Tricolored Munia (Lonchura malacca)

Tricolored Munia


The tricoloured munia (Lonchura malacca) is an estrildid finch, native to Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and southern China. The species has also introduced to the Caribbean, in Trinidad, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Venezuela. This species, like the chestnut munia has been known as the black-headed munia. Immature birds have pale brown upperparts, lack the dark head found in adults, and have uniform buff underparts that can be confused with immatures of other munias such as the scaly-breasted munia.

Distribution And Habitat

The Tricolored Munia is a species native from India through southeastern Asia to Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines (Raffaele and others 1998). It is a nonnative species in Puerto Rico, which occurs around the entire coast in association with high grass next to sugarcane fields, “swampy areas,” croplands with seeding grass, and canals (Raffaele and others 1998, Restall 1997). It was brought to the island as a cage bird in 1971 and subsequently became naturalized (Raffaele and Kepler 1992). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 13 records within 13 hexagons or 3 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 13 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 23 percent (three) of the hexagons, probable in 15 percent (two), and possible in 62 percent (eight) (see map).Tricolored Munia distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

Tricolored Munia Distribution

Breeding Habits

Previously published reports indicate that the Tricolored Munia breeds primarily from June to September (Raffaele and others 1998). In Puerto Rico, the nests are bulky structures built from 1 to 3 m above the ground in dense sugarcane (Raffaele 1983), but in the municipality of Humacao it has been found 251Tricolored Munia/Monjita Tricolornesting in clumps of sedges (Cyperus spp.) growing on top of coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) stumps (Burger and Gochfeld 1989). Atlas results suggest that this species breeds mostly from March to July and to a lesser extent in January, September, and October (see chart). Breeding peaks in May, and breeding mostly occurs within the subtropical moist forest life zone (see chart). Results show that this species breeds mostly in lowlands within the subtropical moist forest life zone (85 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map).


The global population size for the Tricolored Munia has not been quantified or assessed, but the species is described as locally common (Clement 1999). This species is currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2018). In Puerto Rico, the Tricolored Munia has a protected habitat in land of about 6.1 percent or 19 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (310 km2).