Scaly-breasted Munia feeding on algae

on 4th March 2013

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.

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.

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3 Responses

  1. 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. 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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