As with the Fire Finches and Waxbills the Mannikins are a similar tiny size, (9,5cm) and can also be found at most of the lodge homes in the Reserve. There are three species of Mannikin, of which two are commonly found at Royal Jozini – The Bronze Mannikin and the Red Backed Mannikin.
Mannikins are gregarious birds which feed mainly on seeds, including wild grass seeds. Alternatively termites, flying insects, nectar or strands of algae may also be eaten. They prefer staying close to water and can be found near forest margins, thickets, gardens and parks.
Before going to roost at nightfall, they usually visit a watering hole where vegetation is hanging into the water. They roost at night in ball-shaped grass nests, which in the non-breeding season are built solely for this purpose. Did you know that these communal nests are dismantled (for reuse of material) and rebuilt almost daily at the same or a new location, in a communal effort? Each party, numbering 8 to 20 birds, seems to be dominated by a single adult male. The flock defends the immediate vicinity of a nest against intruders, but newcomers to a flock are easily accepted.
These little birds are also known for being tiny terrors, having a strong personality and aggressive nature, despite their diminutive size. When confronted with a larger bird, they will raise a wing behind themselves to create the appearance of a greater size and make a rattling noise. Nor do they back down easily!
1. Red-backed Mannikin
The Red-backed Mannikin can easily be identified by its rich chestnut back and wing coverts, black head and chest and black flank/wing bars.
2. Bronze Mannikin
The Bronze Mannikin has a more bronze/brown colour with a distinctive glossy green patch on the shoulder. The barring on the flanks are also browner in colour. Bronze Mannikins are also occasionally parasitized by the pin-tailed Whydah
I’ll continue the small bird theme in our next discussions until we have exhausted all the small species found in and around Royal Jozini’s lodges.