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Chestnut-breasted Mannikin

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Is the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Chestnut-breasted Munia; Chestnut Finch; Bully Bird; Barley Bird

Scientific name: Lonchura castaneothorax

The basics:
The Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, an unusual Lonchura finch from Australia and New Guinea, may be the most colorful of the mannikins. Males and females look much alike, and you will do best to sex the birds by their behavior, since males will sing and dance to attract females.

There are five subspecies of Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, a highly social seed-eating bird from the marshes, swamps, and reedbeds of Australia and New Guinea. They form tight-knit flocks of as many as several hundred birds. There may be a melanistic morph that occasionally occurs naturally in the wild.

Appearance: The most beautiful of the Lonchura finches, thanks to its bold bright chestnut breast, which is set off by a dark brown face and a black “high-waisted” belt above the creamy belly.

Weight:
17 grams (0.6 oz.)

Average size:
10 centimeters (4 in.)

Lifespan:
5 - 8 years

Behavior / temperament:
Any Chestnut-breasted Mannikin will become depressed if kept in a too-small cage or if asked to live alone. They are highly social, and they need access to a range of weaving materials to allow them to display their nest-building activities to best advantage. Because they're relatively easy-going, they can be used to create a colony breeding aviary, or they can fill in a mixed-species aviary. With the proper care, they can provide hours of entertainment. However, they should not be overcrowded. Have more nest areas and more nest materials than you have pairs, to give everyone plenty of space and choices.

Housing:
Chestnut-breasted Mannikins exercise by flying rather than hopping or climbing, and they are happiest flying in their own territory. Many so-called finch cages are only suitable to serve as hospital or temporary homes for birds awaiting sale. The permanent home of a pair of Chestnut-breasted Mannikin should be 36” in length, 24” in width, and 18” in height, with ½” bar spacing. A larger flight would not be excessive. A variety of perches, swings, and even toys will keep them busy and allow them to provide you with endless action and entertainment. They love bathing, so have a bath available, or you may find them trying to splash in the drinking water.

It's possible and even advisable to house a flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins in a large colony flight to allow them to choose their own mates. They do best in a rather dense, heavily planted flight, including some clumps of bamboo, grasses, or reeds. A breeder experimented with keeping only three pairs to a flight and found that only the dominant pair would breed in that situation. Finches seem to keep track of pecking orders unless there are more than six birds present, so you may want to either cage-breed individual pairs or have a larger colony.

Watch out for a couple of issues if you keep the Chestnut-breasted Mannikins in a mixed species aviary. Do not house them with other Lonchura finches, because they could hybridize. Also, watch out that they are not pushed around because of their gentle nature. Busybody birds in the aviary could make them give up on a breeding attempt.

Diet:
The Chestnut-breasted Mannikin is easy to feed, although you should never expect this bird to subsist on dry seed alone. However, the backbone of the diet will be a small seed mix, so obtain the best quality you can afford. They love many varieties of millet, including spray millet. The seed should be fresh enough to sprout, and you should test it by sprouting it regularly. You should also supply a small chopped salad containing such items as chopped romaine, grated carrot, the fresh sprouts, chopped apple or grapes, and other dark greens such as chickweed or dandelion. The Chestnut-breasted Manakin may not always accept live food, such as small mealworms or ant pupae, so they should certainly be offered eggfood throughout courtship and breeding. All finches should have access to grit, as well as cuttlebone or another source of calcium.

Written by Elaine Radford

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