Golden rays of setting sun were piercing through the plumose flower spikes of fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum. Scaly-breasted Munias were busy feeding on the ripened seeds. I was using my Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L II IS USM with Canon EF 2X III Extender on Canon EOS 5D Mark III Camera. After few minutes of accustomizing to my presence, two munias ventured very close to me to give me a great closeup opportunity.
The Scaly-breasted Munia or Spotted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) known in the pet trade as Nutmeg Mannikin or Spice Finch is a sparrow-sized finch native to tropical Asia extending from India and Sri Lanka east to Indonesia and the Philippines. It has been introduced into many other parts of the world and has established in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola as well as parts of Australia and the United States of America. They are found in open habitats including gardens and agricultural fields where they forage in groups for grass seeds.
The Scaly-breasted Munia is 11–12 cm long. The adult has a stubby dark bill, brown upperparts and darker brown head. The underparts are white with black scale markings. The sexes are similar, although males have darker markings on the underside and a darker throat. Immature birds have pale brown upperparts, lack the darker head and with uniform buff underparts can be confused with immatures of other munias such as the Tricoloured Munia, Lonchura malacca.
Scaly-breasted Munias are found in a range of habitas but are usually close to water and grassland. In India, they are especially common in paddy fields where they are considered a minor pest on account of their grain feeding. They are found mainly on the plains but are found in the foothills of the Himalayas although sometimes found up to an altitude of 2500 m and in the Nilgiris they are found in summer up to 2100 m. In Pakistan they are restricted to a narrow region from Swat in the west to Lahore avoiding the desert zone and occurring again in India east of a line between Ludhiana and Mount Abu.It is rare in Kashmir.
Outside their native range, escaped birds frequently establish themselves in areas with suitable climate. Escaped or introduced populations have been recorded in the West Indies (Puerto Rico since 1971), Hawaii, Australia, Japan and southern United States mainly in Florida and California. In Oahu, Hawaii, they compete for habitats with Lonchura malacca and tend to be rare where the latter is present.
The Scaly-breasted Munia is a small gregarious bird which feeds mainly on seeds but also takes small berries of Lantana and other plants. They sometimes form large flocks of as many as 100 birds. Like some other munias, they sometimes feed on algae. They sometimes flick the tail while hopping about. The tail may be flicked laterally and sometimes vertically and will sometimes flick their wings as well. When roosting, they will set in close contact with each other. Birds in a flock will sometimes preen each other. The soliciting bird usually showing its chin. Allopreening is usually limited to just the face and neck. The breeding season is during the rainy season (mainly June to August in India) but can breed at other times.
Scaly-breasted Munias form flocks of as many as 100 birds. Individuals communicate with calls that include a short whistle, variations of kitty-kitty-kitty, and a sharp chipping alarm note. They sometimes flick their tails and wings vertically or horizontally while hopping about. The tail flicking motion may have evolved from a locomotory intention movement. The exaggerated version of the tail flicking movement may have undergone ritualization. As a social signal, tail flicking in several other species acts as a signal indicating the intent to fly and helps keep flocks together.
When roosting communally, Scaly-breasted Munia sit side-by-side in close contact with each other. The outermost bird often jostles towards the center. Birds in a flock sometimes preen each other, with the soliciting bird usually showing its chin. Allopreening is usually limited to the face and neck. The Scaly-breasted Munia is rarely hostile but birds will sometimes quarrel without any ritualized posturing.