Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2023




Fig 1 : Scaly-breasted Munia - adult

Fig 2 : Scaly-breasted Munia - juvenile (left)

Fig 3 : White-headed Munia

Munias comprise the genus Lonchura, part of the family Estrildidae. These are finch-like birds of modest size with short, powerful bills which have evolved to pluck and crush grass seed and other small grains.

Many munias are strikingly patterned, albeit with various shades of brown, plus black and white.

They are mainly open-country, marshland or forest-edge birds. Many species are able to survive in semi-urban or cultivated areas where long grass and other vegetation is left untended, for example along roadsides and railway lines.

They generally congregate in small flocks of less than 10 individuals, and sometimes in mixed flocks with other munia species. Some species may congregate in larger flocks when food is particularly abundant. 

Spherical nests are constructed amongst tangles of open vegetation or discretely hidden amongst dense vegetation: the entrance to the nest is from the side. Such nests may be vulnerable to predation from tree-climbing snakes.

Munias are distributed from Africa, through South Asia and Southeast Asia to the western Pacific (especially New Guinea). Around 20 species of munia occur within Southeast Asia. 

Fig 1 :

Scaly-breasted Munia (Nutmeg Mannikin) - adult
Lonchura punctulata
Location :
Kranji, Singapore.
Habitat : Grassland

Fig 2 :
Scaly-breasted Munia (Nutmeg Mannikin) -  juvenile
Lonchura punctulata
Location :
Batu Kawan, Penang state, Peninsular Malaysia.
Habitat : Grassland

Fig 3 :
White-headed Munia
Lonchura maja
Location : Portsdown
, Singapore.
Habitat : Grassland

Notes : This lone White-headed Munia was busy plucking grass seed along the embankment of an old railway line.

Fig 4 :
Chestnut Munia
Lonchura atricapilla
Location : Kaeng Krachan, Phetchaburi, Thailand
Habitat : Garden, near edge of karst forest
Note : Photo by
Charles Currin

Fig 5 :
White-rumped Munia
Lonchura striata
Location : Laem Pak Bia, Phetchaburi, Thailand
Habitat : Grassland
Note : Photo by
Charles Currin

Fig 6 :
Javan Munia
Lonchura leucogastroides
Location :
Kranji, Singapore.
Habitat : Grassland

Notes : In Singapore, this is an introduced species.

Fig 7 :
Java Sparrow
Lonchura oryzivora (Padda oryzivora)
Location : Gunung Lang, Ipoh, Peninsular Malaysia
Habitat : Secondary vegetation, near karst limestone.

Notes : In Ipoh, this is an introduced species.

Fig 4: Chestnut Munia

ゥ  Charles Currin

Fig 5: White-rumped Munia

ゥ  Charles Currin

Fig 6: Javan Munia
Fig 7: Java Sparrow