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Society Finches

By Craig Sernotti

Society Finches in Brief

Scientific Name: Lonchura striata
Adult Size: About 4 inches (10 cm)
Weight: About 0.6 ounces (16 to 17 g)
Life Span: 8 years or more on average

Society finches are colorful and energetic birds commonly kept as pets. Let’s learn a little more about society finches to help you decide if one is right for you. If you already have a finch, I’m sure that you will learn something new.

Appearance

No two society finches look alike, but there are three basic colorations: brown mottled, yellow mottled, and white. Even within these colorations, the shade, distribution, and intensity of these colors vary greatly. Males and females look similar, but only the males sings and will do so during breeding season.

In the Wild

The society finch is an interesting bird because he has been domesticated for so long that he doesn’t exist in the wild. It is perhaps the domesticated version of the white-backed munia, evolved from a Chinese subspecies of finch, that was imported to Japan several hundred years ago. Selective breeding of this species resulted in the society finch and the variety of mutations that are so popular today.

Society Finches as Pets

The society finch is an excellent breeder and probably the easiest of the finches to keep. They are hardy birds who will thrive as long as they are given proper care. Unlike most finches, they breed better in a cage than in an aviary. A society finch (or a few) makes a fun pet for the right family. While these birds are colorful, active, and pleasantly vocal, they are not “hands-on” pets. They are too small, fast, and nervous to be handled. However, if you enjoy watching birds and listening to their interesting sounds, a society finch is likely the perfect pet for you.

One Finch or Two?
Although a society finch does not necessarily need another finch for company, he will live a more interesting life if he has a friend. It will also be more fun for you to have two finches because you can watch their interactions. If you have the room and budget for one finch, you probably have the room and budget for two.
You should know that society finches are almost too social, gathering and interfering with one another’s nesting. Pairs should be separated for breeding. However, at all other times, this highly social bird should be housed in groups.

Finch Supplies
You can keep a society finch in a cage or aviary, which is essentially a room-sized cage that houses several pairs of finches. An aviary can be located indoors or outdoors. If outdoors, it must offer protection from the sun, harsh weather, and predators, such as cats and hawks. An aviary should have two doors so that it is more difficult for the finches to escape when you enter and leave. Aside from these considerations, aviaries are much like normal cages.

If you are using a cage, buy the largest one you can afford; horizontal space is more important than vertical space because it gives your finch more room to fly. The minimum size should be about 20 inches (51 cm) long. The best cages are made of wrought iron or powder-coated steel. Make sure that the bars are spaced so that your finch cannot get his head out, or he may escape or become stuck.

Your finch will need several perches in the cage. Vary the sizes and materials that the perches are made of to provide his feet with exercise. Natural wood perches with bark still on them are an excellent choice, but wooden, rope, and concrete perches are fine as well. Space them out so that your finch has plenty of space to fly.

The bottom of the cage should be lined with newspaper or plain paper towels. Do not use gravel or corncob, as these are dangerous if your finch ingests them.

You may want to get a birdbath because finches tend to like to splash about. You can use just about any clean, shallow dish, however. Some finches like to be gently misted with a plant sprayer rather than actually bathe.

Diet
Although society finches have evolved to eat seeds, an all-seed diet does not provide adequate nutrition. Plan to feed your finch a mix of seeds along with some fruits, vegetables (especially leafy greens, such as spinach, dandelions, romaine, and parsley), and perhaps live insects.

Use a seed mix packaged for finches, and check it for freshness. For more nutritious and possibly more palatable seeds, sprout them yourself. Your finch should have seeds available at all times. Provide fresh fruits and vegetables in the morning, and remove them in an hour or so before they spoil.

Finches must always have access to fresh, clean drinking water.