Lagonosticta rubricata (African firefinch, Blue-billed firefinch) 

Kaapse vuurvinkie [Afrikaans]; Isicibilili [Xhosa]; ubuCubu [Zulu]; Donkerrode amarant [Dutch]; Amarante foncé [French]; Dunkelroter amarant [German]; Peito-de-fogo-de-bico-azul [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

African firefinch female (left), and male (right). [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches across sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia south through southern DRC and Tanzania to southern Africa. Here it is locally common in Zimbabwe's eastern highlands and adjacent Mozambique, with a separate population from the Eastern Cape through KwaZulu-Natal to Swaziland and north-eastern South Africa, extending into southern Mozambique. It generally prefers moist, densely vegetated habitats such as bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) at the edge of forest and rank grass with tangled undergrowth along watercourses, often near paths or quiet roads; it also occupies gardens and rural villages.

Distribution of African firefinch 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.  


It mainly eats seeds supplemented with insects, doing most of its foraging on the ground, sifting through soil in search of food. The following food items have been recorded to be eaten in captivity:

  • Seeds
    • Eragrostis tef (Teff grass)
    • Eragrostis lehmanniana (Lehmann's lovegrass)
    • Setaria verticillata (Bur bristle grass)
    • Hyparrhenia hirta (Thatching grass)
    • Panicum (guinea grasses)
  • Insects


  • The nest is built by the male, consisting of a ball-shaped structure with a side entrance, made of long, dry grass blades and with an inner shell of soft grass inflorescences, sometimes lined with feathers. It is typically concealed in dense grass, bracken-brier undergrowth or in a tuft of grass growing out of a fallen branch or tree stump, about 0.5-2.0 metres above ground.
  • Egg-laying season is from November-June, peaking from January-April.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 11-12 days.
  • The chicks are fed both parents and leave the nest after about 14-19 days, after which they are fed for 10 more days, after which they soon become fully independent.


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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