White-throated munia (Lonchura malabarica)

Also known as: Indian silverbill
Synonyms: Euodice malabarica
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyEstrildidae
GenusLonchura (1)
SizeMale length: 11.3 - 11.6 cm (2)
Female length: 10.9 - 11.4 cm (2)
Male wing length: 5.3 - 5.4 cm (2)
Female wing length: 5.2 - 5.3 cm (2)
Weight10 - 14 g (3)

The white-throated munia is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Unusually for a small passerine, the white-throated munia is a highly sociable bird, named after its white throat, which extends from just beneath its beak to its undertail (2) (4). The male and female are similar in appearance, with brown plumage on the upperparts, brownish-buff flanks and a distinctive white rump (2) (5). The black central tail feathers are slightly elongated, and the uppertail coverts are white. Its beak is blue-grey, and its legs and feet can vary from deep red to pale greyish-brown (2).

The white-throated munia has fine stripes along its flanks, although there are fewer stripes on the female than the male. Sometimes the uppertail coverts on the male can have reddish or dark pink edging, and its lower beak can be pale blue. The male usually has a slightly wider head than the female (2).

The juvenile white-throated munia is similar in appearance to the adult, but it has a duller, brownish-coloured rump and mottled brown uppertail coverts (2) (4).

The song of the white-throated munia is a swift trill, and other vocalisations include a high-pitched ‘chirrup’ flight call and a harsh ‘tch wit’ alarm call (2).

Found throughout southern Asia, the white-throated munia has a very large range, occurring from Israel, Saudi Arabia and Oman in the west, east to Iran, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and south to Sri Lanka (2) (3) (5) (6). It may also be present in Afghanistan, and it can be found from sea level up to altitudes of around 2,000 metres (6).

The white-throated munia was imported into the United States and the Virgin Islands in the early 1970’s (7), but it is possible these populations are now extinct (6).

Preferring drier areas compared to other munias (3), the white-throated munia frequents Acacia woodland and sparse, dry scrubland (2) (8). It often occurs in areas of dry grassland, particularly during the breeding season (3), and in India it is commonly seen in towns, villages, gardens and farmland (2).

This species is typically found in flocks of up to 60 individuals, although it roosts in groups of 5 or 6. The white-throated munia usually feeds on seeds, which it often takes directly from sedges and grasses, as well as ants and other small insects on the ground (3) (2) (5). It may also feed on nectar from coral trees (Erythrina) (2).

Like most other birds in the genus Lonchura, the rainy season induces breeding behaviour in the white-throated munia, and it can produce up to four broods in a single season (2).

When displaying to a female, the male white-throated munia perches on a branch in an upright position and sings. The male twists its body to face the female, repeatedly bending its legs and bobbing its head, while waving around some nesting material in its beak. After dropping the nesting material, the male moves slowly towards the female and attempts copulation (2).

The female white-throated munia does not usually display, although it has been observed offering a grass stem to a male, performing small head jerks, and bending its legs in mini displays (2).

The male white-throated munia collects nesting material, primarily grasses, which the female uses to construct an irregular, oval nest (2). The nest is often lined with feathers (8), although other materials are also used, such as newspaper or cotton wool taken from nearby fields (3). White-throated munia nests have been found in a variety of locations, such as in low thorny bushes, up to three metres from the ground in trees, and even among the lower sticks of eagle nests. The white-throated munia is also known to use old weaver (Ploceidae family) nests (2).

Each clutch contains three to eight white, oval eggs, and both the male and female white-throated munia are responsible for incubation. The black, well-developed chicks are brooded by both of the adults, and fed seeds and small insects. The chicks fledge about 19 days after hatching, and around 7 days later the young can forage independently (2).

The white-throated munia is described as a common, or locally common, species, and its overall population appears to be stable (6). However, it seems to be declining in Sri Lanka, although the explanation for this is unknown (2).

There are no known conservation measures currently in place for the white-throated munia (6).

More information on the white-throated munia:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
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  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Restall, R. (1996) Munias and Mannikins. Pica Press, New York.
  3. Ali, S. and Ripley, S.D. (1974) Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Grimmett, R. and Inksipp, T. (2005) Birds of Southern India. A&C Black, London.
  5. Hasan, M. (2001) Birds of the Indus. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. BirdLife International (September, 2011)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=8698
  7. Moreno, J.A. (1997) Review of the subspecific status and origin of introduced finches in Puerto Rico. Caribbean Journal of Science,33: 233-238.
  8. Dhindsa, M.S. (1983) Intraspecific nest parasitism in the white-throated munia. Notornis, 30: 87-92.