The White-Headed Mannikin/Munia/Nun

White-headed Mannikin/Munia/Nun8,11,13,21,23,31,34,35,37,40, 41
Lonchura maja, 2 subspecies
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 11 g
Approx. cost:$25 (US) per bird

Other common names

White-headed Munia, White-headed Nun, White-headed Mannikin, White-haired Munia, Cigar Bird, Maja Munia

  • L. m. maja
  • L. m. vietnamensis: Vietnamese White-headed Munia, Vietnamese Maja



Area of distribution

  • 1. L. m. maja: Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Bali
  • 2. L. m. vietnamensis: Vietnam



Gregarious, peaceful, calm.

Physical descriptions

Light grey beak, white head, neck and breast tinged with buff, chestnut brown body and wings, black-brown tail, and the center of the belly is black. L. m. vietnamensis is slightly darker with a darker head (the head is tawny except for white around each eye), more distinct brown bib and throat, and the black of the belly touches the breast.

(Because of their very similar colorations, the White-headed Munia is sometimes confused with the Pale-headed Munia [L. pallida, see photo below], which has tan flanks that are significantly lighter in color than its brown wings. The Pale-headed Munia also lacks the black belly.)

Juvenile White-headed Munias are cinnamon above and buff colored below with dark grey feet and a grey bill. Juveniles are indistinguishable from juvenile Black-throated Munias (L. ferruginosa), juvenile Pale-headed Munias (L. pallida), juvenile Chestnut Munias (L. atricapilla), and juvenile Scaly-breasted Munias (L. punctulata).


Sexes appear similar, although the white of hen's head may appear more smokey or dull when compared to the cock. The white color on the cock's head becomes more bright and extensive as he ages, however, which is why young cocks are sometimes confused with hens when they are compared to older cocks. In addition to having a paler head, the distinction between the buff colored plumage of the hen's chest and the chestnut brown plumage of the flanks is more blended and not as clearly delineated as on the cock. Only the cock sings.

Only the dominant male(s) in a group may sing. Placing a bird in its own cage (one at a time) near a group of conspecifics may induce the bird to sing if he is a male. Likewise, introducing a bird (one at a time) to a known hen may induce the introduced bird to sing if he is a male.


Beak-clicking precedes the song which is a series of rapidly repeated notes followed by a drawn-out whine.


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White headed nuns
Adult pair of White-headed Munias.

White headed nun juveniles
White-headed Munia juveniles.

Photo by Lim Chaikok
Photo by Lim Chaikok.

Photo by Andy Li
Photo by Andy Li.

Photo by Andy Li
Photo by Andy Li.

Photo by Aurélien LEQUOY
Photo by Aurélien LEQUOY.

White headed nun

White headed nun

Photo by Aurélien LEQUOY
This is the Pale-headed Munia (L. pallida) - a confusion species. Note the greyer nape, breast, and back and tan underparts. Photo by Aurélien LEQUOY.

Favorite foods

Various millets, green food, sprouted seed.

Natural habitat

Open country with tall grassland, thick weeds, rice fields, marshes, swamps, reedbeds, green mountain slopes, gardens.


White-headed Munias live in small to large social groups outside of the breeding season, and live in pairs for breeding. They have been known to flock with Scaly-breasted Munias and Chestnut Munias, wandering in search of food. Flocks roost in cane fields and reed beds. They breed in loose colonies and feed on the ground and on growing plants. Pair bonds form while the birds are still in juvenile plumage. Clumping may occur in captivity and allopreening takes place between members of a pair. 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

Nails tend to become overgrown, so frequent nail trimming may be needed. Providing a variety of natural and textured perches, some oriented vertically, may help keep nails shorter naturally. These birds tend to be long-lived (up to 18-20 years), and may become lethargic and possibly obese if housed in too small of an enclosure. This species will happily shred live plants kept in their enclosure. Because white-headed munias hail from tropical and sub-tropical climates, this species should not be housed below 41°F (5°C).

They may hybridize with: Bengalese Munia (Lonchura acuticauda), Southern Black-headed Munia (L. atricapilla), African Silverbill (L. cantans), Chestnut-breasted Munia (L. castaneothorax), Society Finch (L. domestica), Yellow-rumped Munia (L. flaviprymna), White-rumped Munia (L. striata), Spice Finch (L. punctulata), Indian Black-headed Munia (L. malacca), Owl Finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii), Cut-throat (Amadina fasciata), and the Black-throated Finch (Poephila cincta).

Breeding season

Usually commences after the rainy season (February in Java), but can occur year-round if weather and food supplies allow.

Breeding tips

For best results, keep a group of these birds together (colony breeding with at least 3 pairs, ensuring equal numbers of cocks and hens) in a large aviary planted with tall grasses in the corner for the birds to nest in. Allow the birds to choose their own partners. A single bonded pair can also be bred per enclosure, and may result in better productivity. A male will court a hen with a courtship routine which includes puffing the feathers out, spreading the tail, and moving the head to-and-fro while singing.

Nests constructed of coarse grasses, grass stalks, coconut fiber, and thin plant stems are built in tufts of grass or thick bushes, though they may also accept a half-open nest box. Both sexes will construct the nest and both will incubate the eggs during the day; the hen incubates at night. For rearing food, provide ample soaked and sprouted seed, egg food, green food, and possibly live food (live food may be appreciated, but is not required). Nest checks are likely to be tolerated. Young are brooded for 12 days after they hatch. Parents may withhold food and call from the nest entrance to encourage fledging. Prematurely fledged birds should not be placed back into the nest, but rather protected from cool temperatures (i.e. brought indoors at night and re-released into the aviary at daybreak, or offered a brooder on the aviary floor).

Juveniles tend to take longer to molt into adult plumage compared with other finch species. Unless space is constrained, juveniles can be left with the breeding parents and may even participate in feeding their new siblings. If space constraints require that the juveniles be removed to their own enclosure, wait until at least 4 weeks after they have fledged to ensure independence. The old nest can be removed to allow the parents to construct a fresh one for the next brood.

Widowed birds are likely to accept a new mate. During the non-breeding season, birds should be fed an austerity diet where soft foods, live food, and sprouted seeds are minimized.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:4-7 eggs
Hatch date:After 12-13 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 21 days of age
Wean date:About 6-7 weeks of age

Related Article(s)

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White-headed Munias

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