Scaly-breasted Munia enjoying algae
Scaly-breasted Munias ( Lonchura punctulata) are common residents in Singapore and have two races – the local fretensis with paler upper parts and the introduced topela with distinctive brownish upper parts. The introduced species of topela are common along the grass patches of Changi Business Park (CBP) canal which is behind the CBP bus depot.
During one of my regular birding walk along this canal recently, I noticed a thick layer of green algae had bloomed on the canal. Algae are plants lacking roots, stems and leaves and they are widespread in terms of habitats. Singapore with equatorial climate has algal abundance and richness with 1054 species recorded .
I observed a Scaly-breasted Munia landed on the algae. Generally they are gregarious in groups but foraging can be individual or in group . Studies have established the economic consequences of joining other munias in two models : i) Information sharing model and ii) producer-scourger model .
However, here it was alone . It poked the slimy algae and pulled the strands out to munch. It kept hopping on different parts of the algae and continued to feed while alertly looking around for any threat . I quote below Avery, ML ‘s observation in his research paper in 1975 on White-rumped Munia’s feeding behaviour in Malaysia:
“Field observations and stomach analyses showed that the munias ate rice and the green filamentous alga, Spirogyra, almost exclusively. The primary periods of algae eating occurred in January and June-August, coinciding with the munias’ two peak periods of reproductive activity, as determined by gonadal examination. Apparently munias on the study area ate Spirogyra as a source of protein to enable them to become physiologically ready for breeding, much as other tropical bird species eat insects .”
Ref: Diet and breeding seasonality among population of White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, in Malaysia by Michael L. Avery.
Though this behaviour is observed in other countries, glad to video record this in Singapore .
Click on the link below for the video.