Bronze Mannikin (Spermestes cucullata)

Cover photo: BirdPix 90010 – Dave Rimmer

Identification

The Bronze Mannikin or Bronze Munia Spermestes cucullata is a small passerine (i.e. perching) bird. Male and female Bronze Mannikins look alike. They have grey bills and blackish heads with white underparts and brown barring on their sides. They can also be identified by the metallic green patch of feathers on their shoulders.

Immature birds are a more plain buffy brown, with dark grey-brown upperparts and a black bill.

Main photo: BirdPix  137820 – Craig Peter, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, 29 October 2020. Inset photo bottom left: BirdPix 105697 – Lia Steen, Port Edward, KwaZulu-Natal, 25 February 2020. Inset photo top left: BirdPix 20526 – Dave Rimmer, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, 26 August 2015.

Bronze Mannikins have a chirpy, high pitched call. Take a listen here.

Habitat

It generally prefers grassy habitats with a few scattered bushes and trees, like at the edges of thickets or evergreen forests. They are also found in savanna habitats, suburban gardens, and along the border between natural vegetation and cultivated land. Bronze Mannikins are dependant on water so if you have a bird bath in your garden they are likely to visit!

Photo left: BirdPix 13076 – Werner Van Goethem, Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary, Gauteng, 23 February 2014. Top right: BirdPix 6412 – AP Labuschagne, Polokwane, Limpopo, 11 May 2009. Bottom right: BirdPix 46753 – Norman Barrett, Leopards Hill, Lusaka Province, Zambia, 17 November 2012.  
Bronze Mannikins at a bird bath – BirdPix 60059 – Ryan Tippett, Pennington, KwaZulu-Natal, 03 August 2018.

Distribution

They occur across much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to southern Africa. Here they are very common in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, eSwatini and eastern South Africa, while rather scarce in northern and south-eastern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip of Namibia due to the more arid conditions in those areas.

In South Africa the core of their range is in the east from KwaZulu-Natal to Limpopo Province, according to distribution data from the second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2). There are records of Bronze Mannikins in and around Cape Town

SABAP2 distribution map for Bronze Mannikin, downloaded on 22 March 2022. Details on how to interpret the map can be found here.

Behaviour

Bronze Mannikins are conspicuous and gregarious birds, often found in small flocks. They mainly eat grass seeds and the occasional insect. They do most of their foraging on the ground, often taking advantage of bird feeders in gardens. Before going to roost at nightfall, they usually visit a water source. They sometimes associate with other birds like waxbills or other mannikin species, and they may also use their vacated nests.

Flocks of Bronze Mannikins. Bottom left: BirdPix 29278 – Lia Steen, Shellybeach, KwaZulu-Natal, 15 August 2016. Top right: BirdPix 31248 – Lia Steen, Whiteriver, Mpumalanga, 01 January 2016.

During the breeding season (August to May) the male gathers the nesting material which the female uses to build the nest. The nest is an untidy ball-shaped structure which is usually made of green grass inflorescences but sometimes contains pine needles and wild Asparagus stems. Bronze Mannikins typically build their nests in a bush, tree, or man-made structure, like a post or beam of a building.

They lay 2-8 eggs, which are incubated by both the male and female for about 12-16 days. Both parents feed the chicks on a diet of mainly seeds The chicks leave the nest after about 15-21 days and become fully independent roughly 4 weeks later.

Parents feeding their young. Left: BirdPix 51966 – Ilse Hulme, Weenen Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, 02 April 2018. Right: BirdPix 197150 – Lia Steen, Shellybeach, KwaZulu-Natal, 22 November 2021.
Bird feeder party! BirdPix 18924 – Dave Kennedy, Margate, KwaZulu-Natal, 10 July 2015.

Further Resources

Species Text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)

Other common names: Gewone Fret (Afrikaans); Ingxenge (Xhosa); Zadzasaga (Shona); Capucin Nonnette (French); Kleinelsterchen (German).

Recommended citation format: Loftie-Eaton M and Karis D 2022. Bronze Mannikin Spermestes cucullata. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at http://thebdi.org/2022/03/23/bronze-mannikin-spermestes-cucullata/

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.