Munia birds

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From the family of Estridinea

Munias belong to a group of birds that are very familiar to Malaysian homes. That is, they hang around open fields in residential area. Well most of them do! Their distinctive features:- powerful, short conical bills. They feed on grains, move about in flocks and though softly but are noisy feeders.

Red Avadavat Amandava amandava
Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch Erythrura hyperythra
Pin-tailed Parrotfinch Erythrura prasina

Munias belong to a group of birds that are very familiar to Malaysian homes. That is, they are seen among the tall grasses in open fields. Here is the list of Munias. 

White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata
Dusky Munia Lonchura fuscans
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata
White-bellied Munia Lonchura leucogastra
Black-headed Munia Lonchura malacca
White-headed Munia Lonchura maja
Javan Sparrow Lonchura oryzivora

The most common species among them all - the Scaly-breasted Munia. Next are the 2 other species that residents in the padi fields or in more rural areas would not miss seeing - the White-headed and Black-headed Munias.

The White-rumped though appear on both lowlands and high hills stays further away from residential places. Though Munias these days are popular stock items in Pet shop, I still have not verified any reasons for its popularity as cage birds. Are they? Rather being purchased by followers of Buddhist faith and released as freed birds.


1. Black-headed Munia- Lonchura malacca sinensis

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 11 Cm. The Black-headed Munia is seen more often, usually in packs of 10-15 birds pecking on the ground or among grasses. There could also be large flock of up to 50 birds. Important to have prior  information where they were last seen. The bird is completely rufous-chestnut in color  with a black hood. More like reddish brown. The broad bill is in bight blue-grey.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident in the Indian sub-continent. south & south-west china. Taiwan, the Greater Sundas, Philippines and Sulawesi
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland open country bird. Marsh land , farms and country side roads with tall grasses. The bird also pick up food on barren grounds and often a ground feeder.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Look for tall grasses and road through tall grasses. Also places with water nearby.
 My personal jottings :-

The Black-headed is definitely a lowland birds that prefers tall grasses They moves in larger flock thus attracting poachers to harvest them in big numbers for resale in the pet shop. Though easy to spot in the padi fields and grassland, they are not encountered so often. They have all gathered in specific spots and not scattered. the large flock and continued presence makes the scene tempting for poacher who will find it profitable to harvest a good number with a single efforts.

The birds moves in small flock of 10-30 birds, feeding on the ground particularly those areas with some water sources like drain and springs. Many pictures below taken when the bird were on the ground, which is quite a familiar scene.


Record of bird's call :-    and Videos:-   

Black-headed Munia   # 1

Black-headed Munia   # 2

Black-headed Munia   # 3

Black-headed Munia   # 4

Black-headed Munia   # 5

Black-headed Munia   # 6

Black-headed Munia   # 7

Black-headed Munia   # 8

Black-headed Munia   # 9

Black-headed Munia   # 10

Black-headed Munia   # 11

Black-headed Munia   # 12

Black-headed Munia   # 16

Black-headed Munia   # 17

Black-headed Munia   # 18

Black-headed Munia   # 19

Black-headed Munia   # 20

Black-headed Munia   # 21

Black-headed Munia   # 22

Black-headed Munia   # 23

Black-headed Munia   # 24

Black-headed Munia   # 25

Black-headed Munia   # 26

Black-headed Munia   # 27


2. Scaly-breasted Munia - Lonchura punctulata fretensis

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 12 Cm. This species is the most common of all the Munias seen in Malaysia. Need not say more as they are often met up with. The Scaly-breasted Munia is a marginally larger Munia at 12 cm long.  The upper side of the bird in drab brown and the under side in white and decorated with brown scales liked on it. the head side is tinged darker in chestnut and the beak is black.

 Distribution :-  the bird is resident in the Indian sub-continent, south-eastern Tibet, south China, Taiwan, the greater Sundas and the Philippines  and Sulawesi
 Habitats & preferences:- This is also a lowland bird of the grasslands. In fact this  is the most common species of Munia and seen in larger flock. This bird hardly moves to the ground level for feeding but stays suspended on grass stocks.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Again, look for tall grasses in remote areas of the country sides, housing areas and forest edge.


 My personal jottings :-

This is a birds that is found in open country with grassland. Essentially a lowland birds but don't be surprised to see it in the sub-montane region. So far have seen some in hills but never in places like The Gap.

Rather common bird at the roadside particularly in rural areas and needs no further elaboration. Of all the species of Munias, this species would be seen to come closest to the habitats with humans. They could be in far away ricefields and as close as the public park fringes with some tall grasses. In fact I have some birds coming into my back yard and this species is quite a common visitor though never stay around the neighborhood.


Record of bird's call :-    and Videos:-  

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 1

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 2

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 3

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 4

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 5

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 6

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 7

Scaly-breasted Munia # 8

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 9

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 10

Scaly-breasted Munia # 11

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 12

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 16

Scaly-breasted Munia # 17

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 18

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 19

Scaly-breasted Munia # 20

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 21

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 22

Scaly-breasted Munia # 23

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 24

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 25

Scaly-breasted Munia # 26

Scaly-breasted Munia  # 27


3. White-headed Munia- Lonchura maja

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 11 Cm. The White headed Munia is less seen. Moving about in pair only and could be found among the Black-headed and Scaly-breasted. Or foraging among tall weeds in family of a few birds but not as a group. Very sensitive bird, would be the first to leave the crowd. Always hanging around tall grasses. The color in brown on the upper part and under parts starts off in a light shade at the neck and quickly graduates into a dark brown as it moves towards the tail portion. The head in white together with the breast and the tail in chestnut color. Beak in light pale white.

 Distribution :-  The bird is from the Sumatran Island  and Java
 Habitats & preferences:- This is also a lowland open country bird of the grass land.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This is a very popular species for poachers and as a result the bird is not very seen. Popular as the bird has a white head instead of the black head and that this species either moves around in small numbers or in large numbers. Sold at Rgt3 per bird, taken up by Buddhist devotees for release.


 My personal jottings :-

The White-headed Munias also measured 11.5 cm. They are resident in the Island of Sumatra and Java.

This is another lowland bird that prefers tall grasses. Found in the same habitats as the Black-headed Munias. The 2 species of Munias hardly get together even though sharing the same type of habitats. In the same locality, it is unlikely to find the 2 species together. The White-headed also moves about in flock, sometimes large but sometimes only a handful of birds. They too are also being harvested by poachers but to the lesser extend as the flock size is not economically attractive

Stragglers Munias may join the other groups in foraging in the same hunting ground but I am not sure of the arrangement and there is no report of cross breeding. Also a common bird in the country but hard to meet up with as they have gathered is special spots and not spread out.

The birds move in flock making murmuring sounds. The birds could moves in group of 3-5 birds and could be as large as 30 birds. This bird need not be confined to large patches of tall grasses but forest edge with some tall grasses. This means that they could be seen in parks and forested areas. Also in the rice fields, could be just a couple bird among other Munias. of all the Munias, I would rate this species to be least seen.


Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

White-headed Munia   # 1

White-headed Munia   # 2

White-headed Munia   # 3

White-headed Munia   # 4

White-headed Munia   # 5

White-headed Munia   # 6

White-headed Munia   # 7

White-headed Munia   # 8

White-headed Munia   # 9

White-headed Munia   # 10

White-headed Munia   # 11

White-headed Munia   # 12

White-headed Munia   # 16

White-headed Munia   # 17

White-headed Munia   # 18

White-headed Munia   # 19

White-headed Munia   # 20

White-headed Munia   # 21

White-headed Munia   # 22

White-headed Munia   # 23

White-headed Munia   # 24

White-headed Munia   # 25

White-headed Munia   # 26

White-headed Munia   # 27


4. White-rumped Munia - Lonchura striata

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 11.5 Cm The White-rumped Munia is common bird in the Rice field where it moves in large flock during the harvesting season. On the contrary, seen in pairs or small flock in sub-montane area. Inside lowland forest usually solitary. The brown on the bird upper part is in a  much darker shade. The under part is creamy white. the head sides and breast are scales marked out by fine lines. The fore head and crown with scales is brown while the beak is prominently in light grey in color.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird from the Indian sub-continent,  central and south China, Taiwan and Sumatra
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird of the forest edge, the bird is also seen in sub-montane environment. Unlike other Munias, this bird spends equal amount of time perched and foraging in trees and also equal amount of time perched on tall forest trees and scrub.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Just repeating what I wrote above. In ricefields during the harvesting or before that timing where the grains are ripening. Then in teh sub-montane area, places where there are tall grasses. In the lowland forest, by chance encounter.
 My personal jottings :-

The behavior of this species of Munias varies slightly. All times in the rice field and in sub-montane region the behavior is typical of Munias. Foraging in groups and preferring tall grasses. The White-rumped is also a bird of the scrubs. It is found in lowland and up in the sub-montane areas. They may move in small flock of about 4-5 birds but usually in much lower numbers.

However, I notice an odd variations. the bird do behave like a normal passerine. Hunting and perching on the tree all by itself.

Bamboo flowers is a favorite food they share with the Pin-tailed Parrot-Finches. At such scene this Munia was spotted and treated as a common bird but the difference is that they are present as a flock of birds.

In the montane region, forest edges with open space are popular places where the birds can be seen. In fact, in the mountain,  it is more likely to meet up with the White-rumped more often than the Black-headed or White-headed, while in the lowlands. The later 2 species, White-headed and Black headed Munias are exclusively slotted to be seen in vast open country grassland.


Record of bird's call :-    and Videos:-    

White-rumped Munia  # 1

White-rumped Munia  # 2

White-rumped Munia  # 3

White-rumped Munia # 4

White-rumped Munia  # 5

White-rumped Munia  # 6

White-rumped Munia  # 7

White-rumped Munia # 8

White-rumped Munia  # 9

White-rumped Munia  # 10

White-rumped Munia # 11

White-rumped Munia  # 12

White-rumped Munia  # 16

White-rumped Munia # 17

White-rumped Munia # 18

White-rumped Munia  # 19

White-rumped Munia # 20

White-rumped Munia # 21

White-rumped Munia  # 22

White-rumped Munia # 23

White-rumped Munia # 24

White-rumped Munia  # 25

White-rumped Munia # 26

White-rumped Munia # 27

5. Java Sparrow - Padda [Lonchura] oryzivora

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 16 Cm. Noticed that this bird is named as a Sparrow? This is not a bird for Malaysia. Those engaging in fortune telling were using this species as a tool of their trade. As a result some birds were set free when their assistance were no longer needed. Such release did not make any impact, i.e. the birds were hardly encountered in the wild. Not until and batch found in Gunong Rapat, Ipoh. Now there is a permanent colony. With grey plumage, the under part from the breast onwards changed to vinous pink and the vent into white. The head is blackish with a large white ear covert.  Also with large red bills.

 Distribution :-  The bird is resident in Java and Bali
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird of the rice fields. prefer to be close to human habitats.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- The bird was never sighted in the wild as the bird do not migrate here. A common bird used by fortune tellers, there are escapees and now have set up their little colony.
 My personal jottings :-

Here on this page, the Java Sparrow is slotted together with the Munias as having similar scientific names sometime in the past. Now the bird has its own genus "Padda" and also the new scientific name of Padda oryzivora as well.

Though  having the large bills as the Munias the Java Sparrow is a much larger bird at 16 cm. As the name implies, this is a bird from Java and Bali Island. Introduced in many other places in the Far east but not in Malaysia.

These family with which the pictures were taken are escapees from Ipoh who has taken taken up resident and a breeding colony thrives.

A bird usually found in the Pet shops but not as a wild free ranging bird in the country. Most buyers make use of the bird in their business of fortune telling.


Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Java Sparrow  # 1

Java Sparrow   # 2

Java Sparrow   # 3

Java Sparrow  # 4

Java Sparrow   # 5

Java Sparrow   # 6

Java Sparrow   # 7

Java Sparrow  # 8

Java Sparrow   # 9

Java Sparrow   # 10

Java Sparrow  # 11

Java Sparrow   # 12

Java Sparrow   # 16

Java Sparrow  # 17

Java Sparrow  # 18

Java Sparrow   # 19

Java Sparrow  # 20

Java Sparrow  # 21

Java Sparrow   # 22

Java Sparrow  # 23

Java Sparrow  # 24

Java Sparrow   # 25

Java Sparrow  # 26

Java Sparrow  # 27


I find it interesting to have the Java Sparrow in this page. First reason is that this beautiful bird though transacted in good numbers through the Pet shop was never considered for an introduced species. At last, some devotees had use the species for release and now seeing the small colony growing in size.

Next thing I know, this species of Javan Sparrow with some much similarities,  was grouped together with the Munias once upon a time.