Java Rice Bird Information

From: Ronald J Simpson <>
Subject: Java Sparrow Info #2

JAVA SPARROW (Padda oryzivora) compiled by S. van Balen


Name: Java Sparrow Padda oryzivora (L.) Loxia oryzivora Linnaeus, 1758 Fringilla oryzivora (L.) in Horsfield 1821 Munia orycivora (sic!; in Bartels 1906)

Local names: glathik (Javanese) jelantik (Balinese) galatik (Sundanese) ghâltè' (Madurese) gelatik belong (Gedangan, Central Java)


Range: Established in many parts of the world (K. Islam 1997), but only really wild in Java and Bali (Chasen 1935). Madura should be included in its native range but was not because no collections had been made until the 1970s. Sometimes Sumatra (Robinson in Kuroda 1933), Bawean (Clements et al. 1993) are included in its native range. Van Marle and Voous (1988) state that the species was undoubtedly introduced to Sumatra.

Alting Siberg (1846) mentioned the species as having been introduced to Bawean by the first representative of the Dutch colonial administration on the island, Mr. H. Frederiks in 1802. Vorderman (1892) did not list the species after his visit, but wrote that it was imported as a cage-bird from Surabaya from time to time. Hoogerwerf (1966-1967) therefore believes that the species has been repeatedly introduced with varying success, and was perhaps settled by the time he was on the island in 1954.

Recorded from all parts in Java, though Kuroda (1930, 1933) reported that it was less numerous in West than Central and East Java where it was often seen in flocks of considerable size.

Changes in range: Perhaps the only Red Data Book bird that has enormously expanded its range, but nearly disappeared from its natural range of Java and Bali.

Nature of distribution: Open woodlands in the lowlands, especially in rice-growing areas, though not found everywhere there.

Extent of habitat occurrence: Difficult to calculate.

Area of habitat occupancy: Extremely scattered


3.1 Population estimate. Still widespread and numbers may be considerable, but numbers crashed enormously as can seen from the ration of former and recent records.

3.2 Population trends. Formerly very common on Bali where flocks of several hundreds were once reported (Stresemann 1913) or everywhere common (Plessen 1926), but apparently greatly declined, and now uncommon in the north-west, locally common in south-east of the island (Ash 1982). Bartels (unpubl.) saw it disappearing from a number of rice-fields in West Java in the years before 1929. Van Heurn (read from label in 1919 in ZMA) reported it as scarce in Bogor, and extremely abundant in Banten.

Kuroda (1930) reports the species as less common in West Java (Jakarta and Sukabumi), but very common in Central (Semarang) and East Java (near Gresik, Surabaya, etc.). Used to be common in Jakarta's outskirts from where it disappeared; there are no recent reports of extremely large roosts and the overall impression when local people throughout Java, Madura and Bali are asked about Java Sparrow, is that the species used to be common or very common, but hardly any are seen nowadays. Similar impressions are heard from visiting birdwatchers who only observe them in Baluran and/or Bali Barat National Park's, if not failing to see the birds at all (Richards and Richards 1988; B. King pers.comm., Tobias and Phelps 1994, etc.).


4.1 Habitat. On Java exclusively inhabiting the cultivated areas (Bernstein 1860), up to 260 ft (Bartels unpubl.). Not noticed in the mountains (Whitehead 1893). On Bali open woodland and tree savanna, mangroves, beach forest, secondary growth in cultivation, occasionally to mid altitudes 830 m (Ash 1982; B. van Helvoort 1987); occasional up to 1,500 m in West Java (Stresemann 1930).

The Java Sparrow was not common in Jakarta city, but abundant in the outskirts, especially in and around rice fields, but also grassy areas near fish ponds and even, but in very small numbers in the mangroves (Hoogerwerf and R.H. Siccama 1938), and also remote grassy areas without rice (Bartels unpubl.).

Large communal roosts of hundreds of birds in 'alang-alang' woodlands (Vorderman 1882-1885), in large Ficus benjamina fig trees (Koningsberger 1901-1909; Hivernon 1920), Tamarindus indica tamarind trees in Surabaya (Bartels unpubl.) and other large densely leaved trees (Hoogerwerf and R.H. Siccama 1938) in suburban Jakarta have been reported. Largest concentrations of roosts are observed in Jakarta in between breeding seasons, i.e., July-August and March-April (Hoogerwerf and R.H. Siccama 1938). Bartels (unpubl.) pointed to a much greater shyness of birds inhabiting areas remote from human settlements than of those found in villages and cities.

4.2 Food and feeding. Rice appears to form its major source of food and huge flocks used to become an agricultural pest (Hivernon 1920) when the species was more common in Java. Grass seeds, including those of bamboo are take in areas where there are riceless seasons (Bartels unpubl.), and food reported by Sody (in Becking 1989) includes: insects, and seeds of Andropogon sorghum, Bambusa blumeana, Lantana camara and Passiflora spp.

In the rainy season in Java, when the paddies are flooded, they forage in bushes in pairs and small groups in search of various seeds, fruits and insects. When the rice is ripening they frequent the paddies in large numbers, afflicting much damage. Also after the harvest they find enough food on wastelands, during which time they are at a maximum weight (Bernstein 1861). Between March and August the large and straggling swarms are mainly juvenile birds (Hoogerwerf and R.H. Siccama 1938). Forms small troops in August [1925] in Bogor (van Heurn, as read from label in ZMA).

4.3 Breeding. Usually the untidy hay nest is constructed on balks under roofs of buildings in towns and villages (Kuroda 1933; Stresemann 1913). Out in the open land the loosely built constructions are found in bushes, in tree-tops and especially palms, where they built the nests in the leaf folds or e.g., amongst epiphytes/parasites on the stems of Arenga palms (Bernstein 1861). Where Tree Sparrows are scarce or absent, the nest are built on and under roofs (Koningsberger 1901-1909). Nesting in presumed woodpecker (Ash 1982) and barbet holes (Bartels unpubl.), and presumably in limestone caves, where they have been observed (Kuroda 1933; S. van Balen pers.obs.); Coomans de Ruiter (1948) found them in Sulawesi mostly breeding in open nests, but also holes in Samanea saman trees ("Regenboom").

Two egg clutches found in April in Bali (Stresemann 1913), fledglings in June (Kuroda 1933; Ash 1982). Most clutches on Java were between 3 and 4, sometimes 5 or 6, and once even 15 eggs, but these were supposed to have come from two birds (Hoogerwerf and H.R. Siccama 1937-1939).Sody (1930), Bouma (1936), Hoogerwerf (1949) and Hellebrekers and Hoogerwerf (1967) combined give the following data:

ProvinceJFMAMJJASWest Java..21616952.Central Java...2.....East Java...21954..


5.1 Threats. Bartels (unpubl.) reports that, despite considerable damage done to the rice fields, the birds are not shot, but chasen off the fields, though they are locally hunted for consumption.Vorderman (1885) already reported hundreds for birds throughout the year being sold by street venters. Apart >from ending up in cages and aviaries, hundreds are hunted at their roosts (Hivernon 1920), and also traded, for culinary purposes, especially by the Chinese citizens (Hoogerwerf and H.R. Siccama 1938). Whilst being captured and offered for sale in considerable numbers at local bird markets (e.g., van Helvoort 1981, van Balen 1984; Basuni and Setiyani 1989) and for the international trade (Nash 1993), it appears that the species has become extremely scarce in the wild on Java.

Many sources mention the ecological similarity between this species and the Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus, and Koningsberger (1901-1909) report the predominance of the Java Sparrow somewhere at Surabaya, entirely adopting the Tree Sparrow's way of life, where the latter is scarce or absent. The Tree Sparrow is a relatively recent arrival, and where the appearance of Tree Sparrow concurs with the disappearance of Java Sparrows (e.g., Pelabuhan Ratu) mutual exclusion is suggested of these ecologically very similar species.

Intensive use of pesticides in Java's rice fields may have also impacted negatively on the population.

5.2 Action taken. Stop on capture quota for Java and Bali for 1995; the species occurs in only very few reserves:

Mt. Karang holds Java Hawk-eagle and Java Sparrow used to occur here. No proposals for a reserve exist for this protection forest.

Cikepuh holds Green Peafowl, Java Sparrow. This is a ca. 8,000 ha wildlife reserve.

Baluran, Bali Barat, Meru Betiri holds Lesser Adjutant, Green Peafowl, Java Sparrow. This national park of 25,000 ha is mainly wooded savannah with a central 1,250 m mountain.

5.3 Action proposed. Stop capturing in the wild; extension programmes to protect the birds around houses, stimulate captive breeding amongst private aviculturists, etc. Field studies into the causes of the species' decline (excessive capturing, pesticides, competition with Tree Sparrow).

Suwung holds Java Sparrows and is a coastal area with mudflats, mangroves and adjacent rice fields. There are plans to preserve as it forms an important foraging and roosting for waders, waterbirds (V. Mason in litt.) and perhaps Java Sparrows.

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