Society Finch - Lonchura striata domestica eFinch on Facebook
Pied Chestnut Society Finch

Common Names
Bengalese finch, Meeuwen (Dutch)

Males and females are identical in appearance. The only way to sex them is by behavior. The males will sing a song typical of many mannikins. With an upstretched neck and fluffed feathers, he will sing his warbling song and bounce back and forth on the perch while approaching the hen. (see a male in his courtship dance - click to view) They will sing often. In fact, most of the males in a cage will begin singing anytime a new member is added to the cage. There are differences in the male and female contact calls, but these are difficult to describe and you'll have to hear them to pick them out. Males will often use this contact call while moving rapidly with quick tail flicks. There are instances of hens that will sing, but these are rare.

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.

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)

There are a few other mutations and colors. Dominant pieds that are mostly white, all white birds, true albinos, a dilute called creamino and there is a trend in Europe to hybridize the Society with other Lonchura to introduce different colors. The Black Browns are an example of their efforts. There are also a number of feather mutations like crests. There are numerous frills that cover nearly every part of the body, including things like chest frills that cause the feathers on the breast to point out or upwards. I personally do not find these all that attractive. While combinations of the color modifier mutations (Gray, Pearl, Dilute and Ino) are possible with any of the base colors (Chocolate, Chestnut and Fawn), the base colors cannot be combined except in purely random occurrences. Some birds showing Chocolate, Fawn and White on one bird have been produced and are called Tri-colors (not to be confused with Tricolor nuns) but cannot be reproduced.

Like most mannikins or munias, Society finches prefer the larger millets in a standard parakeet mix. They will also eagerly eat my eggfood (Roy's eggfood), and greens are occasionally offered. Grit and calcium in the form of crushed egg shell and oyster shell as well as cuttlebone should always be available to them. While they can raise their own young on pretty meager feed, it is better for their chicks if you can get them to eat a high protein egg food. This is also beneficial is you use your Society finches to foster some insectivorous species.

Breeder's Notes
It can be harder to get society finches to stop breeding rather than to get them to start. They're always ready to breed at the drop of a hat. And they'll nest right in that hat. They can be quite sociable, as their name suggests, to the point of hindering their breeding success however. If a number of them are placed in the same cage, they will all stuff themselves into one nestbox. It's not uncommon for 8 to 10 birds to roost in one nestbox for the night. They seem to only stop when they can't fit anymore birds into the box. The problem with this practice is that any eggs that are laid usually go unattended or otherwise do not hatch. The best way to raise Society finches is in single pairs or in trios or quads. I still prefer single pairs if I can accurately sex them, otherwise I place a trio in a cage and take my chances.

They will take a variety of nestboxes, baskets or just about anything that will hold them and their eggs. I prefer to use a standard finch nestbox with a half open front (click to see). Some of them are master nest builders, but most are happy with just a few strings, feathers or other materials dropped in the box. Incubation will begin sometime after the third egg, but some pairs can get so excited about the whole process that they may start after the first egg. If this occurs, it is possible to remove the eggs as they are laid and replaced with dummy eggs until a full clutch is gathered with the usual clutch ranging from 4 - 8 eggs. This is rarely necessary though. Incubation lasts for approximately 13 days and then pink and naked chicks are born. The Society finches are diligent parents and will take care of even very large clutches. Some pairs can be intolerant of chicks that lag behind in size due to a late hatch, while others have no problems. The chicks will fledge in approximately 21-25 days and are independent with another 2-3 weeks out of the nest. The entire family will continue to roost in the nest at night. Any chicks left with the parents after independence will stay in the nestbox and may even help with incubation and feeding duties with the next clutch, but it is often better to remove them for the same reasons you would remove other adult Society finches.

You must actively stop the breeding pair after the desired number of clutches has been raised or they will continue to raise clutch after clutch. It is at this time that I will keep a large group of them together. No nestbox is necessary for roosting as they will all clump together for the night. They will attempt to breed as young as 3 months, but as with many species, it's best to wait for them to reach 6-8 months before breeding. If you intend to use them as fosters, it is best not to let them join other Societies that are breeding. They should be completely new to breeding when you foster another species under them. The only exception to this practice might be with pairs that you intend to use to foster other mannikin species. These are generalities and more than with just about any other species, there are exceptions.

Additional Notes
The Society finch has been raised by the Chinese and Japanese for hundreds of years. It was probably first cage bred by the Chinese who later brought it to Japan. At this point, thousands of generations have been raised and selected to breed in even the smallest of cages with simple supplies.

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".

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).

A Pearl Society Finch . See the mouth markings of nestling Societies