The Black-rumped (Red-eared) Waxbill

Black-rumped Waxbill8,11,12,13,23,31,34,35,37,40,41
Estrilda troglodytes
Hardiness:Hardy once acclimated
Singing ability:Somewhat pleasant
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4" (10 cm)
Weight:About 13 grams
Approx. cost:$20-$30 (US) per bird

Other common names

Red-eared Waxbill, Yellow-browed Waxbill, Pink-cheeked Waxbill, Senegal Waxbill, Coralbeak; has also been called the Grey Waxbill, a name better reserved for E. perreini



Area of distribution

From Senegal and the Gambia east to north-eastern Congo and north-western Uganda, Sudan north to Darfur and Sennar, Eritrea and north-western Abyssinia.



Peaceful, active, vivacious, social; may be defensive of the nest.

Physical descriptions

Red beak, red eye stripe, gray plumage with a pink-brown hue on the head, wings, and body, a black rump, a black tail with white edges, an off-white undertail, and a pink patch on the bird's underside near the vent which may sometimes extend upwards towards the bird's chest. One mutation which has been reported causes the bird to have a orange bill and turns the pink and red colored feathers yellowish orange. Juveniles have a dark beak and light brown body color with a hint of pink around the vent; they lack cross barring on their feathers and also lack the red eye stripe.

Mutations include:
  • Yellow-billed - red coloration on the bird becomes yellow
  • Pied - irregular white splashes throughout
  • Fawn - fawn body, black markings become brown, red color remains; may have occurred as a result of hybridization with a mutation common waxbill

Note: The Black-rumped (Red-eared) Waxbill is often confused with the Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) due to their similar appearances. Both species have red beaks, a similar overall body coloration, and the red eye stripe. They can be differentiated, however, since the Common Waxbill has more distinct dark cross-barring on its feathers, a brown rump, and lacks the white lining around its tail. In addition, the Common Waxbill has a crimson stripe which extends down the center of its breast and belly.

Comparing the Black-rumped and Common Waxbills


The rose colored patch on the hen's underside can be paler than the cock's and her bill and eyestripe may be marginally paler, although this may not be a reliable indicator of sex. The surest way to sex these birds is to know that only the cock bird sings.


The song is variable and birds will often sing several different variations. Songs usually include a loud "explosive" note followed by a descending note.


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Photo by Isidro Vila Verde
Wild Black-rumped waxbill. Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.

Photo by Isidro Vila Verde
Wild Black-rumped waxbill. Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.

Photo by Francis Yap
Photo by Francis Yap.

Photo by Francis Yap
Photo by Francis Yap.

Black-rumped Waxbill

Black-rumped Waxbill

Black-rumped Waxbill

Black-rumped Waxbill

Favorite foods

Small-grained millets, weed seeds, sprouted seed, greens (spinach, dandelion, chickweed, etc.), insects (ant pupae, green aphids, fruit flies).

Natural habitat

In dry steppes, semi-arid open country with thorn scrub, in the bushes of open grasslands, woodland; may also inhabit brush alongside rivers, marshes, swamp.


These are very agile birds. They feed on grass seeds and on the ground and can catch insects mid-flight. Allopreening is common. Wild birds live in pairs, small groups, or occasionally large flocks, and may be seen with other waxbill species. Pair bonds may loosen during the non-breeding season, leading to pairing with new partners for subsequent breedings.

Special considerations

These birds must be kept warm during colder months; temperatures in the enclosure should not be permitted to drop below 54°F (12°C). In outdoor enclosures, adequate shelter should be provided to protect from driving rain, cold winds, and excessive heat.

Hens have a tendency to become egg bound (particularly first-year and old hens), especially if breeding in cold weather, so provide your pairs with adequate heat and a source of calcium. Black-rumped waxbills may suffer from intestinal parasites such as: gizzardworms (Acuaria spp.) and coccidiosis, and may benefit from a regular deworming program. Air sac mites are uncommon but can occur. Birds which are overcrowded, malnourished, or otherwise stressed may be prone to suffer from feather-plucking. Obesity may plague birds which are offered inadequate space to exercise and fed too rich a diet year-round. Candida (fungal) infections are common especially for birds fed maggots or which have access to damp flooring. Due to the fine materials utilized in nest construction, black-rumped waxbills may suffer from foreign body constrictive necrosis of the toes or legs if material becomes wound around the limb.

The Black-rumped Waxbill is believed to be parasitized by the Pin-tailed Whydah. Although these waxbills are difficult to breed, they have been known to hybridize with the following species (so take care when housing birds in mixed company to prevent cross-breeding): orange-cheeked waxbill (E. melpoda), common waxbill (E. astrild), crimson-rumped waxbill (E. rhodopyga), gold-breasted waxbill (Amandava subflava), African silverbill (Lonchura cantans), Scaly-breasted munia (L. punctulata), domestic canary (Serinus domesticus), red-cheeked cordon bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus), and the red-billed firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala).

Breeding season

In the wild, Black-rumped waxbills breed during the second half of the African rainy season. In captivity, they tend to breed during the warmer months.

Breeding tips

A breeding diet should be introduced about 1 month prior to breeding, and should include: live food (required for optimal results), soaked and sprouted seed, green food, and egg food. Birds aged 1 to 3 years yeild the best breeding results. Only one pair of Black-rumped Waxbills should be housed per enclosure, unless the enclosure is very large. Productivity is increased in the one-pair-per-enclosure breeding scenario compared with colony breeding. Avoid placing any nosey species (such as zebra finches and society finches) or large, aggressive species in the breeding enclosure.

Flights at least 3 feet long are recommended, although better results may be obtained by using a large, well-planted aviary with plenty of flying space. The male's courtship dance includes holding some nesting material in the beak while bobbing up and down in front of a hen, his tail pointed toward her. The female may mimic this display, but she tends not to sing. Copulation takes place inside of the nest.

Wild black-rumped waxbills build their nests directly on the ground or around the bases of bushes, and black-rumped waxbills in captivity will do the same in a well-planted aviary. In fact, these finches rarely accept nest boxes. The birds make use of grasses, moss, and coconut fiber to construct their nest, which includes a roosting chamber ("cock nest") on top or to the side. They may also line the inside of the nest with feathers and decorate the nest with white or dark and shiny objects (pieces of eggshell, dry excreta, bits of paper, shiny bits of wet earth). Often they will add more decorations to the cock nest than the brooding chamber; the cock nest probably functions as a "decoy" which might fool predators.

Both parents share incubation duties. Chicks hatch with yellow skin and bluish down. Begging becomes audible around day 6. Brooding is ceased at 9 days of age, so it is important to ensure that the enclosure does not become chilled at this time. Chicks emerge from the nest with black beaks and lack red coloration; after the chicks fledge, the parents will lead them back to the nest each night for the first several nights; the parents will then roost away from the nest. The parents continue to feed the young for about 10 days, but young birds should remain in the parents' care for about 4 weeks to ensure independence. Juveniles should then be removed from the breeding cage to allow the parents to start the next brood.

Most waxbills have poor nest hygiene, so spent nests should be removed, allowing the parents to build a fresh nest for the next brood. When not breeding, sexes should be housed separately and fed an austerity diet.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:3-6 eggs
Hatch date:After ~12 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 21 days of age
Juvenile molt:Around 8 weeks of age

Related Article(s)

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Black-rumped (Red-eared) Waxbills

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