Of all the species of birds that are kept in homes and gardens, the small seed-eating finches and finch-like birds are some of the most popular. There are number of reasons why they are so well-liked. Not only are finches very quiet, but they aren’t destructive of their environment. Because of their small size, they don’t eat much, and they are less costly than larger parrots and birds to purchase.

Finch varieties are gregarious by nature, so work especially well in aviaries with other birds of like size and temperament. The term ‘finches’ refers to a number of seeding small birds, and in aviculture they are also referred to as hardbilled birds. Softbill birds are those whose diet is primarily soft, eating such things fruits and insects. However, the distinction between seeding birds or hardbills, and softbill birds is not so clear cut. This is because many of the finch-like species will consume large quantities of soft foods, especially during breeding periods.

Of the hundreds of varieties of finches and finch-like birds, many are still known only as wild finches. But due to finch breeders success, there are also a large number of different kinds of finches in captivity. Some finch species have proven very adept at reproducing in captivity. Finches such as the Canary, Zebra Finch, and Gouldian Finch have been produced in such large numbers that they are now regarded as domestic. These are readily available, produced in a variety of colors, and reasonably priced. Other finches, those that are rare and more difficult to breed, will be more expensive.


   All of the different types of finches, both wild finches and pet finches, belong to one of four finch families. These families are the Fringillidae, Estrildidae, Ploceidae, and Passeridae.

The Fringillidae family is Known as the ‘True Finches’. These are some of the most popular cage and aviary finches. Most have small conical bills, somewhat long tails and peaked heads. Many have distinctive shoulder patches or distinctive wing and tail markings. Males are generally brightly colored while the females are duller. There are several subfamilies and 125+ species of finch bird in this family.
   A couple species are a bit unique:

  • Canary
    The popular Canaries are members of the Fringillidae family. They are specially bred for color, song, and unique plumage. To learn more about Canaries and their needs, see Canaries.
  • Hawaiian Finch
    Hawaiian finches of the genus Fringilla are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, but are also in this family. They are considered to be endangered and are now very rare. the Hawaiian finch species are the Chaffinch F. coelebs, Blue Chaffinch F. teydea, Brambling F. montifringilla.

   The Fringillidae varieties of finch generally nest in bushes or trees. Most lay 3-5 eggs, with an 12-14 day incubation period. The nesting periods are between 11-17 days. The young are frequently fed small insects.

List of finches in the Fringillidae family:

  • True Finches:
    • Canary (Island Canary) Serinus canaria
    • Cuban Melodious Finch Tiaris canora
    • European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
    • Green Singing Finch Serinus mozambicus
    • Hawaiian finches Fringilla sp.
    • House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
    • Orange-breasted Bunting or Rainbow Bunting Passerina leclancherii
    • Red Siskin Carduelis cucullat


   The Estrildidae finch family consists of the Grass Finches and Parrot Finches, the Waxbills, and the Munias. Munias consist of the Mannikins and the Nuns. These finches originate from Africa, Asia and Australasia. In the wild, most of them live in grass or brush lands and live in small flocks. There are 133+ species of finch bird in this family.
   This family includes some of the most beautifully colored finches. Most of these finch varieties breed well in captivity. Some of them, most notably the waxbills have a sweet high pitched song. Most are very hardy and can adjust to varying temperature, though there are some that cannot tolerate too much cold.
   Most like an enclosed nest made of grass in a globular shape with a side entrance. Often the male will add a “cock’s nest” on top of the structure where he will sleep alone. They lay 4-8 eggs, with an 10-21 day incubation period. The nesting period is about 16 days.

List of finches in the Estrildidae family:

  • Grass Finches and Parrot Finches:
    • Diamond Sparrow Stagonopleura guttata or Emblema guttata
    • European Bullfinch, Northern Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula
    • Gouldian Finch Poephila gouldiae
    • Masked Grass Finch Poephila personata
    • Owl Finch or Bicheno’s Finch Poephila bichenovi
    • Parrot finch, Blue-faced Parrot Finch Erythrura trichroa
    • Parrot Finch, Red-headed Parrot Finch Erythrura psittacea
    • Parson Finch Poephila cincta
    • Red-tailed Finch, Star Finch Bathilda ruficauda or Poephila ruficauda
    • Shaft-tailed Finch, Long-tailed Grass Finch Poephila acuticauda
    • Zebra finch Poephila guttata castanotis
  • Waxbill Finches:
    • Cordonbleu Waxbill Estrilda angolensis
    • Cordonbleu, Red-cheeked Waxbill Uraeginthus bengalus
    • Golden-breasted Waxbill Amandava subflava
    • Lavender Finch Estrilda coerulescens
    • Orange-cheeked Waxbill Estrilda melpoda
    • Orange-breasted Waxbill Estrilda subflava
    • Purple Grenadier Uraeginthus iathinogaster
    • Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala
    • Red-eared, Gray or Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodyte
    • Strawberry finch or Red Avadavat Estrilda amandava
    • Violet-eared Waxbill Uraeginthus grantinus
  • Munia – Mannikin Finches:
    • African Silverbill Lonchura cantans
    • Bronze Mannikin Lonchura cucullata
    • Cutthroat Finch or Ribbon Finch Amadina fasciata
    • Indian Silverbill Lonchura malabarica
    • Java Sparrow or Rice Bird Padda oryzivora
    • Society Finch or Bengalese Lonchura striata
    • Spice finch or Nutmeg mannikin Lonchura punctulat
  • Munia – Nun Finches:
    • Black-headed Nun or (also called Chestnut Munia) Lonchura malacca atricapilla
    • Three-colored Nun (also called Chestnut Munia) Lonchura ferruginosa malacca
    • Tri-colored Nun (also called Chestnut Munia) Lonchura malacca malacca
    • White-headed Nun Lonchrua maja Estrildidae


   The Ploceidae finch family consists of the Weavers and Whydahs types of finches. These finches are found mainly in Africa, though some are in Europe and Asia. They are small seed eaters and most are very hardy. There are several subfamilies and 156+ species of finch bird in this family.

  • Weavers:
    The Weaver males are dull colored except during breeding season, mainly black or steel blue and the females tend to be brownish. It is difficult to pick a pair when the males are “out of color”.
  • Whydahs:
    Whydahs are yellow or chestnut and the males have very long tails during breeding season, from about 8″ (20cm) up to 16″ (40cm).

   In their natural habitat these wild finches are gregarious. These birds will often breed in colonies, building enclosed woven nests of grasses, leaves and even mud which are suspended from branches. Most lay 2-4 eggs, with an 11-17 day incubation period. The nesting periods are between 11-20 days.

List of finches in the Ploceidae family:

  • Weaver Finches:
    • Golden-crowned Bishop Euplectues afra
    • Orange Weaver Euplectes orix franciscana
  • Whydah Finches:


  The Passeridae family consists of small, social birds that live mainly in open country. They are mostly seed-eating. Their plumage is mostly brown, chestnut and gray though a few have some black. In the case of the Snow Finch, there are whites and yellows in a few species. There are 32+ Species of finch bird in this family.

List of finches in the Passeridae family:

  • Passeridae Finches:
    • Golden Sparrow Passer luteus
    • House Sparrow Passer domesticus
    • White-winged Snow Finch Montifringilla nivalis

   Most Passeridae finches build bulky enclosed nests of grasses and lay 2- 7 eggs that incubate in 12-15 days with a nesting period of 15-24 days.

Featured Image Credit: Dušan veverkolog, Unsplash