Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda)

Author: Bibitayo Ayobami Owolabi. Department of Wildlife and Ecotourism Management. Osun State University, Osogbo, Nigeria. ORCID:

The Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda) is a common species of estrildid finch, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 3,600,000 km², Orange-cheeked waxbills are found in the grasslands of the western parts of the African continent, where they live in flocks of up to 30 birds.


This species prefers to nest close to or directly on the ground in tangled clumps of tall grass. Collecting grass stems, especially old seed heads (panicles), helping to camouflage the structure. They lay 3-6 tiny white eggs which are incubated for 13 days. Fledglings leave the nest around 23 days looking similar to their parents but sporting duller orange ear coverts for the first few months.

Figure 1: Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda) on a project site. (Photos: B. Owolabi).

Feeding ecology

Orange cheeks waxbills like a lot of grass. They eat the seed heads directly from grass panicles, they forage at its roots for tiny insects, and build their nests directly on it. They hang on the stems and harvest the ripe or green seeds, sometimes while hanging upside down. Small insects such as termites, aphids, and gnats are taken during the breeding season.

Figure 2: Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda) feeding. (Photos: B. Owolabi).


Originating in Western Africa, they are found in open grassland with light tree and/or shrub coverage, also along watercourses, in gardens and cultivated fields.


The IUCN has classified the species as being of least concern.


Borrow, N. & Demey, R. (2010) Birds of Western Africa. Christopher Helm, London.

BirdLife International (2018). “Estrilda melpoda”IUCN Red List of Threatened Species2018: e.T22719558A131994459. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22719558A131994459.en.