The Cordon Bleu Waxbill

Cordon Bleu (3 sub species)8,10,11,12,13,23
Uraeginthus bengalus - Red-cheeked
Uraeginthus angolensis - Blue-Breasted
Uraeginthus cyanocephala/cyanocephalus - Blue-Capped
Cordon Bleu
Hardiness:Somewhat delicate
Singing ability:Somewhat pleasant
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4.75" (12 cm)
Approx. cost:$100 (US) per pair

Other common names

  • "CB"
  • Red-cheeked: Red-cheeked Blue Waxbill
  • Blue-breasted: Blue Waxbill, Blue-breasted Waxbill, Angola(n) Cordon Bleu
  • Blue-capped: Blue-headed Waxbill, Blue-headed Cordon Bleu, Blue-capped Waxbill



Area of distribution

In the map below, the red area represents the approximate distribution of the red-cheeked cordon bleu, the green area represents the approximate distribution of the blue breasted cordon bleu, and the blue area represents the approximate distribution of the blue-capped cordon bleu.



Peaceful, quiet, defensive of their nest.

Physical descriptions

In general, the cordon bleu has brown feathering above, blue feathering on the face, breast, flanks, and tail, and buff under parts; the beak is a deep pink.

  • Red-cheeked: the blue feathering does not extend to the top of the head; the cock sports red patches over his ears. The cheek patches may vary in size from male to male.
  • Blue-breasted: very similar to the red-cheeked cordon bleu, except the cock does not have red cheek patches. Also, the blue coloring tends to be slightly more extensive in the areas of the breast and flanks.
  • Blue-capped: the cock's blue extends over the top of the head.


Sexing Cordon Bleus Hens of all three subspecies look nearly identical to each other, all being more dull and having less extensive blue feathering on their bodies than the cocks have. Cocks are more intensely colored and tend to have more blue coloring. In the red-cheeked subspecies, only the cock sports the red cheek patches. Juveniles have black bills; the juvenile male is similar in appearance to the adult hen but more dull overall; juvenile females look like their brothers, only with less extensive blue coloring.


Both sexes sing, but the male's song is longer and more complex. Songs may vary between individuals and are often accompanied by a courtship display.

Cock singing (.mp3, .15 MB)


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Blue-capped Cordon Bleu cocks:

Male Cordon Bleu Male Cordon Bleu

Male Cordon Bleu Male Cordon Bleu

Blue-capped Cordon Bleu chicks:

Cordon Bleu hatchling Cordon Bleu chicks

Blue-capped Cordon Bleu pair:

Cordon Bleu Pair Cordon Bleu Pair

(Left photo: hen on bottom; Right photo: hen on left)

Cordon Bleus

(Hen, Cock, Hen)

Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu cock:

Male Cordon Bleu

Male Cordon Bleus

Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu pair (hen on right):

Cordon Bleu Pair

Blue-breasted Cordon Bleu (photo by Martha-de-Jong-Lant):

Cordon Bleu Pair

Favorite foods

Green food (e.g. dandelion, chickweed [Stellaria media]), insects (mealworms, flying termites, ant eggs, green aphids)

Natural habitat

The savannas, thorn scrub country, dry woodland regions, and cultivated areas (with bushes/shrubs/gardens) in villages or near roadsides of tropical Africa--mainly the southeastern regions where nests are built in thick thorn bushes.


Usually form pairs which join in small flocks. Cordon Bleus do not roost in nests at night unless they are incubating eggs or brooding young. Instead, they tend to sleep (and rest) "clumped" next to their mate on perches. They tend to only allo-preen their own mate, but may accept allo-preening from other small estrildids such as the Goldbreasted waxbill. Cordon Bleus drink by sucking up water, and many owners report that they love to bathe in water.

Special considerations

These somewhat delicate birds require a dry, somewhat warm (no cooler than 65°F [18°C]) environment to thrive. Because the hens of all three subspecies look so similar, take care not to cross breed the species.

Breeding season

In the wild, cordon bleus pair off and build nests (often among thorns and close to wasp nests) after the rainy season ends (usually January to June) when termites and green seeds are plentiful. These birds may be stimulated to breed at nearly any time in captivity, as long as the ambient temperature is kept warm, the enclosure is kept dry, and plenty of live food is provided. Spring-Summer breeding is recommended.

Breeding tips

These birds make use of ample hiding opportunities, especially during breeding. Therefore a fairly well-planted aviary or spacious flight with plenty of seclusion will do nicely. Cordon Bleus may engage in "sexual chasing" where the male pecks at and chases the female he is bonded to, especially if their courtship display is interrupted by another male. This is thought to occur in order to drive the hen away from the presence of possible rivals. In the courtship display, a male will hold a piece of nesting material (usually a long piece of grass or a white feather) in his beak; he will perch near the female with his tail angled toward her and sing while bobbing up-and-down and throwing his head back each time he rises. If the female is on the ground, the male may hop around her as he displays. Females may also mimic this courtship display. As long as the female is receptive, most courtship displays result in the female crouching and quivering her tail to solicit copulation; the male may peck at the hen's head (not in a harmful way) just before mounting her. Breeding birds should be limited to a single pair per flight/aviary, with half open nest boxes and wicker nests for nesting. Coconut fiber, fine grass, and pale or white feathers should be provided for nesting material. Make sure these materials are available throughout incubation, as pairs will often add feathers to the lining of the nest around the time the young hatch. Ample live food (mealworms, waxworms, termites) is essential for breeding birds to successfully rear chicks. You may also provide "insectivore diets" such as Avico's Bugs-n-Berries and dried ant eggs. Once chicks hatch, dishes of insects (live and/or dried) will need to be refilled several times daily. If the birds sense a shortage of live food, they will abandon their young or toss their chicks from the nest. No nest checks should be performed as these birds scare easily from the nest. Chicks hatch with reddish skin and fawn colored down. Once young fledge the nest, they tend not to return to it, even during the first few nights after fledging. Because young birds are especially susceptible to the cold and dampness, these birds should only be bred during the warmer months unless the aviary/flight can be heated and kept dry.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:3-6 eggs
Incubation date:After the third egg is laid; both parents incubate the eggs during the day; the female incubates at night
Hatch date:After 11-14 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 14-19 days of age
Wean date:4-6 weeks of age (about 2 weeks after fledging)
First molt:3.5-5.5 months of age

Related Article(s)

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Cordon Bleu Waxbills

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