Saturday, July 10, 2010

The maya bird -- before 1995 -- was the national bird of the Philippines

This is a repost of Pinoys: Will the real Philippine Maya bird please stand up?.

This is a classic case study of mistaken identity and information being passed on from generation to generation. All bird photographs in this article were taken by the Canon 7D camera using a Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS lens with a 1.4x extender.

The Philippine Maya Bird
The real maya, the Philippines' national bird before 1995.

False Maya Bird of the Philippines
This was never a national bird of the Philippines!

One of the most widely spread misinformation in the Philippines is the identity of our formal national bird. Before the Philippine Eagle was declared as the official national bird of the Philippines in 1995, the title previously belonged to the Philippine maya.

Everyone thinks it's the brown bird...
When I was a child, I was told all of those tiny brown birds were all mayas. Everyone around me thought the same. My friends, family, and teachers, all of them thought the brown birds were mayas. Unfortunately what I was taught was incorrect. These brown animals, the most widely seen bird species in the country, is not actually endemic to the Philippines. It's found all over Europe and Asia and was introduced here. The official name of this bird is the Eurasian Tree Sparrow or Passer montanus.

The real maya stands out -- it's red in color
Thankfully this morning, in my backyard in Bacolod, Philippines, a real maya bird visited my garden. This was the first time I've ever captured a real maya bird on a DSLR. He was looking to build his nest and something in my garden attracted him. Soon there were two of them looking around for building material.

The Philippine maya is otherwise known as the Black-headed Munia also known as Chestnut Munia (Lonchura atricapilla). While it's family is found throughout Asia, the maya bird subspecies particularly belongs to the Philippines. It's called Lonchura atricapilla jagori.

When they are young, the color of their feathers are brown but when they mature, they turn red.

So there you have it, you have now been given truth. Spread it out and help educate the masses! Teach your friends, relatives, and children the correct information. If you are Pinoy, you should at least know your former national bird wasn't an introduced species by foreigners.

Maya bird, the Philippine national bird before 1995


  1. nice post kuya.. now I know what a real maya looks like.. So the brown bird I always saw back when I was a child was not the real maya.. sigh, guess I have never actually seen a live maya my entire life.

  2. thank for this post. i know about the true maya although i have had some arguments back in high school on what a maya looks like. now i checked google and to my surprise the pictures coming out are not the real maya. thankfully there's your post. the other one is a common street bird from india to brazil and even in colder states in the US... and i really cant believe so many filipinos thought that's our former national bird.

  3. I am not a bird lover but I really love the maya birds. They are so noisy but of course I know they are only singing.

  4. And oh by the way ...if the true maya is the red one so what's the name of the other bird (the brown) one which is not the true maya? I've seen the real maya and the fake maya too and I think the real maya looks more beautiful.

    Does maya live in Acacia Tree? co'z in our school, maya stays or live in an Acacia Tree and they usually fly in a circular formation.

    1. i also see the "used to be" maya of my childhood as more beautiful... (based from these pics) ..i haven't seen the real one yet, though.. basta.. birds are lovely...esp Cinderella's...

  5. How interesting! This is really enlightening and helpful. Now I know. The real maya looks so much prettier. I often wondered what was so special about the little brown bird to make it to the national roster. Thanks.

  6. the brown one is also called "maya" hence the mistaken id. the other red one is actually a reddish-brown color. you would frequently see it in rice fields and grasslands or being sold in front of churches.

  7. I think that real maya you're talking about is actually the Chinese maya we used to call in our locality in Masbate. It really looks very similar.

  8. I used to think maya is a small brown bird and often frown why it's the national bird as it is small and plain i see why maya is the national bird. it's lovely.

    I'd love to have a copy of your book on Philippine Birds, if it's possible?

    thank you very much. my email:

    salamat po.

  9. The brown one is commonly called "house sparrow". Sa katagalugan ay tinatawag itong "mayang-bahay". Akala ko ay ito ang naging national bird natin. Nagtataka ako dahil bakit naging national bird ang isang pesteng ibon. Naninira ng bahay at tanim na palay ng magsasaka. Salamat kay Don at naliwanagan ako.

  10. Its only after reading your blog have i known about this fact. Thanks a lot. I posted it in my fb account. By the way, do you have a pic of the dalawidaw? I am from Iloilo and we have this popular native song with that title. They said its a red-breasted little black bird. I've been searching the internet but found none. Hope you have it in your files. Thanks. My email:

  11. Wow! I used to wonder why our former national bird looked so ordinary. Thanks to your blog I'm enlightened on how the real maya looks like. Very beautiful, indeed. =)

  12. Surprisingly, there is a real maya bird in our backyard.. Its been there in our garden for 5 months now. I really dont know the real name of the bird cause i always thought that the brown bird i always see was The maya... Until I have read your article... now I know that the bird that was nesting here in our garden was the true Maya! Its red in color, head was black and the beak is white.. I thought it was endangered so i sort of researching for its name. Incredibly, this bird chooses to nest in the lowest part of the garden, in our Roses.. Good thing was our backyard was fenced and childrens could not get through... Now they had build about three big nests, 2 on our roses and one from a tree near our rose.

  13. the red bird with black head and white beak is called a Chestnut Munia. The brown one, mistakenly called the maya is really called the Eurasian Tree Sparrow. It originally came from Spain through a galleon ship. Then it thrive here thus you can find it almost everywhere.

  14. Only the young generation born and raised in other countries never heard or seen the Maya. Us old folks who came and grew up in the Philippines knew them from school. There's even a song called "Ang Maya sa pilapil" (rice field). They love to eat young Palay because the grains are still tender. My grand mother has a small farm so we always see them and play with them. It's so pretty when we run to the field while they're eating then they fly together when disturbed. Very colorful!!!

  15. In Pampanga real maya or "Denas Pale" are 2nd populous birds they attacked rice (pale), Denas or Denas Bale or Tree Sparrow the most populous.

  16. Nice to see that beautiful bird. Seven years i was in pinas i never seen that bird. Thanks for posting.

  17. How can I get in touch with you? I have ideas to share about the Maya pula....