These birds like to be close together and tend to all roost in one nest if kept in a group. In an aviary they lay eggs and crowd into a single nest, interfering with incubation (which is performed by the female and lasts 16 days) or damaging the eggs. Thus they breed better if kept as single pairs in individual breeding boxes. This sociability is also responsible for their American name of "society finch".
A standard finch mix, plus some greens daily, anything from chickweed or dandelion, to kale, broccoli or romaine. Appropriate vitamin/mineral supplements are essential, too, but for these birds supplements are better offered dry on a little soft food than in water.
There’s occasionally a little confusion with the term “self,” which is used for finches and their relatives, the canaries. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that this term means different things depending on whether you’re speaking to a finch or a canary person.
For years, society finches seemed to be the only domestic species in existence with no counterpart in the wild. While some members of the mannikin finch family look fairly similar, there is no one species that can be clearly identified as a wild Bengalese finch. In fact, nobody seems quite sure just where these tiny yet tough little birds originated!
We don’t know for sure how long it’s been since these little birds were first domesticated, but there are ancient Asian texts close to 10,000 years old that refer to keeping cagebirds. Educated guesses about this species begin at approximately 1,000 years ago and range backward in time.
Handling/Training: Finches are simply enjoyed for their antics and play rather than training. When you need to handle your finch to examine it or clip it's nails, place your palm on it's back and wrap your fingers around the bird with your thumb and forefinger on either side of it's head.
As long as there is a reliable food supply, the hens usually lay and begin to incubate another clutch of eggs as soon as the youngsters from the first clutch are barely fledged, long before they are fully weaned. In such a case, the male parent does most of the weaning during the daytime, while the hen spends most of her time incubating her new eggs, coming out only for short periods to eat and exercise while he covers the eggs to keep them from getting chilled.
It used to be believed that the Society finch was a fertile hybrid developed from unknown members of the Lonchura family. Tests have shown that the Society finch is a domesticated form of the White-rump mannikin. Just one look at the Chocolate self and a White-rump mannikin and there can be no doubt of their relationship.
Social Behaviors: Society Finches are very, very social and should be kept in groups (except when breeding a single pair). They are most friendly, have an ideal temperament, and are never aggressive toward other birds.
A Pearl Society Finch . See the mouth markings of nestling Societies
These finches are very social and will pine away without companionship, whether that of people or their own kind. Unless you want to breed them, try for same-gender pairs. One healthy and fertile pair of society finches can easily produce 20 young a year, if allowed. Flying keeps them healthy, and several pairs in a large cage will do better than one or two pairs in a smaller cage. Keep an even number of birds to avoid “odd-bird-out syndrome,” which can be stressful for all.
The male constructs his nest anywhere he thinks he can make it work out. When it comes right down to it, all that is really required is someplace that prevents the bottom from falling out of his nest and offers suitable shelter from the sun.
Society finches normally come in a charming variegated pattern of dark chocolate and white, or the fairly common gender-linked recessive color of fawn and white. If you find a good finch breeder, you can usually choose from a range of colors, from all light to all dark, and various colors in between.
Society finches have been used extensively in research on imprinting and on bird vocalizations, often comparing the structure of their songs to syntax.
Activities: Society Finches are active and very friendly. They are so social and such busy bodies that they can often get in the way of, and disrupt the breeding habits of other more private birds! Keep an eye on your energetic friends in an aviary!
Hatchlings that show up in a society finch nest are usually readily accepted and willingly tended to as long as they are vaguely similar in size and appearance to that of a society chick. And by vaguely, I mean just that! I’ve seen societies feed hatchlings roughly four times the size of a society chick of the same age. Large or small, if it’s a baby, most societies will do their best to find a way to feed it.
I once caught a pair of society finches feeding a nestful of canary chicks almost three times as large as themselves. They had to sneak into the canary cage in the first place, mind you, and then the only way they could feed the chicks was to hang upside down on the cage wire above the canary nest. I’m not sure how they figured it all out, but they accomplished their goal.
The average clutch size is from four to six eggs, usually with fairly good fertility. These birds can continue breeding as long as conditions and food supplies are suitable, so a single pair of society finches can multiply much more quickly than expected.
The Society finch will also hybridize with many other finches. It is usually quite easy to hybridize with other members of the Lonchura family and some of those crosses produce fertile young. The Society finch will cross with many other finches that are not closely related such as Zebra finches (T. guttata castanotis). I purchased some unknown hybrids at a pet shop. After much deliberation, it was decided that these were Society x Star finch hybrids. (click to view the hybrids).
The society finch (North America) or Bengalese finch (elsewhere), Lonchura striata domestica or L. domestica, is a popular cage bird not found in the wild.
The term “self” to most finch breeders indicates a bird that is all one color: it can be all light or all dark and, as long as there is no variegation present, it is considered to be a “self” bird. In canary circles, however, a “self” bird is a bird that is all dark, with no light-colored feathers. Now you know and you won’t be confused when either a finch or canary keeper begins talking about “self” birds.
Maintenance: Although finches require very little time, a clean environment as well as fresh food and water daily is a must to prevent disease and illness. The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Every two to three days change the paper on the bottom of the cage and sprinkle it with about 1/8" of fresh grit. Weekly wash and dry the entire cage, including the perches.
In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anything funnier than when the chicks’ mother showed up to feed her babies, only to realize that the society finches had stuffed her babies so full they could hardly budge. It was quite clear that she was completely at a loss about it all.
He had a huge heap of hay, perhaps 20 times his size, stuffed into the hanger. He dove in, trampled down a space in the center and then began weaving in an access tunnel that led to a lovely, finely lined central hollow. It was quite the work of art, in its own way. Needless to say, this particular male won over his lady-love’s heart.
They are generally given a diet of seeds, such as millets and canary seed, and greens. They will not usually take live-foods, but it has been found they will often accept housefly pupae, which they crack like seeds. This is particularly useful if they are being used to foster species that require a high protein component to be successfully reared.
Average is 10 years, but it can vary from 2 or 3 years to 20 or more, depending on care, lifestyle, stress (or lack of stress) and genetics.
The Society finch is such an excellent parent that it is often used to foster many other species of estrildids. Many are quite different from the young of the Society finch. For more information on fostering with Society finches visit our page on fostering, and be sure to read Robert Black's book, "Society Finches as Foster Parents".
Scientific name: Lonchura domestica Learn more about the Society "Family", the Estrildidae Finches here: Finch Families
Once everything has been done correctly, his skill, coordination and enthusiasm proves irresistible to his prospective mate, and soon she inspects his carefully built nest. It must prove acceptable before she trims his homemade haven with feathers from both their breasts. Once she has, eggs begin to arrive, often within a couple of days or less. She lays one egg a day until her clutch is complete.
A cage size that is 24 inches long by 24 inches deep by 24 inches high, with bar spacing of 1/2-inch or less. Any 4-inch to 6-inch open or closed nest, nest pan or nest box will do; society finches are remarkably adaptable and not at all picky. Don’t put up nests unless you want young, though, as they will take up the invitation without hesitation!
The eggs generally hatch after 12 or 13 days, with both parents sharing incubation and rearing duties. The youngsters fledge at around 20 to 25 days old, but continue to be fed by their parents until they are approximately 6 weeks or so of age — a far longer weaning period than most other similarly sized avian species, another indication of the strong social ties shared within a society finch flock.
Description: Society Finches reach a size of 4 1/4" to 4 3/4" (11-12 cm). They have three basic color varieties: chocolate and white, fawn and white, and pure white. Tri-coloreds, crested forms (developed in the 1930's), and solid colors are also seen. No two Society Finches are alike!
Society Finches are one of the most charming and interesting of all the small Mannikins! They are believed to have been developed in Asia over three hundred years ago by Chinese and Japanese breeders. It is assumed they are a domestic form of the White-backed Munia (Lonchura striata) though their absolute ancestry is uncertain.
Bengalese finches are well adapted to captivity and the company of humans. They breed well and are good foster parents for other finch-like birds.
Most pet birds and parrots haven’t been kept as pets for all that long. In fact,many parrot species have yet to produce more than a few generations in aviculture, if that. But African parrots were popular in Roman times, then cagebirds have been popular in Asia for thousands of years.
Not all male society finches are so successful, but their enthusiasm is boundless, and if their first effort isn’t appreciated, it will quickly be torn down. Soon afterward you’ll find him just as enthusiastically building another structure, once again hoping for his chosen one’s attention and eventual dalliance.
The female society finch will usually demurely pretend to ignore him as he commences an antic little dance, beeping an enthusiastic accompaniment while hopping up and down and waving his piece of grass as attractively as he can manage. I’ve often wondered why they don’t fall off their perches in the process; sometimes they can get very enthusiastic about these funny little performances.
Both society finch genders are identical in appearance to the eye, but if you spend a little time sitting and watching them, it becomes quite easy to tell them apart. Male societies are enthusiastic nest-builders and love to display their prowess. Their favorite way to do this is to take a long piece of grass in their beak — the longer, the better — to a stretch of perch near a prospective mate.
Color Varieties Chestnut Self Society (click to view) Fawn Self Society (click to view) Chocolate Pied Society (click to view) Fawn Pied Society (click to view) Fawn Self Dilute (click to view) Pearl with Crest (click to view) Chocolate Gray Self (click to view) Pearl Gray (click to view) Chocolate Self with Crest (click to view) Albino Cremino
Distribution: Society Finches are totally domestic and large numbers are bred in captivity.