Australian Bush Birds
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin  -  Lonchura castaneothorax
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin. (Casino, NSW)
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin from the front showing plumage colours. (Casino, NSW)
map map The Chestnut-breasted Mannikin - Lonchura castaneothorax - is a solid, colourful finch with a heavy silver-grey (or blue) bill. Male and female are similar. Back and wings are russett-brown, upper tail and central tail feathers are straw-brown, outer tail feathers brown; under tail coverts black. Head and nape are grey, face, chin and throat black, the prominent bill is silver-grey, or blue. Breast is pale chestnut with black lower edge bordering a white belly with black barred flanks. Eye is brown, feet and legs are leaden grey.

Male and female are coloured the same but in a pair seen together the male appears brighter then the female. Females sometimes have a narrower black belly band than males.

Juveniles lack the adults bright colouring, they have olive-brown backs, pale grey heads with under parts brownish buff, sightly deeper on the breast.

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin - page 2
Lives in clumps of tall grass in damp environs, wet grasslands, swamp margins and swampy heaths, mangroves, canefields, reed beds along rivers. Has adapted well to cultivation, to the extent of sometimes being a pest on crops.

Distributed along a broad coastal band from the Kimberley to the New South Wales coast (around Nowra). Locally nomadic, more in the northwestern Australia than elsewhere.

Gathers in small to large flocks. Mostly eats half-ripe grass and other seeds, gathered while climbing nimbly among seeding stems one foot after the other (not hopping). At the start of the breeding season they also catch termites on the wing. Drinking is done by scooping up water in the bill and tilting back the head to swallow.

Breeding takes place all year round, mainly in summer and autumn. When courting, the male performs a song-and-dance series on grass stems which includes ruffling feathers, holding the bill open pointing down, dancing up and down and shaking his body. The birds breed in dense colonies with nests only a few metres apart. Nests are spherical with compressed sides and resembling a bottle on its side with neck sloping downwards The nest is made of dry grass and lined with fine grass stems; 130 millimetres long, 120 millimetres high and 90 millimetres wide. Built within 2 metres of the ground in dense clumps of grass and reeds or bushes.

Four to six eggs are laid; white, oval about 17 by 12 millimetres. Incubated by both parents for 12 to 13 days but only the female sleeps in the nest at night. The young fledge in 21 to 22 days

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin
Pair of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins feeding on dry seed. The back view shows the brown back with grey head and yellow in the tail. (Casino, NSW)