November 1999 Magazine
There are as many light-colored mutations of the zebra finch as there are dark. Most of these birds are some shade of white, light tan, or cream, lacking some of the vibrant markings of the darker zebra finch mutations. I enjoy the light mutations of the zebra finch, for a light bird with an orange beak and legs looks very striking in the aviary.
To recap from part one, a normal zebra finch has a gray back, with bright orange cheek patches, beak, and legs. Black teardrops fall along the edge of the cheek patch, and a strip of white accentuates the bright beak. A small black band crosses the zebra's chest, with the rest of its chest being white or cream. Brown and white spots are just beneath the bird's folded wings, which helps it to retain a "wild" look. Females lack the cheek patches.
The lightest of all zebra finch mutations is the white zebra finch. As one of the earliest zebra finch mutations, the exact time and place of its origin is unknown. A white zebra finch retain the orange beak and legs; however, the rest of the body is devoid of all pigment or markings. The bird of a white zebra has dark eyes, showing that it is not an albino bird. In fact, true albino zebra finches are extremely rare.
Some white zebra finches display flecking, or spots of color, on their neck and back. It is thought that this comes from white birds being crossed with the normal gray, and if you cross a white bird with a fawn, the coloration might disappear. This has been proven false, due to the appearance of white birds with cream or tan flecking instead of gray.
Also of an ivory or white body color is the Chestnut Flanked White (CFW) zebra finch mutation. Males of this type have a breast bar, cheek patches and flanking, which looks diluted in comparison to normals. Females are white with a black tear drop mark, and young birds emerge white with black beaks.
The color of a CFW zebra finch varies from birds with bright markings to those that are more diluted in coloring. I have a pair of CFW birds in my aviary, Steve, a handfed male, and his mate. Being young birds, I do not have a clutch from them yet, but am anxiously awaiting the breeding of this mutation in my aviary.
CFW birds bred in Europe are called Continental CFWs. These birds are similar to our own, except for their cream colored bodies, which shows that the Europeans used birds of a fawn color to form this mutation.
I also have a Florida Fancy, or Isabel, Zebra Finch. Although its name may imply that this bird originated in Florida, this mutation actually was seen in several places at the same time. The perfect Florida Fancy has a near white upper body and white breast, which rich buff underparts from the breast bar region down to the vent. They have no breast bar; however, the cheek patches in males are just as striking as in normal zebras. The most notable feature of this mutation is that it lacks any black pigment.
From the Florida Fancy, some very striking mutations can be produced. The crossing of a black breasted zebra finch with a Florida Fancy produces a Phaeo, or a Black Breasted Florida Fancy. Then, the breeder can cross the Phaeo with an Orange Breast and Black Faced birds to produce incredibly colored birds which show extensive orange coloring.
The Lightback Zebra finch originated in Germany in the mid 1950's, but did not come to the US until the early 1980's. A Lightback has a dilute upper body color and all the underparts, such as the breast and vent region, are white. The tail coverts have bright, white markings in both sexes. Males have bright cream cheek patches and flanking. Unlike the rest of the body, the black pigment is not diluted, but fully black. These birds look striking on the show bench.
Also seen quite a bit on the show bench and crossed with the Lightback is the Dominant Silver zebra. With this mutation, the male's cheek patches are very dilute, and varies from pale orange or cream to silvery white. The body color of the Dominant Silver also varies from dark gray to very pale silver.
The most desirable Dominant Silver birds are those with the lightest color. The wings, back, and rump should not show any darker coloring. These birds also should show the tear drop and tail barring that is common to most zebra finches.
Fawn Cheek and Gray Cheek Zebras have only been in the US since the early 1990s. At first sight, you may mistake this mutation for a Florida Fancy; however, with a gray cheek, both sexes have cheek patches. Males have a very apparent breast bar. The Fawn Cheek bird is the mutation of a lighter, Fawn colored bird, while the Gray cheek zebra is the mutation of the normal colored bird.
As you can see from the zebra finch mutations, many of them look similar, or can be crossed. Still, this is just a sampling of the many mutations that are out there, and there is something for both the beginning and the serious finch hobbyist.
One of the best places to go to for zebra finch information is the National Zebra Finch Society at www.zebrafinch-society.org.
Winged Wisdom Note: When not working at her full time job, Mary enjoys playing with her pionus, Sam and Braynon, breeding parrotlets and Phaeo, Chestnut Flanked White, Pied, and Penguin zebra finches. She is also the founder of Finches With Wishes, a nonprofit org for the education/adoption/rescue of unwanted finches.
Copyright © 1999 Mary Wilson and Winged Wisdom. All rights reserved.
Finch pictures copyrighted by and courtesy of:
Zebra Group - Myra Markley, Isabel and Dominant Silver - Ken Glasson,
Lightback and Fawn Cheek - Roy Beckham, Chestnut Flanked White - Jimmy Hill
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