THE WHITE-CHESTED MUNIA.
Passer chinensis, The Chinese Sparrow, Albin, Birds, ii. p. 49. pl. 53. upper figure (1738).
Coccothraustes javensis, Briss. Ornith, iii. p. 237. pl. xiii. fig. 1 (1760). Coccothraustes javensis, Briss. Syn. Meth. i. p. 375 (1763). White-breasted Indian Sparrow, Edw. Glean. Nat. Hist. iii. p. 301. pl. 355. fig. 2 (1764) ; Osb. Voy. China, ii. p. 329 (1771).
Loxia malacca, Linn. Syst. Nat. i. p. 302 (1766) : Mull. Vollst. Natursystem, iii. p. 551 (1773) ; Gmel. Syst. Nat. i. p. 851 (1788) ; Lath. Ind. Orn. i. p. 385 (1790) ; Daud. Trait. d’Ornith. ii. p. 401 (1800) ; Gmel. Nat. Syst. vii. p. 133. Eng. edit. (1801) ; Shaw, Gen. Zool. ix. p. 332 (1815) ; Raffles, Trans. Linn. Soc. 1822, p. 313 ; Lath. Hist. Birds, v. p. 244 (1822) ; Griff. Cuv. Anim. Kingd. Aves, ii. p. 152 (1829).
Loxia jacobin, Mull. Vollst. Natursystem, Suppl, p. 151 (1776).
Le Jacobin, Buff. Hist. Nat. Ois. iii. p. 468 (1775) ; Daub. Pl. Enl. 139. 3 (1777) ; Bodd. Tables des Pl. Enl. 139 (1783) ; Sonn. Buff. Hist. Nat. xlvii. p. 47 (1801) ; Vieill. Ois. Chant, pl. 52 (1805). Malacca Grosbeak, Lath. Gen. Syn. iii. p. 140 (1783).
The Jacobine, Buff. Nat. Hist. xiv. p. 19. Engl. edit. (1812). Coccothraustes malacca, Vieill. Nouv. Dict. xiii. p. 532 (1817) ; Vieill. Encyl. Meth. iii. p. 1005 (1823) ; Steph. Shaw’s Gen. Zool. xiv. p. 87 (1824).
Spermestes malacca, Jerdon, Madras Journ, xi. 1840, p. 27.
Spermestes braccata, Licht. Nomencl. Av. Mus. Berol, p. 49 (1854). Spermestes malaccensis, Russ, Stubenvogel, p. 169. taf. vi. fig. 31 (1879).
Dermophrys malacca, Cab. Mus. Hein. i. p. 174 (1851).
Amadina malacca, Strickl. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1842, p. 167 ; Blyth,, Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng. xv. 1846, pp. 36, 285 ; Gray et Mitch. Gen. Birds, ii. p. 370 (1849) ; Kelaart, Prod. Birds Ceyl. p. 125 (1852) ; Layard. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. xiii. 1854, p. 258 ; Eyton, Cat. Birds, p. 254 (1856) ; Gray, Hand-List Birds, ii. p. 54 (1870).
Munia malacca, Blyth, Cat. Birds Mus. As. Soc. Beng. p. 116 (1849) ; Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. i. p. 452 (1850) ; Horsf, et Moore, Cat. Birds Mus. E.-Ind. Comp. ii. p. 507 (1856-8) ; Reichb. Singvogel, p. 39. pl. xiv. figs. 121-122 (1861) ; Jerdon, Birds India, ii. p. 352 (1863) ; Scl. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1863, p. 219 ; Blyth, Ibis, 1867, p. 40 ; Beavan, Ibis, 1868, p. 173 ; Walden, Ibis, 1871, p. 177 ; Holdsw. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1872, p. 464 ; Legge, Ibis, 1874, p. 25 ; Salvad. Uccelli di Borneo, p. 266 (1874) ; Legge, Ibis, 1875, pp. 274, 398 ; Rey, Journ, fur Ornith. 1875, p. 291 ; Hume, Nests and Eggs of Ind. Birds, p. 443 (1875) ; Legge, Hist. B. Ceyl. pp. 652, 655 (1878-80) ; Scl. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1879, p. 449 ; Schmidt, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1880, p. 312 ; Salv. Cat. Coll. Birds, Strickl, p. 252 (1882) ; Scl. Vert. Anim. Zool. Soc. Gard. p. 238 (1883).
Figures, Albin’s Birds, ii. pl. 53. upper fig. Briss. Orn. iii. pl. xiii. fig. 1. Edwards’ Gleanings, iii. pl. 355. fig. 2. Daubenton Pl. Enl. 139, 3. Vieillot, Ois. Chant, pl. 52. Reichb. Singv. pl. xiv. figs. 121-22. Russ, Stubv. taf. vi. fig. 31.
English. Chinese Sparrow. White-breasted Indian Sparrow. The Jacobine. Malacca Grosbeak. Malacca Finch. Malacca Munia. Black-headed Finch, dr Munia. Black-bellied Munia. White-chested Munia or Nun. Chestnut-backed Munia.
French. Le Gros-bec de Java. Le Jacobin. Le Jacobin a ventre blanc et noir.
German. Der Jacobin. Nonne. Malakka-Munia, schwarzkopfiger Elster-Weberfink mit weisser Brust und schwarzem Bauch fleck. Vie dreifarbige Nonne-Amadine. Der Malackische Kernbeisser.
Hindoo. Nukl-nore, or Nakal-nor, Jerdon.
Portuguese in Ceylon. Pastro de Neli.
Residents in Ceylon. Paddy-bird or Ortolan.
Sinhalese. We-Kurulla. Tamils. Tinna Kuruvi, Legge.
Teluga. Nalla jinuwayi Jerdon.
Habitat. Peninsular India ; Ceylon ; Sumatra ; Lower Bengal, and extending into Malabar and Borneo.
Male. Head, neck, breast, belly, thighs, and under tail-coverts black ; mantle and wing- coverts, dark cinnamon-brown ; primaries and secondaries, dark brown tinged with cinnamon-brown on the outer webs, quills nearly black ; lower rump and upper tail- coverts glistening maroon ; tail, dark brown, the central feathers edged with glistening sienna, outer rectrices like the primaries ; chest, sides, flanks, axillaries, and under wing-coverts white ; under side of wing silvery-grey ; iris hazel-brown ; bill translucent silvery-white, lead colour at the base ; legs lead-blue : length 4.15, wing 2.15, tail 1.55, tars. 0.6, culm. 0.5.
Female. Similar to the male ; the rump and upper tail-coverts not so richly coloured ; the white chest and sides strongly tinged with creamy-buff ; thighs tinged with brown ; bill and legs as in the male.
Young Male. Similar to adult, but showing traces of the first plumage, which is dull- brown above ; underparts buffish-brown, intermixed with black and white.
The young are pale rufous-brown above, palest on the head and neck, darker on the rump ; underparts pale buff, whiter on the chin and throat.
Obser. The sexes are nearly alike, but the female, when adult, may be distinguished from the male by the creamy-buff tinge on the chest.
NEARLY all the earlier authors greatly confuse the nomenclature of this group of Munias, which is most pardonable, owing to the great resemblance of the species to each other ; it is easy to believe that the Munia sinensis was supposed by them to be the female of Munia malacca. Again, those early ornithologists were not so diligent in the anatomical examination of the birds, possessing but few specimens for the determination of the sexes, and only considering the general plumage when describing them.
Brisson, in 1760, characterised two distinct species, Coccothraustes sinensis and C. javensis, which were founded on the figures given by Albin and Edwards ; in 1764 Edwards refigured the present species under the name of 'The White-breasted Indian Sparrow.’ In 1766 Linnoeus united the two above birds under Loxia malacca, and from his description omitted the white chest, sides, and flanks, but he appends a note, “Dorsum, aloe, cauda, ferrugineo-rufa. Pectus et hypochondria alba ; reliqua nigra.” It may be presumed that Linnaeus’s accidental omission of the words “Pectus et hypochondria alba” was the reason for adding the above note, after he had attached the habitat Malacca, that locality not having been used by earlier writers, who stated that it came from Java and China.
This species is one of the most beautiful of the Black-headed group, the colours in the adult are exceedingly pure and most strikingly defined, and although without a song its beauty will always make it a cage-pet amongst the lovers of live birds ; it is extremely active, and, according to the observations of Dr. Max Schmidt, it will live from one to ten years in confinement. It is easily kept, and feeds on various small seeds similar to the Java Sparrow.
I propose to distinguish this bird by a more definite appellation, ‘The White-chested Munia,’ which separates it from all the other Black-headed Munias.
Mr. E. Blyth (J. A. S. B. vol. xv.) tells us :—“ The Amadina malacca, or ‘ White-breasted Indian Sparrow’ of Edwards, is common in Southern India, occurs rarely in Bengal, mingled in flocks of A. sinensis, or the ‘Chinese Sparrow’ of Edwards, from which, indeed, it only differs in having the lower parts pure white, with the same abdominal black patch ; and it is curious that a third race inhabits the Malayan peninsula, similar to A. sinensis excepting in having no black patch on the abdomen : whence the malacca is ill-applied to the white-bellied bird of Peninsular India.”
Mr. Jerdon, who was one of our best authorities on Indian birds, contributes, in his ‘ Birds of India,’ vol. ii., the following particulars respecting this species :—“ The Black-headed Munia is chiefly found in Southern India and Ceylon, a few stragglers occurring in Central India, and even in Bengal occasionally. It is very abundant in parts of Southern India, especially on the Malabar coast, frequenting long grass by the sides of rivers and tanks, occasionally dry grain fields, and very commonly sugar-cane fields. It often associates in very large flocks.
“The nest is usually placed among reeds, in tanks, or in the beds of rivers ; occasionally in long grass in the bunds of paddy-fields. It is a rather large, nearly round or oval nest, neatly but loosely made of grass, with the hole at one side, this in general being very artfully concealed by the interlacing of the fibres of grass, so that I have been puzzled for a few moments to discover the entrance ; and the four to six eggs in number are pure white.”
Respecting the breeding of this Munia we are indebted to Mr. Allan Hume, whose valuable notes I have much pleasure in quoting. He says :—“ Our Indian bird breeds in many localities in Southern India, but though the eggs have been sent to me by many correspondents, only one or two have favoured me with any notes on its nidification.
“Mr. A. Gr. R. Theobald writes :—‘I found the nests near Pothanore, in the Coimbatore District, during the latter half of October. They were placed amongst reeds growing in a small pond ; they were round, with a round hole in one side for an entrance, and were composed of dry reeds and leaves of some flag-leaved grass very like those of the Cholum (Sorghum vulgare). The lining was composed of the hair-like filaments from the broom grass of this country. Seven is, I think, the full complement of eggs ; I never found more in any one nest.’
“Mr. F. R. Blewitt says :—'On the 19th July we were encamped in the open forest country in the immediate neighbourhood of the western side of the hill ranges (branches of the great Vindhyian group) lying in the extreme eastern section of the Bhundara District.
“ ‘ In a sugar-cane field not far distant from our camp we found five unfinished, and one all but complete nest, containing a single egg, of the Black-headed Munia. The parent birds were shot while busily engaged in finishing off the entrance of the nest.
“ ‘ This latter was nearly globular, a mass of coarse grass lined with somewhat finer grass, between six and seven inches in diameter. It was more loosely constructed than those of Estrelda formosa, several of which we had found in a similar locality, about a mile distant, two days previously. Both this nest and the other unfinished ones were placed amongst and attached to the cane leaves, precisely after the fashion of the Green Amaduvat.’
“ The eggs of this species, which I owe to Messrs. Carter, Theobald, and others, are of the usual Munia type—dull, pure white, somewhat elongated, oval eggs ; there is nothing that I can see to distinguish them from those of M. punctulata and M. malabarica, except perhaps that elon-gated varieties are more common amongst them.
“In length the eggs vary from 0.6 to 0.72, and in breadth from 0.44 to 0.5 ; but the average is 0.64 by 0.47.”
In Ceylon Capt. W. V. Legge tells us :—“This fine Munia is common in the south of the island, particularly in the district lying between the Bentota river, round the south-west coast to the Wallaway river. Between Galle and the Kukkul Korale forests it is found in wild paddy-fields and small cultivated tracts of land near the inland villages in that wooded region. I met with it close to the sea between Tangalla and Hambantota, but did not see it in the coast-district cast of the latter place. It re-appears in the Park country, and is not uncommon between Batticaloa and Madul- sima ; it ascends into the hills between Bibile and Badulla, and inhabits all the region and the Uva patna-basin in considerable numbers, luxuriating in the long grass and tangled vegetation which clothe the maze of hills between Udu Pusselawa and Haputale. In the western parts of the Kandy country it is far less common. It does not seem to be common in the Western Province, except in certain localities, such as the sylvan paddy- fields in the lower part of the Pasdun Korale ; there I found it plentiful not far from Agalewatta. It inhabits the east coast from Batticaloa north¬wards as far as Trincomalie and the neighbourhood ; but further north it appears to be rare.
“The 'Chestnut-backed Finch’ affects paddy- and grass-fields, situated among the woods and forests, and is also foun 1 in marshy land about tanks and water-holes. In the hills it is partial to the Maana-grass patnas, and those covered with tangled bushes and rank vegetation. It is very destructive in the paddy-fields of the Kandyans, necessitating the constant presence of call-boys, and the erection of all manner of scarecrows, for the protection of their crops. Like the two following species (Munia punctulata and M. striata), it is very sociable, feeding in large flocks, which are quite sufficient to inflict heavy damage in the fields of the hard-working Cingalese cultivator. It, is very fond of the seed of the Maana-grass, and that of various reeds and rushes which grow in swamps and marshy spots. Its note is like that of the common species M. punctulata, but stronger, and its flight is also similar.”
Continuing Capt. Legge’s very interesting notes on the habits and nesting of this bird, he says :—“This Munia breeds often gregariously. The season of its nesting lasts from May until August. In the former month I found many nests among the gigantic ‘maana ’-grass and tangled ‘brackens’ which cover the Uva patnas ; and in the latter I found it nesting, a number together, among reeds near Hambantota, in company with the Baya (Ploceus manyar ?). The nest is sometimes placed in a low bush ; but it is more frequently built in grass and ‘brackens.’ It is a large, strongly made, globular structure, composed of the material nearest to hand, either blades of grass and roots, or strips of reeds, with a large unfinished- looking opening at the side. The interior is roomy, and in some cases very deep, and is lined with flowering grass-stalks or fine grass itself. The eggs vary from four to six in number, but most commonly do not exceed the former figure ; they are pure white, rather stumpy ovals, and larger than those of its congeners. I have found them to vary from 0.73 to 0.63 inch in length, and 0.45 to 0.5 inch in breadth.
“ In India it breeds from July till October.”
No. Sex. Mus. Locality. Length. Wing. Tail. Tars. Culm.
a Male E. B. Ceylon. 4.15 2.15 1.55 0.6 0.5
b Male E. B. Ceylon. 4.2 2.2 1.65 0.65 0.5
c Female E. B. Ceylon. 3.85 2.1 1.4 0.6 0.45
d Male E. B. India 4.1 2.2 1.4 0.65 0.5
e ? E. B. Ceylon. 4.85 2.2 1.45 0.65 0.5
f ? E. B. Ceylon. 4.7 2.1 1.4 0.6 0.5
g Male E. B. India 4.25 2.25 1.45 0.6 0.5
The figures of the adult birds are taken from a and c ; that of the young from life.