Commonly known as the Spice Finch, this small, seed-eating bird is a gregarious and found mostly across South and South-East Asia.
Nutmeg Finch, Nutmeg Mannikin, Nutmeg Munia, Ricebird, Scaly-breasted Mannikin, Spice Finch, Spice Munia, Spice Bird, Spotted Mannikin, Spotted Munia, Barred Munia, Mascot Finch
10cm to 12.5cm
20cm to 25cm
12g to 16g
Adult birds are mostly dark brown on the upperparts and have light bellies with dark edges below that look like they are scaled. The iris is dark brown and the eyering is dark grey. The legs are grey and the conical bill is dark. There are no plumage differences between the male and females.
Juvenile birds are mostly plain brown, lighter underneath and lack markings.
There are 12 sub-species of scaly-breasted munias, which slightly differ in the colour of their plumage and size.
On average, the scaly-breasted munia grows to be between 10 and 12.5cm (roughly 4 and 5 inches) in length.
The scaly-breasted munia weighs between 12 and 16g (0.42 and 0.46 ounces).
The wingspan for these birds ranges anywhere from 20 to 25cm (roughly 8 and 10 inches).
A pair of Scaly-breasted Munias
The Latin name given to a Scaly-breasted munia is Lonchura punctulata.
In modern Latin, punctulatus means either 'spotted' or 'dotted'. The Lonchura part is because they are part of the estrildid finch family, which includes munias.
Generally speaking, these birds aren't particularly aggressive and are mostly peaceful and sociable. They are known to form flocks with up to as many as 100 birds and roost communally. They are rarely hostile toward other birds but are known to sometimes quarrel with one another.
However, studies have shown that they do get more aggressive when the amount of food available decreases. This revealed that in their foraging groups, there is a link between the number of 'aggressive' interactions with other groups of birds as the resource density lowers.
As with most wild birds, they won't interact with humans and will generally keep to themselves.
Scaly-breasted Munia perched on long grass
The typical lifespan for these birds is between 6 and 8 years.
Scaly-breasted Munia's are currently listed with a Least Concern status and have large, stable numbers, and are mostly very common throughout their range.
In some parts of the world, these birds are considered pests, typically in the agricultural sector, because of their love of cereal grains and rice. They will feed on cultivated fields in large flocks.
In southeast Asia, large numbers of scaly-breasted munias are captured for Buddhist religious purposes, although most birds are released back into the wild.
The diet of a Scaly-breasted munia is mainly made up of grass seeds, insects and berries - they have a particular fondness for those of Lantana. Not so commonly, they are also known to eat household scraps.
Birds will forage on both the ground and in vegetation; this is usually in large groups outside the breeding season and smaller social flocks during. They are also known to mix with other seed-eating species in the estrildid family.
A Scaly-breasted Munia feeding on seed
Scaly-breasted Munias are generally monogamous, but little is currently known if they will mate for life with one bird.
The nests are generally built in trees in bushes of heights between 4 and 13 metres. The construction of the nest is shared between both the male and female.
Nests are loose ball-shaped and are made out of a mixture of grasses, ferns and orchids. It's also known for these birds to use old nests of other birds when the opportunity arises.
Clutches usually contain between 3 and 6 eggs but can be more. Both parents will share the incubation duty of the eggs, which usually lasts for 14 days. Birds will generally fledge the best between 18 and 21 days of age.
Larger clutches observed are presumed to be two females laying eggs in the same nest and have been recorded in the Malay Peninsula. Some nests can contain large broods where newly hatched, and advanced nestlings can be beside newly laid eggs.
Breeding season varies depending on the range. In India, breeding can occur all year round, but during monsoon season between May and September is usually a popular time. In the Philippines and Thailand this is mostly the same case - where breeding and nest building occurs all year round.
The eggs are white and very small, weighing approximately 1.8g.
An immature / juvenile Scaly-breasted Munia
They are fairly vocal birds and will communicate with one another with a short whistling 'kitty-kitty-kitty' sound. The tone does differ between the sexes. Both the flock and flight call are simple 'puip' or 'sieuw!'.
The song of the Scaly-breasted munia is a succession of whistles followed by a long 'weee'.
Scaly-breasted Munia Call / Song
Mandar Bhagat, XC598943. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/598943.
Scaly-breasted Munias are found across a whole variety of habitats, but they mostly prefer areas near grassland and water. In India, they are common in paddy fields where they will happily feed on the grain - this is an example of where they are considered pests to agricultural practices.
As well as being nearby to grassland and water, they also do prefer locations with bushes, trees and scrubs which is all useful when it comes around to breeding season.
Scaly-breasted Munias natural range is across both South and South-East parts of Asia, including the Philipines and Indonesia.
Because these birds can adapt really well to a vast array of habitats, escaped birds have successfully established populations in other parts of the world. As such, populations have been recorded in the West Indies, Hawaii, Australia, Japan and southern states of the US - most common in parts of Florida and California.
No, they are resident birds within their range.
Small movements can occur from time to time, with this being influenced by the ripening of grain crops.
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