The breeding season for zebra finches is variable. They can mate at any time of the year following substantial amounts of rainfall. Zebra finches are monogamous and pair bond for life.
The songs of the finches play an important role in the mating process. Females do not sing, but males have a truly original song, incorporating sounds of their relatives and their surroundings into their tunes. They also produce a hissing noise when protecting their territory and mates. Along with song, males also perform a courtship dance as part of the mating ritual.
An increase in the gathering of materials and resources to build nests can indicate the time of mating. Nests are usually built of grasses and lined with feathers or even wool. They can be found in many different places ranging from trees, bushes, and animal burrows, to cavities and ledges of commercial buildings.
Although zebra finches are monogamous and maintain a pair bond for life, DNA fingerprinting shows that infidelity often occurs within the species. DNA fingerprinting is a method used to determine the biological mother and father of an offspring. Both male and female finches engage in extra-pair mating.
Mating System: monogamous
Breeding flocks contain approximately 50 finches, whereas non-breeding flocks are about twice the size. Since finches breed after large amounts of rainfall, the breeding season is not specific, but once they breed, nest building will begin about a week before laying starts. During the period of nest construction, the pair will spend the nights in the nest together.
The average number off eggs in one laying may be from four to six over a period of a few days. Both males and females incubate the eggs until hatching, which occurs after about two weeks, according to laying time of each egg. During this time, males are extremely protective of females and will not allow any intruders near the nest. After hatching, both parents take turns sitting on the nest and gathering food for the young. After about three weeks, the chicks are able to leave the nest and often perch with the parents, but often return to the nest at night. Approximately two weeks after fledging, the chicks will become independent of the parents. At this time, many parent finches may be ready to rear another clutch of eggs.
Breeding interval: Zebra finches breed after periods of heavy rainfall, at any time of the year.
Breeding season: Zebra finches can breed continuously as long as conditions are appropriate, with each clutch taking approximately 2 months to rear.
Range eggs per season: 4 to 6.
Average time to hatching: 2 weeks.
Average fledging age: 3 weeks.
Average time to independence: 5 weeks.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2.5 to 3 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2.5 to 3 months.
Key Reproductive Features: year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
Both males and females invest a large amount of time in parental care. During the period of nest construction, both sexes contribute to gathering materials, but focus their individual building efforts on different areas. While males focus on gathering most of the materials and general construction of the nest, females focus on the inner nest architecture. Once the eggs are produced, most incubation is carried out by females, while males protect the nest. Both sexes, however, stay in the nest at night. Once the eggs hatch, females primarily incubate and brood the young, but males gather most of the food.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)
- Vriends, M. 1997. The Zebra Finch. New York: Howell Book House.
- Symanski, R. 2000. Black-Hearts: Ecology in Outback Australia. Michigan: Sheridan Books.
- 2006. "Zebra Finch" (On-line). Accessed October 14, 2006 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebra_finch.
- Austad, S. 1997. Birds as models of aging in biomedical research. ILAR Journal Online, 38 (3): 137-141. Accessed November 11, 2006 at http://dels.nas.edu/ilar_n/ilarjournal/38_3/38_3Birds.shtml.
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