The Swee (Yellow-bellied) Waxbill

Swee (Yellow-bellied) Waxbill13,23,31,35,40,41
Estrilda melanotis or Coccopygia melanotis, several subspecies
Swee Waxbill
Hardiness:Fairly hardy once acclimated
Reproduction:No data.
Singing ability:No data.
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:3.75" (9.5 cm)
Approx. cost:$130-160 (US) per pair

Other common names

Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Green Waxbill, Abyssinian green waxbill (E. m. quartinia), East African Swee (E. m. kilimensis), Black-faced Swee & Dufresne's Waxbill (black-masked forms)



Area of distribution

In the map below, the red area represents the approximate distribution of E. m. melanotis, the green area represents the approximate distribution of E. m. bocagei, the yellow area represents the approximate distribution of E. m. quartinia and the blue area represents the approximate distribution of E. m. kilimensis.



Peaceful, friendly, active, lively, relatively tame.

Physical descriptions

In general, the Swee Waxbill has a black upper bill, red lower bill, grey head and chest, olive back and wings with fine dark cross-barring, red rump, black tail, buff or yellow belly, and black legs. Cocks of some of the sub-species (southern & eastern forms) also sport a black mask. Juveniles have an all-black bill, lack cross-barring, have pale rust-orange rump, and are duller overall in color compared to an adult.

  • E. m. melanotis "Nominate form" - cross-barring on the back and wings is faint; orange-red rump; reddish wash on the wings (male); throat, face, ear coverts, black (male) with a white border on the lower throat and sides of the neck; belly fawn/buff. Female lacks the black mask and red wash on the wings, and has a paler belly compared to the cock.
  • E. m. bocagei - no reddish wash on the wings, cross-barring is more pronounced, also has faint cross barring on head and breast, belly is deep yellow instead of fawn; male sports a black mask, female is paler below.
  • E. m. kilimensis - male lacks black mask; belly is yellow-buff (often washed with orange in cocks); no reddish wash on wings.
  • E. m. quartinia - male lacks a black mask; less prominent cross barring; belly is deep yellow; no reddish wash on wings.


In some of the subspecies (E. m. melanotis, E. m. bocagei) the cock bird sports a black mask which the hen lacks. In general, hens of all subspecies are paler on the belly compared to the cock bird.

Photo by Derek Keats
Swee pair. Hen on left. Photo by Derek Keats.

Photos by Henrik Ngari
Bathing swee E. m. melanotis pair. Hen on left. Photos by Henrik Ngari.


Song is described as somewhat loud, but simplistic.


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 Ron Crandall
Feeding Yellow-bellied waxbill with seed hulls stuck on its bill.

Photo by Peet van Schalkwyk
E. m. melanotis cock; note the "red wash" on the wings and the black mask.
Photo by Peet van Schalkwyk.

Photo by Peet van Schalkwyk
E. m. melanotis hen. Photo by Peet van Schalkwyk.

Photo by Derek Keats
E. m. melanotis hen. Photo by Derek Keats.

Photo by Ian White
E. m. melanotis cock; note the "red wash" on the wings and the black mask.
Photo by Ian White.

Photo by Jim Scarff
E. m. melanotis juveniles (left) with adult hen (right).

Photo by Steve Riall
E. m. melanotis hen. Photo by Steve Riall.

Photo by Steve Riall
E. m. melanotis hen. Photo by Steve Riall.

Photo by Steve Riall
E. m. melanotis hen. Photo by Steve Riall.

Photo by Graham Ekins
E. m. quartinia; has a much deeper yellow belly.

Favorite foods

Small millet (dry and soaked/sprouted), fresh/green spray millet, sprouted seed, seeding dandelion, chickweed, greens (lettuce, grass shoots), small insects (grubs, pupae, whiteworms), egg food.

Natural habitat

Where grass is thick along watercourses, at forest edge and in forest clearings, mountain slopes and hilly areas, cultivated areas, gardens.


Prefers not to socialize with other species in the wild; lives in pairs while breeding or small flocks outside of the breeding season. Feeds on seeding grasses (e.g. Panicum maximum,), other plants, and small insects. Feeds on plants and on the ground, and can take insects in flight. Pairs commonly allopreen. Pairs build rounded nests in bushes, within abandoned weavers' nests, and in small trees, using grass stalks. The inside of the nest is lined with plant silks and feathers. Young are primarily fed insects.

Special considerations

Minimum environmental/ambient temperature recommendation is 63-65 °F (17-18 °C). Subspecies do not seem to show a tendency for interbreeding. Can be housed comfortably in a large cage or aviary; mixes well with other peaceful species. Swees prefer to stay off the ground and may appreciate having their food & water dishes elevated.

Breeding season

During the African rainy season.

Breeding tips

Aviary breeding recommended, preferably planted with bushes and climbing vines for birds to build their nests within. Provide coconut fiber, grasses, sisal, and feathers for nest construction. Some pairs may accept a nest box or basket. Copulation is most likely to occur within the nest. Breeding pairs should be provided ample live food (required), eggfood, greens, and fresh seeds while breeding and rearing chicks; they may also need additional vitamin supplements. No nest checks should be performed as these birds scare easily from the nest. Chicks hatch with long, light-colored down. Once young fledge the nest, they may try to return to the nest to roost, and should therefore be removed from the breeding enclosure once they are weaned to prevent disruption to subsequent broods.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:4-6 eggs
Hatch date:After 12-13 days incubation.
Fledge date:Around 21 days of age.
Wean date:5-6 weeks of age.
Juvenile molt:3.5-4 months of age

Related Article(s)

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Swee Waxbills

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