Black-cheeked Waxbill

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Is the Black-cheeked Waxbill right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Black-faced Waxbill

Scientific name: Estrilda erythronotos

The basics:
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.)

Average size:
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

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