Scaly Breasted Munia

There are grown up Ficus Shrubs with thick canopy of branches and leaves at the top in the small park outside our house. In the morning usually I sit up in the balcony and watch birds and green fields away.

There are common birds to be seen dominated by the rock pigeons which are multiplying here at an abnormal speed and breeding in the niches of buildings.  Residents scatter seeds for them so that there is no scarcity of the food to them. Then there are mynas which have arrived here after the end of winter season. Similarly there are a few crows and nightingales. A falcon also is to be seen sometimes.

But some days back in the early morning noticed the small beautiful pair of birds. They were sitting on the metallic net wires near the ficus shrub. Then they inspected all the ficus trees. Since these trees have thick foliage bigger predator birds cannot enter inside.

Then everyday they were darting into fields near by and bringing the straws to make nest inside the shrub. Usually they were seen in the morning. During this activity they take turns to bring the material for construction of the nest. The other of the pair will sit on the fence near the ficus. I peered into the foliage and found a nest which was surprising given the small size of the bird.

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Then I photographed them and searched the internet for indetifying the birds. It turned out that these are the birds called “Scaly Breasted Munia”. Their scientific name is Lonchura punctulata. these are also known as nutmeg mannikin or spice finch.

it is a small bird with a very distinctive appearance. It has a bright cinnamon head and neck, with duller brown plumage on the back and wings. The underside of the scaly-breasted munia is mainly white, although each feather on the breast. it is merely 11 to 12 centimeters long.

They are described as social animals which means they live in small groups but here i found only two pairs. The diet of the scaly-breasted munia comprises mainly seeds, and this species spends much of its time foraging off the ground. It also takes seeds directly from plants such as rice during the harvest season, when the kernels are maturing.

The birds are native to south asia ranging from Indonesia in the east to Afghanistan in the west. These birds are also found as far north as Nepal.

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Distant Relatives

The more I watch the nature closely and more I go through the literature, it is becoming clear how shallow is our knowledge of the world around us which the God has created. Sometimes I become more and more confused and become awestruck when some mystery of nature becomes clear to me. As we know that living things are related to one another at some stage or other during evolution though they must have diversified at some period of time but at least some basic properties resemble.

In the months of January & February, one can notice that Pipal trees which is very sacred tree of India, copiously shed their leaves. All day the leaves fall on the ground following zigzag trajectories. The wind forces them to float and it seems that they are reluctant to fall to the ground beneath the tree. Whole ground beneath the tree becomes strewn with leaves. Within few days, the trees looks as skeletons, completely shorn of  leaves. All the other trees around them have already acquired new green leaves. But it is matter of days. The new translucent leaves burst out of the branches and the whole tree is decorated with reddish brown leaves which seem to be very beautiful. One can notice the change which the tree undergoes and it is completely covered with lush green leaves. Then many birds are seen visiting them. They are there for eating the very small rounded green fruits. If you break this fruit with slight pressure of fingers you can see that inside is just like figs.

At the same time, there are other trees, the trunks of which are covered with similar type of fruits as that of Pipal. But these fruits are very numerous, bigger and become brown red on ripening. The ground is totally covered with these fruits and there is smell of food decomposition and formation of alcohol due to fermentation. Lots of ants roam on the tree and bore into the delicate fruits to eat the fruit inside. The fruit bear uncanny resemblance to Pipal fruits.

Otherwise, the look of both these trees is completely dissimilar. Leaves are different. While Banyan tree has cordate type of leaves, the Indian Fig has lanceolate kind of leaves. But in my mind, the picture began to became clearer that may be they were related. Internet queries revealed the truth. Both are ficus genera and are commonly called figs. The botanical name of Pipal or Banyan  is Ficus religiosa and other one is Indian fig.

Ficus Lutea
Pipal or Banyan
Fruits of Banyan