Scaly-breasted Munias specialise in eating grass seeds and sedges, and
large conical beaks adapted for this purpose. They feed both on seeding
heads on grass stems, as well as on ripe seeds that have fallen to the
ground. They may also snack on small berries, such as those of the
Lantana bush. Some have been seen picking at road kills.
Scaly-breasted Munias are highly gregarious and forage in small flocks,
sometimes with other Munia species.
A large flock foraging in grass
would move in a regular pattern. First a few birds would move forwards,
followed by another few, and so on in waves. Or the birds at the back
would leap-frog over the birds in front. Once a grass patch is
thoroughly worked through, the whole flock would fly off to another
patch. Smaller flocks feed haphazardly. At the end of the day, they may
gather in flocks at the topmost branches of a bare or open tree, calling
to each other. They then disperse to roost in smaller groups or pairs
within nests, even outside the breeding season. Sometimes, up to a dozen
birds may squeeze into a nest. These roosting nests are spread far
apart. They may also roost with other Munias or even with weaver birds.
Breeding: Scaly-breasted Munias breed year round and may have
multiple broods on a good year, up to 3-4 broods. The males perform a
courting song, which may attract another male or even several. These
males perch close to the singer and peer intently at his bill. This
behaviour is called "peering". A male also entices a female by flying
about with a bit of grass in his bill and flickering his wings and tail.
If the female is interested, she too picks up a bit of grass and
flickers her wings.
Scaly-breasted Munias build well hidden nests 4-5m high in thorny
bushes, trees, creepers, or high in the crowns of palms. Often, the only
way you can spot the location is to see the bird carrying nesting
material into its hiding place. Sometimes they nest in bushes infested
by ants, which appear to leave the birds alone and provide them some
protection. Unlike their roosting nests, breeding nests may be built
closer together in a colony. The male brings nesting materials while the
female builds, often from the inside. In some, the breeding nest is
later used as a roosting nest.
The nest is an untidy globe made out of grass and bamboo leaves, with
a side entrance. It is lined with soft fluffy seeds or feathers. The
nest are not woven and material is simply pushed together. But the nests
are well-made, robust and waterproof. The birds work tirelessly and the
nest can become an enormous globe. 5-6 white eggs are laid, although
sometimes more eggs are found, probably laid by more than one female.
Both parents incubate. The eggs hatch in about 2 weeks and the young are
fed entirely vegetable matter, which is regurgitated by the parents.
They fledge in 18-19 days. Juveniles often form their own flocks after
leaving their parents, and wander about together.
Scaly-breasted Munias are often hunted by birds of prey. When a flock
flies some distance, although the whole group flies in a a direct
manner, within the flock, each bird follows an erratic corkscrewing
path. This makes it hard for birds of prey to target a single
Status and threats: Scaly-breasted Munias are often considered a pest
on paddy and other grain crops. Children are encouraged to destroy their
nests as a means of controlling them. In some countries, they are caught
in large numbers for the table, and for the pet trade.