The Lavender Waxbill

Lavender Waxbill8,11,12,13,23,30,31,34,35,37,40,41
Estrilda caerulescens
Lavender Waxbill
Hardiness:Hardy if wintered indoors
Reproduction:Difficult, but reliable
Singing ability:Pleasant
Compatibility:Pushy, mixes well with other pushy species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4"-4.5" (10-11.5 cm)
Approx. cost:$50-75 (US) per bird

Other common names

Lavender Finch, Red-tailed Waxbill, Red-tailed Lavender Waxbill, Bluish Waxbill, Lavender Firefinch, Grey-blue Astrild, Vinegar-tail
Note: The Black-tailed Lavender Finch, "Gray Waxbill," or Perrein's Waxbill (E. perreini) is similar to the Lavender Waxbill, but has black tail feathers and is considered its own species.



Area of distribution

Tropical west Africa from Senegal to southwest Chad and northern Cameroon.



Lively, charming, active, inquisitive. May become aggressive while breeding, especially towards members of the same species.

Physical descriptions

Beak: dark crimson at base becoming black toward tip; lores: black eye markings extending from each side of the beak to slightly past the eye; body: steel gray with a few small, white spots on the flanks; legs and feet: blackish brown; rump, tail coverts, undertail coverts, and tail: crimson. The juvenile looks like a dull version of the adult and lacks the white flank spots.


Hens may be slightly smaller overall and have a slightly paler belly (less black hue). These visual sexing methods are unreliable, however. Only cock birds sing.


The song is thin and squeaky, made up of a two-syllable phrase, the first note is short and high-pitched, and the second note is longer, lower-pitched, and more melodious.


If 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.

Photo by Gisela Braun
Lavender waxbills; photo by Gisela Braun.

Photo by Dustin Noah
Lavender waxbills.

Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.
Wild Lavender Waxbill. Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.

Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.
Wild Lavender Waxbill. Photo by Isidro Vila Verde.

Photo by Steve Riall.
Photo by Steve Riall.

Photo by Nathan Rupert.
Photo by Nathan Rupert.

Favorite foods

Green food (e.g. chickweed), live food (meal worms, ant pupae, greenfly, waxmoth larvae, aphids, daphnia, spiders, other small insects), grass and small plant seeds, ripe fruit.

Natural habitat

Semi-arid grassland spotted with bushes, among short grass along thickets, within thornbushes in rocky areas, garden shrubs, edges of cultivation.


Wild Lavender Waxbills engage in allo-preening and live in pairs or small flocks, but may form larger aggregations. They mix with other birds (waxbills & weavers) and generally have a tame disposition. They are very fast flyers and prefer to roost in a nest at night. If no roosting nest is available, a Lavender Waxbill will sleep in a branch, sometimes with its head hanging downwards. They feed in bushes, trees, and on the ground. Their behavioral patterns are similar to firefinches' (Lagonosticta spp.).

Special considerations

Newly imported birds will benefit from a warm environment of at least 77 °F (25 °C) until they are acclimatized. Because these finches are sensitive to the cold, they should be wintered indoors if adequate heating and extended day-length lighting cannot be provided in an outdoor enclosure. Large enclosures are recommended since this species is very active. Because this is a highly insectivorous species, natural or artificial insectivorous food should always be available.

This species is very prone to feather plucking. Birds which are overcrowded or housed in too small of an enclosure tend to pluck each other. One pair should therefore be housed per spacious enclosure, especially if attempting to breed. Plucking may be further curtailed by providing environmental enrichment to the birds, such as providing millet sprays, seeding grass heads, and medium containing insects so they can 'hunt' for live food.

Introducing two unpaired Lavender Waxbills to each other often results in chasing and aggression, even if the birds are of the opposite sex. Furthermore, introducing two birds of the same sex may result in violent fighting and injury, so always keep a close eye on this species when introducing them to each other. Birds which have been plucked should not be housed outdoors until their feathers have regrown.

Hybrids have been reported between the Lavender Waxbill and the Orange-cheeked waxbill (Estrilda melpoda) and the Red-billed firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala).

Breeding season

Pairs in the wild begin nesting in the second half of the rainy season.

Breeding tips

Breeding pairs should be housed one pair per enclosure, and not housed with closely related species while breeding.

During courtship, a male will carry a piece of nesting material while displaying to the hen with his tail angled toward her as he bobs up and down. A receptive hen will often crouch and quiver her tail, but this is rarely followed by copulation. Some hens may take the initiative and carry a piece of nesting material while displaying for the cock. When a pair is ready to copulate, the male will peck the female's nape a few times, and she will respond by crouching and quivering her tail.

Pairs build nests using long grasses, coconut fiber, and plant stems; the inside of the nest is lined with finer grass fibers and feathers. Wild birds build nests within forked branches of bushes and trees. Captive birds may build high-up within thick bushes or in semi-open nest boxes. They may also make use of abandoned weaver nests and wicker nest baskets. The nest entrance is constructed as a downward-sloping tube. This species has been noted to "decorate" or "camouflage" the nest by placing bits of paper, white or glossy black feathers, clumps of earth, and even dead insects or dead nestlings atop the nest. Both adults will incubate the eggs and raise the young on insects. Nestlings have blueish white gape tubercles. Providing an ample variety of live food is necessary for successful chick rearing. Avoid nest checks as pairs readily abandon the nest if disturbed.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:4-6 eggs
Hatch date:After 12-15 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 16-18 days of age
Wean date:5 weeks of age

Related Article(s)

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Lavender Waxbills

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