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The Ploceidæ or Weaver-Bird Family

This family includes the weaver-birds, famous for their wonderful hanging retort-shaped nests, and the munias, of which the amadavat or lal is familiar to every resident of India as a cage bird.

The weaver-birds do not ascend the hills, but several species of munia are found on the Nilgiris. Spotted munias (Uroloncha punctulata) are abundant in the vicinity of both Coonoor and Ootacamund. They occur in flocks on closely-cropped grassland. They feed on the ground. They are tiny birds, not much larger than white-eyes. The upper plumage is chocolate brown, becoming a rich chestnut about the head and neck, while the breast and abdomen are mottled black and white, hence the popular name. The black spots on the breast and abdomen cause these to look like the surface of a nutmeg grater; for that reason this munia is sometimes spoken of as the nutmeg-bird. The rufous-bellied munia (Uroloncha pectoralis) occurs abundantly a little below Coonoor, but does not appear to ascend so high as Ootacamund. Its upper parts are chocolate brown, save the feathers above the tail, which Oates describes as "glistening fulvous." The wings and tail are black, as are the cheeks, chin, and throat. The lower parts are pinkish brown. The stout bill is slaty blue. Like the spotted munia, this species is considerably smaller than a sparrow.

The Indian red-munia or red waxbill or lal (Sporæginthus amandava) is another very small bird. Its bill and eyes are bright red. Over its brown plumage are dotted many tiny white spots. There are also some large patches of red or crimson, notably one on the rump. The amount of crimson varies considerably; in the breeding season nearly the whole of the upper plumage of the cock is crimson. Amadavats go about in flocks and utter a cheeping note during flight. Their happy hunting grounds are tangles of long grass. Amadavats occur all over the Nilgiris.