Where’s the Bengalese from?
Created on Tuesday, 14 August 2012 16:13
Not a trick question – the origins of this favourite hardbill are controversial. Tony Edwards brings us up to date
THE name “Bengalese finch” is widely known throughout the world of aviculture. It is not known where this particular name came from, but one thing is pretty certain – the Bengal region of India plays no part in the bird’s origin! In the USA it is called the society finch, a name I like since it beautifully describes the nature of this friendly little bird.
By contrast, in many European languages “Japanese” appears in the name, which describes the origin of the first birds imported into Europe in the mid-1800s.
The ancestors of the Bengalese are definitely Lonchura species, referred to usually as munias or mannikins, terms which are interchangeable. (Note: you do need to be careful with the spelling – “manakins” (Pipridae) are a totally different family found in the American tropics.)
Silverbills from Africa and Asia are also in Lonchura. It is commonly accepted that “munia” is used for Asian species, and “mannikin” for African species and those from other areas. “Nun” is also sometimes used, and I have also seen “reed sparrow” used as a translation for various species!