(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 à moustaches [French]; Elfenastrild [German];
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fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial
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(four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota >
Reptilia (reptiles) >
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Coelurosauria > Maniraptora >Aves
(birds) > Order: Passeriformes
> Family: Estrildidae
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
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:
- grass seeds
- Cenchrus ciliaris (Buffelsgras)
- Eragrostis (love-grasses)
- Panicum maximum (Guinea grass)
- Panicum gilvum
- Setaria verticillata (Bur bristle grass)
- Tricholaena monachne (Blousaadgras)
- Uroschloa mosambicensis (Gonya grass)
- Pollichia campestrio (waxberry plant)
- Ziziphus mucronata (Buffalo-thorn)
- Aloe greatheadii (Spotted aloe)
- 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).
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.