Madagascar Mannikin - Lonchura nana
Madagascar Mannikin

Common Names
Bib Mannikin, African Parson finch, Dwarf mannikin

s and females are similar in appearance. I sexed these birds by behavior. Watching for pair bonding and for males to protect their females by aggressively chasing others away. Otherwise, males have a nice, high pitched song with a bit of a dance. Mostly just posture. I found no visual differences at all.

A basic finch maintenance diet will serve this rather small African mannikin well. They are hardy birds like most mannikins. A finch seed mix is fine, but these small finches will prefer the larger seeds such as large White Prosso, so I actually mix 50/50 mix of finch mix with White Prosso. In addition, they will readily eat my egg food (Roy's egg food), some gamebird crumbles and green food. Soaked or sprouted paddy rice was also accepted. Calcium can be provided in the form of crushed egg shell and crushed oyster shell. I have a cuttlebone available to them, but like so many mannikins, they don't really eat a lot of it off the bone. Live food in the way of small mealworms can be offerred to the birds, but generally I like to try and raise the birds without the addition of live food whenever possible. It makes my life easier. Using a few mealworms might act as a breeding trigger for these birds if they seem reluctant to start a nest.

Breeder's Notes
Like some other small African mannikins such as the Rufous-back and Bronze-wing, the Madagascar Mannikin can be rather aggressive when breeding. They are usually not a hazard to others in a mixed colony, but can be to each other in a small flight cage. Colony breeding in a large flight would probably be safe (walk in size). There simply needs to be enough space for the birds that are being chased to fly and hide.

I bred these birds as single pairs in my standard breeding cage with some fake plants fixed to the outside of the cage (Madigascar cage) With one pair I used an outside nesting box of standard dimensions and in another I placed a converted milk box (milk box nest) They readily took to both types of boxes. I offered strands of coco fiber for them to construct their nests. Small white feathers and other soft materials were offered, but for the most part the nest was a nice weave of coco fibers.

The clutch size ranged from 4 to 7 eggs and the incubation period was 12-13 days. The tiny young hatch out with little down and are pinkish in color. (see the gape markings). The parents really begin to eat the eggfood when the chicks hatch and continue this voracious eating until the chicks fledge. I would leave the young with the parents for at least 3 weeks after fledging to be certain that the young are weaned. I did not see any aggression towards the young after they fledged as is seen with the Rufous-back mannikin. The young fledge with a dark brown back and tan belly. The beak is solid black and there is just a hint of the throat bib (see below). The parents will quite often return to nest before the first clutch is fully weaned. The male will continue to feed while the hen starts incubating the new clutch. They can be quite prolific with repeated clutches and rather large clutches of 6-7 young. As is always the safe recommendation, it is best not to overtax your breeders by taking more than 2-4 clutches. (depends on clutch size and condition of the parents)

I did successfully foster a clutch under Society finches, but quite frankly, I found the Madagascars to be excellent parents quite capable of rearing the young on their own.

Resting birds were housed as a colony. Some feather plucking may start if crowded or the birds begin to get anxious to start breeding again, otherwise they were quite peaceful together.

Additional Notes
The Madagascar Mannikin is the only estrildid endemic to the island of Madagascar.

I banded these birds with a "B" band equivelant.

Robin Restall in "Munias and Mannikins" indicates that captive bred birds showed signs melanism and that the belly color had darker tones. Thus far I have not encountered this.

Madagascar Mannikin juvenile