Country of Origin: Australia
Males Size: Small
Female Size: Small
Also known as:  Zebras
Care Requirements: Low
Lifespan: 5-10 Years
Best Suited as:  Pets

If you are new to the world of birds and would like to adopt your first feathered friend, the Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata)is a good bet. While they hail from the grasslands of Australia, they are extremely popular pets around the world because they are easy to care for, colorful and delightful.

The Zebra Finch is a colorful, attractive bird with a distinguished red-orange beak.  Most males have black and white bars on their throat and breast, orange cheek patches and brown sports on the sides of the body. Their red-orange beak tends to be brighter than the females beak.  This is the look of the classic wild Zebra Finch but now there is a wide variety of color mutations available.The female Zebra Finch is less colorful and is grey in most areas where the male displays color.

Zebra Finches are attractive, joyful, and inquisitive birds that are easy to keep and look after.  Zebra Finches are natural mates and are best kept in pairs of two. While they are very social creatures, they tend to socialize mostly with other birds, and not with humans. If you would like a pet that you can hold and pet, the Zebra Finch may not be your ideal. While some owners have taught their Zebra Finch to be tolerant of human contact, it is the exception, not the norm.

The Zebra Finch is easy to care for, and even a new bird owner can generally be good for this bird. With special attention to their diet and environment, they will flourish.

Finch seed mix will suffice for about 80% of your Zebra’s diet. Sprouted seeds are preferable.  The remaining part of their food intake should include properly sized pieces of fresh vegetables and some fruit.  A variety of greens such as Bok Choy, romaine lettuce, dandelion greens and kale are all excellent choices. Some owners also give them millet spray, which to us is like a fine desert.  A Zebra Finch should always be provided with a calcium supplement (Grit and calcium in the form of crushed egg and oyster shells and cuttlebone also works well) and their water dish should remain full of clean chlorine-free water.

There are foods that should not be given to Zebra Finches such as avocado pits, rhubarb, raw onions, salty snacks like chips or pretzels, chocolate, sugary treats and alcohol. Remember to remove the seeds in any fruit or vegetables shared with your Zebra Finch, as most are toxic, with the exception of melons and squashes.

Despite their small size, Zebra Finches are active birds that enjoy a large cage for flying around in.  When you go to purchase one, buy the largest one that you can afford or that you have space for. The minimum amount of flying space should be 51 centimeters and should be even greater for a pair of them. Wire spacing should be 6.35 mm – 1.27 cm.

Cages should be placed in a low traffic area that is quiet. It should be placed in a well-lit area at eye level but not where there will be drafts.  Food dishes should be placed on the floor of the cage. The cage needs to be washed every week and the paper and grit should be changed several times a week.

Zebra Finches enjoy a variety of perches, swings and ladders in their cage for daily entertainment.  They are less interested in toys so make the cage accessories interesting. Supplying several perches of different diameters is best and should not be placed directly above water and food dishes.

While Zebra Finches do not need daily baths, a shallow dish of clean water should be left for them to bath in whenever they feel like taking one.

Health Issues
There are not many common types of illnesses known to be a problem for Zebra Finches. Most injuries and sickness come from neglect or ignorance on the part of their owner. If their cage is not cleaned often (perches need to be disinfected, too!) then sickness can be a problem. Broken wings are also likely if cages are too small or there are too many impediments in their cages and enclosures. Finches eat a regimented diet and poor nutrition can result.

A healthy Zebra Finch should be active and alert, eating and drinking throughout the day, and have dry nostrils and bright, dry eyes. Their beak, legs and feet should appear normal and their feathers should be well groomed.

If you see your pet wheezing or coughing, favoring one foot, sitting on the floor of their cage, or not eating, call your veterinarian.  Fluffed, plucked or soiled feathers, runny stools and eye or nasal discharge are also signs that your bird needs medical attention.

Suitability as a pet
If you are searching for a companion bird, this is not your best bet.  Unlike parrots and parakeets, Zebra Finches do not require daily interaction with their owners and are best for those who just enjoy bird watching. Despite their lack of socialness with humans, they are very easy to care for and do well in lots of environments including those where small children are present. These birds can also be a good choice for those living in an apartment because they are relatively quiet. Most communicate through peeps and chirps that are easily tolerated by most people.