Cover photo of Bronze Mannikin: BirdPix 90010 – Dave Rimmer
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.
Bronze Mannikins have a chirpy, high pitched call. Take a listen here.
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!
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, watini 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, where they were introduced in 2015. The release reportedly took place in Rondebosch, a suburb in the “southern suburbs” of Cape Town; by 2023 the introduced range had extended a few suburbs to the north and to the south, from about Observatory to Wynberg, and is steadily expanding.
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.
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.
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Other common names: Gewone Fret (Afrikaans); Ingxenge (Xhosa); Zadzasaga (Shona); Capucin Nonnette (French); Kleinelsterchen (German).
Recommended citation format: Loftie-Eaton M and Daniel K 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