Australian Zebra Finch

Australian Zebra Finch

Chestnut-eared finch

Taeniopygia castanotis
Population size
Life Span
5-12 years
g oz 
cm inch 

The Australian zebra finch (Taeniopygia castanotis) is the most common estrildid finch of Central Australia. It has also been introduced to Puerto Rico and Portugal. Due to the ease of keeping and breeding the zebra finch in captivity, it has become Australia’s most widely studied bird; by 2010, it was the most studied captive model passerine species worldwide, by a considerable margin.




























Not a migrant


starts with


Male zebra finches have a colorful plumage consisting of white, black, gray, orange, and brown colors; females are uniformly gray. Both sexes have red eyes and orange bills. Young birds are similar to females but their eyes are grey-brown and the bill is black.




Biogeographical realms

Australian zebra finches are found in about 75% of mainland Australia. They are generally not found on the coasts, except for the arid western edge. They usually occur in more arid areas. The areas these birds choose to occupy are close to water, and places where rain is concentrated after it falls. They inhabit grasslands with scattered trees and shrubs and open or grassy woodlands. They are also found in cultivated areas, such as rice fields. They usually stay in the low coastal areas of the islands but can move to higher elevations to exploit expanding cultivation and grasslands.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Australian zebra finches are social birds; they live and forage in flocks, although sometimes they may feed in pairs or singly. During the breeding season, small or medium-sized flocks are common, but outside of the breeding season, they gather in flocks of up to about 500 birds. Zebra finches are diurnal and generally forage on the ground but they also eat seeds on the heads of standing grass. To do this, they either fly and peck out seeds one at a time, or they perch on a nearby branch. They may also take the head to the ground by jumping up and seizing it with their bill or feet. In times of scarcity, zebra finches can use their bill to dig into the ground to find a buried seed. Insects are usually caught in short flights from lookout perches. Zebra finches are loud and boisterous singers. Their calls can be a loud beep, meep, oi! or a-ha!. Their song is a few small beeps, leading up to a rhythmic song of varying complexity in males. Males begin to sing at puberty, while females lack a singing ability.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Zebra finches are herbivores (granivores) and primarily eat grass seeds. The grasses they are taken from are commonly between about 1 and 2.6 millimeters (0.039 and 0.102 in) in length, and larger and easily dehusked seeds are preferred. Zebra finches supplement their diet with insects (mainly ants and termites) caught in short flights from lookout perches, in addition to flowers of the genus Chenopodium. The nestlings eat almost entirely half-ripe and ripe seeds, in addition to green plant material.

Mating Habits

17-18 days
36-50 days
2-8 eggs

Zebra finches are monogamous and mate for life. They generally breed in loose colonies of up to 50 nests (although the number of individuals in a colony can be up to about 230 when breeding, and around 350 when not), but they may also nest solitarily. Australian zebra finches breed about 1-3 months after water becomes available. This is so that the chicks hatch when semi-ripe and ripe seeds (their primary food) become available. Nests are usually placed in a thorny shrub or tree, but also in cavities and ledges of commercial buildings. Zebra finches build both a roosting and breeding nest. The former is dome-shaped, has a large entrance on the side, and lacks an entrance tunnel. This nest helps the birds conserve body heat. The breeding nest has a small entrance followed by a tunnel, which conceals the contents of the nest, leading to the egg chamber; the latter two are separated by a raised lip, preventing eggs from rolling out. The female lays 2-8 white or pale greyish-blue eggs which are incubated for 14 to 16 days by both parents. Chicks fledge about 17-18 days after hatching. They are able to feed themselves around 35 days after hatching, although they are still socially dependent on their parents during this time; Young zebra finches fledge about 17 to 18 days after hatching. They feed themselves around 35 days after hatching, although they are still socially dependent on their parents during this time. The young become independent between 36-50 days after hatching and are ready to form pair bonds and breed when they get close to 80 days in age.


Population threats

There are no major threats to zebra finches at present.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the Australian zebra is common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Ecological niche

Zebra finches help to disperse seeds of various plants they consume in their diet. These birds and their eggs also serve as food items to local predators.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Zebra finches have been the most popular cage bird for more than 100 years!
  • The Zebra finch is one of the fastest maturing bird species recorded; young birds are ready to form pairs and breed at the age of 80 days!
  • Male zebra finches make a hissing noise when they protect their territory and mates.
  • Australian zebra finches use an acoustic signal to communicate with embryos. They give an incubation call to their eggs when the weather is hot - above 26 °C (79 °F) - and when the end of their incubation period is near. This call alters the growth and behavior of the chicks, with chicks that were given an incubation call having less mass at the end of the nestling phase when they experienced higher nest temperatures. Additionally, the chicks called to as an embryo are more likely to call after experiencing high nest temperatures.
  • These small birds generally consume about 3 milliliters (0.11 imp fl oz; 0.10 US fl oz)) in water per day. When at a higher temperature of 40 °C (104 °F), they may drink from 6 to 12 milliliters (0.21 to 0.42 imp fl oz; 0.20 to 0.41 US fl oz) of water per day.
  • Due to the danger of predation, zebra finches gather in flocks in a bush or tree near a waterhole, only going to drink after the group is large enough. They then only drink for a few seconds and after drinking, the birds generally bathe for around a minute. Then, they dry off and re-oil their plumage in a warm sheltered spot.
  • Zebra finches only need an average of 3.6 seconds to drink 1.5 milliliters (0.053 imp fl oz; 0.051 US fl oz) of water. This short amount of time per bout is achieved by these birds' drinking method. They swallow the water while their bill tip is still submerged, unlike most birds that bring their bill tip up to swallow.


1. Australian Zebra Finch on Wikipedia -
2. Australian Zebra Finch on The IUCN Red List site -

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