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Zebra Finch - BirdForum Opus

Male bird of subspecies castanotis
Photo by Neil Fifer
Capertee, Australia, September 2003
Taeniopygia guttata

Includes Chestnut-eared Finch (Taeniopygia castanotis)


Subspecies guttata
Photo by odewe
Sumba Island, Indonesia, April 2005

10-10.5 cm (4-4¼ in)

  • Mainly grey
  • Black eye stripes, like a "tear drop
  • Black and white rump and upper tail is 'zebra-like'
  • Pale grey throat and upper breast, with fine black lines
  • Broad black band on upper chest
  • White spotted chestnut sides
  • White undertail and belly

The male has chestnut cheek patches, hence the alternative name, Chestnut-eared Finch.

  • Red eyes and bill
  • Legs and feet are orange-yellow

Young lack the black and white head markings but are otherwise similar to the female

  • Greyish-brown eyes
  • Black bill


Drier areas of Australia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and introduced to Puerto Rico, Portugal and the U.S.


Photo by fthsm
Olympic Park, Sydney, New South Wales, June 2008


There are 2 subspecies[1]

  • guttata is found in Lesser Sundas (Lombok and Sumba to Timor and Sermata)
  • castanotis which is larger, is found in mainland Australia (except north, south and eastern coastal regions)

The latter subspecies is often considered a full species under the name of Chestnut-eared Finch (Taeniopygia castanotis).


Open steppes with scattered bushes and trees.

They are usually found in the drier areas of Australia, with social flocks of up to 100 birds. Habitats are usually dry wooded grasslands, bordering watercourses.



Juvenile 'castanotis'
Photo by peterday
Ormiston Gorge, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia, July 2016

The diet includes mainly seeds, but they also eat fruit. They feed in large flocks. Insects may be taken at any time of the year, but are particularly favoured when feeding young. Feeding takes place on the ground.


They nest in cavities, scrub, low trees, bushes, on the ground, in termite hills, rabbit burrows, nests of other birds, and in the cracks, crevices, and ledges of human structures. Outside of the breeding time, brood nests are constructed for sleeping in. Zebra Finches pair for life. The female selects the nest site, but both birds care for the eggs and young. The male gathers almost all the nesting material, The females construct the nests, which has a loose dome-shape.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds
  3. Birds in Backyards - A product of Birds Australia

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