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.