The society finch (North America) or Bengalese finch (elsewhere), Lonchura striata var. domestica is a popular cage bird which is not found in the wild. The origins are unclear but the bird most likely originated in avicultural practice from Japan or possibly China rather than in Bengal in India.
Although the English language literature on aviculture called these birds as Bengalese finches, the German aviculturist Karl Russ called them in 1871 as Japanese "Mövchen" (or mew and old word for gull, possibly related to the Chinese Mövchen, a pigeon breed named in France and introduced to Germany around the same time for their resemblance to gulls). The birds are members of the estrildid finch family and most authorities consider them a domestic form of the white-rumped munia (known in aviculture as the striated finch) most likely derived from the subspecies Lonchura striata swinhoei although some have suggested a hybrid origin.
While two males may not get along without other company, it has been found the best "pairing" for fostering is to use two males; this works better than either two females or a male and female pairing. Two males will usually accept eggs or even partly grown young without any hesitation.
These birds like to be close together and tend to all roost in one nest if kept in a group. In an aviary they lay eggs and crowd into a single nest, interfering with incubation (which is performed by the female and lasts 16 days) or damaging the eggs. Thus, they breed better if kept as single pairs in individual breeding boxes. This sociability is also responsible for their American name of "society finch."
Bengalese finches are quite easy to look after. They are also quite easy to breed, provided they are properly sexed. Obtaining a female-male pair can present a difficulty because both sexes look similar. However, it is possible to determine gender by behavior, since males tend to display to females. One method to sex Bengalese finches is to place a single bird in a small cage completely isolated it from its own kind (both sight and hearing) and, after several hours. introduce another Bengalese finch into the cage. If the first bird is a male, it will immediately display to the newcomer. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean the introduced bird is a female. But if the first bird does not display, it is almost certainly a hen. Also, Society Finches can be housed with other finches, including other society finches, zebra finches, Gouldian finches and spice finches.
They are generally given a diet of seeds, such as millets and canary seed, and greens. They will not usually take live-foods, but it has been found they will often accept housefly pupae, which they crack like seeds. This is particularly useful if they are being used to foster species that require a high protein component to be successfully reared.
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