Zebra Finch Care: Species Overview
- Common Names: Zebra finch, chestnut-eared finch, spotted-sided finch, and Australian Aboriginal names “nyi-nyi” and “nyeen-ka”
- Scientific Name: Poephla guttata
- Adult Size: 4 inches long; one of the smaller (though not the smallest) finches
- Life Expectancy: 3 to 15 years, although 3 to 5 years is typical
There are many finch species, but one of the most popular kept as a pet is the zebra finch. It is an excellent choice for a first-time bird owner.
Zebra finches are typically kept in pairs and entertain themselves without a lot of interaction with their owners. This species is the right choice if you don’t have a lot of time to spend with your pet bird.
Zebra Finch Care: Cage Set-Up
- Finches need a cage so they can fly horizontally. A long but short cage is acceptable. The cage must be large enough for them to stretch their wings, climb and play.
- Keep in mind, all finches are social and should be kept in pairs. If you are going to get a larger group of birds, you’ll need an aviary or flight cage.
- For perches, you can use dowels in a couple of different sizes, or add some natural branches, perhaps angling them to provide variety, so their feet are not always holding onto the perches in precisely the same way.
- Do not put perches over food or water dishes. The birds’ droppings will contaminate the food and water.
- Birds are sensitive to strong smells, smoke, and drafts. Keep your finches cage away from the kitchen and away from windows.
- Place the finch cage in a quiet, secure location in your home, they will be less stressed if kept away from an activity hub.
- Finches tolerate a white range of temperatures but avoid placing them in direct sunlight or drafty areas near heat- or air-conditioning ducts. In warmer climates, you can acclimate finches to outdoor aviaries.
- Provide a shallow dish of water or a unique bath at least three or four times a week for the bird to soak in or flit around in the water.
- Cushion the floor of the cage with aspen, wood-pellet, or recycled-paper bedding or use a liner.
- You’ll need to remove droppings frequently.
- Spot-clean the bottom liner or bedding weekly, and replace it entirely once a month.
About the Finch
Zebra Finch Care: Temperament
Zebra finches are small birds that are active and fun to watch. Although small, the zebra finch needs a large cage for flight. If you keep more than a pair, you will need a larger enclosure, such as a flight cage or aviary.
All finches are social and should be kept in pairs. A male and female pair will usually breed, so you may want to consider keeping only females.
Even though the finch is social with other zebra finches, the finch does not bond with people. With a lot of training, you may get the birds to come to your hand. But do no handle the birds.
Origin and History
Zebra finches live in large flocks in its native habitat of the arid areas of central Australia, Indonesia, and East Timor, too. Its preferred habitat includes a range of grasslands and forests, preferably close to water.
Speech and Vocalizations
When it comes to vocalization, the bird emits quiet chirps and peeps that are easy to tolerate. This species should be suitable for apartments or condominium living.
All finches have a variety of whistles and calls. The zebra finch has a quiet, trilling, conversational song. The father bird usually teaches the young chicks to vocalize. He teaches a song, and they improvise with little trills and whistles to personalize it. Many of their improvisations sound like external sounds they have heard.
Zebra Finch Care: Diet and Nutrition
- Finches, like other birds, should be fed a variety of foods. Feed your finches one to two teaspoons of good quality finch seed mix every day.
- A variety of greens should be provided, including romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, kale, and spinach (in moderation), along with a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. Give about a tablespoon of this salad or chopped fruit/vegetable mixture.
- For a treat, millet sprays are a big favorite. Offer it occasionally; you do not want your bird to develop a preference for millet and exclude other foods.
- To make sure that your bird gets all the nutrients it needs, feed them a teaspoon of pelleted food daily. Pellets are a formulated nutrition source, which is good to offer as part of a varied and balanced diet.
- Your finch should have access to a cuttlebone as a calcium supplement at all times and to help keep their beaks healthy.
- Your finch must have fresh water at all times.
These small birds get most of their activity from straight-line flights across the cage, as well as climbing on perches and branches. Make sure your cage or aviary is large enough for flying. They don’t require much more in the way of exercise.
The vitamins and minerals found in fruits, vegetables, seeds, and a pellet-based diet are essential for maintaining your finches’ health. If you notice any of these signs of illness or distress, contact a veterinarian who treats birds:
- Decreased appetite or weight loss.
- Decreased activity or grooming.
- Feathers fluffed up for a long time.
- Long periods sitting at the bottom of the enclosure.
- Discharge from nose or mouth.
- Change in droppings for more than two days.
- Use caution when handling pets and remember they may bite or scratch (especially when stressed).
- Supervise children around pets.
- ALL ANIMALS can potentially carry viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases contagious to humans.
- Thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after contact with any pet or its habitat.
- Adults should assist children with handwashing after contact with a pet, its habitat, or aquarium water.
- Quiet, low-volume chirper; great pet for apartment living
- Does not require exercise time with you
- An excellent first pet bird
- Not affectionate or social with humans
- Needs a larger cage for flight
- Does not like handling