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Zebra-Finches

Poephila guttata

Zebra-Finches Zebra Finches, are small birds (averaging 9cm) and are native to the Australian grasslands. Australia currently has a closed door policy prohibiting the exportation of animals from the country. Therefore, most species of Australia finches found outside of the country were not born in Australia. Zebra finches are extremely colorful and among the most popular variety of caged birds. Zebra finches are delightful pets for the home, office or classroom. The mature male zebra finch is generally more colorful 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 overwhelming popularity of zebra finches is attributable to both their attractive coloring and the fact that they are among the easiest birds to breed in captivity. Owners generally have repeated opportunities to witness their nesting and reproductive behavior as well as the birth of their offspring.

Social Habits


Zebra finches are extremely social birds; however, only social with other birds. Typically, zebra finches are shy around people and do not like to be petted or held. Some owners of hand-fed zebra finches attest to birds that are more comfortable with human touch. However, as a general rule, individuals seeking pets that enjoy being held should probably avoid the zebra finch. In their native habitat of Australia, wild zebra finches travel in flocks in the wide open grasslands. Zebra finches in captivity retain this extremely social nature. Zebra finches should be kept in pairs to insure their happiness. A pair of zebra finches will often stay in close physical contact at rest or while grooming or preening one another. Often, however, trouble between a pair of Zebra finches will flare over situations, including but not limited to, sitting on the eggs. One strategy for curbing an aggressive male is to provide him a toy to vent his aggression against.

Cages/Aviaries


Zebra finches are very active and enjoy flying around. Experts recommend that zebra finch owners provide their birds with the largest flying space affordable. A minimum flying space of no less than 20 inches is recommended. Cages, either metal or wooden, are the most frequent cost-effective choice for housing finches. Aviaries, generally indoors, are often refer to in literature discussing the housing of finches. These structures are much larger than cages ranging anywhere from 50 cubic feet to those large structures found at zoos. Because of the zebra finches miniature size, all bird cages are not appropriate. For exotic finches, the space between cage bars should never be greater than one-half inch. Brass cages are not recommended because of potential toxic qualities. Happy, unstressed, finches have their cages or aviaries in quiet, low traffic areas of the house, office or classroom. Swings are an excellent accessory for the finch cage.

Diet Information


Daily changes of fresh water are critical. If you are unable to replace water daily, I recommend using a Drink Tube, 8 in . The zebra finch's' primary food is seed. Millet is the principal seed in any finch formula. Properly balanced seed formulas are readily available at pet shops. Zebra finches love millet sprays. Zebra finches also need a diet supplemented with certain greens like spinach, vegetables and fruits. Sprouted seeds are the method employed by most finch owners to satisfy the need for greens. Grated carrots and cucumbers are examples of vegetables fed to zebra finches. Owners are encouraged to try apples and bananas to see what appeals to their individual finches. Calcium is an essential mineral supplement to Zebra Finches. It is important both to the birds bone development and maintenance and to the females calcium intensive needs in egg laying. Understandably, the need for calcium is most acute in the female during and after the egg laying process. Generally, a Cuttlebone, obtained at many pet stores, is the easiest method for assuring that calcium is available. Egg Food recipes are also recommend periodically as a calcium supplement. Additionally, during the egg laying process, many owners and breeders recommend that a baby bird hand-feeding formula be mixed with dampened seed and presented to the nesting pair. The benefit of the hand-feed powder formula is that it is easier for the parent when gagging up food to feed the fledglings and easier for the fledgling to digest. The reason for starting the hand-food formula before the birth of the offspring is to get the parents accustom to it prior to the time it is needed for feeding the young. Additionally, when my birds are going through stressful experiences, such as a change in housing, breeding, loss of a mate, I like to supplement their diet by putting a powdered vitamin in their water.

Producing Offspring


As a rule, zebra finches are aggressive nest builders. Wicker baskets work well as nesting sites. When the nesting process begins, the male gathers material to carry back to start building the nest. Caged zebra finches will use commercially available artificial nesting material which is designed to approximate nesting materials found in nature. It is important to become familiar with the change in dietary needs of the parent during the nesting and birth process (see above for detail). After nesting, a female zebra finch will lay between four and six eggs, laying one each day. After a couple of the eggs are laid, the pair will begin sitting on the eggs. The brooding and incubation process may take approximately 11 to 14 days or more. The whole process from building a nest to the young fledglings achieving independence is approximately two months. Most novice zebra finch owners are caught off-guard by the speed of this process. It is important not to allow finches that are closely related to produce offspring. Inbreeding will result in a weakening of the offspring and eventually the breed.

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