Little Aussie Zebras

Waterholes in the desert are wonderful places for bird watching and I’d hoped to visit Circus Water in the Great Victoria Desert but fires were burning too close for comfort so we headed back towards the red centre. I’d particularly hoped to see Zebra Finches and was delighted to find these tiny birds at several places.


 Zebra Finch (male) (Taeniopygia guttata)


For every image I took of a Zebra Finch that showed its face I have two that show the other end! They are very tiny (measuring 10-12cm and weighing just 12g) and they are constantly on the move. The male in the image above landed for a brief moment before stretching himself ready for flight.


Zebra Finches live together all year in large social groups. While walking along the tracks and into the gorges my first awareness of their presence was the nasal buzzing of their contact call.


Zebra Finch (female and male)


To take the image above I was lying flat out in a hollow amongst the rocks at the edge of a small rock pool. It wasn’t 100% comfortable but it was 100% awesome. I was nestled almost out of sight and many finches came too close for me to focus with the 100-400mm lens I was using.

Male and female finches are similar except that females lack the bright chestnut cheek patch and white spotted chestnut belly-sides. Both sexes have black teardrop stripes below their eyes, orange legs, bright orange bills and red eyes, and both sexes have zebra-like black and white bands on their rumps and tails.

I like the reflections in the image above and the story told by the ripples and flying droplets is typical of the finches’ constant activity: the female has just lifted her head from drinking and the male has just dipped his to begin.


 Zebra Finch (male)


After drinking many of the finches would enter the water to bathe quickly, taking the opportunity to cool down and wash away the dust.


Zebra Finch – male enjoying a quick dip


Zebra Finch – I love the way they look after bathing


Zebra Finch (female) – after her bath


The longer I watched the more I saw. I realised that despite the chaotic nasal twanging of their calls and the constant movement of the finches the large flock was working together in a very orderly fashion.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these little Aussie zebras.

Happy birding, Kim



6 comments to Little Aussie Zebras

  • […] Male Zebra Finches have bright orange cheek patches and orange flanks with white spots. They can be seen in the ancient lirralirra post: Little Aussie Zebras […]

  • […] Watching them reminds me of Zebra Finches taking turns at desert water holes, as shown in Little Aussie Zebras.  It’s difficult to count even a small group of Silvereyes as they move so quickly and […]

  • Kim,

    When I was a teenager I had a pair of Zebra Finches as pets, their calls always delighted me and they were delightfully beautiful. Now as an adult I much prefer seeing birds in the wild, like these. How terrific you were able to see and photograph them.

  • Carole King

    Hello Kim…Love the little Zebra finches and the information is very interesting to read, you are doing a very good job.
    Where are you going to be next week?

    • lirralirra

      I’m really pleased you like the finches, I loved being with them, it makes me happy just thinking about it! I’ll be home, hope to get to the island for the next meeting. Are you coming up this way? Or maybe I could meet you down there if the weather’s nice one day?

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