates the eggs: Hen during the night, both share during the day.

Nest is usually at the mid to high level in the aviary.  Parent birds generally reuse the nest for subsequent clutches.  Adequate new nest material must be available for the birds to refurbish the old nest or build a new nest for the next clutch.  The nest box can be removed and the old soiled material removed and the birds will quickly build a new nest.  Most Zebra finch breeders use a nest box that has a hinged lid so they can easily inspect the nest and get access to the young when the young are old enough to have a leg ring put on them.  Leg rings are used so accurate records can be kept of each birds parentage and genetic history.
More details on finch nests and a selection of finch nest photos can be located on the "nests", "finch nests" and "finch nest photos" web pages.  Click on "Up" then "nests" then "finch nests" and "finch nests photos" in the navigation bars.

Breeding: Egg Colour White.  Clutch/s per year 3 - 4.  Eggs per nest 4 - 7.  Incubation approx 13 - 14 days.  Fledge approx. 21 days.  Independent approx. another 21 - 28 days. The young may return to the nest for about one week after fledging.

Birds kept in a cage benefit if they can be placed in an aviary between breeding sessions so they can get more exercise and take rest from breeding.  No nests or nesting materials should be in that aviary.

Zebra finches have a very high fertility rate and may have one of the highest fertility rates of any finch.  In an aviary it is generally safe to leave the young in the same aviary after they become independent.  In an aviary of multiple pairs it is advisable to remove the young birds soon after they become fully independent.  This will prevent immature birds mating with adult birds or their parents.  Young birds (when they become fully independent) must be removed when bred in a cage.

Cock birds in a colony are not monogamous and will mate with other hens (and mess up the predicted colours). They will hybridize with a wide range of finches.

Zebra finches can be used as foster parents for some other species of finches.

Artificial incubation, hand rearing or fostering will not be covered on this web site. It is too complex and diverse in nature to be attempted here.  Refer "Specific References" as listed below and "General References" listings.                  

Health Issues:  Refer "Avian Health Issues" web page for information and references.

  • Worming and parasite control and Quarantine requirements of new birds or sick birds are considered to require veterinary advice and therefore not covered on this web site. Refer above "Avian Health Issues" web page option.
  • Avian medicine is advancing at a rapid pace. Keep updating your knowledge and skills.

General References:  Refer to references listed on "Book References" web page.

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture

  • A/A Vol 59 No. 9 Sept 2005 Page 193-195.
  • A/A Vol 58 No. 1 Jan 2004 Page 16-17.
  • A/A Vol 56 No. 9 Sept 2002 Page 207-208
  • A/A Vol 55 No. 7 July 2001 Page148-153
  • A/A Vol 55 No. 3 Mar 2001 Page 66-67
  • A/A Vol 54 No. 8 Aug 2000 Page 180-182
  • A/A Vol 53 No. 7 July 1999 Page 143-144
  • A/A Vol 42 No. 9 Sep 1988 Page 216-217
  • A/A Vol 42 No. 7 Jul 1988 Page 161-162
  • A/A Vol 39 No. 12 Dec 1985 Page 289-290 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 36 No. 9 Sept 1982 Page 195-196 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 33 No. 10 Oct 1979 Page 167 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 33 No. 2 Feb 1979 Page 24-27 ( Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 32 No. 5 May 1978 Page 65-66
  • A/A Vol 32 No. 4 Apr 1978 Page 56-57
  • A/A Vol 31 No. 6 Jun 1977 Page 86-92 (Inc photos) * by Bill Gordon
  • A/A Vol 28 No. 7 Jul 1974 Page 105-106
  • A/A Vol 20 No 7 Jul 1966 Page 98-100 (Pied).
  • A/A Vol 19 No 3 Mar 1965 Page 37-38.
  • A/A Vol 17 No 3 Mar 1963 Page 50-51 (Inc colour plate).
  • A/A Vol 15 No. 11 Nov 1961 Page 142-143 (Inc colour plate).
  • A/A Vol 13 No 3 Mar 1959 Page 51-52.
  • A/A Vol 12 No 9 Sept 1958 Page 114.
  • A/A Vol 12 No 8 Aug 1958 Page 111.
  • A/A Vol 12 No 7 Jul 1958 Page 93.
  • A/A Vol 12 No 4 Apr 1958 Page 54-56.
  • A/A Vol 12 No 5 May 1958 Page 71-72.
  • A/A Vol 11 No 11 Nov 1957 Page 172.
  • A/A Vol 11 No 1 Jan 1957 Page 6.
  • A/A Vol 10 No 1 Jan 1956 Page 6-7.
  • A/A Vol  6 No 8 Aug 1952 Page 89-90.
  • A/A Vol  4 No 12 Dec 1950 Page 143.
  • A/A Vol  4 No 11 Nov 1950 Page 134.
  • A/A Vol  1 No 4 Apr 1947.
  • The Bulletin No 20, Jun 1944 Page 2 - 3 (Cultivation of the abnormally coloured).
  • The Bulletin No 3, Sept 1942 Page 3 (Colour breeding).
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 2006 Page 738-740 (Zebra finches in Europe).
  • ABK Vol  8 Issue 7. Feb-Mar 1995 Page 325-328
  • ABK Vol  5 Issue 4. Aug-Sept 1992 Page 186-187
  • ABK Vol  4 Issue 7. Feb-Mar 1991 Page 321-323
  • ABK Vol  3 Issue 5. Oct-Nov 1990 Page 198-200
  • ABK Vol  2 Issue 7. Feb-Mar 1989 Page 228-229
  • ABK Vol  1 Issue 6. Dec-Jan 1989 Page 205-207
  • ABK Vol  1 Issue 5. Oct-Nov 1988 Page 149, 158

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