The Zebra finch (Peophila guttata) originates in Australia and is commonly found in the United States. They are very active little chatterboxes.
Zebras are part of the Estrilididae family, and are about 4 inches long. Their original colors for the males are grey head with chestnut ear patches and black and white tear stripes, back and wings are greyish brown, a white rump that merges into a striped tail. Fine black and white barring on the chest with a white abdomen, the flanks chestnut with white spots. The beak is red. Females are the same except the breast and abdomen are a pale buff and the beak is reddish orange. There are numerous color mutations, some of the more available mutations are fawn, pied, white, black-cheeked and crested.
Being active little birds, Zebras need a lot of room. If you have more than one pair consider housing them in an aviary. If your aviary is outdoors, they will climatize to temperatures from 45 – 85 degrees F., but provide a shelter for bad weather. However, a long flight cage will do quite well for a pair. The bar spacing should be no more than 1/2 inch, the cage itself no smaller than 24’X16’X16′ for one pair. Zebra finches do well in a mixed aviary, however, they don’t mix well with all species of finches. Do some research as to what species will live side by side with Zebras.
There are two types of diet requirements for Zebra finches. The normal diet consists of seeds, sprouts (also called green food), vegetables and live food. The breeding diet is richer, the difference is increasing the greens (sprouts and vegetables) and live food plus adding egg food. In the wild the breeding diet would be seasonal, dependent on the rains, however, in captivity, this can be artificially implemented.
The Zebra finch is very adaptable to many different environments. When put together to nest, they are quite prolific breeders. Zebra finches develop strong bonds, and the male helps in the nest building as well as hatching and feeding the young. A clutch consists of four to seven white eggs, hatching in eleven to thirteen days. The hatchlings will fledge at approximately 21 days, and three weeks after that they are independent and should be separated from their parents. In many cases, it is necessary not only to remove the nest, but separate the pairs so as not to over breed. The main objective is to keep the breeding pairs as healthy as possible while also avoiding weak young. Four or less clutches a year are best to keep the pairs healthy.
Not all folks that keep Zebra finches will breed them. A single male can develop a strong bond to its owner, making it easy to tame. It is not unheard of for a Zebra to come when called for, perching on its owner’s shoulder or to share a family dinner, just like many parrots. Additionally, it has been determined that the male has an intricate song, the female being able to define the male with the most intricate song in about 10 – 15 minutes. The more intricate the song, the better the genes for mating. Another study has found that Zebra finches dream about their song, perfecting it in their sleep.