Maya Pula

I was delighted when I received my February copy of the National Geographic and found 2 favourite subjects featured - the Philippine Eagle and the haiku master Basho. The former prompted me to write this post, but not on the Bird King (Haring Ibon, Haribon) itself but his humbler predecessor, the former-reigning national bird of the Philippines no less, the Maya Pula! I have still not seen my first Philippine Eagle yet, and so don't have my own photo of it- and still remains high on my must-see list. The Black-headed Munia aka Chestnut Munia is called Maya Pula (Red Maya) to distinguish it from the Eurasian Tree Sparrow which is also called Maya in the Philippines, just as it is commonly called Pipit Merah in Malaysia where all sparrows are called Pipit. Scientifically it's Lonchura malacca, though lately many ornithologists classify it as a different species Lonchura atricapilla.

Up close it is a handsome bird though small, it's not so surprising that Filipinos in the past chose it as a national bird, maybe also because these birds also demand and extract a tax from the harvest of the rice farmers who are still rather powerless to keep them off their fields!

My second photo shows a "small" flock in a rice field in Sabah, but huge flocks are quite common and spectacular to watch in flight.

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