Old World Aviaries: About finches–

Lonchura striata

by Fenton Mereness
E&F Birds

Are they pretty? Their mothers think so. Do they have a beautiful song? The girl birds seem to think so. The bird we have come to call the “Bengalese” or “Society” finch is a common workperson much as you and I. It may not be fancy but it is darn good at what it does. To quote Bethany Tudor, “If you are tired of flashy colors, loud shrieks, or restless activity, then choose a pair of Society Finches. Their cheery, easy-going personality has charmed people for a very long time.”

The National Finch and Softbill Society standard lists nine categories: chocolate self, chocolate and white, fawn self, fawn and white, chestnut self, chestnut and white, white, dilute, and crested. The dilute can occur in the chocolate, fawn, and chestnut. The crest can occur in all.

The white mutation may exist in two distinct forms, one from the chocolate and one from the fawn. The whites can suffer from blindness and conjunctivitis. My research leads me to believe that the tendency to blindness is linked to the fawn version. I am outcrossing my whites in an effort to verify this. Check with me in 2002.

I consider the Society one of my favorite birds, but first let me share the down side. They are social. Put 2 or 3 Societies in a cage or flight with a nest, and they will all share the nest. Put 4 - 25 societies in the same cage or flight, and they will all share the same nest! They are monomorphic to such an extreme that I am convinced even they can't tell who's what. I am also pretty sure they don't care. Males build nests, males sing, males hop and puff, stretch and bounce. Females don't. If you have raised teenagers think back and compare.

Now the good stuff. Societies are excellent parents. Two males, two hens, or a true pair. I personally use trios. Give them a pebble and most will try to hatch it. I have successfully fostered Bicheno, Star, Hecks Grassfinch, Gouldian, and Cordon Bleus as well as Zebra and other Societies. I currently have a trio of Societies raising a fawn Shaftail, a Gould, and three of their own. Another group has a Star, Owl, and Gould about to fledge. Once, due to passive neglect on my part, three Societies hatched and raised 12 of their own! Not all Societies will foster all types of finches, but with the proper food and the right environment they have been known to foster many other varieties in addition to the above. They will foster waxbills, but the Zebra finch may be a better choice. They will not do serins (canaries, green singing finches, etc.). If you want more detailed reasons or information please refer to the suggested reading.

Suggested reading:

Society (Bengalese) Finch Standard, National Finch And Softbill Society, The NFS Bulletin, Jan-Feb 1994.

In Praise of Society Finches, Bethany Tudor, The NFS Bulletin Mar-Apr 1994.

The Bengalese Finch, James Buchan.

Breeding Society Finches, Mervin F. Roberts.

Society Finches, Mervin F. Roberts.

Society Finches as Foster Parents, Robert G. Black.

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