There are many choices of finches to keep. The difficulty many finch breeders or hobbyists have is choosing which species to keep. There are very few people that will keep only one species of finch and even those people that do, usually pick a species that has different color mutations. There can be problems with maintaining too many different species, however. If you have mixed colonies, not all species will coexist in harmony. This sometimes takes some trial and error and a few plucked birds to figure out. Even if they do coexist, they will often interfere with each others breeding activities. Even mixing multiple pairs of like species can be trouble. Territorial species will sometimes fight to the death in the small area of an aviary. Unless you have unlimited cage space, the more species you add to your collection, the fewer numbers of each you can house and maintain. This can severely limit your ability to develop and sustain a line of birds. Yet, with all these disadvantages, few things are rewarding as having a mixed flight of birds coexist and produce their young in such a setting.
Photo courtesy My Gouldian Aviary.
Before the first moult at around 10 months, the sexes look alike, but after the moult, the males are much brighter than the females.
The Gouldian is a peaceful bird that can be very happy in a flight consisting of a mixed collection of similar temperment birds.
Zebra finches are fun and easy to have in your home. They are a pleasure to view and their soft chirping is soothing. Whether you want only one pair to keep you company or you want to be a breeder with many birds, Zebras are a joy.
Zebra Finches originate from Australia. Zebras live in open grasslands with some bushes and trees. They live in dry areas over most of Australia. They live in groups and eat mostly grass seeds. They build their nests in bushes out of grass, straw, feathers and anything else they can find. They lay 3-6 eggs and both parents participate in raising the young. The currently accepted taxonomic nomenclature for the Zebra is "Taeniopygia guttata castanotis".
Zebra finches live to be 4-8 years of age. I have heard of birds living to 10 and 12 years old, but I think this is rare.
Males: The normal male bird has a gray upper body and wings. The belly is white. The beak and legs are a red-orange color. On each side of the head is a cheek patch. There is a 'tear drop' mark under the eye. This is a brown/tan/fawn color commonly called orange. The flanks/sides of the bird just below the wings, is a chestnut (orange) colored area with white dots. The chest is black and white stripped like a zebra, hence the name zebra finch. A truly beautiful bird!
Females: The female also has a gray upper body and wings with a white belly. The beak and legs are the same red-orange color but not as deep color, lighter. She has a black 'tear drop' mark under the eye. The most noticable differences between males and females are the cheek patches and the chest striping.
Where do I go to buy a Zebra finch? The most popular place is of course the pet store. Zebra finches are relatively inexpensive, ranging from $12 to $30 a pair. Pet stores usually carry only the common colored Zebras. Normal gray, silver, white, and sometimes Chestnut Flanked Whites. For the rare colors you will need to find a breeder. Not all breeders carry all colors. There are about 17-20 recognized color mutations plus the combinations of these 20 colors creating many, many more colors.
When picking out your birds you will want to be sure that you are getting healthy birds. Watch then for a few minutes. Don’t pick a bird that sits in the corner, looks all puffy, or looks injured. You want the bird that is visually healthy, active, and alert.
In a pet store the birds will often have missing feathers. Many times the cage will have too many birds in it, making the birds argue about who is the chief. A few missing feathers is nothing to worry about. They will grow back unless the bird has been picked on so much that the skin is permanently damaged.
It is recommended that you not keep a bird as a single pet. Zebras are colony birds. They like the company of other Zebras. The most common is to have one male and one female. In a pet store it is usually not know if the birds are related. If you are going to have your birds simply as pets, then it is not too important to have unrelated birds. If you want to breed your birds then they should be unrelated if possible. If the pet store does not know, you could buy a male from one store and a female from another store. This would virtually guarantee that they are unrelated.
Whether or not you want to breed your birds, the hen will lay eggs. If there is no nest, she will lay them on the floor or the feed dish. Simply remove the eggs. This is natural and it does her no harm.
The basic food of a Zebra finch is seeds. Various varieties of millet is their staple. Buy a commercially prepared mix. This will be a balanced mix and this will do very well for your birds. It needs to be fresh, so don’t buy a fifty pound bag for two birds. Buy an amount that will be used up in about a month. Their seed cup should always have seed in it. They will regulate how much they need to eat.
Keep their water fresh and clean daily. How would you like to drink water that has been sitting out for a week and probably has some seeds in it?
All birds need grit (sand). They use this to grind their food, for they do not have teeth. Buy a commercial gravel/grit mixture. Buy one that also has minerals added, like oyster shell and charcoal. A vitamin additive can be purchased to be added to the food or water. This is not a requirement if the rest of the diet in balanced.
Fresh foods from your kitchen are an optional source for a balanced diet. Different individual birds will have different likes and dislikes. You will have to experiment with a variety of food items. Frozen mixed vegetables (thawed), sprouts (alfalfa, etc), hard boiled egg (mashed), lettuce, spinach, bread crumbs, and corn bread. Most natural foods can be fed to your birds. Just don’t feed extremes like peppers, cabbage, etc. Be sure to feed only the amount of fresh food that will be consumed before it spoils. Remove any that they do not eat.
Egg shells are a good source of calcium. When you have eggs for breakfast, rinse the shells and microwave them for four minutes to kill salmonella, etc. Put them in your bird cage and the birds will go wild for them.
You should also supply cuttlebone for your birds. This can be purchased at the pet store. It is a white and about 2x5 inches. Hang it on the side of the cage and the birds will peck at it.
Generally there is little that needs to be done in the way of health maintenance. A balance diet is by far the most important. A few of things to watch for are signs of illness, nails, leg bands, and strings.
If your bird sits in the corner, looks puffy, or generally doesn't look good, he may be ill. Be sure there is food and water in shallow dishes on the floor of the cage. This will make it easier for him to access them. Try to warm him a little by moving the cage to a warmer location or placing a lamp beside the cage. Unfortunately, because of their tiny size, an illness can run its course and kill your bird before you even notice the symptoms.
Nails will usually be maintained naturally. If they get too long, you will need to catch the bird and trim the nails. A nail clipper works good. Be sure not to clip too much. If you clip to the ‘quick’ it will bleed. If you look very closely at the tip of the nail, you will see that the tip looks more clear in color. This can be safely cut off.
Watch your birds that have leg bands. I have had birds that grow up to have thick legs that become too big for the band. This restricts blood circulation and the foot will swell and eventually could cause the bird to die. Remove the band. To do this you may have to cut it off. This will maybe be a two person job. Be careful, that is a tiny fragile leg.
Strings are dangerous. Birds love to play with them. There is a possibility that the string could get tangled around a birds leg or neck and get caught on the cage, thus injuring the bird. Simply be sure the strings are two inches of shorter. Shredded burlap works great for nesting material. I cut the burlap into two inch squares and shred it.
True story .
A friend keeps a variety of birds in a large beautiful aviary. Two months ago he spotted a Zebra finch hen sitting on his aviary. It had rained a lot this day and the bird was completely soaked and in a terrible condition. It was not very difficult to catch it and she was put in a small cage indoors to dry with plenty of seeds and water. There was little hope for this bird but surprisingly she survived and after a couple of days. she was completely recovered. As she looked very healthy with no sign of any disease, she was released into the large aviary.
In this aviary there is a mixed population of gold finches, bull finches, canaries, Japanese nightingales and quails. Right from the start the zebra finch became very good friends with the pair of bull finches. All day they were seeking each others company and during the night the three were resting very closely together the small zebra finch in between the bull finch couple. Even when the breeding season started and the bull finches were building a nest, their little friend was still tolerated and even helped building the nest. What now happened I have never experienced before and I have never heard of something alike. It is well known that sometimes two birds have a preference for a certain spot in the aviary for nesting. This leads to in a lot of irritation and fighting and finally one couple gives up and seeks an acceptable alternative. Not with our close friends. When the bullfinch had three eggs and started the incubation, the zebra finch joined her in her nest and even produced three eggs herself (of course infertile because there was no male zebra finch around). This all is taking place in good harmony. Sometimes they need to rearrange places, but it never turns into hostilities.
Although the situation seems to be one of mutual full acceptance, it will- in one way or another- adversely affect the breeding and give a lot of disturbance when the young's are born. After we have taken the pictures above, my friend decided to catch the zebra finch and put it in a separate cage for the time being.
Scientific Name: Amandine fascinate
This extremely hardy finch will live in an outside aviary for many years. It is some-times inclined to become aggressive and should only be kept with large sized birds. It is easy to manage in all other respects and makes a good addition to a mixed collection.
Size: 13 cm (5 in) COCK:
Body: Beige-brown dappled with dark greyish-black, looking like scales. Beak: grey. Legs: dull pink. Throat: scarlet.
Similar, but she lacks the scarlet throatlatch.
Mixed millets, plaits canary seed and seeding grasses form the basic diet. Green food is appreciated. Grit and cut-tilefish hone must always he available for this species. This bird may be kept out of doors and need only a dry, frost-proof shelter to which it can retire to in cold weather.
Cut Throat Finch Breeding:
In display, the Cut-Throat cock sings quiet little song, ruffling his throat feathers as he sings. A nest is built from grasses, roots, hairs or any available material, preferably inside a nest box. It is normally lined with feathers. The hen lays four to six eggs which both parents take turns to incubate. The young are normally hatched after 12 days' incubation. Rearing food should consist of soaked and sprouted seeds, soaked stale bread, a few mealworms and fresh ants’ eggs. Nest inspection is resented while the parents are sitting.
During the breeding season it is a good idea to mix cod liver oil with the birds’ seed, since this helps prevent egg binding to which Cut-Throat hens are often prone to. In cold weather, the same measure may be taken to ensure health and vitality. Another aid during the breeding season is sponge cake soaked in honey and a little fine grade inspective mix.
As mentioned earlier the cut throat finch is very aggressive in nature and especially during the breeding season. If you are willing to keep the bird in your aviary, you may take a note of the following cut throat finch pet care tips.
Cut Throat Care
The specie is listed in CITES or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora of appendix three. The bird has become quire rare in US and even its import from Europe has also become restricted. After several mutations the bird can also be seen in yellow bands instead of the red.