The Spice Finch (Scaly-breasted Munia)

Spice Finch (13 subspecies)8,11,13,21,23
Lonchura punctulata
Singing ability:Not very melodious
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4.5" (11.4 cm)
Approx. cost:$40 (US) per pair

Other common names

Nutmeg Finch, Nutmeg Mannikin, Nutmeg Munia, Ricebird, Scaly-breasted Mannikin, Scaly-breasted Munia, Spice Finch, Spice Munia, Spice Bird, Spotted Mannikin, Spotted Munia, Barred Munia

  • L. p. punctulata: Indian Scaly-breasted Munia, Indian Spotted Munia
  • L. p. subundulata: Burmese Scaly-breasted Munia, Burmese Spotted Munia
  • L. p. yunnanensis: Yunnan Scaly-breasted Munia
  • L. p. topela: Chinese Scaly-breasted Munia, Topela Finch
  • L. p. cabanisi: Philippine Scaly-breasted Munia
  • L. p. fretensis: Sumatran Scaly-breasted Munia
  • L. p. holmesi: Bornean Scaly-breasted Munia
  • L. p. nisoria: Javan Scaly-breasted Munia
  • L. p. baweana: Bawean Scaly-breasted Munia
  • L. p. fortior: Sumbawa Scaly-breasted Munia
  • L. p. sumbae: Sumba Scaly-breasted Munia
  • L. p. particeps: Sulawesi Scaly-breasted Munia
  • L. p. blasii: Timor Scaly-breasted Munia



Area of distribution

Ceylon, India, Indochina (including Vietnam and Cambodia), Thailand, southern China, Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Java, Bali, Celebes, the Lesser Sunda Islands, and the Philippines.


Peaceful, social.

Physical descriptions

Black beak, reddish chocolate brown head, body, and wings, yellow-brown tail and rump (though tail and tail coverts may vary depending on the subspecies), breast and flanks white with dark edges on the feathers in a scallop pattern, white belly and undertail. Juveniles are light brown above, paler below, and are a shade darker on the breast and flanks; they lack any markings. Juveniles appear similar to juveniles of other species including the White-headed Munia L. maja.


Sexes look similar, but only the cock will sing.


The song is a series of short, rapid churrs ending in a legato whine. Songs vary considerably from male to male.


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Spice Finch
L. p. punctulata adult.

Photo by Leemt2
L. p. topela adult. Photo by leemt2.

Photo by Leemt2
L. p. topela adults. Photo by leemt2.

Photo by Subharghya Das
L. p. punctulata adult. Photo by Subharghya Das.

Photo by C. Lam

Photo by Davis Kwan
L. p. yunnanensis adult.

Photo by Davis Kwan
L. p. yunnanensis adult.

Favorite foods

Green food, seeding grasses, millet, egg food, insects (mealworms, ant pupae).

Natural habitat

Grasses and weeds within gardens or near rice fields, open or semi-open country with shrubs and trees.


Spice Finches love to roost and cuddle (clump) with other social species (such as other Munias). Allopreening and bill-fencing are common between flock members and mates. They are very adept fliers and tend to dart from perch to perch. They hang from nearly-vertical perches without a problem, love taking baths, and may become depressed if housed in too small of a cage. The male's song is quiet but squeaky, and he sings it while displaying. Other spice finches (usually males) may engage in peering (listening intently to the singing male). In the wild, juveniles will often leave their parents and form wandering flocks, often mixing with juveniles from other munia species. Young birds begin to form pairs at 3-6 months of age (in conjunction with their molt into adult plumage). Birds gather in the topmost branches of a tree to socialize before departing (often in pairs) to their respective nests for roosting at night. In some cases, wild spice finches will roost with other species (munias and occasionally weavers).

Special considerations

Nail overgrowth is common in this species, so they may need their nails trimmed regularly. They love to climb and perch on reeds and tall grasses (in captivity as in the wild), so provide some perching opportunities which are more vertical than horizontal (such as tall grasses or forked branches). Spice Finches have reportedly hybridized with: the Bib Finch or Madagascar Mannikin (Lonchura nana), Bronze Mannikin (L. cucullata), the African Silverbill (L. cantans), the Indian Silverbill (L. malabarica), the White-headed Munia (L. maja), the White-rumped Munia (L. striata), Black-headed Mannikin (L. malacca atricapilla), the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin (L. castaneothorax), the Society (Bengalese) Finch, the Java Sparrow (L. oryzivora), and the Long-tailed Grassfinch (Poephila acuticauda), so take care when housing these species together.

Breeding season

Spring through summer in North America, and during the Australian summer around Sydney. In their natural habitat, breeding may take place year-round but is normally triggered by the end of the rainy season, and then continues into the dry season.

Recorded breeding:
  • India: May-September
  • Sri Lanka: January-May and July-December
  • Burma: May-October or later
  • Flores: March-July
  • Himalayas: August-September

Breeding tips

Birds should be permitted to select their own partners from a larger group. A male begins his courtship ritual by flying about with a piece of grass in his bill, flicking his wings and tail from side-to-side. An interested female will mimic this display, and if she perches near the male, he will drop his nesting material and begin to sing to the hen while turning side-to-side. The female will then solicit copulation by crouching and quivering her tail. Bill-fencing may follow mating. Spice finches tend to breed more successfully in larger flights and aviaries than in cages, and may breed well in a colony situation. If given the opportunity (a spacious, well-planted aviary), these birds may build nests on forked branches within dense bushes, using materials such as long grasses, bamboo leaves, flexible plant stems, and coconut fiber. They may also accept a domed nesting basket. The male tends to collect the nesting material but both sexes help build the nest. Both sexes incubate and both will roost in the nest together at night. Multiple pairs may build their nests close together. The chicks are raised mostly on seeds (dry and soaked), greens, and some insects. Once the chicks fledge, they may continue to sleep in the nest at night for the first few nights or more.

Photo by Jwee
Juvenile getting its adult plumage

Life Cycle

Clutch size:4-7 eggs
Incubation:Both parents incubate the eggs
Hatch date:After 13-14 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 18-21 days of age
Wean date:5 weeks of age
First molt:4-7 months of age

Related Article(s)

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Spice Finches

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