Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2021




Fig 1 : Scaly-breasted Munia

Fig 2 : Scaly-breasted Munia

Fig 3 : White-headed Munia

Fig 4: White-headed Munia

Fig 5: Java Sparrow



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. 

Figs 1 and 2 :

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

Notes : The upper breast of this species is patterned with attractive and distinctive scalloping.

Figs 3 and 4 :
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 a green corridor in Singapore. The short tail suggests this is a sub-adult.

Fig 5 :
Java Sparrow
Lonchura oryzivora
Location : Gunung Lang, Ipoh, Peninsular Malaysia
Habitat : Secondary vegetation, near karst limestone.

Notes : In Ipoh, this is an introduced species.