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Finches Use “Parrot Toys” Too!

Zebra Finch

Most bird fanciers are aware of the vigor with which many parrots use toys (or turn household items, jewelry, etc. into “toys”!). Providing opportunities for play and exploration is, in fact, vital to the health of these active, inquisitive birds. However, we sometimes tend to overlook other pet bird species in the matter of toys.

My experience with pet and wild birds has convinced me that this is a mistake. I have observed a number of species engaging in behavior that, if not truly “play”, is certainly very close – little green herons “hunting” leaves, fledgling cardinals pulling at flowers and dropping them to the ground, etc. And anyone who saw the National Geographic Magazine photo of a wild raven sliding down a snow bank on its back cannot but conclude that it was truly “playing”. Most of these activities help birds in developing skills that they will need for survival (although I cannot yet explain the sow bank photo in that light!). In captivity, they also provide valuable mental and physical stimulation.

Finches of all types are particularly quick to use toys, even those designed with other birds in mind. They notice anything new in their cage, and are soon pecking, flying and perching on or about the novel item. They take quickly to ladders, toys that house hidden treats, nests constructed of grasses (which they usually try to shred in short order) and love to peck at bells.

Many parrot toys are quite suitable for finches and will be well used, even if not in the manner intended by the manufacturer. When purchasing toys made for larger birds, please be sure to check that your finches cannot injure themselves by becoming lodge themselves within any holes or openings. There are many options available – a few suggestions follow:
Heart Ring of Rings

Zebra Finch, Taeniopygia guttata, Nutrition – the role of carotenoids and testosterone

Zebra Finch

While we are all aware of the importance of good nutrition to our pets, it is interesting to see just how complex this topic can be. Keeping this in mind will, I hope, prevent us from becoming lazy when it comes to feeding even relatively hardy birds such as the zebra finch.

As in most animals, male zebra finches utilize the hormone testosterone to help develop secondary sexual characteristics, such as their bright red bills. However, this comes at a cost, as testosterone has also been shown to weaken the immune system.

Carotenoids – compounds that impart yellow and orange colors to carrots and other foods – also help male finches to maintain their bright colors and, as a consequence, to attract females. The finches obtain carotenoids from their diet.

Recently, researchers at Arizona State University have shown that, in addition to imparting color, carotenoids also combat the negative influences of testosterone in zebra finches. Males deficient in carotenoids suffer depressed immune systems, while those with a sufficient intake benefit from testosterone by becoming more attractive to female finches.

This information reinforces the importance of a providing our birds with a well-balanced diet, and may have implications for human health as well. I suggest feeding your zebra finches a variety of nutritious foods, including such important basics as Goldenfeast Australian Blend Bird Food / Tropic Fruit Pudding and ZuPreem Fruit Blend, to assure a sufficient intake of carotenoids and other nutrients.


Interesting research concerning the effect of diet on zebra finch reproduction is posted at:

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