Zebra finch

Taeniopygia guttata

SUBFAMILY

Poephilinae

TAXONOMY

Fringilla guttata Vieillot, 1817. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Spotted-sided finch, chestnut-eared finch; French: Diamant mandarin; German: Zebrafink; Spanish: Pinzón Zebra.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

3.9 in (10 cm). Sexually dimorphic; females lack the orange cheek patch and the white-spotted chestnut flanks found in adult males. Juveniles similar to females but have a dark bill.

DISTRIBUTION

Throughout most of the interior of Australia and parts of Indonesia.

HABITAT

Inhabits a wide variety of habitats but prefers open areas such as plains, savanna, woodland, mulga scrub, grassland, salt-

Taeniopygia guttata I Resident marshes, cultivated areas and farmlands, orchards, and inhabited areas and gardens. Water can always be found nearby.

BEHAVIOR

A highly gregarious species, the zebra finch can be found in pairs or, more often, large flocks. The call is a "tya" or "tchee." The song, given by displaying males, is a mixture of trills and nasal notes.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds on the ground on a variety of grass seeds and shoots. The ability to go long periods without water (up to 513 days in one study) and the pigeon-like manner of drinking has allowed this species to survive long periods of drought.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Round nests made of variable materials are either built new or made by renovating roosting nests or other species' nests. Three to eight white eggs are incubated for 11—15 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

This species is the most commonly kept and studied estrildid and probably ranks in the top five of most commonly kept birds. Kept since the mid to late 1800s, this species has become domesticated with as many as 30 separate mutations and many combinations thereof developed. Strains developed in Germany and England are several times larger than the wild birds. ♦

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