The Cordon Bleu Waxbill
|Cordon Bleu (3 sub species)8,10,11,12,13,23,31, 34,35,37,40,41|
|Uraeginthus bengalus - Red-cheeked|
Uraeginthus angolensis - Blue-Breasted
Uraeginthus cyanocephala/cyanocephalus - Blue-Capped
Other common names
- Red-cheeked: Red-cheeked Blue Waxbill, Crimson-eared 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 distributionIn 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.
DispositionPeaceful, quiet, defensive of their nest.
Physical descriptionsIn 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. Mutations include: Yellow where the male's red cheek patch becomes more straw or yellow in color, White where the bird is entirely white but the red cheek patch is retained in males, Pied with splashes of white feathers, and Cinnamon where the bird becomes muted and paler overall.
- 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.
SexingHens 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. (The exception is the blue-breasted hen of the races U.a. niassensis and U.a. cyanopleurus which has blue underparts similar to the male's.) 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.
SongBoth 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)
PicturesIf you keep this species and have a photo of your birds to share, please submit your photo for possible inclusion on this site! Credit will be given to you.
Blue-capped Cordon Bleus:
Blue-capped cock holding nesting token. Photo by Peter Steward.
Clumping together: hen, cock, hen.
Blue-capped Cordon Bleu chicks:
Red-cheeked Cordon Bleus:
Two red-cheeked cocks.
Red-cheeked cock. Photo by Steve Riall.
Red-cheeked cock. Photo by Steve Riall.
Red-cheeked hen. Photo by Steve Riall.
Red-cheeked cock bathing. Photo by Anita Ritenour.
Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu pair (hen on right):
Blue-breasted Cordon Bleus:
Blue-breasted cock. Photo by Martha de Jong Lant.
Blue-breasted cock. Photo by Ian White.
Blue-breasted cock. Photo by Tarique Sani.
Blue-breasted cock bathing. Photo by Ian White.
Blue-breasted cock holding nesting token. Photo by Ian White.
Blue-breasted cock. Photo by Francesco Veronesi.
Favorite foodsGreen food (e.g. dandelion, chickweed [Stellaria media]), insects (mealworms, flying termites, ant eggs, green aphids, whiteworms), grass and weed seeds, sprouted seeds.
Natural habitatThe savannas or low grasses with tangled undergrowth, thorn scrub country, dry acacia 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.
HabitsUsually form pairs which join in small flocks and may mix with firefinches or other waxbills. Cordon Bleus do not roost in nests at night unless they are incubating eggs or brooding young, although blue-breasted cordon bleus in captivity may sometimes roost in abandoned nests. 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 appear to drink by "sucking" up water, and many owners report that they love to bathe in water. Feeds on the ground; sometimes takes fruits and insects (especially termites and ants) which may be taken in flight. In the wild, cordon bleus may nest near wasps' nests which is thought to offer protection against predators.
Special considerationsThese somewhat delicate birds require a dry, somewhat warm (no cooler than 65°F [18°C]) environment to thrive, and should have access to sunlight or full spectrum lighting. Hens have a tendency to become egg bound (particularly first-year and old hens), especially if breeding indoors or in cold weather, so provide your pairs with adequate heat and a source of calcium. Cordon Bleu 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 fairly common, and red-cheeked cordon bleus appear especially susceptible. "Skewbald" wing feathers (white primary flight feathers) may occur in red-cheeked cordon bleu fledglings and are not a true mutation but thought to be the result of malnutrition. Affected young will molt into normal colors as an adult.
Because the hens of all three subspecies look so similar, take care not to cross breed the species. Cordon Bleu waxbills have been known to hybridize with each other. Red-cheeked cordon bleus have additionally hybridized with: gold-breasted waxbill (Amandava subflava), common waxbill (Estrilda astrild), black-rumped waxbill (E. troglodytes), Jameson's firefinch (Lagonosticta rhodopareia), African firefinch (L. rubricata), bar-breasted firefinch (L. rufopicta), society finch (Lonchura domestica), and melba finch (Pytilia melba).
Breeding seasonIn 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, though this varies by region) when termites and green seeds are plentiful. In captivity in Australia (where seasons in the southern hemisphere are 'opposite' those of the northern hemisphere), Blue-breasted cordon bleus tend to breed from February through July, and Blue-capped cordon bleus breed from March through July. Red-cheeked cordon bleus 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 tipsA full breeding diet should be started about 1 month before the breeding season, and should include a large amount of live food, soft foods, green foods, and dry seeds. Red-cheeked and blue-breasted cordon bleus can be paired for breeding as early as 6 months of age, but the blue-capped cordon bleu should be at least 12 months old due to problems with younger birds and egg-binding. 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. Breeding birds should be limited to a single pair per flight/aviary for best results. Avoid placing other cordon bleu pairs in adjacent enclosures; the sight of conspecifics will distract the breeding pair. Provide half open nest boxes, wicker nests, and hanging wire baskets stuffed with brush for nesting. Birds tend to build their nests three to 7.5 feet (1-2.5m) off the ground. Coconut fiber, fine grass, moss, 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, and may even place a feather to provide privacy at the nest entrance.
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.
Ample live food (such as mealworms, waxworms, termites) is essential for breeding birds to successfully rear chicks. You may additionally provide "insectivore diets" 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. Absolutely no nest checks should be performed as these birds scare easily from the nest. Several stressors may increase the risk of premature fledging or nest/chick abandonment, including: nest checks or disturbances, sudden diet change, shortage of live food or rearing food, administration of medication. If premature fledging occurs, do not attempt to replace the fledged bird to the nest as this may result in the siblings fledging prematurely; instead, fit the enclosure with a small brooder under which the fledges can huddle to stay warm at night, or bring chicks indoors (to keep them warm) overnight and release them back into the aviary in the morning.
Chicks hatch with reddish skin and fawn colored down. Parents cease brooding the chicks around the 9th day of age, so it is important to keep the enclosure sufficiently warm during this time. Parents may encourage the chicks to fledge by withholding food and calling loudly from outside the nest. 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. Within a week of fledging, it may be possible to distinguish young males from females as the males tend to be marginally deeper blue. Nest hygiene is poor, so the spent nest should be removed after fledging, and the parents given an opportunity to build a fresh nest for the next brood. Juveniles should be left with the parents for 4 weeks before removing them to their own enclosure to ensure independence.
Red-cheeked cordon bleus may be quick to accept a new mate if necessary; blue-breasted cordon bleus are more reluctant. When not breeding, birds should be placed on an austerity diet consisting of dry seed, minimum greens, sprouted seed, and only a small quantity of live food or egg food.
|Clutch size:||3-6 eggs|
|Incubation date:||After the third-fifth egg is laid|
|Hatch date:||After 12-14 days of incubation|
|Fledge date:||At 18-21 days of age|
|Wean date:||4-6 weeks of age (about 2 weeks after fledging)|
|First molt:||3-5.5 months of age|
Related Article(s)If you own this species and would like to write an article about your experiences with them for this page, please submit your article for possible inclusion on this site. Credit will be given to you!
- Guest Article: Raising Blue-Capped Cordon Bleus by Brian Kozak