Species group: Cordon Bleus and Grenadiers
Other common names: Common Grenadier; Grenadier Waxbill
Scientific name: Uraeginthus granatina
The Violet-eared Waxbill may be the least-known of the Cordon Bleu and Grenadier species, but it's a handsome bird in its own right 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 species.
There are three subspecies of this successful finch found in southern Africa, whereas you'll find its close relative, the Purple Grenadier, farther north in east Africa. Violet-ears seem to be able to tolerate quite a dry habitat, and they will feed on seeding grasses on or near the ground, often in areas where they can retreat into thorny scrub. Although most breeders feel Violet-ears are clearly closely related to the Purple Grenadier, they have occasionally been placed into their own genus, so you may find some information on this species under the name Granatina granatina.
The male Violet-eared Waxbill is particularly impressive, with a large violet cheek patch (the so-called “ears”) but the female also displays a smaller but still lovely pair of violet “ears.” Both sexes have an electric 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 female Purple Grenadier has some silver markings around her eyes, rather than the female Violet-ear's purple cheek patches.
14 - 15 centimeters
5 - 7 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Violet-eared Waxbill 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 Violet-eared Waxbills to attack the other species, nor do you want the activities of the other species to cause the somewhat touchy Violet-eared Waxbills 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 Violet-eared Waxbills still toss out their babies, breeders have successfully fostered the eggs or babies under Society Finches.
Each pair of Violet-eared Waxbills 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. They really like warmth, and breeders have suggested that the birdroom be kept at 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Violet-eared Waxbills 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