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Peaceful, gregarious


Physical descriptions:


Grey head speckled with white dots, warm brown body, blackish wings & tail, white rump, dark grey upper mandible & silver grey lower mandible, dark grey legs. The juvenile is a paler version of the adult and lacks the white spots on its head.Mutations include Gray (autosomal recessive) where the brown in the body is replaced by light gray and Red-brown (autosomal recessive) where the black (wings, tail) is replaced with brown, the beak and legs become more flesh colored, and the head is pale gray.




Sexes are visually similar, although the hen's breast may be slightly paler and head spots slightly smaller. Only the male sings.




The song is long, soft chirping that starts as a whisper and gradually gets louder. 




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The Pearl-headed Mannikin


courtesy to 



Hardiness:Somewhat delicate

Reproduction:Somewhat challenging

Singing ability:Somewhat pleasant

Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]

Size:4¾" (12 cm)

Approx. cost:$ (US) per bird

Other common names:


Pearl-headed Silverbill, Grey-headed Silverbill, Grey-headed Mannikin, Grey-headed Munia, Pearl-headed Amadine





Area of distribution:


East Africa, including: Southern Ethiopia, south-eastern Sudan, Kenya, Burundi, northern Tanzania.



Favorite foods

Live food (e.g. mealworms), sprouted seed, chickweed, various small millet, millet spray, canary seed, soft food

Natural habitat

Arid grassland, farmland, savanna, open thorny scrub country. Stays near water.


Moves in small flocks which may include the African Silverbill. Birds roost together in old nests at night or may construct an unlined roosting nest. The cock performs a straw display where he holds straw in his bill, flies to the female, and bobs up and down. He then drops the straw, twists his head and tail toward the hen, and then sings to her while bobbing. A receptive hen may quiver her tail. Copulation may occur in or outside of the nest. Untidy, spherical grass nests with side entrance are built in trees, hedges, thorny shrubs, under roofs or in hut walls and lined with feathers. Both sexes take turns brooding. When one bird arrives to the nest to relieve its partner, it makes an arrival call and won't enter the nest until hearing a reply. A cock relieving a hen tends to bring additional lining material to the nest with him. Babies beg by twisting their neck to point toward the feeding parent. Fledglings may also partially raise or flick the far wing while begging. Cock birds have been witnessed bringing a beak full of sand or dried earth to the nest after chicks hatch. Juvenile cocks may begin practicing their song 2-3 weeks after fledging. Pairs may have 5-6 broods annually.

Special considerations

Has reportedly hybridized with the African silverbill, Indian silverbill, spice finch, society finch, and the zebra finch. Should be housed indoors during the cooler (fall and winter) months.

Breeding season

In the wild, breeding starts after the rainy season (May/June).

Breeding tips

Although these birds are suitable to a mixed aviary or cage, they tend to breed best when housed alone in an aviary without distraction, as they are susceptible to disturbance. Nest checks are not recommended. Birds are thought to pair bond while still in juvenile plumage and may resist arbitrary pairing as adults. Providing feathers for nest lining material may stimulate completion of nest building. Birds may be willing to accept half open, large nest boxes (at least 6"x6"x8"). Nesting materials should include plant fibers, coconut fiber, wool, grass, hay, and small feathers. Providing live food (ant pupae, mealworms, waxmoth larvae) appears to be a requirement for successful breeding. Pairs should ideally be limited to 3 broods annually. African & Indian Silverbills make suitable foster parents for this species.


Life Cycle:


Clutch size:3-6 eggs

Incubation date:Both birds take turns brooding during the day and both sleep in the nest at night.

Hatch date:After 14 days of incubation

Fledge date:At 24-28 days of age

Wean date:2 weeks after fledging

First molt:8 weeks after fledging


Related Article(s):


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Pearl Headed Amadine Mannikin Song 



Lonchura griseicapilla



Grey-headed Silverbill Lonchura griseicapilla


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.


Terms of Use

Map data ©2016 Google, ORION-ME

Population justificationThe global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as common, locally common or uncommon (Clement 1999).Trend justificationThe population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.


Clement, P.; Harris, A.; Davis, J. 1999.Finches and sparrows. Christopher Helm, London.


Further web sources of information:

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.


Recommended citation:

BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Lonchura griseicapilla. Downloaded from on 19/05/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 19/05/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Lonchura griseicapilla





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