Scaly-breasted Munia feeding on algae

posted in: Feeding-plants | 3

The above image shows a pair of Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) feeding on algae in a drain near Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS’s home in Canning Garden Home, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia on 23rd October 2011.

“A recognised behaviour related to breeding,” added Amar. “Have posted this before, see: LINK. Wells (2007) noted that they feed on nutrient rich filamentous algae Spirogyra (Wells 2007). Apparently munias eat Spirogyra as a source of protein to enable them to become physiologically ready for breeding… (Avery, 1980).”

The green alga Spirogyra breeds in freshwater drains, ponds, marshes, etc. In urban drains, there are also many species of other green (Chlorophyta) as well as blue-green algae (Cyanophyta) that these munias will feed on.

Avery, M. L., 1980. Diet and breeding seasonality among a population of Sharp-tailed Munias, Lonchura striata, in Malaysia. Auk 97: 160-166.
2. Wells, D.R., 2007. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London. 800 pp.

3 Responses

  1. Am

    Interesting – never knew munias even considered algae as part of their diet. On a related note, another algae, spirulina, is supposed to be extremely healthful – for humans. It is one of only 2 known sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).

  2. YC

    Spirogyra is a green alga. Spirulina, a bluegreen alga, also considered a cyanobacterium, is sold as a health food. However, there is some evidence that excessive intake can result in a neuro-degenerative disease (ALS/parkinson-dementia complex) see link.

    Residents (young and old) of Guam once suffered extensively from this disease. The cause? Eating flying foxes that eat Cycas seeds. The Cycas roots harbour a bluegreen alga that contains a toxin that causes the disease. The natives prepare Cycas seeds into a flour after proper preparation, but the toxin content is very low. However, the toxin builds up considerably in the fat of flying foxes after they eat the seeds. This toxin enters the system of humans who eat it – causing the disease.

    Chinese eat fatt choy or black moss, another bluegreen alga, during Chinese New Year. As most fatt choy we get are synthetic, made from starch(?), it is safe to eat, or so I am told. Anyway the amount eaten is not much.

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