Species group: Cordon Bleus and Grenadiers
Other common names: Cordon Bleu (also refers to two other species), Abyssinian Cordon Bleu (U. b. schoanus)
Scientific name: Uraeginthus bengalus
The Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu is one of the most popular pet finches, and it's the species that many people mean when they simply say, “Cordon Bleu.” There are four subspecies of this highly successful, widely distributed finch, which is found over a large area of central and eastern Africa. They can be encountered fairly easily in dry habitat such as savannah or scrub.
The adult male Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu is a truly striking specimen, with his powder blue face marked with the red cheek patch. His throat, breast, flanks, and tail are the same lovely shade of blue. The female lacks the cheek patch, her blue is somewhat muted, and her tail is somewhat shorter than her mate's.
Some confusion arises when searching for Red-cheeked Cordon Bleus or information about them because people may also call other species “Cordon Bleu.” Once you know that there are three lookalike species, it isn't difficult to tell the adults apart. We'll start with the three easy decisions first. An adult Cordon Bleu with a red patch on its cheek is the male Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu. An adult Cordon Bleu with an off-white belly is a female Blue Waxbill, also known as a Blue-breasted Cordon Bleu, U. angolensis.. Any adult Cordon Blue with a blue crown is a male Blue-capped Cordon Blue, U. cyanocephala.
To distinguish male Blue Waxbills, female Blue-caps, and female Red-cheeks – three similar-looking Cordon Bleus with blue faces, brown crowns, and no red cheek patches - let us now look at the underparts. The male Blue Waxbill has bright blue underparts with a lighter patch in the center. The female Red-cheek has a substantial blue breast and blue flanks with a brown patch in the center. The female Blue-capped has only a small blue bib and mostly brown underparts with perhaps a touch of blue on the flanks. Whew. If you are in any doubt, always check the scientific name, or ask someone who has birded in Africa, as a great many pet hobbyists seem to casually confuse the English common names of these three species.
10 grams (0.35 oz.)
12 - 13 centimeters (5 in.)
7 - 9 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu may be quite territorial in breeding season. Successful breeders have suggested cage-breeding set-ups that allow the pairs to hear but not see each other, since the males may become very angry if they see another male in the presence of their mate. The sight of a rival could even cause a male to chase or attack his own female, perhaps because he's trying to get her away from the other guy. Pairs may also become somewhat nervous at that time, and they may toss their youngsters if the human keeper or a nosy aviary mate like a Zebra Finch interferes too much.
Each pair of Red-cheeked Cordon Bleus 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 its aviary should never be allowed to become chilled.
While they are considered a grass and grain eating bird in the wild, the Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu would naturally pick up some insect matter along the way, 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, 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 greens, apple, carrot, and broccoli, as well as eggfood and/or a high quality finch pellet that the birds will eat. As you approach the breeding season, offer plenty 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 may 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
favorites, silvery voices, colorful cordon bleus, stunningly beautiful waxbills, Lovely aviary birds
multiroom aviary buildi, delicate birds
conservationtype breeding, commonly kept species
If you're a fan of finches, you'll LOVE Cordon Bleus
One of my favorite types of finches :) As for appearance, they have a striking and gorgeous appeal about them. Especially the red cheeked cordon bleus. Aside from their vibrant colors, they are playful, adorable little birds who really make great pets! If you give them the right habitat (which should be with other finches, as these birds are highly social, and a large enough cage for them to fly from perch to perch in - at least) then they will really amaze you with their precious antics! They have a wonderful song they will sing for you if you keep them happy and they flutter in a way that mimics a dance almost! It's quite adorable :) If you're looking for a beautiful and interactive couple to several little birds to place in your habitat, I would highly suggest these guys!
Note - I attached a picture of the Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu finch, which are the type I have experience with!.
From jess_ebbs Jun 10 2015 4:01PM
Lovely aviary birds
I’ve kept both red-cheeked and blue-capped cordon bleus and found the red-cheeks to be the more pleasant of the two species. They’re both stunningly beautiful waxbills with a vibrant blue color that you can’t find in many other pet birds.
As their name suggests, the males have the addition of red patches on their cheeks that are similar to those of zebra finches. Red-cheeked cordon bleus, however, are a calmer, quieter species and not as well suited to casual finch keepers.
Cordon bleus are fairly hardy for an exotic finch, but can be delicate and shy compared to more commonly kept species. They don’t adapt well to small cages and do best when kept in a flight cage or aviary.
Cordon bleus enjoy flying and foraging. My female’s favorite food by far was small mealworms. I’d set a tray of them in the aviary and she’d go crazy flinging them around and hopping about trying to find where she’d tossed them.
These birds naturally live in pairs and are best housed in that way with one pair per enclosure. The breeder I got mine from did have multiple breeding pairs together, but they were in a multi-room aviary building. In smaller aviaries, males can be aggressive with each other.
These aren’t the most personable finches in terms of human interaction either, but cordon bleu pairs do well with a variety of other small birds as long as they’re given space. I kept mine both with other exotic waxbills and with larger, more outgoing finch species like zebra and society finches.
I got the impression that the cordon bleus were rather annoyed by the more assertive species. They were in an aviary and had room to get away from the other birds, which they usually chose to so I imagine the species match-up would have to be more carefully considered in smaller enclosures.
Red-cheeked cordon bleus require more extensive housing and care than some finches, but have a unique beauty that makes them more than worth the extra effort..
From gardenfairy Sep 21 2014 10:46PM