Infamous as pests of agriculture but popular in aviculture, the Estrildid finches are a large Old World family (134 species) of small seed-eating birds, with most species in Africa and Australasia. The short, thick, conical bills, by which these birds are easily recognized, are very strong, and along with powerful jaw muscles, are ideally suited for husking the grass seeds that form their staple diet. Their wings are short and rounded, the tail generally short, and the feet robust, as when they are not perched on grass stems, they forage on the ground picking up fallen seed. Most species are highly gregarious, forming large flocks that can cause much damage to rice crops, especially when the rice is at the unripe, “milky” stage. Understandably, therefore, farmer’s children are encouraged to destroy their nests. Munias often form mixed flocks of three or even more species, and often engage in “roller-feeding” with the birds at the rear continually over-flying those at the front.
Although many species breed in loose colonies, pairs maintain a strong pair bond, preening each other frequently, though as with most birds, monogamy is probably rare. Song is sexual, males singing at close range to females rather than broadcasting. The nest an unwoven ball of dried grass with a side entrance, and both sexes share all nesting duties. Estrildid finches have been kept as cage pets for centuries, and are still popular among aviculturists because of their lively nature and sweet songs. Indeed it is likely that recent range expansions of some species in Indonesia were due to aviary birds escaping and establishing feral populations. The finch trade in Indonesia is still large, unregulated and unmonitored, and sadly, has been responsible for the decline of at least one species. Emprit as Javanese people call it due to its voice, like as Javan Munia’s squeaking “preet” (see Javan Munia page). Java has eight species, two of which are endemic to this island and Bali; the best known is the Java Sparrow, now regarded as a threatened species.
Flight: Finch type, swift and direct, moderately undulating.