Breeding and selection of grey zebrafinch


1. Introduction

The zebrafinch gray is from the wild type.
It corresponds to the original type of Mandarin diamond. It is therefore strictly speaking not a mutation.
However, the gray zebrafinch we know to this day, is very different from its Australian ancestor. Following a selection by the breeders, the type, size and color of it have changed a lot.

2. interest

Since gray is the basis of the mutations existing in the gray series (black breast gray, white breast gray, pale back gray, etc.), the rearing of this one is essential for the perennity of all these mutations.
The gray zebrafinch will thus "regenerate" all these mutations.

3. Who is gray breeding for ?

The breeding of the gray zebrafinch is recommended for beginners and can also become very exciting for the more experienced.
Indeed, despite an attraction at first glance less spectacular than a zebrafinch with orange or pastel colors, its breeding is even more interesting.

Gray female zebra finch


4. Breeding

As a general rule, gray reproduction does not pose any particular problem, laying, brooding and feeding will be carried out without problems.

The mating to practice is gray x gray. Care should be taken to never introduce a mutant zebrafinch or a split mutation  in order to keep a pure strain.
For the differences between the male and the female it may be advisable to build two strains: One that will bring together the birds having the qualities required to make a good male and one that will bring together the qualities of the females.
The young obtained will need a period of time to perfect their development, they will be kept a few months before making a selection to be either exposed or/and the next breeding season.

5. Selection

The selection of gray will be made on the type, size, designs and color of each part of the bird (back, belly, cheeks, flanks, ...).
The following are the detailed characteristics that the breeder will seek to approach and gather in gray :

type and size

- The breeder will look to obtain gray of a very successful type and size.


- Tear line width equal to the width of the eye.
- Cheeks perfectly delimited.
- Regular breast pattern, from one side to the other and 3 mm wide.
- Stripes (zebra) extending from the chest to the lower mandible of the beak (no white area under the beak).
- Strictly symmetrical tail tiles.


- Area between the beak and the white tear line (without eumelanin rejection).
- The most intense orange cheeks possible (for the male).
- Chestnut-brown sides with round white dots (male).
- Belly color tending towards white for the male and cream color for the female.
- Uniform slate gray back color (ideally until blue reflection).

The following defects will be avoided :

- Falling tail.
- Break between the back and the head (head, back and tail not aligned).
- Drooping wings (flanks not visible).
- Narrowness of the head (pinched head).
- Streaks (zebra) rising up behind the cheeks.
- A lore protruding from the top of the eye.

Gray male zebra finch

There is a need to distinguish between competition gray and working gray. However, competition birds may also be used for breeding.
Example of work subject : A male with a cream or even brown belly can be used in a mating which will aim to obtain a good female.

Grey x brown mating can be done under certain conditions and for a specific purpose.
Indeed, in the event that the color of the cheeks and flanks become too dull or melanized (black) following a selection pushed towards the slate gray color this coupling becomes conceivable. The mating will preferably be a gray male on a brown female (of a dull brown color tending towards gray, in short "a bad brown").
Only the females of this mating will be kept because they will not be able to split brown and will therefore prevent you from endangering in the long term the purity sought of your strain of gray.
The males that will emerge from such a mating will all split the brown mutation (mutation related to sex), we will notice the effect of phaeomelanin (melanin orange) brought. The color of the cheeks and flanks will be more shimmering. You may see brown traces on the back of the bird.

6. Orientations

A gray with an overflowing tear (traces of eumelanin) towards the beak and/or a belly of "hot" color (cream) can be used for a black face strain.
A very light gray can also be used for a pastel or pale back strain.

7. competitions

The competition gray must have a very good size and type, of course the designs and colors will also play a role in the final score.

- The characteristics of the show gray male will be to have a back as dark as possible (slate gray) and uniform, a white belly, an intense orange cheek color contrasting with the coat of the bird, chestnut brown sides adorned with regular white round dots, black and white tail tiles strictly aligned horizontally.
- The gray show female will have a cream-colored belly, the tail bars will be with black and cream lines. The sides will be a more pronounced gray. She should not have chest rejection (trace of eumelanin).

In no case should we neglect the so-called "working" grays which have as much or even more importance than the so-called competition zebrafinch. They will be the guarantors of the quality of your breeding over time.

Tony Lombard, amateur breeder of selection.
Article written in 2009, then revised and completed in 2018. It is the result of breeding experience, observations, and consultations between breeders.

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Competition breeding Grey Selection