Bronze mannikin

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Bronze mannikin
Bronze mannikin (Lonchura cucullata cucullata).jpg
L. c. cucullata, The Gambia
Bronze Mannikin, Bronze Munia, Lonchura cucullata (8035546703).jpg
L. c. subsp. scutata in South Africa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Estrildidae
Genus: Lonchura
Species: L. cucullata
Binomial name
Lonchura cucullata
(Swainson, 1837)
Bronze Mannikin Distribution.jpg
  • Spermestes cucullata Swainson, 1837
  • Spermestes scutatus Heuglin, 1863

The bronze mannikin or bronze munia (Lonchura cucullata) is a small passerine (i.e. perching) bird of the Afrotropics. This very social estrildid finch is an uncommon to locally abundant bird in much of Africa south of the Sahara Desert, where it is resident, nomadic or irruptive in mesic savanna or forest margin habitats.[5][6] It has an estimated global extent of occurrence of 8,100,000 km². It is the smallest and most widespread of four munia species on the African mainland, the other being black-and-white, red-backed and magpie mannikin. It co-occurs with the Madagascan mannikin on the Comoro Islands, and was introduced to Puerto Rico. Especially in the West Africa, it is considered a pest in grain and rice fields. It is locally trapped for the pet bird trade.[4]


A party of bronze mannikins foraging on the ground. Alarm notes of a sentry bird will warn of approaching danger.
An adult bronze mannikin in Uganda carries the seed head of green Guinea grass for nest-building. Green Digitaria and Sporobolus grasses are also used.[5]
Immature birds have dun brown plumage with paler edges to the coverts and secondaries. This bird's lower mandible has turned pale, and adult plumage is evident on the face and scapulars. At age six months its moult will be complete.[4]

The bronze mannikin is one of the smallest munia species, measuring 9–10 cm in length and weighing 7–12 grams. The adult is a compact bird with a short black tail, and stubby black and pale grey (not distinctly bluish) mandibles. It is black to brownish black on the head, chin, throat and center of the chest, with some purple-green iridescence on the face and sides of the breast. It has greyish brown upper parts and white underparts with irregular barring on the flanks and rump. A small green iridescent patch is present on the outer scapular feathers, besides, especially in the western race, the sides of the lower breast. Wing coverts and remiges are bordered in a paler or warmer tone. The sexes are similar. Immature birds are dun brown above with buff head and underpart plumage. They moult into full adult plumage by age six months, when the males also begin to sing and exhibit breeding behaviour.[5]


The bronze mannikin is a tiny gregarious bird which feeds mainly on seeds, including wild grass seeds, millet, rice and grain. Alternatively termites, nectar or strands of algae may also be eaten. This species has a number of calls including a rreep-rreeep in flight, a twittering when perched, consisting of various wheezy or buzzing notes. The song is a concatenated and somewhat repetitive series of notes.[6] Before going to roost at nightfall, they usually visit a watering hole where vegetation is hanging into the water. They roost at night in ball-shaped nests, which in the non-breeding season are built solely for this purpose. These slovenly communal roosting nests are dismantled (for reuse of material) and rebuilt almost daily at the same or a new location, in a communal effort. Each party, numbering 8 to 20 birds, seems to be dominated by a single adult male.[6] The flock defends the immediate vicinity of a nest against intruders, but newcomers to a flock are easily accepted.[4] They may associate with waxbill or other mannikin species, and may also use their vacated nests. Pairs often allopreen.[6]


They frequent areas near water, including mesic savanna, thornveld, edges of Afromontane or lowland forests, second-growth, marshes and swamp edges, existing and abandoned cultivation, or in parks, gardens and orchards.[5][6] They occur commonly from sea level to about 1,500 m, but in the tropics they may be found sparsely up to 2,150 m.[6] They may wander widely in search of food.


They are incessant nest builders that may raise up to four broods a year, given favourable circumstances.[4][6] The nest is a large domed grass structure in a tree, into which 4 to 8 small, white eggs are laid. Incubation takes 12 days, and chicks fledge after three weeks, and are independent in another three weeks.[4] The chicks are reared on soft green seeds and insects.

Range and races[edit]

It is native to mainland Africa and the Bioko, Pemba, Zanzibar, Mafia and Comoro islands, and has been introduced to Puerto Rico, where it is established.[4] There are two accepted races,[6] but an extensive region around the upper Nile River is inhabited by birds with intermediate features. A proposed third race, L. c. subsp. tressellata Clancey, 1964 is not generally recognized.[4] The type was obtained in Senegal.[6]

  • Lonchura cucullata subsp. cucullata
Range: Senegal, eastwards to western Kenya and northwestern Angola[6] (or Gabon)[4]
  • Lonchura cucullata subsp. scutata (Heuglin, 1863)
Range: eastern Sudan and South Sudan to western Ethiopia, southwards to southern South Africa
Description: Barred in stead of bronzy green plumage at the junction of the lower breast and flanks. Rump and upper tail feathers only finely barred and almost uniformly dark.[6] These characters are however somewhat variable and unpredictable.

Phylogeny and origin[edit]

A phylogeny has been presented by Antonio Arnaiz-Villena et al.[7] Origin and phylogeny has been determined by Antonio Arnaiz-Villena et al.[8] Estrildinae may have originated in India and dispersed thereafter towards Africa and Pacific Ocean habitats.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Lonchura cucullata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Map based on IUCN data
  3. ^ "Lonchura cucullata". Avibase. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Restall, Robin (1996). Munias and mannikins. Mountfield, Nr. Robertsbridge, East Sussex: Pica Press. pp. 68–71. ISBN 9781408135440. 
  5. ^ a b c d Tarboton, Warwick (2001). A Guide to the Nests and Eggs of Southern African Birds. Cape Town: Struik. p. 260. ISBN 1-86872-616-9. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Clement, Peter; Harris, Allan; Davis, John (1999). Finches & sparrows. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 409–410. ISBN 0691034249. 
  7. ^ Allende, Luis M.; Rubio, I.; Ruíz-del-Valle, V.; Guillén, J.; Martínez-Laso, J.; Ernesto, L.; Varela, P.; Zamora, J.; Arnaiz-Villena, A. (2001). "The Old World Sparrows (Genus Passer) Phylogeography and Their Relative Abundance of Nuclear mtDNA Pseudogenes" (PDF). Journal of Molecular Evolution. 53 (2): 144–154. doi:10.1007/s002390010202. PMID 11479685. 
  8. ^ Arnaiz-Villena, A.; Ruiz-del-Valle, V.; Gomez-Prieto, P.; Reguera, R.; Parga-Lozano, C.; Serrano-Vela, I. (2009). "Estrildinae Finches (Aves, Passeriformes) from Africa, South Asia and Australia: a Molecular Phylogeographic Study" (PDF). The Open Ornithology Journal. 2: 29–36. doi:10.2174/1874453200902010029. 

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