THE BLACK-HEADED MUNIA.
PLATE V. (FIGS. 1, 2).
Loxia atricapilla, Vieill. Ois. Chant, p. 8-1, pl. liii. (1805). Coccothraustes atricapilla, Vieill. Nouv. Dict. xiii. p. 535 (1817). Coccothraustes atricapilla, Vieill. Encycl. Meth. iii. p. 1007 (1823). Loxia atricapilla, Griff. Cuv. Anim. Kingd. Aves, ii. p. 154 (1829). Loxia atricapilla, Less. Traite d’Ornith. p. 415 (1831).
Munia rubroniger, Hodgs. Asiat. Res. xix. 1836, p. 153 ; Blyth, Journ. A. S. B. xxii. 1854, p. 412 ; Horsf, et Moore, Cat. Birds, E.-Ind. Mus. ii.p.507 (1856-8) ; Gray, Cat. Birds of Nepal, p. 56,2nd edit. (18G3). Lonchura melanocephala, M'Clell. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1839, p. 163. Spermestes melanocephalus, Blyth, Ann. and Mag. Nat. Hist. xii. 1843, p. 166 ; Hodgs. Gray’s Zool. Misc. p. 84 (1844).
Amadina malacca, Blyth, Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng. xiii. 1844, p. 949. Munia malacca, Gray, Cat. Hodgs. Coll. Brit. Mus. p. 106 (1846);Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. p. 452, Adult, pt. (1850).
Amadina sinensis, Blyth, Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng. xv. 1846, p. 36 ; Motl. et Dillw. Nat. Hist. Labuan, p. 25, pl. vi. (1855) ; Eyton, Cat. Birds, p. 254 (1856).
Munia rubronigra, Blyth, Cat. Birds Mus. A. S. B. p. 116 (1849) ; Hartl. Journ, fur Ornith. 1859, p. 284; Reichb. Singvogel, p. 39 (1861) ; Jerd. Birds India, ii. p. 353 (1863) ; Blanf. Ibis, 1870, p. 469 ; Walden, Ibis, 1871, p. 177 ; Holdsw. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1872, p. 464 ; Layard, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1873, p. 205 ; Legge, Ibis, 1874, p. 25 ; Walden, Trans. Zool. Soc. ix. 1875, p. 208 ; Legge, Birds of Ceylon, p. 652 (1878-80) ; Salvad. Ornit. Papuasia, p. 438 (1881) ; Salv. Cat. Strickl. Coll. Birds, p. 252 (1882) ; Scl. Vert. Anim. Gard. Zool. Soc. p. 239 (1883).
Amadina rubronigra, Kelaart, Prod. Birds Ceylon, p. 126, Append. C. (1852) ; Kelaart et Layard, Journ. Ceyl. A. Soc. 1853 ; Layard, Ann. and Mag. Nat. Hist. xiii. 1854, p. 258 ; Scully, Stray Feathers, 1879, p. 332.
Spermestes atricapilla, Licht. Nomencl. Av. Mus. Berol, p. 40 (1854). Munia sinensis, .Reichb. Singvogel, p. 39. pi. xiv. figs. 123-124 (1861).
Dona cola atricapilla, Blyth, Ibis, 1870, p. 171.
Amadina atricapilla, Gray, Hand-List Birds, ii. p. 54 (1870).
Munia atricapilla, Salvad. Uccelli di Borneo, p. 265 (1874) ; Hume, Nests and Eggs, ii. p. 444 (1875) ; Sharpe, Ibis, 1876, p. 50 ; id. Proe. Zool. Soc. 1879, p. 344, 1881, p. 798 ; Kutter, Journ, fur Ornith. 1885, p. 352.
Munia rubrinigra, Tvreedd. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1877, p. 764.
Spermestes sinensis, Russ, Stubenvogel, p. 167, pi. vi. fig. 30 (1879).
Figures. Vieill. Ois. Chant, pi. liii. Motl. and Dillw. Nat. Hist. Labuan, pi. vi. Reichb. Singvogel, pi. xiv. figs. 123-124. Russ, Stubenvogel, pl. vi. fig. 30.
English. Fed-black Wearer-finch. Chestnut-bellied Munia. Black and Reel Munia. Black-headed Nun.
French. Le Jacobin roux-noir. Le Mungul. Le Gros-bec Mungul.
German. Rothschwarze Munia. Die schwarzkopfige Nonnen-Amadine.
Fora Munia ; Nuk-roul at Mussouri (Blyth).
Habitat. India ; extending its range to the Himalayas, Nepal, Burmah, Ceylon, Labuan, and Borneo.
Male. Head, neck, upper part of breast, mesial band, flanks, thighs and under tail-coverts black ; whole of back, scapulars, wing-coverts, and outer edges of wings cinnamon brown, palest on the mantle ; primaries and secondaries pale brown ; lower part of rump and upper tail-coverts glistening maroon, tips of the latter and outer edges of the rectrices glistening orange ; tail-feathers dark brown ; chest and sides of body dark cinnamon-brown; axillaries and under wing-coverts yellowish-buff, inner webs buff; iris brown ; bill translucent silvery white, bluish at the base : length 4.3, wing 2.1, tail 1.5, tarsus 0.63, culmen 0.5.
Female. Similar, but rather paler ; the mesial band not so black, and slightly tinged with brown.
Young. Head, whole of back and wings dull brown ; slightly tinged with rufous-brown on the rump ; chin and throat buffish-white ; breast and sides of body like the back ; ab¬domen and under tail-coverts buffish-white.
Observ. During the past eighteen years T have had many opportunities of seeing Munia sinensis and Munia atrieapilla alive and in skin, which I consider constitute two well- defined species ; the former from Sumatra, the latter from India. In one the black mesial band is most decided, while in the other it is absent, but in the intermediate phases the black mesial band of the Indian bird is occasionally tinged with chestnut- brown ; the crown and hind neck being slightly tinged with the same, which becomes entirely black in the fully adult birds.
In 1805 Vieillot, in Lis 'Oiseaux Chanteurs,’ figured and described a Black-headed Munia under the name of ‘ Mungul ’ (Loxia atrieapilla), from “ Les Grandes-Indes,” and, in doing so, he distinctly mentions that “ les parties posterieures sent de In couleur de la tete ” ; he confirms this in the figure of the bird, which has a black abdomen, and again repeats the above quotation in the ‘Nouveau Dictionnaire d’Histoire Naturelle,’ xiii. 1817 ; he is even more concise in the Latin diagnosis of the same species in the ‘ Tableau Encyelopedique et Methodique,’ iii. 1823—viz., “ abdomine crissoque nigris." In comparing this latter description of the under-parts with that given by Mr. B. H. Hodgson in the ‘ Asiatic Researches,’ vol. ix. (1836), of his Munia rubronigra, which is as follows : “ Head, neck, and breast glossy black ; centre of the belly, vent, and under tail-coverts the same ”—and by a careful comparison of specimens, I have come to the conclusion that M. Vieillot’s Loxia atrieapilla is the true Indian species, and should have priority.
Messrs. Motley and Dillwyn state : “ In Labuan, which is compara¬tively but little cleared and cultivated, this pretty Finch is rare ; on the mainland of Borneo, however, it is a very common species, and immense flocks of them assemble and often clear a paddy-field in a single day ; when feeding they are never still for a moment, and it is very amusing to watch them hanging on the leaves and stalks of the grass in every pos¬sible direction. Their nests (one of which is figured) are built in long grass by the sides of streams.”
Mr. T. C. Jerom, in his ‘ Birds of India,’ tells us : “ This very closely allied species, which differs from the last (Munia malacca) only in having the belly chestnut in place of white, replaces it in the north of India, being found throughout Lower Bengal, and all along the foot of the Himalayas as far as the Dehra Doon, and also in some of the more wooded adjacent districts ; but it would appear to be rare in the open country of the N. W. Provinces. I have seen specimens from the eastern coast north of Madras, and Mr. Layard procured it in Ceylon, but it is certainly rare in Southern India. It is much more common in the countries to the east¬ward, Assam, and Burmah as far as the Tenasserim provinces, southwards of which it is replaced by M. sinensis, which wants the black abdominal stripe altogether.
“According to Mr. Frith the nest is ordinarily placed in a baubal tree in Lower Bengal, solitarily, and is composed of a large ball of the tufts of Saccharum spontaneum. I have always found its nest fixed to reeds or long grass, and suspect that Mr. Frith must have been mistaken in the identity of the owner of the nest above noticed, the more so because that is exactly the character, both as to materials and site, of the nest of the next species (Munia punctulata) noticed.”
In ‘Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds,’ Mr. Allen Hume writes : “ Ac¬cording to Mr. Hodgson the Chestnut-bellied Munia breeds in the lower valleys and cultivated plains of Nepal in open jungle or brushwood, form¬ing a large globular nest in the midst of bamboos, thick bushes, or grass, 011 or close to the ground, composed of dry grass or straw loosely twisted together, and lined with finer rice straw. It lays from June to August four to six small, oval, pure white eggs.
“I have recently had an opportunity of examining a large series of this species, including specimens from various parts of India, Burmah, the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes, and I must say that I see great difficulty in dividing them as distinct species. They appear to grade wonderfully one into the other, and I should myself be disposed to sup¬press sinensis, Blyth, brunneiceps, Walden, &c., and retain all under Vieillot’s name.”
Captain W. V. Legge, in his ‘ Birds of Ceylon,’ says : “ Doubts exist whether Vieillot’s name atricapilla (Ois. Chant. 84, pi. 53) applies to this bird or not. I retain Hodgson’s name, however, as the species only takes a doubtful place among the ornis of Ceylon.
“Layard remarks that he found this Munia about Galle ; but as it has never since been seen in Ceylon, and is a bird which does not strictly belong to the south of India, its presence in the Galle district must have been owing to a flock having been let loose from a ship calling at the port. By such means, or by pairs escaping from confinement, the little Amaduvad became uncommon during several years of my residence at Colombo. I am not sure that it bred there ; but it would appear that the present species (Munia rubronigra), if rightly identified, did not propagate itself in the south of Ceylon, or else it would have been met with sub-sequently.
"I do not find any other record of its occurrence in the South, or, in fact, any lower down the peninsula than Sambalpur. Mr. Cripps says it is nowhere common in Furreedpore ; in North-eastern India it is, according to Mr. Inglis, common during the rains, breeding there in June, July, and August ; in Upper Pegu Mr. Oates records it as likewise common ; but to Tenasserim it is only a summer visitant, Mr. Davidson having observed it there from March until August. If identical with Vieillot’s bird, it is found at Singapore, and at Sarawak and Labuan.
“ In its habits and voice, Mr. Davidson remarks, ‘ they resemble other Munias, going about in larger or smaller flocks, and feeding on the ground, chiefly on the grass seeds.’ Mr. Oates says it affects elephant-grass and swampy places in preference to others.
“ The breeding season of this handsome Munia in Bengal, Burmah, and Cachar is from June until September ; but in Tenasserim, further south, Mr. Davidson speaks of their laying in April and May. In Pegu Mr. Oates says it breeds in elephant-grass, attaching its nest to two or three stems at a height of four or five feet from the ground. It is ‘ a loose mass of grass, spherical, cylindrical, or heart-shaped ; the inside is lined with finer grass, the following ends being brought forward to the entrance, which is small and difficult to find.’ In 1874 Mr. C. Parker found it nesting in long grass near the top, the nest being a very conspicuous object ; but in the following year, owing to the grass having been cut down, they selected prickly date-palms and small pines to build in. The eggs vary from two to five in number, and are elongated glossless ovals, from 0-5S to 068 inches in length, by 04 to 047 inch in breadth.”
Mr. J. Scully, in his ‘ Contributions to the Ornithology of Nepal,’
published in 'Stray Feathers,’ 1879, adds the following details to this species, of which he obtained—"Twelve specimens, Nepal valley. Length, 4.4 to 4.65 ; expanse, 7.1 to 7.5 ; wing, 2.1 to 2.2 ; tail, 1.5 to 1.6 ; bill, from gape, 0.4 to 0.45 ; bill, at front, 0.48 to 0.5 ; closed wings short of tail, 0.95 to 1.1.
“ Bill leaden blue ; irides dark brown ; feet dark plumbeous.
"Young birds, obtained about the middle of September, are uniform earthy, with, in some specimens, a small spot or two of chestnut appearing on the breast. The adults of this species have the bills stronger and deeper than in punctulata. The young birds above mentioned have the bill about the same size as in punctulata, adult.
“ This Munia is common in the central part of the Nepal valley from the end of May to October, frequenting rice-fields and gardens. A nest taken on the loth July in the Residency grounds was placed in a thorny hedge ; it was a large globular structure with a trumpet-shaped entrance at one side ; it contained five white eggs, slightly set.”
Mr. H. B. Sharpe states that “this species was introduced into Labuan by Mr. Low, who sent several specimens and their eggs, which are dull white, like those of Munia fuscans, from which they are not to be dis¬tinguished.” I have a MS. note to the effect that Kelaart sent home specimens of Amadina rubronigra, Horsf. (Nos. 143, 144) from Nuwara Elliyn, in Ceylon, between the years 1852-3 ; if these birds are still in existence, I shall be pleased to get more details respecting them.
I am indebted to Prof. A. Newton and M A. Boueard for the loan of- several specimens.
No. Sex. Mus. Locality. Length. Wing. Tail. Tars. Culm.
a Male E. B. Borneo. 4.3 2.1 1.5 0.63 0.5
b Male E. B. Borneo. 4.15 2 1.55 0.6 0.47
c ? E. B. Nepal (Hodgson). 3.65 2.1 1.5 0.65 0.45
d Male E. B. India. 4 2.15 1.55 0.6 0.5
e ? E. B. India. 4.9 2.2 1.7 0.62 0.5
f Male E. B. India. 4 2.1 1.45 0.65 0.45
g Female jun. E. B. Madras. 4 2.1 1.45 0.6 0.42
h Male E. B. Borneo. 4.2 2.15 1.55 0.65 0.45
i Female E. B. India. 3.9 2.1 1.5 0.65 0.45
j ? E. B. Borneo. 4.15 2.1 1.4 0.65 0.5
k ? E. B. Doon. 4.35 2.15 1.55 0.65 0.5
l adult Acad. Cantab. India (Hamilton). 3.9 2.25 1.35 0.65 0.45
m Imm. Acad. Cantab. India (Strickland). 3.85 2.15 1.45 0.6 0.4
n Male A. Boucard. India. 4.2 2.1 1.45 0.6 0.6
The figures (Plate V. figs. 1 and 2) are taken from a and g in my own collection.