The Tri-colored Munia

Tri-colored Munia8,21,23,34,35,37,40,41
Lonchura malacca
Tri-colored Munia
Hardiness:Hardy but may be cold intolerant
Reproduction:Low/medium difficulty
Singing ability:Very quiet
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4¾" (12 cm)
Weight:About 11 grams
Approx. cost:$ (US) per bird

Other common names

Black-headed Munia, Southern Black-headed Munia, Tricoloured Munia / Mannikin / Nun, Three-colored Munia / Mannikin / Nun



Area of distribution

From southern India down to northeast Sri Lanka. Has been introduced into Japan, China, Hawaii



Peaceful, gregarious

Physical descriptions

Blue-grey bill and legs, black head, brown back, black belly (sometimes with scalloping along the flanks), thighs, and undertail; chest and flanks are either white (most common), cinnamon, white with cinnamon scalloping, or white with fine grey barring depending on the variation. Tail coverts are dark burnt orange, tail is brown.
Juveniles have a pale bill but are otherwise similar to scaly-breasted munia (L. punctulata) juveniles: warm brown above, buff below, grey legs.


Sexes are visually similar, although hens tend to have a slightly smaller beak (less curved at the culmen) and may have paler fringes of the tail and tail coverts. Cocks tend to have marginally bolder, wider heads. Only the male sings.


The song is quiet, starting with short squeaks and ending in a long peeeeeeee.


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Tricolored Munias

Tricolored Munia

Tricolored Munia
Variation with cinnamon breast & flanks.

Tricolored Munia
Variation with cinnamon scalloped breast & flanks.

Tricolored Munia

Tricolored Munia

Photo by Dr. Caesar Sengupta

Favorite foods

Grass seeds, rice, millet, canary seed (dry & soaked), seeding & flowering grasses, chickweed

Natural habitat

Marshes, swamps, wet grasslands, rice paddies, sugar cane fields, and sometimes forest clearings.


Lives in small family groups but may form large flocks. Can be a pest to rice farmers. In south India these birds may associate with a species called the Streaked Weaver (Ploceus manyar); it is possible they may use the weaver's nests. Feeds on the ground or from seed heads. Claws are normally a similar length to the bird's toes and facilitate climbing grass stems. During courtship, a cock will carry a blade of grass to a hen, perch beside her, drop the symbol, stand erect with nape and belly feathers puffed and head pointed down, then hop up and down off the perch while singing. A receptive hen will crouch horizontally with head and tail turned slightly toward the male. The male will stop singing, lean forward toward the hen with head and tail turned toward her just before mating. Bill fencing and allo-preening may follow copulation. Nests are typically built in reeds, coarse grass, or rushes a few feet above water. Males gather the nesting material (green grass, bamboo leaves, fine grasses and panicles for lining), but both sexes share in the construction of an untidy spheroid to oval nest with large side entrance. Sometimes the entrance has a short trumpet-like entrance tube constructed from flowering grass heads. Young are brooded for 8-10 days and are raised primarily on vegetable matter. After the young fledge, they may return to the nest to roost for 1-3 more weeks.

In captivity, juvenile birds may breed before they have completed their first molt. The molt may be delayed until breeding is complete. Sometimes this species will voluntarily feed the offspring of other species if housed in a mixed aviary.

Special considerations

Not very tolerant of cold temperatures; enclosures should not drop below 41°F. Prone to obesity if not given adequate flight space; austerity diet during non-breeding periods is also recommended to help avoid obesity. Being "climbing birds," Tri-colored munias may require frequent nail trimming in captivity if they are not provided with adequate rough, varied, natural perches. Placing a flagstone on the enclosure floor may also provide a rough surface to help keep the birds' nails short. This species has a tendency to strip any foliage they are given access to, so new plants may need to be protected with a wire cage until they are established. Tri-colored Munias have reportedly hybridized with the chestnut-breasted mannikin (L. castaneothorax), society finch (L. striata), white-headed munia (L. maja), chestnut munia (L. atricapilla), spice finch (L. punctulata), zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), and melba finch (Pytilia melba), so take care when housing these species together. Although generally peaceful, can sometimes show aggression towards smaller waxbills.

Breeding season

Spring through summer.

Breeding tips

A full breeding diet should be introduced about 1 month prior to breeding. Live food may be appreciated, but is not required. Breeding is likely to be more successful if birds are allowed to select their own mates from a small group, then each pair moved into their own enclosure where they cannot interact with other pair(s). Colony breeding is possible, but tends to be less productive as the dominant pair will interfere with the breeding of the others. Can be successfully cage bred. Will accept nesting baskets or half-open nest boxes, but will preferentially build a nest in shrubbery/bamboo if given access in an aviary setting. May not tolerate nest checks. Because pairs cease brooding their chicks by 10 days of age, the breeding enclosure must be kept adequately warm or the chicks could be lost to exposure.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:4-7 eggs
Incubation date:After the 4th egg is laid. Both birds take turns brooding during the day and both sleep in the nest at night.
Hatch date:After 12-13 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 22-28 days of age
Wean date:2-3 weeks after fledging
First molt:By 6 months of age

Related Article(s)

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Tri-colored Munias

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