Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias & Allies

Swee Waxbill Coccopygia melanotis ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The estrildid finches are small passerine birds of the Old World tropics and Australasia. They are classified as the family Estrildidae (waxbills, munias and allies). They are gregarious and often colonial seed eaters with short, thick, but pointed bills. They are all similar in structure and habits, but vary widely in plumage colours and patterns.

All the estrildids build large, domed nests and lay five to ten white eggs. Many species build roost nests. Some of the fire-finches and pytilias are hosts to the brood-parasitic indigobirds and whydahs, respectively.

Most are sensitive to cold and require warm, usually tropical, habitats, although a few, such as the Eastern Alpine Mannikin, Mountain Firetail and Red-browed Finch, and the genus Stagonopleura, have adapted to the cooler climates of southern Australia and the highlands of New Guinea.

The smallest species of the family is the Shelley’s Oliveback Nesocharis shelleyi at a mere 8.3 centimetres, although the lightest species is the Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes at 6 grams. The largest species is the Java Sparrow Padda oryzivora, at 17cm and 25g.

There are, according to the IOC, 141 species in the Estrildidae family. They are:

Woodhouse’s Antpecker Parmoptila woodhousei
Red-fronted Antpecker Parmoptila rubrifrons
Jameson’s Antpecker Parmoptila jamesoni

White-breasted Nigrita Nigrita fusconotus
Chestnut-breasted Nigrita Nigrita bicolor
Pale-fronted Nigrita Nigrita luteifrons
Grey-headed Nigrita Nigrita canicapillus

Shelley’s Oliveback Nesocharis shelleyi
White-collared Oliveback Nesocharis ansorgei
Grey-headed Oliveback Nesocharis capistrata

Red-billed Pytilia Pytilia lineata
Red-winged Pytilia Pytilia phoenicoptera
Yellow-winged Pytilia Pytilia hypogrammica
Orange-winged Pytilia Pytilia afra
Green-winged Pytilia Pytilia melba

Red-headed Finch Amadina erythrocephala
Cut-throat Finch Amadina fasciata

Green Twinspot Mandingoa nitidula

Red-faced Crimsonwing Cryptospiza reichenovii
Abyssinian Crimsonwing Cryptospiza salvadorii
Dusky Crimsonwing Cryptospiza jacksoni
Shelley’s Crimsonwing Cryptospiza shelleyi

Black-bellied Seedcracker Pyrenestes ostrinus
Crimson Seedcracker Pyrenestes sanguineus
Lesser Seedcracker Pyrenestes minor

Grant’s Bluebill Spermophaga poliogenys
Western Bluebill Spermophaga haematina
Red-headed Bluebill Spermophaga ruficapilla

Brown Twinspot Clytospiza monteiri

Pink-throated Twinspot Hypargos margaritatus
Red-throated Twinspot Hypargos niveoguttatus

Dybowski’s Twinspot Euschistospiza dybowskii
Dusky Twinspot Euschistospiza cinereovinacea

Black-bellied Firefinch Lagonosticta rara
Bar-breasted Firefinch Lagonosticta rufopicta
Brown Firefinch Lagonosticta nitidula
Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala
Rock Firefinch Lagonosticta sanguinodorsalis
Chad Firefinch Lagonosticta umbrinodorsalis
Mali Firefinch Lagonosticta virata
African Firefinch Lagonosticta rubricata
Landana Firefinch Lagonosticta landanae
Jameson’s Firefinch Lagonosticta rhodopareia
Black-faced Firefinch Lagonosticta larvata

Blue Waxbill Uraeginthus angolensis
Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu Uraeginthus bengalus
Blue-capped Cordon-bleu Uraeginthus cyanocephalus
Violet-eared Waxbill Uraeginthus granatinus
Purple Grenadier Uraeginthus ianthinogaster

Yellow-bellied Waxbill Coccopygia quartinia
Swee Waxbill Coccopygia melanotis
Angolan Waxbill Coccopygia bocagei

Lavender Waxbill Estrilda caerulescens
Grey Waxbill Estrilda perreini
Cinderella Waxbill Estrilda thomensis
Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia
Fawn-breasted Waxbill Estrilda paludicola
Abyssinian Waxbill Estrilda ochrogaster
Orange-cheeked Waxbill Estrilda melpoda
Crimson-rumped Waxbill Estrilda rhodopyga
Arabian Waxbill Estrilda rufibarba
Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes
Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild
Black-lored Waxbill Estrilda nigriloris
Black-crowned Waxbill Estrilda nonnula
Black-headed Waxbill Estrilda atricapilla
Kandt’s Waxbill Estrilda kandti
Black-faced Waxbill Estrilda erythronotos
Black-cheeked Waxbill Estrilda charmosyna

Red Avadavat Amandava amandava
Green Avadavat Amandava formosa
Orange-breasted Waxbill Amandava subflava

Quailfinch Ortygospiza atricollis

Locust Finch Paludipasser locustella

Painted Finch Emblema pictum

Beautiful Firetail Stagonopleura bella
Red-eared Firetail Stagonopleura oculata
Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata

Mountain Firetail Oreostruthus fuliginosus

Red-browed Finch Neochmia temporalis
Crimson Finch Neochmia phaeton
Star Finch Neochmia ruficauda
Plum-headed Finch Neochmia modesta

Masked Finch Poephila personata
Long-tailed Finch Poephila acuticauda
Black-throated Finch Poephila cincta

Zebra Finch Taeniopygia guttata
Double-barred Finch Taeniopygia bichenovii

Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch Erythrura hyperythra
Pin-tailed Parrotfinch Erythrura prasina
Green-faced Parrotfinch Erythrura viridifacies
Tricolored Parrotfinch Erythrura tricolor
Red-eared Parrotfinch Erythrura coloria
Blue-faced Parrotfinch Erythrura trichroa
Papuan Parrotfinch Erythrura papuana
Red-throated Parrotfinch Erythrura psittacea
Red-headed Parrotfinch Erythrura cyaneovirens
Royal Parrotfinch Erythrura regia
Fiji Parrotfinch Erythrura pealii
Pink-billed Parrotfinch Erythrura kleinschmidti
Gouldian Finch Erythrura gouldiae

Madagascan Mannikin Lepidopygia nana

African Silverbill Euodice cantans
Indian Silverbill Euodice malabarica

Grey-headed Silverbill Odontospiza caniceps

Bronze Mannikin Lonchura cucullata
Black-and-white Mannikin Lonchura bicolor
Red-backed Mannikin Lonchura nigriceps
Magpie Mannikin Lonchura fringilloides
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata
Javan Munia Lonchura leucogastroides
Dusky Munia Lonchura fuscans
Black-faced Munia Lonchura molucca
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata
Black-throated Munia Lonchura kelaarti
White-bellied Munia Lonchura leucogastra
Streak-headed Mannikin Lonchura tristissima
White-spotted Mannikin Lonchura leucosticta
Five-colored Munia Lonchura quinticolor
Tricolored Munia Lonchura malacca
White-capped Munia Lonchura ferruginosa
Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla
White-headed Munia Lonchura maja
Pale-headed Munia Lonchura pallida
Great-billed Mannikin Lonchura grandis
Grey-banded Mannikin Lonchura vana
Grey-headed Mannikin Lonchura caniceps
Grey-crowned Mannikin Lonchura nevermanni
Hooded Mannikin Lonchura spectabilis
Forbes’s Mannikin Lonchura forbesi
Hunstein’s Mannikin Lonchura hunsteini
Yellow-rumped Mannikin Lonchura flaviprymna
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin Lonchura castaneothorax
Black Mannikin Lonchura stygia
Black-breasted Mannikin Lonchura teerinki
Eastern Alpine Mannikin Lonchura monticola
Western Alpine Mannikin Lonchura montana
Buff-bellied Mannikin Lonchura melaena
Timor Sparrow Lonchura fuscata
Java Sparrow Lonchura oryzivora

Pictorella Mannikin Heteromunia pectoralis

Species Links
  • Brown Firefinch Lagonostica nitidula

    IUCN Species Status
    The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be locally common (Fry and Keith 2004).
  • Brown Firefinch Lagonostica nitidula

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Brown Firefinch Lagonostica nitidula

    Species Account
    The brown firefinch (Lagonosticta nitidula) is a common species of estrildid finch found in Southern Africa.
  • Brown Firefinch Lagonosticta nitidula

    BirdLife Species Account
    Species account
  • Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild

    Species Account
    The Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild), also known as the St Helena Waxbill, is a small passerine bird belonging to the estrildid finch family. It is native to sub-Saharan Africa but has been introduced to many other regions of the world and now has an estimated global extent of occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It is popular and easy to keep in captivity…
  • Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala

    BirdLife Species Account
    BirdLife fact sheet...
  • Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala

    IUCN Species Status
    This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion.
  • Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala

    Species Account
    The red-billed firefinch or Senegal firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala) is a small passerine bird. This estrildid finch is a resident breeding bird in most of Sub-Saharan Africa with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 10,000,000 km2. This species was introduced to Egypt, however, the introduced population has become extinct.
  • Swee Waxbill Coccopygia melanotis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Swee Waxbill Coccopygia melanotis

    Species Account
    The swee waxbill (Coccopygia melanotis), is a common species of estrildid finch found in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 141

Useful Reading
  • Encyclopaedia of Estrildid Finches

    Mastthew M Vriends & Tanya M. Heming-Vriends. Hancock House Publishers 8.5x11 ins Hard Cover 256 pp 48 page colour [400 photographs] section. $60 ISBN: 0888394934 Buy this book from
  • Finches & Sparrows

    Peter Clement, Alan Harris & John Davis Helm 1993 ISBN: 0713680172 Buy this book from
  • Waxbill Finch Society

    About cage birds but… These pages contain information about our experiences with these delightful active colourful little birds. There will be information about African waxbills, Australian (Grass) finches and other African and Asian finches such as those in the Lonchura family (mannikins and nuns)…

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