Where it all began…..

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

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This photograph shows the Crown Restaurant at the corner of Corporation Street and Newton Street in the centre of Birmingham where the first meeting of the Society was held on the 23rd February 1952. It is recorded that there were a total of 20 people present at this meeting.

The Distribution of the Zebra Finch in Australia can be seen from the map –

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The Zebra Finch is a member of the estrildid familly (estrildidae) which in turn belong to the widespread order Passeriformes or “perching birds”.

No-one is quite certain when Zebra Finches first entered the UK, but they appear to have been introduced through wild caught specimens in the nineteenth century. Two races of the Zebra Finch exist; the first to be described, which appears to have been the Timor race Taeniopygia guttata guttata (Vieillot, 1817, or earlier, see “Histoere naturelles des plus beaux oiseaux chanteurs de zone torride” , 1805) and the much more common Australian race Taeniopygia guttata castanosis (Gould, 1838). It is the latter which the basis of almost all of the Zebra Finches we see in aviculture today.

Some sources suggest that Viellot also bred the first captive Zebra Finches, but there is some doubt about this. Nevertheless it was quickly discovered that Zebra Finches would thrive in captivity and by 1872 in Germany they were reported as free breeding in cage or aviary. In the years following they quickly became very popular avicultural subjects. In the first half of the twentieth century they were exhibited in the “Foreign Bird” section at British shows.

The Formation of the Zebra Finch Society.

Owing to the growing popularity of the Zebra Finch, both as a cage and aviary bird and as an exhibition bird, several fanciers discussed the formation of a Society dedicated solely to this species. Accordingly a meeting was called by a well-known Coventry fancier, Mr A J Wilkins, to formally discuss the formation of such a Society. The meeting took place on a dull damp day in February 1952 at the Crown Hotel and Restaurant in Corporation Street in Birmingham. It is reported that about twenty people attended the meeting, and it was decided that the Zebra Finch Society be formed.

Mr Allen Silver, a noted naturalist, author, exhibitor, judge, and breeder of a number of species of foreign and British native birds was invited to be the first President, a post he held until his death in 1969. Mr Wilkins assumed to role as the first Chairman. Other Officers and members of the Executive Committee elected were: Vice-President Phil Birch; Hon. Secretary Stan Moulsen; Hon. Treasurer George Cannon; Executive Committee Miss Joan Uncle, Peter Pope, Ted Hounslow, Alf Rooke, Geoff Shaw, and Tommy Maugham. Almost 60 years later, Ted Hounslow and George Cannon remained members of the Society until passing away recently. By the end of the first year of operation the Society had almost 100 members, including two from the USA.

From the beginning, A C Hughes was appointed as supplier of rings to the new Society, and remain so today.

Over the next 25 years the Society continued show strong growth, and attracted a number of well known people. These included Desmond Morris, TV personality and author of The Naked Ape, as well as notable bird people such as Cyril Rodgers, author of a number of books on Zebra Finches, Budgerigars, Canaries and Foreign birds, his wife Helen Rogers, who became the second President of the Society, and Raymond Sawyer. For some years Mr Curt af Enehjelm, one time curator of the Helsinki Zoological Gardens in Finland was a member contributing several items to the Society publications.

By 1957 the Committee felt that the status of the Zebra Finch was so well established that they were able to declare that it should be considered as a fully self-sustainable domesticated species in all its known colour forms, in the same way as Budgerigars and Canaries are, and should no longer be considered as a “Foreign” bird. A consequence of this was that Zebra Finches from that time had their own separate section in UK shows.

Formation of Area Societies

In the years following the formation of the ZFS, a number of “Area” Zebra Finch Societies were formed. These were smaller groups based on fanciers in a particular area of the UK.

CLUB Established Status
Midland Zebra Finch Club
1960
Active
South-Western Zebra Finch Club
1963
Active
South-Eastern Zebra Finch Club
1963
Closed 1968
Scottish & Northern Counties ZFS
1964
Active
Kent Zebra Finch Club
1969
Active
Scottish Zebra Finch Society
1970
Closed 2008
East Anglian Zebra Finch Society
1971
Active
Yorkshire & Allied Counties ZFS
1975
Closed 1990, Reformed 2012
Ulster Zebra Finch Society
1982
Closed (?)
South of Midlands Zebra Finch Society
1983
Closed 1988
Southern Counties Zebra Finch Society
1983
Active
Welsh Zebra Finch Society
1996
Active
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