The Chestnut Munia or Black-Headed Mannikin/Munia/Nun

Black-headed Mannikin/Munia/Nun11,13,21,23, 31,35, 37,40,41
Lonchura atricapilla (formerly Lonchura malacca atricapilla), 10 subspecies
Chestnut Munia
Reproduction:Moderately difficult
Singing ability:Not very melodious
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4.4" (11 cm)
Weight:About 9 grams
Approx. cost:$25 (US) per bird

Other common names

Chestnut Mannikin, Chestnut Munia, Black-headed Munia, Black-headed Nun, Black-headed Mannikin, "Black Hooded Nun," Southern Black-headed Munia

  • L. a. atricapilla: Indian Black-headed Munia, Eastern Black-headed Munia, Indian Chestnut Munia
  • L. a. rubroniger: Nepal Black-headed Munia, Black-bellied Nun
  • L. a. sinensis: Malaysian Chestnut Munia, Chinese Chestnut Munia
  • L. a. formosana: Formosan Chestnut Munia, Taiwan Chestnut Munia, Taiwan Black-headed Munia, Grey-faced Munia
  • L. a. deignani: Deignan's Chestnut Munia, Indochina Chestnut Munia
  • L. a. brunneiceps: Brown-headed Munia, Sulawesi Nun
  • L. a. jagori: Philippine Chestnut Munia, Philippine Munia, Philippine Black-headed Munia
  • L. a. selimbauensis: Selimbau Chestnut Munia, Black-bellied Munia
  • L. a. obscura: Dark-backed Chestnut Munia
  • L. a. batakana: Batakana Chestnut Munia, Batakana Munia



Area of distribution

India, China, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Sulawesi, Ambon, Muna, Philippines, Taiwan, Sumatra, Island of Borneo


  • 1. L. a. rubroniger: central Nepal and adjacent areas in India
  • 2. L. a. atricapilla: Nepal to Sambalpur India across Bangladesh to Myanmar (Burma)
  • 3. L. a. deignani: Yunnan in China south through Myanmar into western Thailand (in limited swampy regions)
  • 4. L. a. sinensis: Peninsular Thailand into Malaysia and NE lowland half of Sumatra
  • 5. L. a. batakana: Northern highlands of Sumatra
  • 6. L. a. selimbauensis: SW Kalimantan, southern Borneo
  • 7. L. a. obscura: near Sampit, Indonesia
  • 8. L. a. jagori: from Luzon to Borneo, Sulawesi and Moluccas
  • 9. L. a. brunneiceps: southern Sulawesi, Muna, Butung, Ambon
  • 10. L. a. formosana: Taiwan and northern Luzon in the Philippines


Gregarious, peaceful, calm.

Physical descriptions

Light grey beak, black head, rich chestnut brown to mahogany body, wings, and tail. Some races have a black belly and a yellow or orange tinge to the tail. Juveniles are a drab cinnamon-brown and are indistinguishable from juvenile White-headed Nuns (L. maja) and juvenile Scaly-breasted Munias (L. punctulata).

  • L. a. atricapilla: Hood black, in NE India range has blackish belly & undertail coverts while in Myanmar has dark brown belly and undertail coverts, yellow to yellow-orange uppertail coverts, tail edges yellowish.
  • L. a. rubroniger: Hood black, black belly, black undertail coverts, tail and rump brown or maroon (no yellow/orange).
  • L. a. sinensis: Hood black, pale edges to feathers on mantle, brown to dark brown belly and undertail coverts, yellow to yellow-orange uppertail coverts, tail edges yellowish-orange to orange.
  • L. a. formosana: Dark brown head with grey nape, black belly, black undertail coverts, yellow-orange uppertail coverts and tail edges.
  • L. a. deignani: Hood black, chestnut to mahogany-red body, dusky to dark brown belly and undertail coverts, tail and rump brown or maroon (no yellow/orange).
  • L. a. brunneiceps: Dark brown hood with paler nape, dusky belly, undertail coverts dusky to dark brown, maroon rump, uppertail coverts and tail edges orange.
  • L. a. jagori: Black head with dark brown nape, black belly and undertail coverts, maroon rump, orange uppertail coverts & edging to tail feathers.
  • L. a. selimbauensis: Hood black, belly and undertail coverts black, uppertail coverts match rump, slight orange edging to tail feathers.
  • L. a. obscura: Hood black, dark brown body, belly and undertail coverts black, uppertail coverts match rump, brown or maroon rump and tail.
  • L. a. batakana: Hood black, belly and undertail coverts black, uppertail coverts match rump, brown or maroon rump and tail.

Possible mutation includes: Dilute (biscuit-colored body with faint mauve hue; black areas become more grey.)


Sexes appear similar, but only the cock sings. Cock's head may be bolder and wider with a blunter and heavier appearing bill; his rump may be marginally brighter.


The cock's song sounds like a kitten mewing from a distance. It begins with a series of almost inaudible clicks, followed by an extended whine, then ends in a series of slurred notes.


If you keep this species and have a photo of your birds to share, please submit your photo for possible inclusion on this site! Credit will be given to you.

Photo by Robin Tan
Photo by Robin Tan.

Photo by Francis Yap
Adults. Photo by Francis Yap.

Photo by David Yeo
Photo by David Yeo.

Photo by Jason
L. a. sinensis in Singapore. Photo by Jason.

Photo by Chris Li
L. a. sinensis. Photo by Chris Li.

Photo by Chris Li
L. a. sinensis. Photo by Chris Li.

Photo by Chris Li
L. a. sinensis. Photo by Chris Li.

Photo by Melvin Yap
L. a. sinensis in Singapore feeding fledglings. Photo by Melvin Yap.

Photo by  Bitty Chong
L. a. jagori in Sutera Harbour, KK, Sabah. Photo by Bitty Chong.

Photo by Dave Irving
L. a. jagori in Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia. Photo by Dave Irving.

Photo by Kevin Lin
L. a. formosana; group of adults & juveniles. Photo by Kevin Lin.

Photo by John&Fish
L. a. formosana in Taiwan. Photo by John&Fish.

Favorite foods

Large grain millet, sprouted seed, greens.

Natural habitat

Grassy areas, especially swampy grasslands and marshy areas, reeds, rice fields, forest edge, mangrove edge, and scrub brush.


Black-headed (Chestnut) Munias live in pairs or small flocks when breeding and large social groups outside of the breeding season; they gather in rushes and tall grasses to roost in flocks. Breeding birds and recent fledglings roost in nests. Non-breeding birds may mingle with Spotted Munias. Feeds primarily on the ground and from seeding grasses. Considered a pest on rice paddy fields.

Special considerations

Nails tend to become overgrown, so frequent nail trimming may be needed. As "climbing" birds, Black-headed Munias may benefit from rough, natural perching opportunities in their enclosure such as tall grasses and reeds; additionally, offering coarse flooring material (e.g. flagstone) may help naturally wear the birds' nails. Note that Black-headed Munias have a tendency to strip foliage and can damage aviary plantings. Other potential health concerns include obesity (if housed in too-small a flight or fed too-rich a diet year-round) and intestinal parasites (may need regular deworming due to their ground-feeding habits).

Hailing from the tropics, Black-headed Munias should not be exposed to prolonged temperatures below 41°F (5°C).

In captivity, juvenile Black-headed Munias can commence breeding even when they are only part-way through attaining adult coloration during their first molt. In these cases, the molt ceases until the end of the breeding season, leading to offspring which obtain their full adult coloration before their parents.

Hybrids have been reported between Chestnut Munias and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins (L. castaneothorax), society finches (L. domestica), White-headed munias (L. maja), African and Indian Silverbills (L. cantans and L. malabarica, respectively), Scaly-breasted Munias (L. punctulata), Tricolored Munias (L. malacca), and the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), so take care not to allow cross-breeding when housing these species together.

Breeding season

May to November in the Indian parts of its range, June to September in Myanmar (Burma), and December to October in Malaysia. Spring-Summer breeding is generally recommended.

Breeding tips

Birds aged one to four years are best suited for breeding. The breeding diet should be initiated one month prior to breeding, and should include: ample sprouted seed, egg food, greens, and possibly live food (not required, but may be appreciated).

For best results, keep a group of these birds together to allow the birds to choose their own partners. Males will court females with the use of a song and courtship dance which includes carrying a piece of grass and hopping on the perch beside the hen. Receptive hens will crouch and tail-quiver, inviting copulation. Mating is often followed by bill-fencing and mutual allo-preening. Although colony breeding is possible (in a large aviary planted with tall grasses or a growth of reeds in the corner for the birds to nest in), better productivity may be seen when each pair has its own enclosure.

Nests constructed of dried grass and fine twigs are built in dense reeds, tufts of grass, palm trees, or thick bushes usually between 1 and 2 meters from the ground. Pairs may also accept half-open nest boxes. Both parents share the tasks of nest building, incubation, and chick rearing. Young hatch naked. Pairs seem to tolerate nest checks and exercise nest hygiene where they carry feces from the chicks out of the nest. Parents stop brooding the chicks at around 10 days of age, so it is important to keep the enclosure sufficiently warm at this time to prevent chicks from becoming chilled at night.

Parents may withhold food and call from outside of the nest to encourage fledging. If premature fledging occurs, do not attempt to replace the birds in the nest, but rather ensure the chicks stay warm at night by bringing them indoors or providing a brooder on the aviary floor. After the young fledge, they may continue to sleep in the nest for 1-3 weeks. It is possible to leave the young in with the breeding pair, however, if space limitations require removing the young to their own enclosure, wait until 4 weeks after they fledged to assure independence. Ideally, the old nest should be removed so the parents build a fresh one for the next brood. Birds should be transitioned to an austerity diet when not breeding.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:4-6 eggs
Hatch date:After 12-15 days of incubation
Fledge date:22-28 days of age
Wean date:About 6-7 weeks of age

Related Article(s)

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Black-headed (Chestnut) Munias

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