A Couple of Lovely Scaly Breasted Munias

Dec 21,2016

An year ago, when I woke up in my college's hostel room, I noticed four very small birds sitting in my window bars. They were very cute and I had never seen such small birds close up before. I found out later that they were scaly breasted munias, with the help of a bird watching club in my college.

In the days after that I regularly found them sitting in my opened windows. One day a pair brought in twigs and grasses - a clear attempt to build a nest in my window bars. I cautiously decided to allow them to build the nest by keeping my windows open everyday and see what would happen. I placed an empty cardboard box hoping that they would build nest inside it. One night when I returned back to my hostel room, I found a partly built nest! I was wonderful and unexpected.

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Figure 1: Scaly Breasted Munia attempting to build a nest

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Figure 2: Partly built Nest

In the following days, I found the a pair of munias regularly visit my room to further build the nest. They however would leave at night. But after completing their nest, they began to say there permanently. Now I was concerned that the birds in the future could end up messing the room with droppings and with their chicks, it could cause further problems. Hence I decided to isolate the windowsill from the rest of the room. I converted my bedcover to an make shift curtain by stitching with plastic thread (no cotton thread available at hand) and placed the curtain. Also, since the curtain wasn't big enough, I stitched a mosquito net over it. But the curtain collapsed at one end leaving the nest exposed to the room. Fortunately, the birds didn't bother coming into the room - atleast most of the time. A couple of times, the birds came into my room & pooped on my bed covers and I had to chase of them off - at one instance when I chased them, they returned only after several days. I noticed a pattern and found that the birds would come into my room only at specific conditions - if it was dawn or twilight and I had my lights on. Perhaps they get confused due to the bright light source. Hence I decided to not turn on lights during those times and I didn't have a problem after that. These birds communicate in soft and pleasant calls, which isn't very noisy unlike a crow's.

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Figure 3: Collapsed Curtain

I had a close shot of the nest and found that it had a side entrance.

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Figure 4: Side view of the nest

A few weeks passed by and one day I heard some chirping noises whenever one of the munias arrive at the nest. I assume that the birds had laid eggs and their chicks had hatched! Due the shape and position of the nest, I had no means to capture the chicks. Trying too much could scare away the parents of the chicks too. For a few weeks, the adult munias fed the chicks and one day the chicks were gone. I had no means to know whether they survived. The only time when I thought I caught sight of one of them is when I saw three munias in the nest instead of two.

After the first batch quit, the pair of munias brought about the next batch of chicks after a few weeks. This continued for a month and a half. It was also the North East Monsoon and I had to bear with occasional rains spilling into my room because I could not close the window. Also this is the coldest month of the year(lowest 20°C). After the second batch quit, the parent munias alone continued to stay in the nest. One day during twilight, a munia came into my room, even though I didn't have the lights on. Hence I had to chase it away. After this, the munias quit my room for a long time.

After 4-5 months, the munias came back to my room(most probably the same ones). This time they brought up the third and fourth batch of chicks. I never get to see these bird close, but occasionally I hear their soft calls and see their silhouette through the mosquito net.

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Figure 5: Pair of Munias in window pane (larger size)

One day in the morning, I found two little chicks in the windowsill. They had somehow crawled out from the nest. Since my mosquito net did not properly cover the window, one of them crawled and fell into my room. I carefully picked them up (they were the smallest thing that I had ever picked up) and put them in a cardboard box and placed the box near the nest hoping that the parents would pick it up. But sadly they didn't. Unfortunately, one hour later, when I came back to my room after having finished my breakfast, I found that one of the chicks had died in the box. The other one had crawled out from the box I had placed and came back to my room. I placed the other chick in a taller beaker, but the parent munia couldn't get into the beaker. The parent went on to feed the other chicks. Knowing that I had no choice but to leave the chick vulnerable in the windowsill for the parent to pick up, I placed it there and left for my college. When I came back it obviously wasn't there in the windowsill. I hope that it was safely picked up by the parent. Next day, there was no chirping in the nest nor was there the soft calls from the adult munias. Perhaps the other chicks had fledged and parents have left with them. All I can do is wait for them to come back one more time so that I can listen to their soft calls.

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Figure 6: Two chicks in windowsill (larger image)

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Figure 7: One chick closeup (larger image)

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