Posted Sep 13, 2014
I first saw black-cheeked waxbills at a bird show and it took me quite a few years to locate them again. Once you see them, it’s hard to forget this species.
Black-cheeks have an unusual and dramatic color pattern that makes them a distinctive waxbill. They have that stunning appearance that you’d expect from an exotic finch, but with a far more laid back demeanor than more aggressive exotics like the otherwise similar violet-eared waxbill.
However, like other exotic finches, black-cheeks should not be kept in the cages that many common finches are. Black-cheeks are friendly community birds that are only occasionally territorial. They do well kept in pairs and get along fine with many other peaceful species. They’re just not suited to being kept in a cage.
These are active birds that spend the day flying and foraging for food. Black-cheeks primary diet is seed, but they also benefit from a variety of fresh foods and insects. Even when fed mostly seed, they prefer to collect it themselves and do best in a planted aviary.
This tropical species does have high heat needs and in most areas can’t be kept in an open outdoor aviary. However, even a moderately sized indoor aviary with full spectrum lighting can be ‘planted’ with a couple pots of small, non-toxic indoor shrubs.
Black-cheeks enjoy hanging on millet sprays both dried and still on the plants. An abundance of millet can easily be grown for them by sprinkling millet seeds into pots. Once the plants form seed heads, the pots can be moved into the aviary where black-cheeks and other finches will spend hours stripping the seeds.
Black-cheeks are adaptable and hardy for an exotic finch. As long as you’re not trying to breed them, you can get away with keeping them in less than ideal conditions. However, there are plenty of other species of small birds far better suited to confinement.
These birds like to keep busy and are easily bored if kept in a small area. When my pair was in a three foot flight cage they displayed behavioral issues like feather plucking and the male stripped the feathers from the female’s head. They were far better in their eight foot walk-in aviary, which I would consider a minimum to truly keep black-cheeks happy.
In the proper environment, black-cheeks are stunning, sociably exotics. These are not an easy bird to find, but it’s well worth the effort to locate a breeder if you enjoy unusual finch species.