The Pearl-headed Mannikin

Pearl-headed Mannikin11,13,21,23,31,34,37,40
Lonchura griseicapilla or Odontospiza caniceps
Pearl-headed Mannikin
Hardiness:Somewhat delicate
Reproduction:Somewhat challenging
Singing ability:Somewhat pleasant
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4¾" (12 cm)
Approx. cost:$ (US) per bird

Other common names

Pearl-headed Silverbill, Grey-headed Silverbill, Grey-headed Mannikin, Grey-headed Munia, Pearl-headed Amadine



Area of distribution

East Africa, including: Southern Ethiopia, south-eastern Sudan, Kenya, Burundi, northern Tanzania.



Peaceful, gregarious

Physical descriptions

Grey head speckled with white dots, warm brown body, blackish wings & tail, white rump, dark grey upper mandible & silver grey lower mandible, dark grey legs. The juvenile is a paler version of the adult and lacks the white spots on its head.

Mutations include Gray (autosomal recessive) where the brown in the body is replaced by light gray and Red-brown (autosomal recessive) where the black (wings, tail) is replaced with brown, the beak and legs become more flesh colored, and the head is pale gray.


Sexes are visually similar, although the hen's breast may be slightly paler and head spots slightly smaller. Only the male sings.


The song is long, soft chirping that starts as a whisper and gradually gets louder.


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Pearl Headed Mannikin
Pearl-headed Mannikin.

Favorite foods

Live food (e.g. mealworms), sprouted seed, chickweed, various small millet, millet spray, canary seed, soft food

Natural habitat

Arid grassland, farmland, savanna, open thorny scrub country. Stays near water.


Moves in small flocks which may include the African Silverbill. Birds roost together in old nests at night or may construct an unlined roosting nest. The cock performs a straw display where he holds straw in his bill, flies to the female, and bobs up and down. He then drops the straw, twists his head and tail toward the hen, and then sings to her while bobbing. A receptive hen may quiver her tail. Copulation may occur in or outside of the nest. Untidy, spherical grass nests with side entrance are built in trees, hedges, thorny shrubs, under roofs or in hut walls and lined with feathers. Both sexes take turns brooding. When one bird arrives to the nest to relieve its partner, it makes an arrival call and won't enter the nest until hearing a reply. A cock relieving a hen tends to bring additional lining material to the nest with him. Babies beg by twisting their neck to point toward the feeding parent. Fledglings may also partially raise or flick the far wing while begging. Cock birds have been witnessed bringing a beak full of sand or dried earth to the nest after chicks hatch. Juvenile cocks may begin practicing their song 2-3 weeks after fledging. Pairs may have 5-6 broods annually.

Special considerations

Has reportedly hybridized with the African silverbill, Indian silverbill, spice finch, society finch, and the zebra finch. Should be housed indoors during the cooler (fall and winter) months.

Breeding season

In the wild, breeding starts after the rainy season (May/June).

Breeding tips

Although these birds are suitable to a mixed aviary or cage, they tend to breed best when housed alone in an aviary without distraction, as they are susceptible to disturbance. Nest checks are not recommended. Birds are thought to pair bond while still in juvenile plumage and may resist arbitrary pairing as adults. Providing feathers for nest lining material may stimulate completion of nest building. Birds may be willing to accept half open, large nest boxes (at least 6"x6"x8"). Nesting materials should include plant fibers, coconut fiber, wool, grass, hay, and small feathers. Providing live food (ant pupae, mealworms, waxmoth larvae) appears to be a requirement for successful breeding. Pairs should ideally be limited to 3 broods annually. African & Indian Silverbills make suitable foster parents for this species.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:3-6 eggs
Incubation date:Both birds take turns brooding during the day and both sleep in the nest at night.
Hatch date:After 14 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 24-28 days of age
Wean date:2 weeks after fledging
First molt:8 weeks after fledging

Related Article(s)

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Pearl-headed Mannikin

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