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Judging Standards

The complete standards are available in The NFSS Judges Handbook and Official Standards (PDF) a publication of the National Finch and Softbill Society.

NFSS Official Standards
Revised 2016

Mr. Vince Moase, Past Judges Panel Director

Specific standards have been established by NFSS for species of finches and softbills to provide objective judging at bird shows and to assist the aviculturist in achieving excellence in breeding programs. NFSS standards are a consensus of opinions of judges on how the ideal bird of a specific species should look. They provide a written measure of quality to which a comparison is made. Each standard reviews conformation, color and markings, condition, deportment, and presentation specific for that particular avian specie.

Society (Bengalese) – Lonchura striata, domesticated form, adopted February 1995, revised 2006.

Shafttail – Peophila acuticauda, adopted December 1987.

Cherry Finch -Aidemosyne modesta, adopted November 1993.

Cordon Bleu – Uroeginthus bengalus, adopted March 1986.

Diamond Sparrow – Steganopleura guttata, Emblema guttata, adopted November 1990.

Pekin Robin – Leiothrix lutea, adopted February 1995.

Java Rice Bird – Padda oryzivora, adopted June 1988.

Lavendar Finch – Estrilda coerulescens, adopted November 1990.

Gouldian Finch – Chloebia gouldiae, adopted March 1986, revised 2014.

Green Singing Finch – Serinus mozambicus, adopted June 1986.

Fire Finch – Lagonosticta senegala, adopted November 1992.

Zebra Finch – Poephilaguttata, adopted June 1998, revised 2016.

Star Finch – Neochmia ruficauda, adopted May 2003.

Cuban Melodious – Tiariscanora, adopted May 2013

Orange Cheeked Waxbill – Extrilda melpod, adopted May 2013

Pairs– Standard was developed by the Judges Panel and adopted in October 2001.

In addition, the General Standard for Finches and Softbills provides an excellent and in-depth discussion of conformation, condition, color and markings, deportment, and presentation as they apply to the many other varieties of finches and softbills which we are privileged to enjoy in aviculture.

The complete standards are available in The NFSS Judges Handbook and Official Standards (PDF), a publication of the National Finch and Softbill Society.

NFSS General Standard for Finches & Softbills

Proposed by Jon Hoffman
For the National Finch and Softbill Society June 1992
Approved September 2005


Distributed as follows:
Head and Body: 30 points.

Conformation includes many inherited characteristics such as size, proportion and substance. Because these characteristics can be vital in a captive-breeding program, conformation is the single most important consideration in judging finches and softbills.

A show bird should be the appropriate size for its kind. Bigger is not necessarily better. Many waxbills for example, should be dainty and diminutive in appearance. Size should be within normal parameters for the species or sub-species, not undersized or oversized.

All finches and softbills need good substance, the relationship of a bird’s musculature and bulk to its bone structure and overall length. Proportion and overall balance are of prime importance, the look of the whole bird outweighing the sum of the individual characteristics. All proportions should be appropriate to the species or sub-species.

The head must be in proportion to the body, of the appropriate shape and contour. Eyes should also be of the correct size and shape, placed in proper relationship to the overall shape of the head. The beak should be in the proper proportion to the head as well, and there must be no imperfection or deformity.

Wings and Tail: 10 points.

Wing carriage must be given appropriate weight, as it largely determines the nature of the back line. Most finches and softbills should carry their wings tightly against the body; the wings will lie flat along the back. Some of the more robustly-built birds, like barbets, hold the wings close to, but not directly against, the body, causing the wings to lie slightly above the line of the back, rump and tail. The back should be full and smooth, with no lumpiness or hunched look. The line of the back should run in a straight line or gentle curve down to the rump and tail.

The wings in repose will not normally cross at the tips except momentarily. Wings should lie neatly together and there should be no drooping or holding of the wings unnaturally away from the body, except in the display behavior. In most species, the tail will continue the line of the back. In any case, the tail should be held at the correct angle. The tail should also be of appropriate length, width and shape, as well as being in proper proportion to the overall balance of the bird.

In most species, the tail will continue the line of the back. In any case, the tail should be held at the correct angle. The tail should also be of appropriate length, width and shape, as well as being in proper proportion to the overall balance of the bird.

Legs and Feet: 10 Points

Feet and legs should be strong and clean, with no growths or abnormalities. Legs of most birds will be parallel or will extend out from the body at a slight angle. All toes and toenails should be present and nails should be of the proper length. A missing nail is counted as a minor fault, as it will not ordinarily impair normal breeding. A missing toe is more serious and will rate a heavier deduction.


Condition includes the general health and grooming of the bird, and it is of invaluable importance to the enhancement of a bird’s appearance. The condition and texture of the feathers is of prime importance. All feathers should be present and undamaged. Any sign of trimming of tail or wing feathers for evenness will be penalized. While visible pin-feathers are undesirable, this will not ordinarily be faulted as heavily as will missing or damaged feathers. The feathers of the head and body should lie smoothly in most species; feathers should be clean and free of all foreign matter, “lumps”, fraying or any roughness not normal to the species or sub-species.

Some birds (most waxbills, Gouldian, parson finch, etc.) normally keep their own plumage in good condition, and such birds will be judged very rigorously on condition. Other birds such as European goldfinches, parrot finches, and owl finches are rarely seen in perfect condition on the show bench and will be especially impressive if they appear in excellent plumage. Birds with a high degree of difficulty that have achieved the highest degree of perfection may take precedence over similar birds with a lesser degree of difficulty when all other attributes are considered equal.

Due consideration is to be given to the different feather textures normal to different species or sub- species. Coarse-feathered birds (barbets, etc.) or normally loose- feathered birds (goldfinches, etc.,) are not expected to have the tight flat-lying feathers one sees in green singing finches and fire finches. The nuptial plumage of certain weavers is of a crushed-velvet texture, and there are other configurations and textures in the feathers of other birds. Each should be judged according to the type of feathers desirable in its species or sub-species. Nor should the erecting or ruffling of feathers in display be mistaken for poor condition.

Eyes should be bright and clear, without any discharge or abnormality. The beak must be clean, with no excessive scaling. Hairline cracks in the beak are counted as minor faults.

Legs and feet must be neat and clean. Nails and beaks must be of proper length and shape. The bird’s overall impression should indicate excellent health and care.


Color is given special significance in judging finches and softbills, as color is a kind of hallmark among m any species.

While color expectations will vary considerably – depending on the species, sub-species or mutation – judges will look for (a) color appropriate to the species, sub-species or mutation; (b) depth and evenness of color, (c) evenness of color suffusions or gradations; (d) color unsullied by inappropriate suffusions, “tarnish”, blotching or markings.

In pied mutations, a high degree of pied markings is most desirable. A bird where markings are symmetrically pleasing will take precedence over a bird of unequal markings when the percentage of pied markings to ground color is equal. In sexually dimorphic birds, pied markings should not completely obscure the color patterns that distinguish gender.

No preference is given to male or female color patterns in sexually dimorphic birds, nor – in birds which have light or dark factors – to one color factor over another. No bird is penalized for being what it is. But all other attributes being equal, a bird in full color, or nuptial plumage, will take precedence over a bird that is in eclipse plumage.


Distributed as follows:

Deportment: 10 points.

This refers to the bird’s stance and behavior on the show bench. Good deportment causes a bird to stand at the proper angle, grip the perch firmly, avoid “hunching” over, and to hold its head and tail in proper relationship to the body. Stance should be erect and confident.

The bird should seem comfortable in the show cage. Behavior should be appropriate to the bird’s kind. The bird should perch, without attempting to hide, flee or cling to the bars of the cage, unless its natural behavior is to do so (i.e. the mousebirds). The bird should show itself to advantage, projecting an air of alert confidence and behavior normal to its kind.

Presentation: 5 points.

Presentation refers to the show cage and the overall “finish” of the entry. NFSS does not require the use of a standard show cage, but it is highly recommended. The cage should be of a size and shape that allows and encourages the bird to perch and display. The construction must admit enough light to permit a thorough evaluation of the bird, and the judge should be able to view the bird from above, as well as in profile.

Perches should be fastened firmly, and they must be of a thickness appropriate for the bird’s feet. In cages with more than one perch, placement should permit easy and natural movement from one perch to the other. Placement of perches must also permit the bird to stand erect without any rubbing of head or feathers against the cage walls or wires.

The cage should be large enough to permit some natural movement but small enough to provide the bird with a sense of security. The cage will, ideally, allow the judge to focus attention on the bird, with no distractions. Box cages should be painted black on the outside and white, off-white or powder blue on the interior.

No swings, toys, ornaments or other distinguishing marks will be permitted. The use of ornately constructed cages is to be discouraged. Cages with flat tops are preferred. The cage floor may be covered with seed, plain white or brown paper, ground corncob litter, pellets or other substrate appropriate to the bird.

All entries must be provided with appropriate food and water. Failure to do so, or the use of any cage that poses a danger to the bird, will be grounds for disqualification. Showing any bird in an inhumane manner will result in mandatory disqualification of the entry.