Pytilia melba (Green-winged pytilia, Melba finch)

Gewone melba [Afrikaans]; Matemate (generic term for pytilias) [Kwangali]; Xindzingiri bhanga (also applied to Common waxbill and Violet-eared waxbill) [Tsonga]; Melba-astrild [Dutch]; Beaumarquet melba [French]; Buntastrild [German]; Maracachão-d'asa-verde [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

Pytilia melba (Green-winged pytilia, Melba finch) Pytilia melba (Green-winged pytilia, Melba finch)

Green-winged pytilia male, Nylstroom, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Green-winged pytilia female. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Pytilia melba (Green-winged pytilia, Melba finch) Pytilia melba (Green-winged pytilia, Melba finch)
Green-winged pytilia male, North-West Province, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©] Green-winged pytilia female, North-West Province, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa excluding the lowland forest of the West African coast, from Senegal to southern Sudan and Somalia south to Zambia, Angola, Malawi and southern Africa. Here it is common from Mozambique and northern and eastern South Africa to Zimbabwe, Botswana (excluding the arid Kalahari) and northern Namibia. It generally prefers thickets and rank clumps of grass in dry woodland, especially with Acacia trees, while in more arid areas it favours edges of drainage lines and riverine woodland, since it is dependent on surface water being available.

Distribution of Green-winged pytilia 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 is sometimes heavily parasitised by the tick Hyalomma margarinatum.


It mainly eats grass seeds supplemented with arthropods, doing most of its foraging on the ground, especially in clearings or on roads. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Seeds
    • grass
      • Panicum maximum (Guinea grass)
      • Melinis repens (Natal red top)
      • Setaria verticillata (Bur bristle grass)
      • Urochloa mosambicensis (Common urochloa)
    • Alternanthera pungens (Khakiweed)
  • Arthropods


  • The nest is a thin-walled, untidy ball-shaped structure with a side entrance, made of curled dry grass inflorescences so that the soft ends form the interior, which is lined with feathers or plant down. It is typically placed in a tangled or thorny bush or tree, such as an Acacia or mistletoe, usually 0.2-3.5 metres above ground.
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from January-May.
  • It lays 2-5, rarely 6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 12-14 days.
  • The chicks are brooded and fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 18-21 days.


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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