The Orange Cheeked Waxbill

Orange Cheeked Waxbill8,10,11,12,13,23
Estrilda melpoda
Reproduction:Somewhat difficult, but prolific
Singing ability:Somewhat pleasant
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:4" (10 cm)
Approx. cost:$30-40 (US) per pair

Other common names

Orange Cheek, Orange-cheeked Astrild, Red-cheeked Waxbill



Area of distribution

Western and Eastern Africa, including: Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Zambia.



Timid, nervous, energetic, may be a little aggressive while breeding.

Physical descriptions

Red beak, orange "cheeks" which extend over the eyes, dark blue-grey on top of head, light grey under chin, light brown-grey chest, cream lower belly, dark brown back and wings, crimson tail coverts, black tail, yellow streak across the vent area (creamy yellow in hens, deep yellow-orange in cocks). Juveniles look like the adults but with subdued markings.

Sexing Orange Cheeks


Cocks sing and have a deeper yellow stripe near the vent than hens, as photographed. In the picture, the hen is on the left and the cock is on the right.


The song is a light jingling of notes and may vary among individuals.


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 Francis Yip.
Photo by Francis Yip.

Photo by Francis Yip.
Photo by Francis Yip.

Photo by Lim Chaikok.
Photo by Lim Chaikok.

Orange Cheeked Waxbill

Orange Cheeked Waxbills

Orange Cheeked Waxbills - photo by Carlos Reis

Photo by Isanet
Photo by Isanet.

Favorite foods

Green food, insects (mealworms, termites, ant eggs, aphids)

Natural habitat

Grasslands and savannas of western and central tropical Africa, often along water, swamps, or the edges of farmland.


Outside of the mating season, these finches prefer to live in small flocks. They engage in allopreening.

Special considerations

Orange-cheeked waxbills may hybridize with black-rumped (red-eared) waxbills ( Estrilda troglodytes). When breeding, these birds may disrupt other aviary inhabitants. Orange cheeked waxbills are parasitized by the Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura). These birds tend to be cold sensitive and should therefore be kept where the temperature does not drop below 65°F (18°C).

Breeding season

In the wild, orange cheeked waxbills pair off and build nests during the rainy season. In Seirra Leone breeding is recorded in July and August; in the Congo breeding occurs in October to June (and sometimes into August); in northern Zambia, breeding occurs from February to May. Warm weather (spring-summer) breeding is recommended.

Breeding tips

These birds prefer to breed in a well-planted aviary or spacious flight. Providing plenty of bushy cover may help to reduce their anxiety. For nesting, they may use half open nest boxes and wicker nests placed fairly low to the ground, or shrubs and tufts of grass. They tend to build their nest about four feet from the ground and prefer that their nest be visually isolated (secluded). Coconut fiber, fine grass, and white feathers should be provided for nesting material. (Mine plucked leaves from a Boston fern for their nest.) If they are permitted to build their own nest in a shrub, orange-cheeked waxbills may construct a "cock's nest" above their breeding chamber; although this area is not occupied by the birds, it serves as a decoy to confuse predators. They have been known to decorate their nest with dull pieces of earth, brown paper, and small stones, and occasionally place a feather in the entrance of the nest to conceal the inside. 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. Chicks hatch naked. 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 may abandon their young or toss their chicks from the nest. No nest checks should be performed as these birds scare easily from the nest.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:4-6 eggs
Incubation date:After the third or fourth egg is laid
Hatch date:After 14 days of incubation
Fledge date:About 16-20 days of age
Wean date:About 4-5 weeks of age

Related Article(s)

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Orange Cheeked Waxbills

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