Scaly-breasted Munia eats elephant grass seeds

on 26th March 2010

Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata fretensis) feeds mainly on seed. These birds descend on grassy patches to feed on grass seeds like carpet grass (Axonopus compressus). They also feed on casuarina seeds as well as the green alga, Spirogyra.

So far we have only documented the different plants they feed on, rather than their feeding behaviour.

From Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS has now documented how the Scaly-breasted Munia manipulates the spikelets of one of its common food, Pennisetum purpureum or elephant grass.

The dense flowering head at the end of a long stalk is made up of clusters of spikelets, each surrounded by a ring of slender bristles, with one longer and stouter than the others. A spikelet consists of two florets, a male or neuter and a bisexual.

Perching on the grass stem or even the flowering head, the munia picks on the flowering head to end up with a cluster of spikelets. But only one or more of the bisexual florets will be with grain. The munia will thus have to manipulate the spikelets to get at the grains, discarding the other parts that include the bracts and bristles. And this is clearly shown in the composite image above.

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

3 Responses

  1. Pingback: purpureum
    1. Dear Donald
      Yes this is being observed in its natural environment and native range.
      Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata fretensis subspecies) are widely distributed in Peninsular Malaysia.
      Apart for the Pennisetum purpureum (elephant grass) they also feed on a variety of grass seeds.
      On a few occasions I have observed them feeding on nutrient rich filamentous algae Spirogyra which is suggest to enable them to become physiologically ready for breeding.
      They also take cooked rice gains discarded in drains.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Overall visits (since 2005)

Live visitors
Visitors Today

Clustrmaps (since 2016)