The Society (Bengalese) Finch
|Lonchura striata domestica|
Other common namesBengalese finch, Bengalese, Society Finch
DispositionGregarious, peaceful, calm.
Physical descriptionsBecause this is a sexually monomorphic species, hens and cocks are visually indistinguishable. The "normal" form is considered the chocolate self: the beak is usually two-toned (dark grey on top, silver below), the feathers directly surrounding the beak and throat are nearly black but quickly blend to a deep chocolate colored brown which covers the rest of the bird with the exception of the chest and belly area which are covered in a scallop design of offwhite and chocolate feathers; the rump blends into a black-brown tail.
Many color mutations exist in this bird, including:
- pied, where white feathers are randomly strewn throughout the normal coloring of the bird
- fawn (self and pied) - a light brown colored bird
- chestnut (self and pied) - a richer medium-brown colored bird
- red-brown (autosomal recessive)
- crested (where the head feathers on the very top of the bird's head seem to grow longer and in all sorts of directions)
- creme-ino (sex-linked recessive)
- gray (autosomal recessive)
Several varieties have been created from cross breeding the Bengalese to the Black Mannikin (L. sygia), though some of these "new varieties" do not exhibit the same parenting skills that make the Society Finch popular as foster parents.
SexingCocks have a squeaky song and perform a courtship dance (where they fluff up their feathers and hop while singing). Cocks will court either sex, so do not assume the object of the courtship dance is necessarily a hen. A rare hen may sing, but this is usually the exception and not the rule. The contact calls differ between sexes (the female has an "r" sound in her call which the male lacks), but sexing birds by this method requires an experienced listener.
One trick to sexing mature society finches is to isolate each bird to its own cage for 1-2 days where it cannot see any other society finches. Then, re-introducing two society finches back into the same enclosure will induce most males to sing. If a bird does not sing, try to isolate it again for 1-2 more days then reintroduce it again to another society finch before assuming it is probably a hen.
SongThe Bengalese song tends to be a squeaky warble or rattle of notes. Songs vary among individual males and may sound more like the song of the male who raised them (even if fostered by a different species).
PicturesIf you keep this species and have a photo of your birds to share, please submit your photo for possible inclusion on this site! Credit will be given to you.
Crested society finches in various colors: chocolate pied, white, and fawn pied.
Crested (chocolate pied) & non-crested (fawn pied) societies huddled in a nest.
Photo of "Ferb" by Brian.
Society Finch Nests:
Favorite foodsMillet, greens, egg food.
Natural habitatThe society finch is a domestic species, and is not found naturally in the wild. It is most likely a domesticated form of L. striata swinhoei, the Chinese race of the Striated (or "White-backed") Munia. Another theory is that the Society Finch resulted in China as a man-made cross (fertile hybrid) between L. acuticauda and L. striata. Regardless of their origin, these finches have been selectively bred for centuries in Asia, producing relatively undemanding birds which will breed in small cages and exhibit strong parenting instincts. Interestingly, crossing the Bengalese and other munias tend to result in fertile hybrids (F2 generation) which are reluctant to breed and whose offspring may actually require Bengalese foster parents!
HabitsBeing a very social bird, society finches will often preen, cuddle, and sleep beside other munias or social finches. Although providing a nest is not required, these birds prefer to roost in a nest box or basket at night. In accordance with their highly social nature, society finches will often cram into the same nest to sleep at night; it is not unusual to see eight to ten birds (as many as will fit) stuffed into a single nest for sleeping. Society finches have such a strong drive to breed that it is sometimes possible (though not guaranteed) to convince a male-male pair or a female-female pair to accept brooding responsibilities if given a ready-made nest with another species' eggs in it.
Special considerationsBecause they are easy to cage breed and make excellent parents, society finches are the most popular choice for foster parents, and will often even raise several different species of finches in the same clutch. Caution should be exercised, however, since society finches can be asymptomatic carriers for diseases which can prove fatal to chicks they foster, including Campylobacter and Cochlosoma.
Bengalese finches appear to be shorter-lived than most other small birds, with an average life span of about 4 years. Typical health concerns include overgrown nails which may require frequent trimming; providing flagstones and rough/textured 'vertical perching' options such as reeds in the enclosure may help birds keep their own nails trim.
Society finches have hybridized with many other species, including: cut-throats (Amadina fasciata) red-faced parrotfinches (Erythrura psittacea), red-cheeked cordon bleus (Uraeginthus bengala), the Madagascar munia (Lemuresthes nana), plum-headed finch (Neochmia modesta), star finch (N. ruficauda), Java sparow (Padda oryzivora), long-tailed finch (Poephila acuticauda), black-throated finch (P. cincta), masked finch (P. personata), diamond firetail (Stagonopleura guttata), owl finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii), zebra finch (T. guttata), and many of the Lonchura species including: Bengalese munia (L. acuticauda), black-and-white munia (L. bicolor), African silverbill (L. cantans), chestnut-breasted munia (L. castaneothorax), bronze munia (L. cucullata), chestnut munia (L. ferruginosa), yellow-rumped munia (L. flaviprymna), magpie munia (L. fringilloides), dusky munia (L. fuscans), grey-headed silverbill (L. griseicapilla), black-throated munia (L. kelaarti), white-bellied munia (L. leucogastra), Javan munia (L. leucogastroides), white-headed munia (L. maja), white-throated silverbill (L. malabarica), Indian black-headed munia (L. malacca), grey-crowned munia (L. nevermanni), brown-backed munia (L. nigriceps), scaly-breasted munia (L. punctulata), white-rumped munia (L. striata), black munia (L. stygia), and black-breasted munia (L. teerinki). Therefore, be careful to avoid cross breeding your society finches.
Breeding seasonThis domesticated species will breed year-round; warm season (spring-summer) breeding is recommended for birds housed outdoors. Societies meant to be used as foster parents should have their breeding season synched with the species which may require foster care.
Breeding tipsBecause these birds are so social, they often prefer socializing over breeding. If you attempt to colony breed society finches (or breed birds housed in a mixed flight of society finches with other munias), the hens will tend to all share the same nest for egg laying, and all of the birds will cram into the nest for sleeping at night. This greatly hinders breeding efforts. Therefore, for best breeding results, place each male-female pair in its own cage.
Society finches are not picky about what type of nest or nesting material you provide, so a nest box or basket or box with coconut fiber nesting material should suffice. Both parents will incubate the eggs and both will roost in the nest at night. Chicks hatch naked and are fed by both parents. Chicks can be banded between 8-10 days of age. They are brooded until they are about 10 days old.
When fostering chicks which are normally fed a high protein (insectivore) diet, make sure to select a pair of society finches which will consume a variety of protein rich soft foods (such as egg food) or which will feed live food such as mealworms to the chicks to ensure that the young are receiving an adequate diet for their development. If transferring chicks into a bengalese nest, make sure that the nest contains similarly sized young (similar size is more important than similar age) to decrease the risk of smaller chicks being out-competed by larger chicks during feedings. Society finches tolerate nest checks well.
|Clutch size:||3-9 eggs (4-6 most common)|
|Incubation:||Done by both parents, begins after the 3rd egg is laid.|
|Hatch date:||After 16 days of incubation (range 14-20)|
|Fledge date:||At 19-25 days of age|
|Wean date:||About 4-5 weeks of age|
|First molt:||About 3 months of age|
|Sexual maturity:||About 3 months of age|
Related Article(s)If you own this species and would like to write an article about your experiences with them for this page, please submit your article for possible inclusion on this site. Credit will be given to you!
Society (Bengalese) Finches
- The Society Finch - eFinch species profile.
- Successfully Using Societies as Foster Parents - Detailed article by Kristine Spencer.
- Bengalese Finch - Singing Wings Aviary species profile.
- National Bengalese Fanciers Association - An organization dedicated to breeding show-quality society finches.