The Orange Cheeked Waxbill

Orange Cheeked Waxbill8,10,11,12,13,23,31,37,40, 41
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)
Weight:15 grams
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 and a black bill. Reported mutations include pied and fawn, however, these mutations may not be well established.

Sexing Orange Cheeks


Cocks sing and have a deeper orange/yellow stripe near the vent than hens, as photographed (in hens, the 'splash' of orange color on the underparts is greatly reduced or entirely absent). Hens may also have a marginally paler orange face mask and marginally less intense red rump when compared with cock birds. 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.

Photo by Hiyashi Haka.
Photo by Hiyashi Haka.

Photo by Steve Riall.
Photo by Steve Riall.

Group of Orange Cheeks.

Photo by Tommy HAGA.
Hen (note the lack of any orange near the vent) feeding on grass. Photo by Tommy HAGA.

Photo by Tommy HAGA.
Hen (note the lack of any orange near the vent) feeding on grass. Photo by Tommy HAGA.

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, thornbush thickets, or the edges of farmland and forest.


Outside of the mating season, these finches prefer to live in flocks and may sometimes mix with other waxbills and mannikins. They live in pairs when breeding & engage in allopreening. Orange-cheeked waxbills feed on tall grasses as well as on the ground. They do not make use of roosting nests.

Special considerations

These birds tend to be cold sensitive and should therefore be kept where the temperature does not drop below 65°F (18°C). 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. 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, waxbills may suffer from foreign body constrictive necrosis of the toes or legs if material becomes wound around the limb.

When breeding, these birds may disrupt other aviary inhabitants. Orange cheeked waxbills are parasitized by the Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura). Orange-cheeked waxbills have reportedly hybridized with: black-rumped (red-eared) waxbills ( Estrilda troglodytes), common waxbills (E. astrild, crimson-rumped waxbills (E. rhodopyga), lavender waxbills (E. caerulescens), the black-tailed (grey) waxbill (E. perreini), and the Madagascar munia (Lemuresthes nana).

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

A breeding diet should be introduced about 1 month prior to breeding and should include ample live food, soaked and sprouted seed, green food, and egg food. Birds aged 1 to 3 years yeild the best breeding results. Only one pair of orange-cheeked 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. 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 to six feet from the ground and prefer that their nest be visually isolated (secluded). Coconut fiber, fine grass, plant fibers, 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 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. Begging becomes audible around 6 days of age, and parents cease brooding chicks around 9 days of age, so be sure to keep the enclosure adequately warm at this time.

No nest checks should be performed as these birds scare easily from the nest. If chicks are disturbed and fledge prematurely, do not attempt to replace the fledged bird(s) to the nest as this may result in the siblings fledging prematurely also; 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.

Parent birds encourage their young to fledge by withholding food and calling to the chicks from outside of the nest. Because nest hygiene may be poor, it is ideal to remove the spent nest after chicks have fledged to allow the parents to build a new one for the next brood. Weaned juveniles can be removed from the breeding enclosure 4 weeks after fledging, though this may not be necessary. At the completion of the breeding season, sexes should be housed separately and fed an austerity diet where greens, sprouted seed, and live foods are limited.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:3-7 eggs
Incubation date:After the third or fourth egg is laid
Hatch date:After 12-14 days of incubation
Fledge date:About 16-21 days of age
Wean date:About 4-5 weeks of age
Juvenile molt:About 7 weeks of age

Related Article(s)

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Orange Cheeked Waxbills

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