Zebra finches are a small exotic bird belonging to the family of finches and belonging to a large order of passeriformes. At this point in time, finches are one of the most popular birds of the passerine family, which is common on all continents of the Earth. Birds are unpretentious, feel great in cages and easily breed in captivity. There are many subspecies in the order of finches, but zebra finches differ from the rest both in appearance and behavior.
Origin of the species and description
For the first time, these birds were described and classified only at the end of the 18th century, when researchers reached Australia, the homeland of zebra finches. But naturally, zebra finches, as a species, formed several thousand years ago and are quite adapted to the arid climate of the Australian bush. The fossilized remains of finches date back to the 2nd millennium BC, and already in that distant era, these birds looked exactly the same as they do now.
Video: Zebra finches
In terms of size and weight, finches are small birds, most reminiscent of an ordinary Russian sparrow. However, zebra finches have several distinctive features that distinguish it from other birds of this species.
- zebra finches do not exceed 12 centimeters in size;
- weight about 12-15 grams;
- wingspan about 15 centimeters;
- birds live about 10 years, but in good conditions they can live up to 15 years;
- tiny round head;
- small but thick beak. In males it is a bright coral color, in females it is orange;
- the paws are small, ideally suited for sitting on the branches of a tree;
- the plumage of zebra finches is very colorful and often has 5-6 different colors.
This species of birds is distinguished by cheerfulness and love for life. Their sonorous and iridescent trills can cheer up anyone. The plumage of the zebra finches is dense, the feathers are short and tightly pressed to the body. The cheeks of the bird are the color of a ripe chestnut, but the chest and neck have a striped zebra pattern. As a rule, the tummy of the finches is white, and the paws are pale orange.
Appearance and Features
Zebra finches are considered one of the most beautiful in the passerine family. Their appearance depends not only on the subspecies to which they belong, but also on the area in which they live. Zebra finches are divided into two subspecies: mainland and island. Continental birds live throughout Australia, with the exception of the most remote and arid regions of the continent, where there is simply no water.
Island zebra finches live in almost the entire archipelago of the Sunda Islands. According to one version, the birds got there by flying several hundred kilometers from Australia on their own. According to another version, they were brought there by ancient sailors and over hundreds of years have completely adapted to life on small, exotic islands. Significant populations of zebra finches live on the islands of Timor, Sumba and Flores.
In their appearance, zebra finches most of all resemble a brightly colored sparrow. And if the back, head and neck are ashen or gray, then the cheeks are brightly colored and stand out very well against the gray plumage. White feathers on the abdomen give the bird an elegant look, making it very beautiful and attractive.
It is worth noting the fact that the island and mainland subspecies differ from each other. The mainland zebra finches are somewhat larger, live in huge flocks (up to 500 individuals) and can do without water for several days. In turn, the inhabitants of the islands are smaller in size, live in flocks of 20-30 individuals and are much more sensitive to the lack of water.
It has been empirically proven that the coloring of a bird is directly related to its character. So, finches in the plumage of which there is a red color have a quarrelsome character and often fight. In turn, birds with black birds encountered are more curious. They are the first to fly to the feeder and the first to go to explore new territories.
An interesting fact: The ratio of the number of mainland and island birds is approximately 80%/20%. Mainland zebra finches are much more common and are the most commonly bred at home. Island finches are considered exotic, and are generally not found among bird lovers. You can only see them when you visit the Sunda Islands.
Where does the zebra finches live?
Despite their very beautiful appearance and elegant appearance, zebra finches are very hardy and unpretentious. They prefer to nest on spacious plains with sparse interspersed with trees, on the outskirts of large forests and in the Australian bush, overgrown with tall shrubs.
A prerequisite for nesting zebra finches is the presence of water. Birds must have unhindered access to water, and therefore they always settle near a river or a small lake. Birds easily withstand huge temperature fluctuations (from +15 to +40), but almost immediately die at temperatures below +10 degrees Celsius. Another prerequisite for living Amadina is a warm climate.
Birds can easily survive 5-7 days without water, and are able to drink very salty water without harm to health. Living on small islands, zebra finches prefer to settle away from the sea, as strong sea breezes prevent the birds from flying normally. They nest in the depths of the islands, close to water sources. Island finches are less hardy than their mainland counterparts, but are also able to live without moisture for several days.
In the 20th century, birds were brought to California and Portugal, where they perfectly took root and adapted to local weather conditions. In their habits, they do not differ from the mainland zebra finches, and have not yet separated into a separate subspecies.
Now you know where the zebra finches live. Let’s see what this bird eats.
What does the zebra finch eat?
In nature, zebra finches feed mainly on seeds of plants or cereals. Moreover, in order to get food, the birds gather in large flocks (up to 100 pieces) and fly to fish. In addition, as a mineral supplement, birds eat sand and even small pebbles, which contribute to proper digestion and help digest hard grains.
I must say that under natural conditions, the diet of the zebra finches is very limited and the birds eat about the same thing all their lives. Of particular note is the fact that even during the period of incubation of chicks, birds do not feed on insects and do not need an additional source of protein. But in the conditions of home maintenance, the diet of zebra finches is much richer. Actually, this explains the fact that birds live 1.5-2 times longer in cage conditions.
You can feed zebra finches:
- with special mixtures for exotic birds (which includes millet);
- soft food that birds do not get in the wild. In particular, you can give soft cottage cheese, pieces of boiled eggs and even a little boiled rice;
- vegetables (cucumber or zucchini);
- peeled black seeds.
Minerals must be present on the Zebra Finch’s menu. You can buy special vitamin complexes that contain mineral supplements, or you can give the birds eggshells or calcined chalk 2 times a week.
Interesting fact: Zebra finches are a very voracious bird. In the natural environment, it is limited in nutrition, and at home, the bird must be artificially limited in food. It is necessary to give food 2 times a day and strictly dose the portion size. Otherwise, the bird will quickly gain excess weight, which will affect its health in the most sad way.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Zebra finches have a very cheerful and cheerful disposition. They are restless, fidgety and can jump from branch to branch a dozen times per minute. A key feature of the lifestyle of finches is that zebra finches are flocking birds. Even in captivity, it is recommended to start at least 4 zebra finches, since two (and even more so one) birds will be sad and bored.
Despite their natural curiosity and love of life, zebra finches shy away from humans. Even domestic birds born and raised in captivity experience stress when a person takes them in hand. Experienced breeders do not recommend picking up finches too often, as the birds are very nervous at the same time.
Despite the fact that birds live in large flocks, they fly in separate groups of 20-30 individuals to hunt. Moreover, the finches have different areas where they collect grains and cereals, and these areas do not overlap.
An interesting fact: Although the birds live in large flocks, they all know each other very well. And if a strange bird from another flock tries to worm its way among the finches, they will simply push it out and won’t even let it spend the night. spend the night on the same branch, huddled close to each other.
Social structure and reproduction
In the wild, zebra finches do not have a distinct breeding season. Birds can mate several times a year, and the mating season is entirely dependent on the amount of moisture. The more full-flowing rivers and reservoirs, the more often finches will breed chicks.
Puberty begins in zebra finches from 6 months. At this age, the bird is considered quite mature and ready for mating games and laying eggs.
The male attracts the female with ringing trills, and she jumps from branch to branch for a long time, giving the opportunity to admire herself. If the female accepts courtship from the male, then they begin to build a nest together.
Interesting fact: Ornithologists have found that finches must choose their own partners. If you try to cross a couple artificially, keeping them together for a long time, they will build a nest, and the female will lay eggs, but immediately after the birth of the chicks, the parents will lose all interest in them. Related to this are problems with the hybridization of different species of finches.
Nest building takes about a week. It has a bottle shape and is usually built from dry grass and small twigs. The inside of the nest is lined with soft feathers. The number of eggs in a nest also depends on the climate. If there is enough moisture, up to 8 eggs are laid before the bird, and if the weather is dry, then there will be no more than 3-4 eggs. Incubation of eggs takes 12-14 days.
Chicks are born without fluff and feathers, as well as blind. Parents feed them in turn, bringing food in their beaks. However, after 20-25 days, the chicks fly out of the nest, and after another month they are completely ready for adulthood. Zebra finches tend to grow up very quickly, and by the 5th month of life, the chicks do not differ from adults, and at 6 months they are ready to start their own offspring.
In nature, birds have enough enemies. Despite the fact that there are not so many predatory animals in Australia, many finches die within the first year of life.
The main enemies of birds:
- large snakes;
- predatory lizards;
- large feathered predators.
Lizards and snakes cause great damage to bird clutches. These creatures perfectly climb trees and can easily reach the place where the bird’s nest is located. Zebra finches cannot protect the nest, and therefore predators feast on eggs with absolutely impunity.
But birds of prey (hawks, gyrfalcons) also hunt adults. Zebra finches fly in flocks, and winged predators with high diving speed are excellent at catching small birds, despite their small size and agility in the air.
Large red ants, which are found in Australia, can also cause great harm to birds. The sizes of red Australian ants are such that they can carry eggs into the nest or bite through its shell. Cats can also prey on birds and destroy clutches. This usually happens when birds build nests very close to human dwellings.
In the past few years, a construction boom has begun in Australia, and new residential complexes are being built in the suburbs of large cities, in places where finches nest constantly. This caused the birds to migrate inland, to the driest regions of Australia.
Population and species status
The population of zebra finches is considered one of the largest in Australia, and ornithologists do not predict its significant decline in the near future. At the end of 2017, about 2 million individuals lived in Australia alone. For Australians, zebra finches are as common and familiar as gray sparrows for Russians and do not arouse the slightest interest.
Despite the large number of natural enemies, the birds are very prolific and capable of producing up to 4 offspring per year, which is easy compensate for the natural loss of individuals. The situation is slightly worse with the island zebra finches. They are much smaller and less hardy, but they are not threatened with extinction. According to scientists, about 100 thousand birds live on the Sunda Islands.
Also, do not forget that zebra finches feel great in California, Puerto Rico and Portugal. A large number of birds live there, and they feel great in the new conditions.
In addition, the zebra finches feel great in captivity, are easily bred in an ordinary city apartment, and then adapt perfectly in the wild. In the event of the slightest threat, the populations of these birds can be quickly bred in artificial conditions and released into the wild.