Society Finch

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Is the Society Finch right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Bengalese Finch; Japanese Mövchen Finches

Scientific name: Lonchura domestica

The basics:
The Society Finch is a hardy, agreeable finch that has been domesticated for hundreds of years. Easy to feed, eager to breed, and available in a range of color mutations or even sporting a crest, the Society Finch is the number one or number two most popular pet finch in the world. They're active and fun to watch, and if you decide to raise more valuable finches later, you may even be able to use your Society Finch pairs as foster parents.

The full story of the Society Finch has been lost down through the centuries, but DNA studies suggest that one of its most important ancestors was the White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata.). Some historians have suggested that there were other Lonchura species that were also bred into the mix to create the adaptable domesticated species. Most people believe that the original Society Finches were created in China and then imported into Japan around 1700. They arrived in Europe much later, and Europe's first Society Finches may have been a pure white pair first put on display at the London Zoo in 1860.

As a domesticated finch, there is no natural form to describe, but the basic Society Finch is a small, perky mannikin with a heavy-looking seed-cracking bill. They may be all dark chocolate, all white, or any number of brown and white color combinations in between. Many are two-toned brown and white birds.

12 grams (0.4 oz.)

Average size:
10 - 13 centimeters (4 - 5 in.)

5 - 8 years

Behavior / temperament:
Their great personality makes these little brown, tan, and white birds worth a second or third look. They can be used to create a colony breeding aviary, or they can fill in a mixed-species aviary. They are active and nosy, and you need to keep an eye on things to make sure they aren't bothering more sensitive species, but they're easy-going and not trying to harm the other birds. They just want to be into everyone's business.

Only the males sing and display, to impress the females. Watch for this behavior, as you can't sex these birds based on their plumage. To keep them strong, don't breed crested birds to other crested birds, and don't breed pure white birds to pure white birds. If crests or white birds do pair up, give them artificial eggs to sit on, or let them foster another pair's eggs, instead of allowing them to hatch out weak or blind babies.

It is a very rare Society Finch indeed that would want to fly to or be handled by a human. For the most part, they are curious about us and enjoy watching us from their territory, but they do not want our hands or fingers poking into their cage.

Society Finches exercise by flying rather than hopping or climbing, and they are happiest flying in their own territory, although a few rare birds have learned to fly to their owners. Many so-called finch cages are only suitable to serve as hospital or temporary homes for birds awaiting sale. The permanent home of a pair of Society Finches should be 36” in length, 24” in width, and 18” in height, with ½” bar spacing. A larger flight would not be excessive. A variety of perches, swings, and even toys will keep them busy and allow them to provide you with endless action and entertainment. They love bathing, so have a bath available, or you may find them trying to splash in the drinking water.

It's possible to house Society Finches in colonies or aviaries, and if you decide to provide a very large flight, you may wish to add more pairs. As a rule of thumb, always remember that finches can't count above six. Therefore, if you want to prevent a pecking order from developing in a flock, you can have one pair of birds in the flight, or you can have three pairs or more in the flock, but if you have between 3 and 5 birds, then the finches at the bottom of the pecking order could be harassed, injured, or even killed. Society Finches are very curious and will look into other birds' nests, causing more sensitive birds to give up their breeding attempt, so you should not house them with rare species.

Domesticated to suit human convenience for hundreds of years, the Society Finch is remarkably easy to feed, although you should never expect this bird to subsist on dry seed alone. However, the backbone of the diet will be a small seed mix, so obtain the best quality you can afford. They love many varieties of millet, including spray millet. The seed should be fresh enough to sprout, and you should test it by sprouting it regularly. You should also supply a small chopped salad containing such items as chopped romaine, grated carrot, fresh sprouts, chopped apple or grapes, and other dark greens such as chickweed or dandelion. This species does not demand live insects, one of the reasons they're considered an “easy” finch, but they should certainly be offered eggfood throughout courtship and breeding. All finches should have access to grit, as well as cuttlebone or another source of calcium.

Written by Elaine Radford


good parents, good beginner bird, social nature, endless entertainment, great starter finch


sudden loud noises, solitary life, heart failure, relatively plain plumage, egg binding


little birds, crested, busy little finches, inexpensive finch breed, noncrested society finches

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