Zebra finches belong to the strikingly varied and unique group of finches known as the Australian grass finches. Most of the different species of grass finch are considered non-beginner’s birds due to their relatively high expense and unforgiving response to conditions not to their liking but Zebras are just the opposite! Zebras are probably the most prolific and therefore the least expensive finch available. A pair can bless you with babies when they themselves are only four to six months old. Sexing Zebras is no problem either for males will begin to show their dimorphic colours of chestnut flanks, red ear spots, and a zebra striped chest within a month or two after fledging. Babies just out of the nest all look like dull coloured hens.
One pair of Zebras should be housed in a large cage that will give them at least a little flight space and room to get away from each other at times. Housing these tiny but active birds in a small cage sold for a single budgie or canary is asking for trouble. Zebras are always on the move - they never stop! They are also more nervous, swift in flight, and certainly not as docile as the society or Lady Gouldian finches, Canaries and Cockatiels. Overcrowded incompatible birds will often feather-pick and may be seen chasing other birds around the enclosure. Zebras, even in a large flight situation, may take over other specie’s nests and/or try stealing nesting material if too many birds want the same nests or roosting place.
My pet name for this little Australian bird is “Beeper”. The voice sounds something like a diminutive toy trumpet “meeping”- and this is kept up continually. (This can become bothersome for some people but others do find the vocal antics of the Zebra entertaining and, perhaps, relaxing as well. The cock’s song is a short, repetitive, high-speed warble bleated out to any Zebra proclaiming to all his willingness to woe a mate and make more Zebras. As is obvious from their willingness to breed Zebras are thoroughly domesticated and are bred for show conformation and depth of colour. Several very nice mutation colour forms are common so acquisition of these birds is really no problem. The rapid reproductive rate of these birds makes them particularly suitable if one wishes to experiment around with or seriously study genetics.
Although the active Australian Zebra finch does not appear to be as steady or tameable as the majority of domestic-raised cage birds they still do comfortably well in a medium to large size cage in the home and are a pleasure to watch. When the ease of pairing the differently coloured cocks and hens is added to the fast-paced reproduction of the zesty Zebra this becomes another highly recommended bird for the home.