Please see Part I of this article for information on zebra finch natural history and the story of its entry into the pet trade.
An Avian Lab Mouse
The zebra finch is one of our most important laboratory animals, so much so that researchers have christened it the “Avian Lab Mouse“. Each year studies of zebra finches provide valuable insights into many aspects of human health, genetics and speech and brain development.
One particularly interesting group of zebra finch studies illustrated how a bird’s early experiences influence behaviors that are not put into practice until maturity is reached. It seems that zebra finch chicks which are placed under the care of Bengalese finches overwhelmingly prefer Bengalese finches to zebra finches as mates once they mature. The adopted birds also sing the song of the Bengalese finch, not that of their own species. These findings have led to other studies with direct bearing on the process of learning and language acquisition in humans.
Please see my articles on Zebra Finch Research for further information.
Zebra Finches as Pets
Zebra finches make great pets…their care in captivity is very similar to that of related species. Please see my article on Nuns, Munias and Mannikins for details.
The National Institutes of Health has posted an interesting article on the importance of zebra finches as experimental animals at http://science.education.nih.gov/AnimalResearch.nsf/Story1/Can+Zebra+Finches+Tell+Us+How+We+Learn+to+Talk+-+and+Walk.