Scaly-breasted Munia nesting

on 19th May 2009

“When I was watching the Orientl Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) breeding site in Changi Village, I noticed that a pair of Scaly-breasted Munias (Lonchura punctulata) were nesting among the pigeon orchids (Dendrobium cruminatum) growing from the fork of a nearby angsana tree (Pterocarpus indicus) about 4-5 metres above the pavement, 2 metres from the busy Changi Village Road, right above a building site (pavement renovations), and 15 metres from a 7-Eleven.

“I first noticed them briefly on 1st April 2009, and they were still there 7th May. They were very wary in their coming and going, and much of the time I scarcely noticed them – just a flash out of the corner of my eye. They are tiny, of course, compared to most of the other common birds in the village (Javan Mynahs Acridotheres javanicus, Red-breasted Parakeets Acridotheres javanicus, Tanimbar Corellas Cacatua goffini, Black-naped Orioles Oriolus chinensis, House Crows Corvus splendens) – and they darted in and out of the nesting area very quickly indeed, never pausing to perch on nearby branches or other trees.

“During the time I observed them, I was only able a couple of times to see them carrying what looked like nesting material. I never saw them carrying food. They usually arrived and departed together, and often one would stand guard while the other went into or very close to the nest. The nest was well hidden in the darkest part of orchid clump. Even so, I was surprised that they seemed able to hide it from the ever-watchful mynahs and parakeets, none of which I ever saw investigating the plants around the nesting area.

“I must stress however, that I was usually looking elsewhere, so would only have witnessed a small percantage of their trips to/from the nest.

“All this raised questions in my mind:
1. Is it usual for the Scaly-breasted Munia to nest in an urban environment?
2. I wonder what their normal nesting sites are — I always associate them with stretches of “countryside” grasses and would have expected them to be nesting there too.
3. Were they still building the nest? It looked quite mature, perhaps it had been used by them before…
4. Or, had the eggs been laid — but if so, doesn’t one or both of them incubate the eggs?

“So I searched for information about their habits, and came up with this from this SITE:

“From this, it appears the species roosts in nests at night, but this pair was returning to the nest reasonably frequently during the day, and not spending much time there. Ria Tan says they are “found even in urban areas”, so I suppose finding them where I saw them should be no big surprise.

“But I do still wonder whether they were breeding, or going through a long pre-breeding process…”

Howard Banwell
14th May 2009

Check out our postings on munia nests: 1, 2 and 3.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

7 Responses

  1. Scaly-breasted munias do not seem to have too much fear of humans. In the past, their nests could very commonly be found in the crowns of areca-nut palms in the rural areas of Singapore.

    Those were cultivated palms, usually planted quite close to pathways or houses.

    Lee Chiu San

  2. The Scaly-breasted munia has been a perenial resident at my in-law’s terrace house in Medan, Indonesia. The have chosen a sealing wax palm tree within the corner terrace house nearest the road junction to nest initially and have since taken over an adjacent tree as well.

    They are still very cautious when approaching the nest with people nearby.

    I have also seen them nesting in small bamboo clumps in a condominium show flat nearby my apartment in changi.

    Everynow and then, they also swarm in huge numbers arriving at dusk and roosting in one large tree within my condominium.

    I cannot remember which months of the year they nest and which month of the year they roost in large flocks. They seem to like open areas of disturbed land where tall grasses are making a comeback.

  3. These munias are quite comfortable nesting in the vicinity of humans. In my institute in Hyderabad, they nest in one of the ornamental bushes near the entrance where lots of people pass by every day. The bush is quite thick and conceals pretty well but I am sure there are humans who sit pretty close by, even within touching distance from these birds. They must’ve raised more than one brood here as I have found upto 2 nests in the bush itself.

  4. Hi, I am from Nashik (Maharashtra) INDIA and I have captured scaly breasted munias in my D-50 camera with lens of 70-300mm. more than 100 shot taken near the nest. They built their nest in my bunglow garden area and I was amazed that they were three, two of them are male and one is female.

  5. First time this bird started nesting in my home balcony grill where I have thick growth of a plant. It is nesting using bamboo leaves.
    ..Balakrishnan from Nerul Navi Mumbai Indis

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