Species group: Waxbills
Other common names: Black-faced Waxbill
Scientific name: Estrilda erythronotos
The elegant Black-cheeked Waxbill is a handsome African finch that has always been a somewhat rare and costly species. It may be sought out by the serious breeder but is relatively little known to the average bird owner. An expert can distinguish most males from females by eye, but most people will need to judge the sex based on behavior.
The three subspecies of the widespread Black-cheeked Waxbill are found in eastern or southern Africa, where they enjoy a relatively dry climate where they can forage among seeding grasses and, occasionally, in flowering trees. Like the Orange-cheeked Waxbill, the male may construct a well-decorated dummy nest on top of the real nest, sometimes referred to as a “cock” nest.
This long-tailed waxbill stands out because of the dark black cheeks and long black tail, accented by a bright red rump.
10 - 14 grams (0.35 - 0.5 oz.)
8 - 13 centimeters (3 - 5 in.)
4 - 6 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Black-cheeked Waxbill needs a certain amount of space and privacy to feel secure enough to breed. Even then, they may be guilty of abandoning the eggs or young. The ideal breeder already has experience breeding other somewhat challenging finches, in addition to being able to work with Society Finches who will be able to foster the young Black-cheeks in a pinch.
Black-cheeked Waxbills are active although not restless finches, and they need more room than might seem reasonable at first to give them space to exercise. They also require some lots of planted greenery in the cage or flight to give them a feeling of security. One breeder suggests a minimum size of 4' long by 2' feet wide and 2' tall, with a minimum bar spacing of ½” wide. Make sure that you have a nice bushy bird-safe plant in front of the nest basket. They may be more sensitive to cold and damp than some other waxbill species, and if you have them in outdoor breeding quarters, you may need to arrange for a place to bring them indoors for the winter.
Black-cheeked Waxbills cannot be kept successfully for long if you are unwilling to supply live food. The backbone of the diet is a high quality small seed mix, perhaps mixing together finch and canary blends, fresh enough to sprout – and you should test it by sprouting regularly. You can also sow the seeds in sterile soil and, when they start to sprout, you can place the pots in their flight so they can enjoy the green food. These finches will also appreciate the milky seeding heads of grasses and the flowering heads of broccoli, in addition to the sprouts. You should also supply a finely chopped salad that includes chickweed, greens, apple, carrot, and broccoli.
Don't skimp on the eggfood, high quality finch pellet, and, most importantly, a daily supply of live insects. As you approach the breeding season, increase the supply of tiny white-skinned mealworms, waxworms, and perhaps ant pupae or fly larvae to bring them into season. Don't run short on the live food, or the pair will almost certainly stop feeding their youngsters. All finches should have access to a small amount of clean grit, as well as a clean cuttlebone.
Written by Elaine Radford
unusual finch species, dramatic color pattern, exotic finch
open outdoor aviary, foot walkin aviary, high heat needs
nontoxic indoor shrubs
Stunning aviary birds
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..
From gardenfairy Sep 13 2014 12:45AM