Zebra finches are small song birds often kept as pets. They are attractive, easy to keep and breed well in captivity, making them the ideal hobby birds or pets for small spaces, elderly people and young children. Their small size makes them great for apartment living, and their ability to thrive without constant handling makes them good for active owners who are not home often. Zebra finches are not quite as hardy as larger pet birds, and are susceptible to colds from drafts, so they require a place away from windows and doors in order to stay healthy.
Originating in Australia, zebra finches can still be found in the wild in abundance. Their natural habitat is the low-lying grasslands of Australia, and they live in flocks of up to a hundred or more finches.
The zebra finch is a black-chested bird with white and gray on the back, as well as the characteristic zebra-striped tail feathers. In captivity, zebra finches are a wide variety of main colors and mutations of color that come from varieties in breeding. All colors must have the zebra striping on the tail feathers.
Many birds are difficult to tell male from female, although female coloring is usually more muted and male coloring is more vibrant. In the case of the zebra finch, it is easier to tell male from female, and they can be told apart by the color of their beaks. Males have a bright red beak and females have an orange beak.
Zebra finches do well in both cage and aviary settings. It is always best to give your finch as much space as you can afford, but even if you live in a small apartment, you can find a suitable cage for your finch. Because they are such small birds, one or two zebra finches can live happily in a 24-by-24-inch cage with plenty of perches and toys to keep them occupied.
Commercially prepared finch food makes a fine base to your feeding program. Zebra finches thrive on additional fruits such as cut-up apples, oranges, grapes and some vegetables such as finely chopped broccoli, lettuce, carrots and even sweet potatoes. Always provide plenty of fresh water for your finches every day.