Species group: Cordon Bleus and Grenadiers
Other common names: Purple Waxbill, Purple Grenadier Waxbill
Scientific name: Uraeginthus ianthinogaster
The Purple Grenadier is a beautiful African finch that presents an interesting challenge to the more advanced bird breeder. Most people recommend that you get some experience breeding one of its relatives, the Cordon Bleus, before you step up to this handsome species. This finch comes from east Africa, where it is a common tropical species that likes to feed on the ground near shrubs where it can retreat from predators. They are often the host of the brood parasite, the Straw-tailed Whydah, which lays its eggs in the Purple Grenadier nests and then goes on its merry way, leaving the Grenadiers to raise its youngsters.
The adult male Purple Grenadier, especially perched in good sunlight, is a splendid waxbill with extensive violet underparts flecked with rufous and a small violet-blue mask on his face. The female is substantially duller, with silver around her eyes. Both sexes have a violet-blue rump and a black tail.
Once you realize that there are two species of Grenadiers, you can easily avoid confusing the Purple Grenadier with the Violet-eared Waxbill, even when you hear the latter species referred to as the Common Grenadier. Unlike the Purple Grenadier, the Violet-eared Waxbill male does not possess the splendid violet underparts. The Violet-eared Waxbill female has light violet “ears” or cheek patches, which the Purple Grenadier female lacks.
15 - 16 grams
5 - 7 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Purple Grenadier has a strong pair bond and tends to become highly territorial in breeding season. Some breeders have reported that they become too aggressive toward other Cordon Bleus or Grenadiers, and they can really only be kept safely one pair to a flight. If you do mix them with a non-competing species, you still need to keep a sharp eye out. You don't want the Purple Grenadiers to attack the other species, nor do you want the activities of the other species to cause the somewhat touchy Purple Grenadiers to abandon their own nesting efforts. However, there are advantages to breeding other pairs or other species nearby, although not in the same flight. If all else fails, and you do everything right, and the Purple Grenadiers still toss out their babies, breeders have successfully fostered the eggs or babies under Society Finches.
Each pair of Purple Grenadiers requires its own cage or flight. They need more room than might seem reasonable, because they exercise by flying and they also require some 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. It likes warmth, and breeders have suggested that the bird room be maintained at a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Purple Grenadiers demand a high protein diet, and they 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. These finches love the milky seeding heads of grasses, 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