Photo by Jason Matthews
Zebra Finches - Species Profile:
Origin: Central Australia
General descriptionWhile there are numerous species of the finch, Zebra finches are most popular as pets because they are relatively easy to take care of. This also makes them suitable for novice bird owners. Zebra finches are known to be rather quiet: their vocalization consists of chattering trills and calls for the most part, which is not very annoying and which can be easily tolerated. The size of Zebra finches can be up to 8 inches including the tail.
The colouration of Zebra finches includes: a grey back and a white underbelly; orange or red beak and legs (much brighter in males); black "teardrops" on the edge of the cheek in males; a black band that crosses the chest; brown and white spots beneath folded wings; white horizontal marks on black tail feathers. Females lack cheek patches.
In the wild, Zebra finches live about 5 years. Captive birds can live up to 10 years.
TemperamentZebra finches are social birds that enjoy company of other finches, so they should be kept in pairs or larger groups. Remember that males and females kept together will usually reproduce quite readily, so keeping only females is the way to go if you don't plan on breeding. Even though they are interactive among each other, Zebra finches tend to be quite shy and reversed with humans. They usually don't enjoy handling and better be admired from afar. The cage should have a variety of perches so that your your small companions don't get bored. If you keep a group of birds, provide some plant cover at the perches to allow a little privacy. Silk plants or non-toxic live plants should work well for this purpose. Swings and ladders can also be provided, but they are more likely to be used as perches, too. Finches are not interested in toys as much as other pet birds, but you can still provide them with some.
Health and nutritionZebra finches are sensitive to changes in their environment. Make sure their cage is kept in a quiet place with a stable temperature; it should be away from direct sunlight, draughts and air conditioning ducts. Provide a shallow dish of water several times a week - Zebra finches enjoy bathing very much.
Even though they are small birds, they need a relatively large cage sized at least 16H x 24L x 16W inches with a minimum of 20 inches horizontal room for flight. Having enough space to fly and stretch their wings will help your Zebra finches stay happy and healthy.
Zebra finches should do fine on a diet of high quality pellets supplemented with various greens such as dandelion greens (make sure they contain no pesticides or herbicides!), kale, parsley, and spinach. Occasionally, small amounts of apple, bananas, and apricots can be given. Fresh water should always be available.
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