The Spice Finch (Scaly-breasted Munia)

Spice Finch (13 subspecies)8,11,13,21,23,31,35, 37,40,41
Lonchura punctulata
Singing ability:Not very melodious
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4.5" (11.4 cm)
Weight:About 9.5 grams
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, Mascot Finch

  • L. p. punctulata: Indian Scaly-breasted Munia, Indian Spotted Munia, Red-tailed Spice Bird, Black and White Spice Bird
  • 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, Javan Spice Bird
  • 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.


  • 1. L. p. punctulata: Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka
  • 2. L. p. subundulata: Assam, Bangladesh, NE India, Myanmar
  • 3. L. p. yunnanensis: SW China
  • 4. L. p. topela: From Myanmar through Thailand to China and Taiwan
  • 5. L. p. fretensis: Thailand
  • 6. L. p. baweana: Bawean
  • 7. L. p. nisoria: Java, Bali, Lombok
  • 8. L. p. fortior: Sumbawa
  • 9. L. p. sumbae: Sumba
  • 10. L. p. blasii: Flores through Timor to Tanimbar in the Lesser Sundas
  • 11. L. p. particeps: Sulawesi
  • 12. L. p. holmesi: SE Kalimantan
  • 13. L. p. cabanisi: 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.

  • L. p. punctulata: scaling is black on white and appears bold and dark; uppertail coverts orange
  • L. p. subundulata: paler overall; scaly markings are brown and uppertail coverts olive-yellow
  • L. p. yunnanensis: cinnamon upper parts with white streaking, brown of the throat merges with white of the belly
  • L. p. topela: lighter brown with fine white streaking from crown to back and wings, dark brown chin/throat, bold brownish scalloping, olive (ranging from salmon to yellow) uppertail coverts
  • L. p. cabanisi: smallest race, face mask reduced, mid-brown scaling elongated and double-looped
  • L. p. fretensis: black bill, sienna face, ear coverts more orange
  • L. p. holmesi: fine barring on back, pale grey edges to uppertail coverts
  • L. p. nisoria: no white streaking on upperparts, dark reddish face
  • L. p. baweana: paler earth-brown upper parts, scaling is pale and indistinct, straw colored edges on uppertail coverts
  • L. p. fortior: only streaked white on the mantle, scaling bold but lighter
  • L. p. sumbae: lighter underparts (scaling has a white ground), pale ear coverts
  • L. p. particeps: paler upper parts, cream below with less distinct scaling
  • L. p. blasii: more reddish overall, reddish-brown scaly markings on cream ground color, with dark cross-barring on back from nape to rump


Sexes look similar, but only the cock will sing.


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


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.

Spice Finch
L. p. punctulata adult.

Photo by Tarique Sani
L. p. punctulata adults. Photo by Tarique Sani; taken in Nagpur Maharashtra, India.

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

Photo by Steve Riall
L. p. topela adult. Photographed by Steve Riall in Thailand.

Photo by Steve Riall
L. p. topela adult. Photographed by Steve Riall in Thailand.

Photo by Leemt2
L. p. topela adult. Photo by leemt2. Photographed in Taiwan.

Photo by Leemt2
L. p. topela adults. Photo by leemt2. Photographed in Taiwan.

Photo by Francesco Verones
L. p. topela adult. Photo by Francesco Verones; photographed in Thialand.

Photo by Sergey Yeliseev
L. p. topela adult. Photo by Sergey Yeliseev; photographed in Vietnam.

Photo by Nash Chou
L. p. topela juveniles molting into adult plumage. Photo by Nash Chou; photographed in Taiwan.

Photo by Nash Chou
L. p. topela juveniles molting into adult plumage. Photo by Nash Chou; photographed in Taiwan.

Photo by C. Lam

Photo by Davis Kwan
L. p. yunnanensis adult. Photo taken in China.

Photo by Davis Kwan
L. p. yunnanensis adult. Photo taken in China.

Photo by Lip Kee Yap
L. p. fretensis adult. Photo taken in Pulau Ubin, Singapore by Lip Kee Yap.

Photo by Lip Kee Yap
Spice finch juvenile starting to obtain adult plumage. Photo by Lip Kee Yap.

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, forest edge.


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). Spice finches feed on the ground and from growing plants.

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, bamboo, or forked branches). Although they can become quite hardy once acclimatized, Spice Finches should be provided with a heated shelter if temperatures are expected to be below 41°F (5°C).

Other common health concerns include: egg-binding (particularly first-year and older hens; most commonly seen in cooler months), feather-plucking (the victim should be removed to its own enclosure until the feathers grow back; the instigator should be watched closely for repeat offenses and removed if the behavior persists), 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).

Spice Finches have reportedly hybridized with: pin-tailed parrotfinches (Erythrura prasina), black-rumped waxbill (Estrilda troglodytes), the Madagascar munia (Lemuresthes nana), Bengalese munia (L. acuticauda), southern black-headed munia (L. atricapilla), African silverbill (L. cantans), chestnut-breasted munia (L. castaneothorax), bronze munia (L. cucullata), society finch (L. domestica), magpie munia (L. fringilloides), white-headed munia (L. maja), white-throated silverbill (L. malabarica), Indian black-headed munia (L. malacca), Bismarck munia (L. melaena), white-rumped munia (L. striata), black munia (L. stygia), and black-breasted munia (L. teerinki), Java sparrow (Padda oryzivora), and the long-tailed grassfinch (Poephila acuticauda), black-throated finch (P. cincta), orange-winged pytilia (Pytilia afra), and green-winged pytilia (P. melba), 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
  • Myanmar: 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. Birds aged 1 through 4 years are best suited for breeding. 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, ideally camouflaged by plant cover. 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. Pairs tend to tolerate nest checks.

Chicks hatch with pinkish skin and light gray down. They may be heard begging starting around 4 days of age. The chicks are raised mostly on seeds (dry and soaked), greens, and some insects. Live food may be appreciated, but is not necessary. Parents exercise nest hygiene and carry feces from the chicks out of the nest. Brooding ceases when the chicks are 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. Once the chicks fledge, they may continue to sleep in the nest at night for the first few nights or more. If space limitations require removing the young to their own enclosure, wait until 4 weeks after they fledged to assure independence.

Birds should be kept on an austerity diet when not breeding where live food, greens, sprouted seed, and egg food are minimized.

Life Cycle

Photo by Jwee
Juvenile getting its adult plumage
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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