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  Zebra Finch  
 
 

English Name

Zebra Finch

Spanish Name

Diamante Mandarín

Latin Name

Poephila guttata

Taeniopygia guttata

 

Origins

They are native to the Australian grasslands. Australia currently has a closed door policy prohibiting the exportation of animals from the country.

Sexing

 

Males

The mature male zebra finch is generally more colourful and easily distinguishable from the female. The classic male possesses bright orange cheeks, black and white striping across the throat and breast and brown spots on either side of the body.

 

The normal male bird has a grey upper body and wings.  The belly is white.  The beak and legs are a red-orange colour.  On each side of the head is a cheek patch.  There is a 'tear drop' mark under the eye.  This is a brown/tan/fawn colour commonly called orange.  The flanks/sides of the bird just below the wings, is a chestnut (orange) coloured area with white dots.  The chest is black and white stripped like a zebra, hence the name zebra finch. 

Females

The female also has a grey upper body and wings with a white belly.  The beak and legs are the same red-orange colour but not as deep colour, lighter.  She has a black 'tear drop' mark under the eye.  The most noticeable differences between males and females are the cheek patches and the chest striping.

Size

9 cm.

Weight

 

Rings

 

Character

 

Feeding

Fresh foods from your kitchen are an optional source for a balanced diet.  Different individual birds will have different likes and dislikes.  You will have to experiment with a variety of food items.  Frozen mixed vegetables (thawed), sprouts (alfalfa, etc), hard boiled egg (mashed), lettuce, spinach, bread crumbs, and corn bread.  Most natural foods can be fed to your birds.  Just don’t feed extremes like peppers, cabbage, etc.  Be sure to feed only the amount of fresh food that will be consumed before it spoils.  Remove any that they do not eat.

Egg shells are a good source of calcium.  When you have eggs for breakfast, rinse the shells and microwave them for four minutes to kill salmonella, etc.  Put them in your bird cage and the birds will go wild for them.

All birds need grit (sand).  They use this to grind their food, for they do not have teeth. Buy a commercial gravel/grit mixture.  Buy one that also has minerals added, like oyster shell and charcoal.  A vitamin additive can be purchased to be added to the food or water.  This is not a requirement if the rest of the diet in balanced.

You should also supply cuttlebone for your birds.

Breeding Cages

For a pair of birds the cage should be no smaller than approximately 16x12x16 inches.

Nest

Width

5 inches

Depth

5 inches

Height

5 inches

Hole Diameter

 

Hooded nest shaped wicker basket for finches to nest in. Mimics their natural nesting environment. Attaches to wire cages.

Nesting Material

 

Breeding Period

Zebra finches are a joy to watch as they prepare their nest and raise their young.  The mating dance and song of the male is fun to watch and is a good indication that they are happy and ready to breed.  The male ‘sings’ and bounces on the perch to attract the hen.  He will soon try to jump on top of the hen.  If she is willing, they will mate.  This only takes a few seconds.  He will try this repeatedly.

Provide more nest boxes than there are pairs so they can have a choice.

Chick Development Schedule
   incubation is 14 days
   8 days old put on closed band
   21 days old they fledge (leave the nest)
   4 weeks old they start to eat on their own
   5-6 weeks old the adult colours will start to develop, along with the beak colour changing to orange.
   5-6 weeks old move the chicks to their own cage.  They will disrupt the next clutch process and the parents may start to pluck their feathers.

Eggs

3 - 8 laying one each day.

Incubating

After a couple of the eggs are laid, the pair will begin sitting on the eggs.

Incubation

The brooding and incubation process may take approximately 11 to 14 days or more.

Fledging

 

Batches

3 – 4 Recommended.

Lifespan

 

Breeding Life

 

Sexual Maturity

Zebras mature quickly and can start to mate at 11-12 weeks.  For healthier strong birds it is recommended that they be 6-9 months before allowing the to mate.

Aviaries

A breeding flight with many birds needs to be large.  At least 3 feet wide, 4 feet high, and 6 feet long. 

Temperatures

 

Health Problems

Light is a very import part of keeping birds.  They need sun light!  If there is not a window in your bird room you need to provide ‘full spectrum’ lighting, lots of it.  In the breeding season they need light 14-16 hours a day.

Observations

 

 

Colour Mutations

There are about 17-20 recognized colour mutations plus the combinations of these 20 colours creating many, many more colours.

Basic Colours

The normal male bird has a grey upper body and wings.  The belly is white.  The beak and legs are a red-orange colour.  On each side of the head is a cheek patch.  There is a 'tear drop' mark under the eye.  This is a brown/tan/fawn colour commonly called orange.  The flanks/sides of the bird just below the wings, is a chestnut (orange) coloured area with white dots.  The chest is black and white stripped like a zebra, hence the name zebra finch.  A truly beautiful bird!

The female also has a grey upper body and wings with a white belly.  The beak and legs are the same red-orange colour but not as deep colour, lighter.  She has a black 'tear drop' mark under the eye.  The most noticeable differences between males and females are the cheek patches and the chest striping.

There are many colour variations.  Most of the colour variations are simply a change in colour of one or more of the parts of the bird, i.e. the body, belly, chest strips, beak, cheeks, etc.  On some of the variations the colour part seems to be missing.  On the ‘Black Breast’ the cheek patches are enlarged.

These individual differences in colour can appear singly or combined.  For example, Black Cheeked + Light Back or Black Breasted + Fawn or Black Face + Orange Breast.

Dominant: The dominant gene is one that is visible even when on only one of the chromosomes.  It is visible in both the split (heterozygous) birds and full/pure (homozygous) birds.  If a bird has a specific dominant gene, it will show that colour.  If a bird does not show a specific colour, it does NOT have that gene.

Recessive: The gene must be present on both of the chromosomes to be visible.  If it is on only one chromosome, the colour mutation will not be visible.  The recessive gene is carried on a non-sex chromosome.  For a child to have a recessive colour visible, both parents must have the gene.  Both parents could be split (not visibly showing the colour) and produce a child showing that colour.

Sex-linked gene: The gene that is only on the sex chromosomes.  Females carry the sex gene.  In females, if they have the sex-linked colour gene, it will be visible, as they have only one sex chromosome to which the sex-linked gene is on.  In males, the sex-linked gene must be on both sex chromosomes.  Sex-linked traits are not visible in males if only one sex chromosome carries the gene.  Males can be split for sex-linked genes, females cannot.  The sex chromosomes in birds are the opposite of that in humans.

Dominant
  G  - Grey Normal
  BF - Black Face
  DS - Dominant Silver
  CR - Crested
  GC - Grey Check
  FC - Fawn Cheek
Recessive
 FF      - Florida Fancy/Isabel (an incomplete dominant)
 YB     - Yellow Beak
  PNG - Penguin


  P       - Pied
  OB   - Orange Breast
  BB    - Black Breast
  BC
    - Black Cheek
  RS    - Recessive Silver
  W     - White
Sex Linked
  F       - Fawn
  CFW - Chestnut Flanked White 
  LB     - Light Backed
 

-------- COLOUR NOTES --------

Notes on Sex-linked:
If Father=CFW and Mother=Grey then possible ratios for the chicks will be:
  (The hens will be CFW.  The males will be Grey/split CFW.)
  50%      CFW females
  50%      Grey/split CFW males

If Father=Grey and Mother=CFW then possible ratios for the chicks will be:
  (ALL of the chicks will be Grey.  Males will be split for CFW.)
  50%      Grey females
  50%      Grey/split CFW males

If Father=Grey/split CFW and Mother=Grey then possible ratios for the chicks will be:
  25%      Grey females
  25%      Grey males
  25%      CFW females
  25%      Grey/split CFW males

If Father=Grey/split CFW and Mother=CFW then possible ratios for the chicks will be:
  25%      Grey females
  25%      Grey/split CFW  males
  25%      CFW females
  25%      CFW males

Notes on Orange Breast
OB hens often have some orange on the tail covers, even splits have a faint glow of orange around the white dots they also lack all traces of a tear drop mark  OB hens have no tear drop mark and most have bright orange markings around the white dots on
the tail coverts.  Some have more than others but a full OB hen will have some orange on the tail.  Males split for OB show traces of orange in their breast.  OB split hens can and show some traces of orange in the tail coverts, some do, many don't.  ? Sometimes this orange is just appears as slight colour around the white dots but even a faint visibility of orange is enough to classify a hen split for OB.

Also split hens show a poorly defined tear drop mark; full OB hens have no tear drop mark.  However, black breasted hens also show a similar poorly defined tear drop mark, that’s when you check the tail coverts, BB/split hens show regular markings, OB split hens would have typical tail covert markings.

Notes on Black Breast
Male black breasts have a breast bar that is more solid black than normal.  The cheek patches are much larger than the normal size, sometimes going over the top and back of the head and even touching each other. The side flanks have elongated white dots.  The tear drop does not appear.  The rump and tail coverts are buff/cream in colour and the white stripes on top of the tail are gone.  Females are much like normal hens but they lack the tear drop.  The tail markings are the same as on the male.

Split for black breast birds can be visibly identified.  The cheek patch is slightly larger with ragged edges.  The white stripes on top of the tail are in more of an hourglass shape than the normal straight stripe.

Notes on Black Faced
Black Faced birds are beautiful.  The white area between the tear drop and beak is black, making it look like a black face.  The breast is mostly all black continuing down the under body of the bird.  Ideally, the black extends completely down to the vent, but this is unusual.  The flanks often have fewer white dots.  The hens look very much like normal hens but the white area between the tear drop and beak is grey.  Black Faced birds do not resemble Black Breasted birds.  They do not have any of the same markings.

 

 

Black Breast Zebra Finch

Black Breast is just what it sounds like, a Zebra with a very black breast.

Identification Markings:
Males - Chestnut coloured flanks speckled with elongated white spots. Orange Cheek Patches which are considerably larger than that of Greys, these cheeks may extend to the top of the head.. Black breast bar is very solid and wider than normal.. Zebra Stripes on the chin & neck. Red / Dark Orange beak. Totally lacking the black tear marking.

Females - Same base colour of the males but lack all the extra colourful plumage. Beaks are also a lighter colour, more orange. Also totally lacking the black tear marking.

Genetics: This is a recessive trait. Birds may carry the Black Breast gene and not show it until they are bred with another Black Breast or a bird which is split to it.

Black Cheek Zebra Finch

Black Cheeks are becoming very popular because they are so easy to recognize.

Identification Markings:
Males - Chestnut to black coloured flanks with white dots. Very black cheek patches. Black breast bar is normal. The black tear marking is blended in with the Black Cheek look.

Females - Same base colour of the males plus the bold black cheeks. This makes the females very striking looking.

Genetics: This is a recessive trait. Birds may carry the Black Cheek gene and not show it until they are bred with another Black Cheek or a bird which is split to it. Please note, breeding a full Black Cheek to another full Black cheek is strongly not recommended

Black Face Zebra Finch

Black Face have black coloration from the side of their beak to the tear drop markings giving them the Black Face look.

Identification Markings:
Males - Chestnut to reddish coloured flanks are usually missing the white dots all together. Orange Cheek Patches. Black breast bar is very solid and may extend from the chin to the below the breast. The black tear marking is blended in with the Black Face look.

Females - Same base colour of the males but lack all the extra colourful plumage. Females may also have the Black Face look but it's more subtle and may appear as a light grey.

Genetics: This is a dominant trait. Only one parent is needed and recommenced to produce Black Face offspring.

Black Face Black Cheek Zebra Finch

Uncommon to Rare. They aren't any more difficult to breed than nay other zebra finch but to get the desired combination takes time.

Identification Markings:
Males - Will have the Black Face & Black Cheek mutations markings. It's best to have Black Flanks with white dots but so far all mine have has mostly brown flanks. The Breasts should be solid black and extend down to the abdomen.

Females - Will also have the Black Face and Black Cheek look. No flank markings are preferred, Breast marks are tolerated.

Genetics: This is a combination of mutations. Breed a BF split to BC to a full BC to produce Black Face Black Cheeks.

Chestnut Flanked White Zebra Finch

As the name suggests, both sexes should have a pure white body colour.

Identification Markings:
Males - Males should have all the typical males markings, cheeks, flanks, breast, etc.. Only the colours should be a more pale tone which give the bird a soft colour look.

Females - Females should only have the black tear marks, the rest of the body should be pure white as the males. Some females will have a dusky or greyish coloured head.

Genetics: This is a sex-linked trait. Females either are or are not Chestnut Flanked White, males can carry the gene. Which is why I produce female Chestnut Flanked Whites.

Crested Zebra Finch

Crested zebras have a little rosette of feathers on top their heads.. Very cute in my opinion. The crest is either a full circle, a semi-circle, or a few feathers standing upright. I refer to the birds with upright feathers as my "bad hair cut bird". The flat and fully circular look is what is preferred among breeders.

Identification Markings:
Males - They have all the normal markings of whichever colour mutation they happen to be. The Crested look can appear on any colour.

Females - Females are also the same in appearance and also have the crest.

Genetics: This is a dominant trait. Only one parent is needed and recommenced to produce Crested offspring. Unlike other species with a Crested mutation, pairing two crested zebras together will not result in baldness.

Fawn Zebra Finch

Fawn is another colour I don't actually breed for, they just pop up, mostly as females. They are very pretty, and I enjoy the colour, but it's not something I plan to specifically breed for. (pictured is a juvenile fawn, not adult.)

Identification Markings:
Males - Over all rich brown body colour. Brown to reddish flanks with white dots. Orange cheek patches. Black breast bar and tear marks.

Females - Females carry the typical female markings and the body colour is the same as the males.

Genetics: This is a sex-linked trait. Females either are or are not fawn, males can carry the gene. Which is why I produce female fawns.

Florida Fancy Zebra Finch

Some say Florida Fancy and Isabel are one in the same. I am not one of those people, but I admit they do look a lot alike.

Florida Fancy lack black markings yet retain their bright orange/red colours. While they have no tear mark, breast markings, or neck barring they often do have very faint tail bars. These bars will show up as a very light grey to silver colour and be almost not noticeable in the best coloured birds. Bodies on both sexes should be white.

Identification Markings:
Males - Show bright orange cheeks. Reddish brown flanks dotted with white. These normal zebra male markings should be visible and bright. No black markings.

Females - Should be entirely white. No tear marks, but like the males they usually have very faint tail bars.

Genetics: Co-Dominant trait. Not really behaving as a dominant trait all the time.

Orange Breast Zebra Finch

Orange Breast are very neat looking zebras to someone who spends most of her time looking at black breasts, pieds, and greys with the very black breast markings. I do breed orange breasts but only because I find them interesting and I do admit my line isn't perfect, I haven't achieved the full orange breast colour yet.

Identification Markings:
Males - Chestnut to reddish coloured flanks with white dots. Orange cheek patches. Black breast bar is orange, in fact all Black pigment should be replaced with orange.. They do have all the normal male markings.

Females - Same base colour of the males though they will show orange on the tail coverts as do the males.

Genetics: This is a recessive trait. Birds may carry the Orange Breast gene and not show it until they are bred with another Orange Breast or a bird which is split to it.

Pied Zebra Finch

Pied refers to white markings where you would normally have colour. No two pieds are identical.

Identification Markings:
Males - Chestnut coloured flanks speckled with white. Orange Cheek Patches. Black breast bar. Zebra Stripes on the chin & neck. Red / Dark Orange beak. Random areas will show pied

Females - Same base colour of the males but lack all the extra colourful plumage. Beaks are also a lighter colour, more orange. Random areas will show pied

Types of Pied: I consider there to be 3 types of pied. Light, Medium, and Heavy.

·        Light Pied - These pieds show only a little of the white markings. Usually a few flight feathers, a small patch under the beak and/or on the head.

·        Medium Pied - These birds will show more pied. It's an almost even 50/50 spit, in the areas that should show colour half will be white. Usually many tail feathers, a large area on the head and in males they may only partly show the more colourful feathers.

·        Heavy Pied - They look mostly white. I don't consider a finch to be a heavy pied unless at least 70% of the body is white.

Genetics: This is a recessive trait. Birds may carry the Pied gene and not show it until they are bred with another pied or a bird which is split to pied.

Recessive Silver Zebra Finch

Recessive Silvers are a lot like greys, except for the fact their main body colouring is a very light to silver.

Identification Markings:
Males - Chestnut to reddish coloured flanks with white dots. Orange cheek patches. Black breast bar should be black but is often more dilute, appearing grey or dark silver.

Females - Same base colour of the males and yes, still lacking all the extra male colours. Both sexes will have tear markings.

Genetics: This is a recessive trait. Birds may carry the Recessive Silver gene and not show it until they are bred with another Recessive Silver or a bird which is split to it.

Silver Isabel Zebra Finch

Very pretty birds. Isabel is more of a patterns of colours. The Isabel look is also known as the 'pearling' look. The colours (usually light grey body) are broken up with lighter patches of colour. It almost makes the bird look iridescent.

Genetics: Co-Dominant trait. I have only 1 Silver Isabel breeder whom is paired with a Grey hen, they produce mostly Silver Isabel females, a few males, and some greys of both sexes.

Yellow Beak Zebra Finch

Yellow beaks will have a yellow to pale orange beak colour. The more yellow the better though. I don't actually breed for Yellow Beak. The mutation keeps popping up now and then.

Identification Markings:
Males - They have all the normal markings of whichever colour mutation they happen to be. The Yellow Beak look can appear on any colour.

Females - Females are also the same in appearance and also have the Yellow Beak.

Genetics: This is a recessive trait. Birds may carry the Yellow Beak gene and not show it until they are bred with another Yellow Beak or a bird which is split to it.