Bonnet Macaque: Habitat, Diet & Facts

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson you will learn about an interesting monkey called the bonnet macaque. This includes looking at its habitat, its diet, and some interesting facts about how it lives.

The Bonnet Macaque

Have you ever seen a monkey with a wig? This may sound like something a circus would do, but there is one species of monkey that looks very much like it is wearing a wig all the time! The bonnet macaque has tufts of fur on top of its head that look just like a little toupee. These tufts are where it got its name, although the person who named it believed the fur looked like the monkey was wearing a small hat.

The scientific name is Macaca radiata. There are two subspecies, which are slightly different but still closely related, and belonging to the same overall species. One of these has a darker stomach, and the other has a pale stomach. Otherwise, bonnet macaques are brown or brownish-gray in color, and all have the dark tufts of fur on their head.

Bonnet macaques were named for the fur on top of their head
Bonnet macaque


Bonnet macaques live in a limited region. They are native only to the southern portion of India, where it becomes a peninsula (a piece of land surrounded by water on three sides). They are most common in the Western Ghat mountains, which is a mountain range running around the Indian peninsula.

They spend a lot of their time in trees, and mostly live in forested areas, though they can be seen in a variety of forest types. They also live near humans, even on plantations or in agricultural areas developed by humans. They even sometimes live in non-forested areas, such as dry plains.

Despite their preference for trees, they do swim very well, and are also often seen walking on the ground. This is especially common when they are in cities, towns, or plains, due to the lack of trees.

Bonnet macaques are native to the southern Indian peninsula
Peninsular India


Bonnet macaques are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal products. Their main diet is fruit, supplemented by insects and leaves. In areas where they live near humans, the monkeys use humans as a significant source of food. They rummage through garbage cans, get food from tourist buses and cars, and are often fed directly by tourists. In some areas they live in temples, and will eat the food left out by worshipers. In addition, when they live in agricultural areas they will eat the crops being grown there. As you can see, they are very opportunistic eaters, and will eat whatever they can find.

Interesting Facts

Bonnet macaques are interesting creatures, and even share some behavior and characteristics with humans!

Social Creatures

Like humans, bonnet macaques prefer to live in groups, as they are social creatures. Often they live in groups of about 30, including both males and females. They participate in a number of social bonding activities that help bring the group closer together and keep everyone calm. The main example of this is social grooming, where the macaques groom each other, smoothing fur and picking off small parasites. They also sleep huddled together in smaller groups, with males sleeping together and females sleeping together.

Living in groups helps protect them from predators. Bonnet macaques have a special alarm call that lets the whole group know one of them has seen a predator. This gives them time to run and hide, which they might not have had if they lived alone.

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