Tricolor Munia - Lonchura malacca
Tricolor Munia

Common Names
Tricolor nun or mannikin. Old classification still has them in the Chestnut munia group with Black Headed munia and White Headed munia. These classified as three distinct species.

s and females are similar in appearance. The male's beak does have a more massive appearance, but not enough to really rely upon. The male will perform a bit of a courtship song and dance and I have found that my original imported stock was a bit shy about displaying, but the domestically raised stock will sing often and with me just inches from them.

A standard finch seed mix is fine, but Tricolors will prefer the larger seeds white prosso seed or a standard parakeet mix. In addition, they will readily eat my egg food (Roy's egg food), some gamebird crumbles and green food. I also offer them paddy rice (unhulled rice) in dry form mostly, but also soaked or sprouted as well. This they really enjoy. Calcium can be provided in the form of crushed egg shell and crushed oyster shell. I have a cuttlebone available to them, but they seem to prefer the egg shells. Vitamins and minerals are supplied in supplements in the egg food. I sometimes offer water based vitamins and minerals when the birds are on a maintenance rather than breeding diet.

Breeder's Notes
I was lucky to buy my first group of Tricolors in juvenile plumage after being imported from Puerto Rico. I housed these young birds together and watched for bonding behavior. In groups of mannikins like this you will often see a dominant pair arise. While the Asian mannikins (sometimes called nuns) do not generally exhibit the aggressive behavior that the African mannikins do, a dominant pair often keeps other pairs from forming or at least from breeding. How they exert this dominance is not immediately clear, but you will find that only the dominant pair will breed in a colony. Remove that pair and then a new hierarchy is created and the new dominant pair will start breeding. This is how I identified my first pair and then isolated them to a breeding cage.

The nest was woven from coco fibers and a few other grasses. Soft materials were ignored for the most part. Certainly feathers were not sought in the construction of the nest. Clutches of 4-8 eggs were laid with 5-6 being the norm. Incubation started after the third egg and the sexes share in the incubation duties, but the hens are really steady sitters. It was often difficult to monitor the progress of the incubation or the chicks because the birds would not leave the nest. Incubation was approximately 13 days before the typically naked, pink with light fuzz mannikin chicks hatched. I fed the parents egg food in the mornings along with all the other birds and soaked/sprouted paddy rice late in the afternoon. Chicks were usually well fed, but some early attempts at breeding had the parents pitching the young out of the nest. After they got the swing of things, they were steady and reliable breeders.

Chicks will fledge after about 21-25 days and are dull brown in color with black beaks (see below), looking like so many other young mannikins. In fact, in Puerto Rico the young Tricolors were trapped with young Spice finches which they look very much like and you would have to look closely to tell them apart or wait for bits of adult color to come through. Usually you can see the Tricolor beak changing to gray while the Spice finch beak will remain black. The young are usually weaned in a couple of weeks, but I always left them with the parents for 3 or more weeks before putting them in a holding cage with other Tricolors. I wanted to make sure the males maintained the true Tricolor song as a couple of early fostered males learned an altered song that in addition to being wrong was also much louder than normal. It takes several months for the Tricolor young to molt into adult plumage.

Pairs would usually go back to nest after the young were weaned. I would offer them some additional nesting material to fix up their nest or if badly soiled, would remove the old material and let them start again. The process of building the nest seems to stimulate them into breeding anyway. After about three clutches I would give them a rest. Breeding seemed to take place from late fall through spring. When set back up, the pairs were usually quite eager to get started again. The domestically raised birds were much steadier in the smaller breeding cages and readily took to the standard nest boxes. Established pairs took to nest boxes and began building nests within hours of being placed back into the breeding cages.

Additional Notes
There are variations of the Tricolored munia occasionally seen, but there are no subspecies. One variation that is sometimes seen replaces the white flanks with a light chestnut color (Group showing variation). Robin Restall in "Munias and Mannikins" describes a couple of other variants. Neither of which I have ever seen.

Many of the Tricolors that used to be imported into the U.S. were captured in Puerto Rico where they are a feral species. However, hurricanes and changes in crops grown on the islands has forced the Tricolors to higher elevations and decreased their numbers. As a result, the trappers have not be able to capture significant numbers of them and imports are now rarely seen from PR. Future imports will likely come from India again.

Immature Tricolored Nuns. They fledge with black beaks that quickly turn silver. Plumage takes a while longer.