Juveniles of the Scaly-breasted Munia

“Eager to see fledglings of the Asian Golden Weavers (Ploceus hypoxanthus) which were nesting, I made a revisit to Tampines recently. However, I was too late and had no luck in spotting the fledged juveniles of this exotic species. Instead, I had a brief encounter with five adorable little birds, which I believe to be juveniles of the Scaly-Breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata); the most common of the munia species listed as resident in Singapore.

“I was about to leave the site when I stumbled upon these adorable juveniles as they were quietly perched on a bare stick that was below eye level (above left). They were almost overlooked due to the inconspicuous spot and blending well into the environment. Perching side by side and close together, these juveniles must have fledged recently. They seemed innocent and ignorant; allowing me to inch close for observation. At close proximity, their oral flanges were clearly visible (above right). These were by the sides of their mouths at the corners of their gapes. They were bright cream in colour contrasting sharply with the dark conical beaks. The presence of oral flanges was indicative of their recently-fledged status.

“During the eight minutes that I was with them, the adults were nowhere to be seen. The juveniles were left alone by themselves. The adults might have gone looking for food to feed them. The juveniles were completely quiet; definitely, there were no begging calls. Most of the time, they were preening themselves (above left). There was occasional stretching of wings (above right). Quick naps with eyelids closed were also seen; each lasting less than 10 seconds (below left). At times, some of them will huddle close together, while some continued with their feather maintenance activities. Due to their warm and fluffy bodies, the close physical contact, when huddled together, must have given each other considerable comfort and security. At times, they would switch positions. One would climb over the others in acrobatic fashion; balancing itself precariously on their backs (below right), before squeezing tightly into space in between the others. It was a delight just watching them in their antics.

“My time with the juveniles came to an abrupt end when one by one, they turned their heads to look away. There were faint chirping sounds that must be calls from their parents. Then, one after another, they fluttered their wings and took off towards the direction of the calls to disappear from sight.

“As the images illustrated, the breasts of these juveniles were obviously lacking in the scale patterns that this species has been named after. The plumage of these juveniles will gradually develop these scale patterns as they grow and mature into adults. For comparison, enclosed are images of 3 different adult Scaly-Breasted Munias (above and left). All were taken in Singapore; but during different outings. Judging from the difference in scale patterns and colour of plumage, these adults must be from different sub-species. Since I am not conversant with these sub-species, I will appreciate additional information regarding the different sub-species that are currently found in Singapore.”

Kwong Wai Chong
Singapore
24th June 2011

One Response

  1. Lee Chiu San

    Beautiful photos of the young scaly-breasted munias. When I was a kid half a century ago, their nests could be found in every other areca-nut palm in the kampongs. As to your comments about the photos of the adults possibly representing different sub-species, even though all were taken in Singapore. Yes, large numbers of this munia used to be imported from Indonesia and Malaysia, and released here in religious ceremonies, so there could be more than one sub-species established in Singapore. But do not rule out the fact that the plumage of birds can differ depending on age, sex and condition. So there could only be one species, but what your photos show are individual variations within the species. I would guess that of the adult pics, the first photo is that of a dominant male and the second photo shows a younger bird that has not yet fully acquired the scaly pattern on the underparts.

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