Zebra Finches inhabit a wide range of grasslands and forests, usually close to water. They are typically found in open steppes with scattered bushes and trees, but have adapted to human disturbances, taking advantage of human-made watering holes and large patches of deforested land. Zebra Finches including many human-bred variants to the species are widely kept by genetic researchers, breeding hobbyists and pet owners.The Zebra Finch breeds after substantial rains in its native habitat, which can occur at any time of the year. Birds in captivity are ready to breed year-round. Wild birds are adaptable and varied in their nesting habits, with nests being found in cavities, scrub, low trees, bushes, on the ground, in termite hills, rabbit burrows, nests of other birds, and in the cracks, crevices, and ledges of human structures. Outside of the breeding time, brood nests are constructed for sleeping in.Zebra Finches are distributed over much of Australia and the Flores Islands. Taeniopygia guttata guttata, the Timor Zebra Finch, extends from Lombok in the Lesser Sunda Islands or Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia to Sermata, in addition to coastal areas around the continent of Australia. Taeniopygia guttata castanotis is found over the wide range of continental Australia.
The Australian race is sometimes split as Chestnut-eared Finch Taeniopygia castanotis.The morphological differences between the subspecies include differences in size. T. g. guttata is smaller than T. g. castanotis. In addition, the . guttata males do not have the fine barring found on the throat and upper breast of castanotis, as well as having small breast bands.