They aren't the friendliest of captive birds, but finches are aesthetically pleasing and suitable for caged living. Gouldian finches are popular for their various color options; zebra and society finches are also common pets. Watching your finches interact with each other gives you an insight into avian psychology and behavior.
Males and Females
If you have Gouldian finches as pets, it's easy to tell males from females. Males are far more colorful than their female counterparts. Other finch breeds are hard to sex. Your best best is asking the breeder or your avian vet to sex society or zebra finches for you. Finches reach sexual maturity by the age of 3 months. If you see one bird obviously courting another, that's the male.
Finches are nervous creatures -- they're literally flighty birds. Provide your birds with the largest cage you can so they can fly as much as possible and come to rest on their numerous perches. Because these birds are tiny and quick, it's not a good idea to let them out of the cage for flight time around the room. They could easily come to harm. Catching them to get them back in the cage is difficult and stressful for you and the bird.
It's never a good idea to keep just one finch. They prefer staying in pairs or groups. If you end up with a male and female and don't want to breed them, you can keep them in separate cages next to each other; or, if you house them together and they do produce eggs, you can simply remove the eggs. Zebra finches are especially easy to breed if you want to raise young.
These little birds are tougher than they look. If you keep your finches in an aviary, you might notice some finch fights breaking out. That's because, like many other birds, finch social life consists of a pecking order. A top finch calls the shots -- getting first dibs on food and drink -- and the others work out a hierarchy. Finches are also territorial, so birds crossing their boundaries can end up victims of tiny avian aggression.
If you're seeking a bird that interacts with you, choose a parakeet or cockatiel. With patience, though, you can develop a relationship with finches, even though they don't enjoy being handled. If you are calm and don't make any abrupt moves, over time you might have a finch accept a finger-fed treat from you. At feeding time, your finches might make little whistling or other noises -- that means they're happy to see you.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.