THE WHITE ZEBRA FINCH
© 1977 Poule d'eau Publishing
The White Zebra was one of the earliest mutations to occur in captivity. Its exact place and origin is unknown. The White mutation is recessive. True Whites are devoid of all markings and the entire plumage is white. Whites retain the beak color, dark eye color, and orange pigmented legs. The beak color is the only reliable way in which to sex White Zebras. Males have a dark red beak, females retain an orange beak. The eye color can vary from being dark brown to reddish brown. This difference in eye color of Whites reflects the ancestry of the White. For example, Whites with dark brown eyes are likely descendants of a Grey lineage, whereas Whites with reddish brown eyes are descendants from a Fawn lineage. The eye color can be most easily recognized in newly hatched White chicks and becomes less obvious as the birds feather and mature.
I have frequently spoken with breeders who seemed certain they had Albino Zebras, because they observed their newly hatched White Zebras with bright pinkish red eyes. The chance of finding a true Albino Zebra is very small. These birds generally turn out to be regular Whites from a Fawn background. True Albino Zebras have been reported, but apparently they are quite rare for I have never seen a photo, or birds offered for sale. Most written accounts of Albino Zebras indicate that the mutation is sex-linked and that they are very rare. This suggests that the Albino Zebra is not a well established mutation.
The true White Zebra often show dark flecking on the neck and back. This is especially true if Whites are outcrossed to Grey birds. Sometimes the flecking disappears as the bird matures, but many times it leaves a permanent mark on Whites. In the past, Fawns were often recommended to interbreed with true Whites, with the idea that the flecking that would appear in the White offspring would be pale when compared to Whites outcrossed to Grey Zebras. Even so, "Fawn" Whites often retain pale tan or cream flecks on the upper body. Flecking is an undesirable trait that unfortunately can be very difficult to eliminate from Whites. Even pairing two good Whites does not guarantee that the offspring will be free of the flecks.
Oddly enough, the White Zebras that are often bred for exhibition, are White Pieds. In other words, they are Pied Zebras whose spots are white, there by producing an all white bird. Apparently English breeders of Pied Zebras occasionally produced an all White Zebra out of their Pieds. These were not "true" White Zebras, they were White Pieds. These White Pieds quickly became the White Zebra of choice by those who exhibited Whites. The White Pieds never develop the flecking that plagued the true Whites. Virtually all White Zebras that are shown today, are White Pieds and not the original White mutation. I know of no visual way to distinguish a White Pied from a true White. While they are identical in appearance, by crossing the White birds to Greys or Fawns, one can determine if the White was a White Pied or a true White.