Estrilda erythronotos (Black-faced waxbill, Black-cheeked waxbill) 

Swartwangsysie [Afrikaans]; Siguye [Kwangali]; Xidzingirhi (generic term for firefinches and waxbills; also applied to Ground woodpecker [check]) [Tsonga]; Sentsipitsipi [Tswana]; Elfenastrild [Dutch]; Astrild moustaches [French]; Elfenastrild [German]; Bico-de-lacre-de-faces-pretas [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora >Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Estrildidae

Estrilda erythronotos (Black-faced waxbill, Black-cheeked waxbill) 

Black-faced waxbill, Nylsvlei, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Distribution and habitat

It occurs in two separate areas of sub-Saharan Africa roughly 1300 km apart; one in East Africa from Uganda to Tanzania and the other population extending from southern Zambia and Angola to southern Africa. Here it is common from western Zimbabwe and northern and north-eastern South Africa to Botswana and Namibia, generally favouring arid thornveld savanna and thornbush with permanent bodies of water

Distribution of Black-faced waxbill in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been found heavily infested with ticks (specifically Hyalomma marginatumi).


It mainly eats grass seeds taken directly from plants, supplemented with insects, fruit and nectar, doing most of its foraging in the morning in pairs or small groups. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • grass seeds
      • Cenchrus ciliaris (Buffelsgras)
      • Eragrostis (love-grasses)
      • Panicum maximum (Guinea grass)
      • Panicum gilvum
      • Setaria verticillata (Bur bristle grass)
      • Sporobolus
      • Tricholaena monachne (Blousaadgras)
      • Uroschloa mosambicensis (Gonya grass)
    • fruit
      • Pollichia campestrio (waxberry plant)
    • flowers
      • Ziziphus mucronata (Buffalo-thorn)
    • nectar
      • Aloe greatheadii (Spotted aloe)
  • Insects


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, with pairs staying together for at least 3-15 months.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a thick-walled ball of grass leaves and inflorescences with a long entrance tunnel on the bottom. It may also add a cup-shaped false nest to the top of the structure, probably because it distracts predators from the real entrance. The interior is lined with soft, fine grass inflorescences such as Aristida, love-grass (Eragrostis barbinodis), Natal redtop (Melinis repens) and Blousaadgras (Tricholaena monachne). It is  typically placed in a dense clump of twigs in the uppermost branches of a thorny tree, often Umbrella thorn (Acacia tortilis), often building a new nest every breeding season in the same tree.
  • Egg-laying season is from December-May, peaking from January-March.
  • It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 12 days (recorded in captivity).
  • The chicks leave the nest after about 22 days and can fend for themselves roughly 10 days (recorded in captivity).


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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