The need for regular access to water leads to Zebra Finches remaining close to water; establishing watering point for stock, as well as irrigation projects, appears to have increased the numbers and range of Zebra Finches substantially since before European settlement.
Zebra Finches are social birds, living in flocks of 10 to 100 or more year round, even staying in a group while breeding; where habitats are limited up to a dozen pairs will nest in the same shrub. The flock feeds during the morning hopping around on the ground (with feet together) picking up fallen seeds, mostly of grasses. In late afternoon flock gathers at a central watering point where they drink, bathe, preen one another and huddle together on perches.
Pairs mate permanently and stay together all year, roosting together and with others in communal roost nests - either old breeding nests or specially built small round structures. Breeding takes place in most months, especially after rain which triggers a breeding frenzy of multiple broods. The male selects several possible nest sites and the female selects the one to be used. The male brings grass stems for the nest and the female does the building, first a platform, then the walls and roof and finally the entrance tunnel to form a flask-shaped nest with a spherical nest chamber 120 to 200 millimetres in diameter, lined with feathers and down; a side entrance tunnel is 50 to 250 millimetres long. The nest is finished in one to two weeks, built of small branches and twigs of bushes and low trees; sometimes in hollows or on the ground.
Four or five (sometimes seven) eggs are laid; pure white; oval about 11 by 15 millimeters. Incubated for 12 to 14 days by both parents who take one to two-hour shifts by day calling to one another to change over. Both sleep in the nest at night. The young fledge in about three weeks and, after fledging, are led back to the nest by their parents to roost until they are abandoned by their parents. The young are independent after 10 days, gain adult plumage in nine to ten weeks and are able to breed then. To cope with the hostile environment Zebra Finches breed when the opportunity arises the only exceptions being drought and cold winters.
Similar Species. The Zebra Finch is not readily confused with any other species.
Also found in part of Indonesia (Lesser Sunda Islands). There are two races; one in Australia.