South East Queensland Zebra 
Finch Society Inc.

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Visit to Frederic & Karine Bivert, Liginiac, France

Posted on June 1, 2020 at 4:40 AM


In mid-March I had the great pleasure of spending 4 memorable days with my wonderful hosts Frederic & Karine Bivert from Liginiac, France. Anyone travelling to France I highly recommend a trip to the south of France; the countryside is magnificent. Frederic is President of the French Zebra Finch Club and author of a book dedicated to Zebra Finches—”Le Diamant Mandarine”; unfortunately it is only available in French as it is truly a great reference book covering ALL aspects of Zebra Finches from the wild to the many mutations available on the European scene. Frederic’s wife, Karine, is also a dedicated Zebra Finch breeder having won many champion awards with her Penguin mutation. They have a dedicated timber birdroom on their property that houses over 200 hundred birds in 48 breeding cabinets and holding flights. Frederic’s main colours are the Black Breasted, Continental CFWs and Black Cheeks and the numerous combinations while Karine concentrates on the Penguin mutation and more recently Fawn Light Back Black Cheek. The birdroom has heating with a constant temperature of around 15 degrees. Lighting is used while the south facing wall of the birdroom is fitted out with windows. There is also a ventilation system that draws fresh air in. The main breeding season commences around February/March and continues during the spring/summer seasons. Autumn & winter is the main show season.

A basic finch mix consisting of small millet seeds and is supplemented by a soft food mix combined with a dehydrated mealworm/cricket mix that is ground and added to the soft food; no grit is supplied. During the breeding season red panic millet sprays are supplied to the breeding pairs and young. These are grown on Karine’s father’s farm and harvested before drying and boxing; no green food is supplied.

Flat pack cardboard nest boxes are used for each pair and these are filled with prepacked white cotton strands, to this is added another packed product of soft animal fur/wool/etc. No other nesting material is used. The birds simply shape their nest and lay directing onto the soft fur (no roof is added to the nest).

The standard of the European Zebra Finch is different to our Australian standard, with an emphasis on colour; I could not see consistency in the ‘type’ of the European Zebra Finch while the size of their Zebra Finch I would say is about 10% larger, the average bird being similar in size to our better birds. The birds also carry a buffer feather but not to the extreme as the English Zebra Finches. The striking feature of the European Zebra Finch was the depth and consistency of colour and clarity of markings. This has made me think that perhaps we need to concentrate more on improving the colour and markings. I am NOT at all suggesting a change to our points structure, but we can make vast improvements in these areas with our own birds.

Click below to see photos of the visit." target="_blank">/

Tim Hartung

March 2020


guttata ZEBRA FINCH STUD by Tim Hartung 2016

Posted on July 31, 2016 at 6:40 PM

After years of planning the perfect setup, if that is ever possible, and 18 months of construction I can reveal that the “guttata Zebra Finch Stud” Birdroom has now evolved. Now this is stage one of a three stage project, no time limit, but I believe I now have the near perfect setup for ME to develop a Zebra Finch stud. Now the real work begins in bringing all those plans and ideas together as I develop my line of birds.

My new birdroom is small by some standards but for me with our young family and work commitments it suits me just fine. I have allowed room to expand as time allows in years to come. I wanted something that was serviceable from a central place; breeding cabinets, flight cages, all those usual necessities including power, found in a birdroom. Running water will come in stage 2. Important to me was the satisfaction of building from the ground up, that sense of achievement, and fitting into our country theme; this also helped to control costs. Organised and easy to clean was another important factor as some say I suffer from OCD 

The end result is a timber framed birdroom 3m x 3m x 2.2m with insulated walls and roof, 18 plastic breeding cabinets (47cm x 35 cm x 38 cm), 9 holding cabinets and 2 flights 1.5m x 0.75 x 1.3m, lighting, a/c (if required) and a fridge for all those extras. The interior is fully lined with corflute sheets aiding in insulation and along with the plastic breeding cages making the whole setup easy to clean. LED strip lights are set up on timers to come on at 5am and off at 6pm each day allowing me time to feed the birds each morning.

My goal is to develop a strong cabinet bred line of birds, quiet in nature that will require minimal show training. Now to achieve this will take time and effort as the original birds are mainly aviary bred stock. However, I have been pleasantly surprised how quickly some pairs have settled and bred yet others will require more patience but persist we must. For breeding the 18 breeding cabinets are divided into 9 separate breeding cages; not a lot of pairs but quality over quantity is the goal. With this new setup I will be able to breed year round, even in our cool frosty winter months on the Darling Downs. Selective breeding and culling heavily has always been my motto.

Currently I am concentrating on developing a line of Greys, Fawns and along with Black Fronts these are the main focus. In addition, I have the odd pair/s Dilutes, Isabel’s, Carabel’s and Pieds. With a variety of mutations this gives me the option to move eggs/young should the need arise while allowing me to keep track of parentage. Also helps to keep me acquainted with different mutations for judging purposes.

Each breeding cage is setup with exterior mounted feed and water dishes. Small ash trays are used for extras and canary finger drawers are used for the soft food. For nesting receptacles, I researched a lot of setups and came across plastic nest boxes. I tracked down a local supplier and these have served well to date. Being able to be hung on the outside of the cage allows for quick inspection and easy of cleaning. We don’t get the hot humid days during summer found on the coast and with pre punched ventilation slots I have not had any issues with ‘wet’ nests. Some pairs have been reluctant to accept these and the usual cane nests or canary nests have been used to get them familarised with their new housing. Future generations should readily accept the new nest boxes. November grass is added to the nest, cup formed in the base and grass left covering the entrance. This way I can quickly identify those pairs that have started working the nests. Extra grass is placed in the cage and feathers added once the nest construction is underway. Hopefully eggs appear soon after.

Nests are checked daily, a couple taps on the box before opening warns the birds I’m about to lift the lid, most birds get used to this routine and some hens won’t even move. Young are closed rung at 10 days of age. Each pair is normally allowed 2 rounds of young before either giving the cock another hen or replacing the pair.

Once the young fledge a second nest box is hung allowing the parents to start the next round. Once the young are seen feeding themselves, approx. 3 weeks, they are transferred to the 3 bay holding cages on the opposite wall of the birdroom to mature. Once fully coloured they are then transferred to the separate cock and hen flight cages. During this stage potential show birds are run into show cages to familarised themselves for showing.

I believe in the KISS principle and feed a simple diet without over complicating the matter. These days there is a myriad of feeds especially developed for caged birds and there is no need for use to try and find the perfect combination; the work has been done for us. I feed Golden Cob Finch Mix as the basic seed mix. I have found the mix clean and never any wastage so don’t even bother trying to mix my own. It may cost a little more but I find it worth the extra expense. Water is stored in 1lt glass coke bottles (remember no running water yet) and added to this is Vetafarm Aviclens. My grit mix consists of 2 parts fine shell grit, 1 part Avi-Natural (diatoms), 1 part PVM Powder and cuttlefish is pegged inside the cage. This is the basic diet available each day year round. In addition, Vetafarm Superior Egg & Biscuit, greens (Buk Choy, Lebanese Cucumber or English Spinach leaves), Greens and Grains/QFS Tonic Mix and spouted/frozen seed mix is fed to all birds on a rotation each day year round. During the cool months’ finch mix coated with Vetafarm Breeding Aid and is fed once a week. All these extras are fed in small ash trays on the cage floor. The day prior to young hatching the egg food and soaked/frozen seed mix is supplied and maintained daily along with a dish of Greens & Grains/QFS Tonic Mix until young are removed from the parents. I find this mix is the first the young will pick at before weaning onto the normal finch mix. This is maintained while the birds mature in the holding cages until moved into the cock & hen holding flights. The development of the young is important and maintaining this diet gives the birds every opportunity to grow and develop to their maximum potential.

At this point any birds that don’t make the cut are put into the cull aviary while those retained are left to mature in the cock & hen flights. About every 6 months I will go through the cull aviary in case some have matured better than expected. These are compared with their siblings before making the final cut. In the past when developing a certain line of birds, I have only kept the best cock & hen from each pair for future breeding and only then if they make the mark. I found this was a quick way to improve the particular line while bringing in those certain features the birds were lacking.

Stage 2 will see an extension of the existing birdroom to double in size and Stage 3 will see the addition of small flight aviaries for breeding some rarer varieties. Now it may be that stage 3 will come before stage 2 only time will tell but I am more than happy with the current setup. Now to produce the results I’m after; the easy part (building) has been done.

I hope this article will help new and existing breeders understand how I go about my breeding and give you some ideas for your own set-ups.







Posted on April 12, 2016 at 8:35 PM

Author: Peter James

We have all had birds die in our aviaries. Usually a bird will look sick for a while before it deteriorates from its ailment and dies.

However occasionally a bird that looks fit and healthy can be found dead on the aviary floor. We will discuss the main reasons for this scenario occurring.

The most common reason is a broken neck. This happens when the bird panics and flies at great speed into the wire, perch or some other obstacle. It hits the barrier with such force it breaks its neck. When holding the dead bird upright and the head falls well back and side to side it has a broken neck- the cause of death.

If the neck is OK run your finger along the bird’s breastbone. If it feels sharp then the bird is suffering from a disorder called “going light”. This condition is caused by starvation. In some cases the bird may eat constantly however for some reason it cannot digest the food properly. There can be a number of causes for this condition and it is untreatable – the bird dies.

Next check its vent – is it soiled from droppings. This is usually caused by a foreign bacteria that has gained access to the bird’s digestive system. The condition is treatable if discovered early. If not treated the bird will die.

Lastly check the bird has both its feet. Butcher birds, Owls and Magpies will fly onto the wire of the cage to frighten the birds. Invariably some will land on the wire in their panic and the attacking bird will grab their leg and rip it off. The bird will bleed to death.

If there is no obvious reason for the death you may have to consider poisoning. A common cause is mice defecating in your water and seed. Mice are the number 1 reason for breeding failures.

If you have a number of birds dying over a short period of time then there is a serious problem in your aviaries. The best way for a solution is to catch up an infected bird and take it to a vet that deals in avian medicine. Usually the bird is sacrificed, cut open to inspect the organs and put tissue samples under the microscope.



Aviary Plantings

Posted on January 17, 2016 at 8:15 PM


Remember plants, shrubs and trees can have a variety of uses in any avi-ary, including protection from weather extremes, aesthetic, attracting in-sects, and providing nesting or perching places. Choose though, accord-ing to the birds you keep, bearing in mind that many hook bills can be quite destructive. Worth trying include...

1] Cotoneaster –available in ground covering or bush varieties. It is hardy, evergreen and easy to grow.

2] Lavender– inexpensive, fragrant, quite hardy and the flowers attract insects.

3] Conifers– evergreen, but choose the smaller/dwarf species, and they provide ideal perching/nesting places.

4] Bamboo– again choose dwarf species and trim regularly; they pro-vide good shelter.

5] Hollyhock– flowering stems provide colour and harbour heaps of insect life for food.

BUT...Avoid the following which are poisonous to birds...

Azalea, Bird of Paradise, Buttercup, Calla Lily, Castor oil plant, Clema-tis, Daffodil, Daphne, Dieffenbachia, Egg plant, Labarum, Mock orange, Morning Glory, Nightshade Family, Taro, Hyacinth, Hydrangea, Japa-nese Yew, Lantana, Lily-of -the-Valley, Oleander, Philodendron, Poinset-tia, Rhododendron, Rhubarb, Sweet pea, Virginia Creeper, and Wisteria.

Note...I use Mock Orange in my zebra flights, with no ill effects. 

Article courtesy of Jenny Stolberg




Ringing Your Chick

Posted on June 18, 2014 at 10:40 PM

1. Ring at about 7/10 days. Take chick in one hand with its back in you palm.

2. Take foot between finger and thumb and hold as near to the ankle as possible. Ease the three ''forward'' toes together, with the back toe resting back up alongside the leg itself.

Note: Some breeders use a little ''Vaseline'' on the three forward toes if necessary to help keep them together, and on the ball of the foot to assist the closed ring to slide over it.

3. Pass the ring over the three forward toes and slide it right up over the ball of the foot rotating gently if necessary to ease it over the ankle .

5. Move ring up the leg until the back toe is clear, or is able to be eased clear. Ringing of that chick is now complete.

6. Check the following day to make sure the ring is still in place..


The Federation Of Zebra Finch Societies

Posted on September 11, 2013 at 9:15 PM

NATIONAL SHOW FOR 2013 By Peter James


Each year the Federation of Zebra Finch Societies Australia holds a national show. This year it was Queensland’s turn to host the event.  The South East Qld Zebra Finch Society (SEQZFS), chose the Ramada Hotel Marcoola Beach (Near Noosa) on the Sunshine Coast. It was a complete pack-age where delegates stayed and dined at the resort. The National Zebra Finch Show was held in the Spinnaker Room.


How does it work? 6 clubs competed in the show. There were 24 classes and each club entered 2 birds in each class. Therefore each class had 12 entries. When judged the birds are ranked from 1st to 12th. They are then allotted points – 1st receiving 12 points down to 12th which receives 1 point. The points are added up and at the end of the show tallied – the club with the most points wins.


All the birds are closed rung and only those bred in 2011, 2012 and 2013 can enter. The owners of 1st, 2nd and 3rd in each class receive medals. Breeding that show bird and winning a medal is what each breeder strives for.


The event started on Friday when SEQZFS members assembled the staging and catching cages. By lunch time all was complete and the sorting out of the birds commenced. This is a mammoth task with 288 birds being placed in show cages and arranged on the staging. Each club competing select their two best birds from the three birds chosen on selection day two weeks prior.


By Friday night all staging was complete and all the delegates, exhibitors and their partners converged on a Chinese restaurant across the road from the Ra-mada Hotel. Over 70 guests crammed into the restaurant. They knew we were coming however I don’t know how they managed to serve us all. It’s only once a year that everyone gets together so the evening saw friends catching up with each other.


Saturday morning saw the show in full swing. Any last changes in birds were made and the judging commenced. Judging was in pairs and after the selections were made one judge spoke to the audience explaining their decisions. The 24 classes were judged and tallies made of the scores. The results were;


Zebra Finch Soc of Australia (NSW) 381 points

Northern Zebra Finch Soc (NSW) 331 points

Western Australia Zebra Finch Soc (WA) 328 points

Lake Macquarie Zebra Finch Soc (NSW) 301 points

South East QLD Zebra Finch Soc (QLD) 265 points

Victorian Zebra Finch Soc (VIC) 151 points


After the show the National Accredited Judges convened for a meeting to dis-cuss the birds entered and any points that needed to be addressed in the “Zebra Finch Standard”. Of course there was some controversy which makes for lively discussion.


Saturday evening nearly 100 people attended a dinner at the Ramada. It was a special event as each winner of 1st, 2nd and 3rd of each class was presented with their medals and trophies .

When You Fly The Coop

Posted on May 20, 2013 at 12:50 AM

With the holiday season approaching, our thoughts are directed towards the trip away we promised ourselves. Having animals to care for must be our prime concern at this time, as our feathered friends are entitled to a consistent feeding regime every day of the year. For some of us our brain goes into “holiday mode” and just getting the suitcase packed seems a brain drain for us.


Our birds are OUR responsibility. We choose to keep them in captivity, so their welfare is paramount. Having a good holiday not only rests our body and mind, but also helps to put our life into perspective, and gives us the opportunity to get enthusiastic about life, and plan for the following year or future for that matter.


Recently, I took an extended holiday for 5 weeks and I stressed about leaving my birds. I knew I needed a break (first in 7 years), but resting would not come easily if I was worrying about what I had left behind. To tear me away from my backyard is not easy, just ask my husband!!


Weeks before my departure I planned my escape with the minimum of stress on the birds being my goal. I have a collection of finches, quail and small parrots (total of 250-300), so firstly I set about selling a few to lessen the numbers for my daughter to care for. That was successful, so less to worry about. Secondly, I separated breeding pairs that had had a few nests in order to spell them. That alleviated the breeding cabinets and the extra work involved in their upkeep.


I serve seed in separate containers, so I set about to name each container with the seed required. This took me ages, about 3 hours, but the satisfaction I achieved, and reducing my stress level made it worthwhile. I left instructions that where you see a clothes peg, put the greens, and where you see a block of wood with a nail, put corn, apple and cucumber (in that order). Water dishes were self explanatory, with my instructions to keep an eye on cuttlefish and egg shells supplies in each aviary as well. I also needed my birds to be fed at the same time (as practicable as possible) each day, as birds are creatures of habit and need consistency.


My last request was that the dead birds be placed in a plastic bag provided and the aviary number written on it. This was then placed in the freezer, and on my return it was easy to ascertain which birds needed to be replaced in which aviary.


Having peace of mind that my birds would be experiencing a similar routine during my absence, it certainly made for a better stress free holiday for me. My advice to you all would be to document your instructions as well, and try to be as precise as possible. Problems will arise which you will not anticipate, and you simply have to chalk that up to experience for next time.


I have heard sad stories from breeders who thought they had covered all bases and left friends to care for their birds.


One gentleman left his wife in charge, and found she made this mistake. Some of his water dishes had a stone in them to prevent young finches and quail drowning themselves. Seeing one dish without a stone, she quickly found a large rock and placed it in the dish. On his return, he discovered the big shiny stone she had placed in the dish, was in fact, 2kg of rock salt!! Luckily for the man, none of his birds were pickled when he returned.


Another bird breeder had a disastrous return from his holiday to find some of his birds had disappeared completely. Having complete trust in his carer friend, he went in search of the reason. It didn’t take him long to discover a curled up python in a nest box. His advice to us, is to advise your carers of approximately how many birds are in each aviary before you leave. If he had done this, he may have saved a few of his precious birds, assuming his friend was not snake phobic.


Another common accident is when birds slip through to the next aviary while you are going from one aviary to the adjoining one or escaping to the safety or service area. They slip past so quickly it is hard to realize it. This can have fatal consequences. Birds that slip into the adjoining aviary are then often separated from their partners and/or nests with eggs or chicks. Birds that slip into the service area usually die from lack of food and both of these scenarios are totally preventable with care.


Nobody will “do” your birds as well as you, this is a fact. I have even heard of bird breeders insisting on their carers wearing certain coloured clothing, in order to keep more consistency going. With all care and no responsibility, your carers should not feel too pressured to help you out.


For those of you who have cared for other birds (as I have), you know how important it is to do a good job. Otherwise, you will have deaths on your hands that can be prevented, and no one wants that. The latter will definitely spoil your day.


In conclusion, be organized, be prepared, choose your carer carefully, and don’t forget to reward them for their services, either by reciprocal caring or gifts. A little kindness goes a long way, especially if you have had a stress free holiday thanks to them.


Jenny Stolberg


Posted on January 11, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Over many years the Zebra Finch has had a reputation as a cheap bird, something for everyone to start with who would like to keep birds. It achieved this reputation because it would have to be the easiest bird to breed. No matter how small the cage, a pair would produce a few young.  The Zebra finch is the most prolific breeder of all species of birds.


We now come to the dedicated Breeder of birds, one who is looking for a challenge.  This is where the true Zebra Finch Breeder comes in.


Go to any Pet Shop and you can buy a pair of Zebras, but there is no information available about the HISTORY of the birds. Many birds are not pure in colour.  This means that they may be “split” (have a hidden colour). When you breed young it is possible to have several different colours in the nest. This is not a good way to start your breeding program.


Within this field a great range of subjects unfold and it is intended to guide you to achieve success.







 In Australia we recognise a number of mutations that we have a written STANDARD for;




















Queensland ISABEL





Also there is progress towards newer mutations;


RED (Orange Bodied).




Although Zebras have strong desires to reproduce, at times they do not breed successfully.


Common problems are pairs that produce infertile eggs or fail to incubate their eggs.  Some will build a nest over their eggs and lay another clutch, and there are those that don’t feed their young.


A bird’s home environment is very important. Make sure their enclosure is large enough for the birds to feel comfortable raising young or even to perform their courtship display. Be sure the cage and nesting sites are secure and their environment is quiet, away from disturbances.


Check that the nests are in protected locations. Provide more nests than required and let the pair pick the one they prefer. The male will lead the female to the nest and she will decide if the nest is acceptable. Make sure there is enough nesting material for building but once the eggs are laid, remove excess material. This will prevent the eggs from being covered.


When Zebras fail to breed in captivity the cause may be a poor pair bond.

In the wild they choose their own mates, and ensure that both members of the pair are committed to the union, however in selective breeding we rarely let them choose their own mates – which sometimes results in an incompatible pair. The solution is to split the pair and give those birds’ different mates.


Difficulties sometimes occur when pairing different mutations. A Grey bird may not respond sexually to a bird of the White mutation. Studies have shown that birds prefer and recognise unrelated mates. Of course there is always a chance that the female does not find the male attractive in some way. There are many reasons why a Zebra might reject a potential mate.


If you want to keep a particular mating which has been unsuccessful, perhaps a temporary separation is the answer. This should increase the breeding desire.  Otherwise put the hen with another male.


Remember to always protect the female’s health when trying to solve a breeding problem.






 Most Newcomers to our hobby arrive home with their first Zebras in a shoe box or a wire Budgie cage, without having given any thought as to how they intend housing them. Don’t worry, Zebra’s will live comfortably in a Pet cage for a few weeks while you build (or buy) an aviary or a cabinet setup.


The accommodation you provide for your Zebras is limited only by your finances and the space you have in your backyard. It is your choice whether you want to have a colourful, attractive aviary with a mixed collection of Zebras, or you accept the challenge of trying to breed a Champion, or trying some “experimental” breeding in cabinets. Regardless of how you intend to house your Zebras, there are some basic rules we all should follow;-


1. Face your aviary or cages towards the North or East if possible, so the birds can gain benefit from the morning sun. Likewise if you are going to set up cabinets in a shed or bird room, face the door (and window if possible) towards the morning sun. Your birds will appreciate the early warmth after a cold night


2. Build or place your aviary or cages so that they will remain dry. This is extremely important as most bacteria need moisture to survive. Damp areas in a cage or aviary will make your Zebras sick.


3. At night birds will be frightened by a moving light or by someone walking through light coming from a window, so when choosing the site of your aviary, take into account the lights from your or your neighbours house. Also consider a flash of a car’s headlights.


4. Zebras prefer a warm, draft free environment, so choose a site where the aviary will receive a reasonable amount of sun. Also consider the chilling winds. Some form of protection from must be provided or your Zebras may not survive the cold weather.


5. Another problem to be considered is preventing “mice” from entering your aviary or shed. To achieve this, you must have;-

a)   A suitable rat wall included in your foundation.

b)   Use 6mm or smaller wire mesh all over including all roof wire.

c)   Make sure the gap between the door and outer frame is no larger than 6mm


6. It is essential not to have areas where vermin (cockroaches) can breed. Spaces between the ceiling and roof of the aviary are ideal breeding ground. Seal all these area.


7. Last but not least, if you intend using a metal roofed aviary or shed, think of the discomfort your birds will experience in extreme hot and cold weather, and fit some plywood sheeting or other suitable insulating material under the roof.







When any bird looks sick, it is actually REALLY sick.


Warmth and prompt treatment is needed urgently. A Hospital cage helps.


If you get a lot of sick birds, take one to a Vet.


Quarantine a sick bird, so as not to spread the problem.






When acquired “good” birds you need to consider three areas;

Health. Suitability for breeding.  How the birds would rate on the Show bench. 

Whether you buy your Zebras from a dealer, or acquire them from a club member, it doesn’t make sense to obtain any bird if it is in poor health, so the main things to check are;-


The bird should have clean and bright eyes. If the eyes are squinted or partially closed or weeping – DON”T ACCEPT THE BIRD.  Make sure the bird has a clean vent. If the feathers around the vent are moist or stained, the bird is most likely suffering from a stomach or gastro infection – DON”T ACCEPT THE BIRD.  If the bird is fluffed up or squatting on the perch, it could be suffering from any number of ailments, (including worms) – DON’T ACCEPT THE BIRD.  If you are able to handle the bird, check for protruding breast bone. This is another sign of health problems. It could be suffering from any number of ailments – DON”T ACCEPT THE BIRD.  The beak and legs should be clean and well coloured. Be prepared to treat any bird with white growth (caused by mites) on either beak or legs, for four weeks before introducing it to your other healthy birds.  To avoid introducing ANY disease or health problem, ALWAYS keep your new acquisitions in a cage separate from the rest of your collection for at least a fortnight. Watch for any problem that may arise during this quarantine period. Also treat for intestinal worms at this time. 

In regards to a birds suitability for breeding, all one can do is check the closed ring for the year to determine the age of the bird. It is unwise to accept a Zebra over three years of age. There is no way to check fertility of any bird other than test breed. Don’t accept any bird with a missing foot or toes, as this bird would be unstable during mating.


Any novice should choose a colour or mutation that they find attractive, and just breed that one colour for a few nests before attempting to mix colours. Fawn is very popular and a suitable colour for a beginner in our hobby. On the subject of Show quality, it is recommended that a beginner acquire a copy of the Show Standard and study it.  Also show the bird to an experienced show person and ask for an opinion.






The majority of our members use a mixture of seeds sold as Finch Mix by the various suppliers. This usually comprises Yellow Millet (Panicum), Red Panicum, White French Millet, Jap Millet, and Canary.


Zebras are not keen on canary seed and Jap Millet so these can be omitted from the seed if you mix it yourself. When mixing your own seed use proportions of 2 parts Red Panicum, 2 parts Yellow Panicum and 1 part white French Millet.  Your birds will survive on 1 seed only – either Red Panicum or Yellow Panicum however it is better to offer variety. Other seed mixes are available commercially. A popular mix is “Tonic Mix” which contains Linseed, Niger, Rape, Maw and Lettuce seed, both Black and White. Feed these in small containers.


In conclusion, dry seed is a BASIC DIET only, and extras in the form of greens such as Endive, Celery, Apple, etc. should be offered to your birds along with Shell Grit, Cuttlefish, Crushed egg shells and Charcoal.






We now come to a part of breeding Zebra Finches that may be confusing. To be a dedicated Zebra Finch breeder you should have an understanding of the basic genetics involved. Don’t worry if you have trouble understanding just ask a recognised breeder to help out.






Many writers have attempted to explain and detail the rules relating to Sex-Linked inheritance in Zebra Finches, but the illustrations as shown on the following pages should make it easier to follow.


Birds that belong to this group are Fawn, Chestnut Flanked White, Marked White & Cream Backed Zebras.


The term “Sex-Linked” is used because the sex and colour of these birds is determined by their genetic (or internal) make-up. Therefore it is imperative to realise that the colour of the male and the character of his genes for another colour (if any), and also the colour of the female, will play an important role in transmission of colour to young birds in the different sexes.


One example shown is when a Marked White male is mated to a Grey female. If the male is pure Marked White and the female is pure Grey, their young will be Grey-coloured males and Marked White females. The young Grey-coloured males will carry hidden genes for Marked White and are termed “split Marked White”, which is written as Grey/Marked White; the visible colour being shown before the hidden colour form.


It should be noted that, females CANNOT be split for a Sex-Linked colour, i.e.they cannot carry hidden genes for any Sex-Linked colour form. Where birds are shown on the illustrations as Greys or Marked Whites, this refers only to PURE Greys and PURE Marked Whites.


If the breeder wishes to breed Fawns, all they need do is substitute the word “Fawn” in each instance, where the words “Marked White” are shown in the illustrations.


The same method of substitution can also be used for the other Sex-Linked mutations.


Zebras of both sexes can carry Recessive genes such as Pied or White or any of the other Recessive mutations, which may not show in their feathering. If these colours appear in your young birds their parents are not of a pure Sex-Linked colour form, or are not pure Greys.









Zebra Finch Dominant mutations comprise Greys, Dilute Blues, Silvers, Creams, Dark Creams, Black Faced and Black Bodied.


The word “Dominant” means, prevailing or controlling – for example, capable of exerting a prevailing or controlling influence. If we relate these meanings to our Zebras it is obvious that a Dominant character parent would have a prevailing or controlling influence on the colour of its young birds.


In theory the Dominant mutations should be the easiest of all to breed, for a healthy bird of Dominant character is capable of producing birds of its own particular colouration IN ITS FIRST MATING regardless of the colour of its mate.


When a pure Grey is mated to another Dominant character bird, young birds of each these varieties can be produced, but NONE of these young Greys can be split for the visual colour of the other parent because it is not possible for a bird to carry hidden genes for another dominant colour form. What you see is what you get. The colour (or markings) of the bird indicate what the bird actually is.


If one bird of a mated pair is of a Dominant variety there should ALWAYS be a percentage of young of that Dominant variety in their nests. One variation of this rule is the Cream and Dark Cream, which must be mated to Cream, Dark Cream or Fawn (or in the case of a Cream or Dark Cream female – a male split to Fawn) to produce Creams or Dark Creams of both sexes.


If a Black Faced Grey male is mated to a Grey female, or a Grey male to a Black Faced Grey female, you will often find in their nests some young Greys which are not Black Faced. The young Greys will be pure Greys. It makes no difference which of the parents is the Black Faced bird.


However it is possible for a bird of either sex of a Dominant variety to be split for a Recessive colour form, also a male of a Dominant variety can be split for a Sex-Linked form.






Next we deal with the Recessive method of inheritance. The Recessive Zebras are White, Pied, Grizzle, Black Front, Charcoal, Slate, Beige, Yellow Bill, Isabel, Carabel and Alumina.


As with Sex-Linked birds the same method is used to describe a bird that carries genes for a colour that is not visible in its feathering.


A Grey male carrying hidden gene for White is known as a Grey split White, which is written down as Grey/White. The visible colour is always shown first, and the hidden colour form second.


The major difference with Recessive mutations is that BOTH MALES AND FEMALES can be split for a Recessive colour or a number of Recessive colour forms and the sex of the parents does NOT control colour of the young as it does with Sex-Linked Zebras.


Example(1) shows the mating of a Grey male to a White female, but the same results can be obtained when a White male is mated to a Grey female. Similarly, a Grey/White male can be mated to a White female or reverse to produce the same expected results as shown in Example (2). The same rule applies for the other two examples given.


The Examples shown on the following pages show that young can be expected when Breeders attempt to breed the White mutation, and if any other colour form appear it is obvious that one or both of the parents is/are split for another colour.


In Examples (3) and (4) where some Grey birds and some Grey/White birds are bred, they are identical in general overall colour, so it is impossible to know which are split birds; except by future mating.


NOTE: that Grey birds split for another colour ALMOST appear identical to pure Grey birds. The illustrations show them as being different for ease of explanation of their breeding expectations only.


If you wish to breed a Recessive mutation other than White it will be necessary to substitute the name of that mutation in each place where the word “White” appears in the illustrations.



Posted on December 29, 2011 at 12:20 AM

THE earliest of our zebra mutations dates back to 1921. Over the years since then the rest of our recognised varieties occurred, either in aviaries or in the wild. For more than 20 years, Roy Pinch, from Katoomba in NSW, painstakingly researched their origins. I am very pleased that Roy has made available to us copies of his histories. Which are interesting in themselves but also provide an insight into attitudes of some of the early zebra breeders. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. We are most grateful to Roy for letting us have the articles on which this is based, and for a number of other articles which will appear in coming issues. One thing that comes out very strongly is the significant role that Bruce Read and Levitt Hunt played in establishing many of our mutations. Since the series is quite detailed, we have included an edited version which, we hope, does not compromise the original. Roy opens his series of articles with acknowledgments to others, reprinted below, but without Roy's efforts the whole history could have been lost to us. Thanks for allowing us use of the articles, Roy. "I would like to express my sincere thanks to various breeders both past and present who have assisted with the information gathered here. These include the late Fred Lewistka and Eric Baxter from Adelaide, Roy Riley from Griffiths, Cyril Harris from Parkes, the late Bill Pilmer, Levitt Hunt and Jack Wedderburn from Sydney and, of course, the late Bruce Read.

WHITE Bred in Sydney in 1921 in the aviaries of Mr AJ Woods. 3 White hens produced were sold to Mr H Lyons who established the mutation. The birds were dark eyed. The red eyed variety appeared in the 1950s from Fawn parents. No Albinos were believed to have been bred in Australia. With Mr Lyons's son leaves open the possibility that Pieds were produced during the establishment of the Whites. If so they were not established as a true breeding variety at that time.

FAWN 1935 Mick Lewistka was camped at Coward Springs, some 600kms north of Adelaide. The mornings were very cold and many zebras could be seen around the warm ashes of the camp fire. Out of these birds Mick observed 2 different birds being light brown or fawn in colour. Knowing that his brother Fred was interested in birds, Mick set about trapping the 2 birds he saw. I believe some 1000 grey birds were trapped and later released before he got the 2 birds he was after.2 birds, both of which were hens, were sent to his brother in Adelaide who pioneered the establishment of this mutation. During this period he produced very light fawns and some odd coloured birds, which he called 'smokies'. These birds, which were later found to be the origins of the Dilute Blue and Creams, were disposed of because he was only interested in producing the Fawn mutation. Prior to the 2nd World War several pairs of Fawns were exported to South Africa, which is why some of the overseas publications reported that the Fawn mutation first occurred in that country. To the banning of export of birds in 1950 hundreds of surplus birds were exported; many to Mr Vifquin in Brussels, Belgium, including Fawns, light fawns and smokies. Again, overseas publications credit Belgium with the origin of the Dilutes.

MARKED WHITE 1937 Mr Whitehouse of Brisbane caught 3 white hens with tear stripes and tail markings. Although he had success breeding with these hens it was many years before he produced cock birds with markings similar to the normal Grey; he named the mutation 'Mark White'. In 1948 Levitt Hunt of Pymble in Sydney bred 3 pure white hens with black tear drops and almost black tail marks. Through selective line breeding he soon produced cock birds, pure white with the markings of the normal grey. In 1950 Levitt obtained 3 hens from Mr Whitehouse, but when he received the birds he noticed they were not pure white, unlike his own. He commenced breeding and achieved, as he described, disastrous results. All the young produced had off white bodies and lighter markings than his own birds. When asked if they could be a diluted variety, the answer was YES, very much so. This leads me to believe that Levitt Hunt's birds were the original Marked Whites and Mr Whitehouse's birds were the mutation which we now call Chestnut Flanked.

SLATE (Originally called Normal Blue) the mid 1960s Mr W (Bill) Pilmer of Dee Why West in Sydney was asked to look at some unusual zebras in the aviaries of a Narrabeen breeder. The birds were a lighter grey body colour, with normal cheek patches and side flanks but all black markings replaced with dark grey. Birds were obtained and passed on to Bruce Read who developed the mutation and named it Normal Blue. A dispute within the finch world in Sydney these birds were not accepted on the show bench and subsequently seemed to disappear. However, in 1978, Geoff Roberts of Glenbrook produced 3 cock birds from the offspring of birds traced back to Bruce Read. The variety was then re-established.

DILUTE BLUE Originated with Fred Lewistka but around 1948 - 1950 Levitt Hunt and Jack Wedderburn obtained some from dealers and between them established the Dilute Blue.

SILVER 1950s Mr C Harris of Parkes NSW produced a very light silvery coloured hen from his collection of Dilutes. He soon produced a strain of Silver birds.

CREAM Another mutation produced by Fred Lewistka but disposed of as light fawns. Established by Levitt Hunt and Jack Wedderburn.

CREAM BACKS Early 1960 Bruce Read and Dennis Glacken were in Ace Colony bird dealers of Westmead when they discovered a very nice cream hen in a cabinet; however on closer inspection they found it was not Cream as it was pure white under the beak, they then thought it may be a 'Penguin'. Dennis acquired the bird which he mated to a Grey cock bird. After several nests he realised that the bird was not a Penguin but a new mutation which he called Cream Backed.

BLACK FACE Mr Bill Gordon of Ringwood Vic., writing in "Australian Aviculture" June 1977, while he was pruning some grapes at Irymple in NW Victoria in 1938, a flock of some 500 to 600 zebras landed on trellis wires. He noticed an abnormal cock bird which he now believes was a Blackface. In 1959 Mr Harry Nesbit of Griffith NSW caught a cock bird near Leeton NSW. He subsequently had no success in trying to reproduce this bird and so gave it to Bill Maggs in 1960. He first produced another Black faced cock and then subsequently produced sufficient to send some to Eric Baxter in SA. Mr Baxter spent many years experimenting with the mutation and ultimately believed there were 3 variations: -

Blackface - Normal grey as caught in the wild with large black bar and blackface.

Grey - backed blackface - as above but having dark grey back and wings.

Black bodied blackface - Similar to above but black body extending right down to the tail and extending further up the chest.

BLACK FRONTS Early 1960 Bruce Read of Camaray, Sydney, was looking for some good type wild grey cock birds to use with his own hens. He obtained 2 Grey cocks from an area near Charters Towers in Queensland. The first young was a hen with no tail coverts and slightly black face. When mated back to her wild type father they produced both cocks and hens which were Black fronts. Further breeding proved that he had a new mutation which was different from the Blackface, being a recessive factor. Goes on to explain how through theft and neglect the mutation nearly died out. Luckily some splits which had been given away produced 3 Black fronts, 2 of which went to a dealer and 1 ended up back with Bruce Read. The variety now established came from this single hen.

GRIZZLE 1959 Mr Bruce Read of Camaray, Sydney, discovered in Hilton Arthur's dealers establishment in Newcastle an oddly coloured grey hen. Through selective breeding he was soon able to reproduce it in both cocks and hens. The body colour was the same as normal Greys but all feathers carried white flecking giving a salt and pepper effect. The hen birds carrying grey cheek patches. Years of breeding he believed that there were 2 types, one with the white fleck and one with the fleck but also carrying a white cap.

PIEDS No record could be found on the origin of Pieds. It is possible that Mr Lyons seemed to produce Pieds when breeding his Whites but we don't know for sure. Pieds first appeared in Europe in 1927 but we do not know if they were bred from birds from Australia or from birds already in the country.

This article was supplied by Mr Ken Glasson, WAZFS.