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On the second week of June, 2009, a beautiful and strange bird appeared at our feeder. After a perusal of three different bird guides its identification was still a mystery. In desperation I sent a photograph to Nancy Kenyon of the Sea and Sage Audubon Society, Irvine, CA. She told us it was a Nutmeg Mannikin.

The Nutmeg Mannikin
Lonchura punctulata is also known as the Scaly-breasted Munia, Ricebird and Spice Finch. It is a resident of tropical southern Asia from India and Sri Lanka east to the Philippines. Because of its striking beauty and gregarious behavior it is a popular cage bird. Its accidental release from that status appears to account for its initial presence in the United States. eBird indicates it is regularly reported in Costal California, Southeast Florida, the Gulf Coast of Texas and the Puget Sound area in Washington. Flocks of fifteen or more have been observed visiting bird feeders in Orange County, CA. The sexes are similar in appearance.

Large numbers of the Nutmeg Mannikins have been imported to the Houston pet market where they sell for $10 per bird. Among some cultures that are well represented in the Houston area it is common practice to release them at weddings and at significant events (see Houston Audubon Society). Because of these facts some have questioned the claim that it is an established breeder in California and elsewhere and suggest that the population persists only because or repeated releases and/or escapes. We document here the Nutmeg Mannikin is breeding in the U.S. – at least in our back yard.

The juveniles have pale yellow-brown under parts without the scales. We have had the distinct pleasure of having a flock of up to 10 adult birds consistently show up at our feeder and on August 9 up to 12 juveniles suddenly appeared.

As documented in the following pages,"NM juv Week 3," "NM juv Week 4." etc we are following the growth and changes in plumage of these juveniles as they have grown older. In these subsequent pages, to
see the birds in enlarged view click on the first photograph and click "next" to progress through the photos.

Movies of the adults and juveniles are shown on the
NM MOVIES page.

Visitors to this site are welcome to send in photos and
reports of Nutmeg Mannikins in their area (see Visitor's Photos)



Enjoy this wonderful bird.

David E Comings, M.D.

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