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Tricolored Munia

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Is the Tricolored Munia right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Tricolored Mannikin; Tricolored Nun; Three-colored Munia; Three-colored Mannikin; Three-colored Nun

Scientific name: Lonchura malacca

The basics:
The Tricolored Munia is a dapper, easy-to-keep finch often recommended to beginners. Males and females are much alike in appearance, so you need to watch for the male's display song and dance to the female, allowing you to sex your birds by behavior.

This highly social seed-eating finch hails from the Indian subcontinent where it will be found in open grasslands and cultivated fields. The species is a fairly recent split of a complicated group of small, closely related birds, and you'll likely find a lot of information about them mixed in with information about the Chestnut Munia, its close relative.

The Tricolor is a hardy, highly successful species which is sometimes regarded as an agricultural or rice field pest, and escapees have successfully created new breeding populations in a variety of nations, including Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and more. Does your aviary have a double door to prevent these escape artists from taking their show on the road?

Appearance:
The Tricolored Munia, affectionately known to many pet owners as the Tricolored Nun, is named for the distinct three areas of color in its plumage – black head and bib, chestnut brown upperparts, and white belly. It's a fairly recent split from the Chestnut Munia, although it isn't difficult to distinguish from that species, since the Chestnut Munia lacks the prominent white belly with a deep black belly patch.

Weight:
20 grams (0.7 oz.)

Average size:
11 - 13 centimeters (4.5 - 5 in.)

Lifespan:
5 - 7 years

Behavior / temperament:
Any Tricolored Munia 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 activities to best advantage. Because they're so 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.

Housing:
Tricolored Munias 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 Tricolored Munias 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 Tricolored Munias in a large colony flight to allow them to choose their own mates. They require a rather dense, heavily planted flight, including some clumps of bamboo, grasses, or reeds.

Watch out for a couple of issues if you keep the Tricolored Munias 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. If you are a serious breeder, consider holding the Tricolored Munia colony separate from other species.

Diet:
The Tricolored Munia 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. Unlike some of the beginner's Lonchura species, the Tricolored Munia probably does need access to some live food, such as small mealworms or ant pupae, to stimulate breeding and supply protein. If nothing else, they should certainly be offered eggfood throughout courtship and breeding. All finches should have access to grit, as well as clean cuttlebone or another source of calcium.

Written by Elaine Radford

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