Zebra Finches Type…In birdkeeping circles the term ‘Type’ is commonly used to refer to the shape of birds. Some birds are long and thin, others are short and round, and there are many variations between these extremes. Where a large number of birds are being bred by fanciers it is usually necessary to determine which type or shape is to be preferred, so that judges can decide which are the best exhibits at shows. In the Canary Fancy there has been sufficient interest to establish various different type preferences and this has resulted in several different fancies developing from just one species. The main variation between each breed of canary is the shape, although in some cases overall size must also be taken into consideration. Perhaps when the Zebra Finch fancy is as old as the Canary Fancy, there will be several different breeds of Zebra Finch which vary from each other by their shape. However at the present time there is just one type standard for Zebra Finches which all competitive exhibitors must strive to achieve. The type standard laid down by the Zebra Finch Society is as follows.
Bold throughout and of ‘Cobby’ type giving the birds a look of substance, wings evenly carried to root of tail.
Although very brief, this type standard has successfully conveyed to exhibitors over the years that the ideal Zebra Finch must be a round bird, with clean lines, showing no angularity. If a type standard drawing had been adopted then this would have been altered several times as the type of exhibition Zebra Finches improved over the years. The Budgie and Border Canary Fancies have both experienced the turmoil that can be caused when type standard drawings are altered. In the case of the Border Canary this was largely responsible for the ‘birth’ of the Fife Fancy Canary, which is much more similar to the original Border Canary, than the present day exhibition Borders.
When assessing type it is usual to start by looking at the birds head, and more specifically the eyes of the bird. Human beings communicate initially by making eye contact and therefore it is simply human nature to look at the eyes first. The eyes of Zebra Finches should be round, bright and as large as possible without appearing ‘deformed’. The head should show roundness when viewed from the side, and good width when veiwed from front or back. The beak of the bird can have quite an affect on the apparent head shape. In Zebra Finches it is usual to look for birds with neat, short, conical beaks as this tends to emphasise the shape and size of the head. A large beak will tend to make the head look smaller and therefore detract from the type of the bird. Ideally there should be no sharpness under the beak, the neck and throat should be full, showing width and depth, so that the head blends neatly into the body. The head should be in proportion with the body, appearing neither too large nor too small.
The body of the bird should be full and round. When viewed in profile, the line from the base of the beak to the vent should be a smooth curve, showing as much depth as possible, without any sign of being square chested. The line from the back of the head to the base of the tail should be nearly straight and at an angle of 45 degrees to the vertical. Ideally this contour should be slightly convex to add extra substance to the body, and if this is the case it will also tend to improve wing and tail carriage. Birds which have a concave or hollow backed outline often have poor wing carriage and appear to droop their tails. The wings should be carried neatly and evenly so that their tips meet at the base of the tail. Dropped wings and crossed wings spoil the overall impression of roundness which is essential in a good exhibition Zebra Finch. The tail should be neat and relatively short, compared to most other types of exhibition birds. It must show no sign of drooping and therefore be carried at least at the same angle as the back outline, and ideally at a slightly more horizontal angle than 45 degrees.
When a Zebra Finch is viewed from above or below, the outline of the body should be nicely rounded, being elliptical in shape, rather than tubular. The head, body and tail should blend together neatly giving the appearance of being one complete unit, rather than three separate components. The overall impression should be one of roundness throughout, from the tip of the beak to the end of the tail.
The type standard does not mention size, type is merely concerned with shape and overall size is secondary to shape. Given that two birds have identical merits with regard to type (condition, colour and markings also being on a par), then they can only be separated by their size. In order to be consistent from one event to another it is essential that preference is given to either the smallest or the largest, opting for intermediate size is a sure course for disaster. Whether or not pairs are determined to be of intermediate size depends on the size of the other exhibits placed beside them. Good exhibition pairs must be determined as being good in their own right, rather than depending on other exhibits in the class to make them good. As the type standard asks for birds to appear bold and have substance, it is an accepted practise within the Zebra Finch Society to opt for the larger birds, but size should only be rewarded on, when it is accompanied by good type.
The ability to differentiate between good type, average type and poor type is essential if one hopes to establish a good strain of exhibition Zebra Finches, this ability can usually only be obtained by looking carefully at lots of different Zebra Finches and learning to recognise all the different type faults. The best way to do this is to visit shows where there is a good selection of Zebra Finches on view. The judge will have already given his or her decision, you have to try and understand why the birds are placed in this order. Usually there will be experienced Zebra Finch fanciers on hand who are only too pleased to help you recognise the finer points of Exhibition Zebra Finches.