The Purple Grenadier

Purple Grenadier8,13,23,31,34,35,37,40,41
Uraeginthus ianthinogaster
or Granatina ianthinogaster
Purple Grenadier
Hardiness:Somewhat delicate
Singing ability:No data.
Compatibility:Pushy, mixes well with other pushy species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:5.25"-5.5" (13.5-14 cm)
Weight:12 g
Approx. cost:$300-350 (US) per pair

Other common names

Purple Waxbill, Purple Grenadier Waxbill, Purple-bellied Waxbill


East Africa

Area of distribution

Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania.



Secretive but relatively tame in captivity. Generally peaceable, but tends to be aggressive toward closely related species such as the Cordon Bleu.

Physical descriptions

Dark chestnut brown bird with red beak, black tail, and deep purplish blue rump. Male has purplish-blue feathers around the eyes, and purplish-blue breast, belly, and flanks. Female has less extensive (sometimes absent) blue feathering on the face, and often has white feathers around the eyes; female's breast and belly is spotted or barred white. Juveniles appear similar to the female but paler, duller, and without white markings. The juvenile hen tends to be paler than the juvenile cock. Juveniles have blackish bills and their legs are paler than the adults'. Juveniles go through an early partial molt of the face feathers where males obtain their blue feathering and females their pale mauve feathering around the eyes; first-winter males and females have black upper mandibles/black tips to their bills.
Sexing Purple Grenadiers


This is a dimorphic species; the cock sports blue on his face, breast, and belly. The hen has less extensive blue on the face and sports white around the eyes as well as on the breast and belly.


The song begins with soft crackling and buzzing noises and ends in a trill. Both sexes sing.


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Purple Grenadier Hen

Purple Grenadier Cock
Cock. Photo by Nathan Rupert.

Purple Grenadier Cock
Cock. Photo by Nathan Rupert.

Purple Grenadier Pair
Pair, hen on right. Photo by Ornitologia Lodato.

Purple Grenadier Cock

Purple Grenadier Cock
Hen. Photo by Steve Riall.

Purple Grenadier Cock
Cock. Photo by Steve Riall.

Purple Grenadier Cock
Cock. Photo by Steve Riall.

Favorite foods

Grass seeds, insects (mealworms, termites, small spiders, white worms, aphids, ant pupae), egg food, green food.

Natural habitat

Arid country, including thorn scrub, acacia thickets, and sometimes open bushy areas. Enjoys aloes.


Prefers to feed on the ground. Usually form monogamous pairs and small parties. Courtship usually takes place on the ground with the cock holding a stem or feather in his bill, singing and bowing his head as he bobs up and down, hoping to attract a hen. An interested hen may fly to the cock, twist her head and tail toward him and possibly also show a display, joining the male in bobbing. Both cock and hen share nest construction, often building their round nest low in a bush or shrub. The cock may continually line the nest with feathers during incubation, which both parents take turns doing through the day, with the hen incubating at night.

Special considerations

Although Purple Grenadiers are mostly peaceable, they should not be housed with Cordon Bleus, as Purple Grenadiers tend to be quite aggressive toward them. Additionally, they may also demonstrate aggression toward other red-billed species.

These fairly delicate birds require careful acclimatizing, sheltering from inclement weather, and a heated shelter in cooler months; their environment should not become cooler than 65 °F (18°C), especially for newly imported birds. A dry, warm, well-sheltered flight or cage is recommended.

Small quantities of live food should be offered throughout the year, and increased substantially during breeding. During the non-breeding season, an austerity diet (limiting the amount of live food, greens, sprouted seed) should be adhered to prevent obesity and unintentional breeding stimulation.

Due to their insectivorous and ground-feeding nature, Purple Grenadiers may be prone to intestinal parasites such as Gizzardworms (Acuaria spp.) and coccidia; regular deworming is recommended. Ensure that birds receive adequate vitamin D (via natural sunshine or supplementation). Hens are prone to egg-binding, especially young and old hens housed exclusively indoors or those which are housed outdoors during cold weather. Purple Grenadiers are parasitized by the Fischer's or Straw-tailed Whydah (Vidua fischeri) and have reportedly hybridized with the Violet-eared Waxbill (Uraeginthus granatina).

Breeding season

Purple Grenadiers breed during the rainy season.
Southern Kenya: March & April
Northern Tanzania: December through February
Australia (in captivity): February through July

Breeding tips

Birds should be at least 1 year old prior to breeding. A breeding diet should be introduced about 1 month prior to breeding, and should include copious amounts of live food, greens, and sprouted seed. Pairs are best bred individually in sunny, well-planted outdoor aviaries with shrubs or bushes for nesting. Ideally, pairs should not be housed in adjacent enclosures to prevent distraction. Environmental temperatures should be maintained around 72 to 79 °F (22-26 °C).

Nest boxes and wire baskets stuffed with dried brush can serve as nest sites. Provide coconut fiber, dried grass, and feathers for nesting material. Provide an ample variety and supply of live food for parents to rear their young. Avoid nest checks. Purple Grenadier hens are very tight sitters. 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.

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. After fledging, young may return to the nest at night for an additional 1-2 weeks. 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. Pairs may produce 3 broods per season. After fledging, juveniles should be left with the parents for 4 weeks before removing them to their own enclosure to ensure independence.

Pairs may establish their permanent bonds as young as 35 days of age when the juveniles attain their adult coloration of the face.

Purple Grenadier chicks may be successfully fostered by Blue-headed Cordon Bleu, Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu, Red-billed Firefinches, and possibly Society Finches.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:3-5 eggs
Incubation date:After the 4th or 5th egg is laid
Hatch date:After 12-14 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 21 days of age
Wean date:5 weeks of age (about 2 weeks after fledging)
Early juvenile molt:Around 35 days of age

Related Article(s)

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Purple Grenadier

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