Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Misguided Belief to Dispel.3

The White Rumped Munia
(Lonchura striata
By Mark Shipway

As I indicated before, the hybrid myth has been perpetuated up until now probably because the White Rumped Munia remains a relatively unknown species in aviculture. I have observed two of the nine races of the White Rumped Munia in the wild and one in captivity. In the wild in Sumatra (race sumatrensis), their nests are abundant in the hill park next to the centre of Bukitinggi town, Central Sumatra. I was there in June 2000 when a large earthquake hit late at night after which, having been shaken off their perch, several Munias were flying around the town, disorientated, colliding with house windows and balconies. (Samui Island and near Chiang Mai, both in Thailand (race subsquamicollis
for avid birdwatchers, try looking in the road side vegetation back from the main tourist beach on Samui) and Vietnam (probably race subsquamicollis or swinhoei), you can see them at close quaters, packed in unsanitary conditions in the Hanoi bird markets together with Australian grassfinches imported from China.

Restall (1996) suggests that the western races (india, Nepal, Myanma) have more sharply contrasted colouring and those to the South (Malay Peninsula and Sumatra) are more spotted and marked whilst those from the East (Taiwan, China and Indo-China) are paler and more fawn and tawny. Restall (1996) reports that they are threatened in Singapore and Hong Kong.

I have also bred hundreds of Bengalese and see none of their characteristics, which cannot be said to come directly from the White Rumped Munia and its races directly or be explained by selective breeding.

  Photo Courtesy of Jim Warburton
(Author of the Just Bengalese Website)

I have found that sexing the White Rumped Munia, like the Bengalese, is a simple matter, in that apart from the males song, his distance call is generally higher pitched  and a variable in tone ("d-d-dri") whilst the female's call is a simple low monotone("d-d-droot"). Scientific research has now confirmed these differences (Okanoya K, Kimura T, Journal of Comparative Psychology 107:4) 386 - 394 DEC 1996). This is particularly helpful when viewing the birds at a distance. At closer quarters, the width of the lower mandible may, additionally, be used, but is best used as a guide only.

To be continued....