large flock foraging in grass would move in a regular pattern. First a few
birds would move forwards, followed by another few, and so on in waves.
Or the birds at the back would leap-frog over the birds in front. Once a
grass patch is thoroughly worked through, the whole flock would fly off
to another patch. Smaller flocks feed haphazardly. At the end of the day,
they may gather in flocks at the topmost branches of a bare or open tree,
calling to each other. They then disperse to roost in smaller groups or
pairs within nests, even outside the breeding season. Sometimes, up to a
dozen birds may squeeze into a nest. These roosting nests are spread far
apart. They may also roost with other Munias or even with weaver birds.
Scaly-breasted Mannikin/Finch, Spotted
Munia, Spice Bird/Finch, Nutmeg Finch, Pipit Pinang (Malay)
Munias are among the most common Munias and are now quite common in
Singapore too. They are found even in urban areas as well as cultivated
lands, grasslands, scrub, secondary growth. But they were not so common
in earlier records, suggesting that they could have been introduced.
Scaly-breasted Munias specialise in eating grass seeds and sedges,
and have large conical beaks adapted for this purpose. They feed both
on seeding heads on grass stems, as well as on ripe seeds that have
fallen to the ground. They may also snack on small berries, such as
those of the Lantana bush. Some have been seen picking at road kills.
Scaly-breasted Munias are highly gregarious and forage in small flocks,
sometimes with other Munia species.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Small (11cm) with big heads; large conical bills; brown
scaled feathers on white breast and flanks; upperparts
plain brown; rump often has greyish tinge; face and throat
Genders look alike.
Upperparts brown; underparts buffy.
Call: A wide variety of calls
for keeping in contact or to express alarm. Described
as a disyllabic tut-few; tit-ti, sieuw;
or faint kee-dee.
In flight: Rapid fluctuating
flight, gliding into cover.
Similar birds: The juveniles
of various Munia species look alike. Scaly-breasted juveniles
often flock with juveniles of other species.
Status in Singapore: Very resident common throughout
the island and North and South offshore islands.
World distribution: India
to Taiwan and the Philippines. Introduced in some countries.
Classification: Family Passeridae,
some place them in a separate family of Estrildidae. World
386 species, Singapore 16 species.
Breeding: Scaly-breasted Munias breed
year round and may have multiple broods on a good year, up to 3-4 broods.
The males perform a courting song, which may attract another male or even
several. These males perch close to the singer and peer intently at his
bill. This behaviour is called "peering". A male also entices
a female by flying about with a bit of grass in his bill and flickering
his wings and tail. If the female is interested, she too picks up a bit
of grass and flickers her wings.
Scaly-breasted Munias build well hidden nests 4-5m high in thorny bushes,
trees, creepers, or high in the crowns of palms. Often, the only way you
can spot the location is to see the bird carrying nesting material into
its hiding place. Sometimes they nest in bushes infested by ants, which
appear to leave the birds alone and provide them some protection. Unlike
their roosting nests, breeding nests may be built closer together in a colony.
The male brings nesting materials while the female builds, often from the
inside. In some, the breeding nest is later used as a roosting nest.
The nest is an untidy globe made out of grass and bamboo leaves, with a
side entrance. It is lined with soft fluffy seeds or feathers. The nest
are not woven and material is simply pushed together. But the nests are
well-made, robust and waterproof. The birds work tirelessly and the nest
can become an enormous globe. 5-6 white eggs are laid, although sometimes
more eggs are found, probably laid by more than one female. Both parents
incubate. The eggs hatch in about 2 weeks and the young are fed entirely
vegetable matter, which is regurgitated by the parents. They fledge in 18-19
days. Juveniles often form their own flocks after leaving their parents,
and wander about together.
Scaly-breasted Munias are often hunted by birds of prey. When a flock flies
some distance, although the whole group flies in a a direct manner, within
the flock, each bird follows an erratic corkscrewing path. This makes it
hard for birds of prey to target a single individual.
Status and threats: Scaly-breasted Munias
are often considered a pest on paddy and other grain crops. Children are
encouraged to destroy their nests as a means of controlling them. In some
countries, they are caught in large numbers for the table, and for the pet
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 372: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- Morten Strange,
"Birds of Southeast Asia: A photographic guide to the birds
of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia",
New Holland, 1998 (p. 99: photo, facts).
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 121: identification,
status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 138: habit, habitat).
- G W H Davison
and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular
Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995
(p. 128: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p. 94: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 156: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- M W F Tweedie,
"Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970
(p. 62: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 217: description, habits, habitat).
- Sir John A S Bucknill
and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia",
Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 210-211: identification, status
in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).
- Robin Restall,
"Munias and Mannikins", Pica Press, 1996 (p. 97-103:
identification, status, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).