Home | Bird Species Profiles | Introducing the Red-Cheeked Cordon Blue (Uraeginthus bengalus)

Introducing the Red-Cheeked Cordon Blue (Uraeginthus bengalus)

These beautiful little finches are among the most popular of the exotic seedeaters, both here and abroad. I highly recommend them to those who have a bit of finch-keeping experience and are looking to expand collections.

Natural History
Native to sub-Saharan Africa, cordon blues range from Senegal to Ethiopia, and south through eastern Africa to Zambia. They are usually associated with grassland habitats, but frequent farms and villages as well. They are members of the family Estrildidae, the waxbills.

Cordon blues top out at 4 ½ inches in length, and are clad in fawn brown and sky blue. The beak is red, with a black tip, and males have crimson cheek patches.

Warmth and Large Cages Required
Despite their small size, cordon blues need alot of space if they are to thrive, so provide them with one of our larger finch cages. Hailing from warm, dry climates, they are a bit more sensitive than most finches to cool, damp conditions, and do best at temperatures of 77 F or so.

Insects and Other Dietary Needs
Another thing to bear in mind is their need for a diet rich in insects – they will not do well on a seed-only diet. Small crickets, mealworms, waxworms and wild caught insects (consider using a ZooMed Bug Napper Insect Trap) are all relished. Small canned insects, such as Exo Terra silkworms, and ZooMed Anole Food (dried insects) are also worth trying. A quality finch seed should form the bulk of the diet, and sprouting grass and small amounts of carrot, broccoli and spinach should be provided 2-3 times weekly. Gravel, cuttlebone and a bath should always be available.

Breeding in Nature and Captivity
Cordon Blues will breed readily if provided with a roomy cage, and both sexes sing melodiously. An oven-shaped nest is constructed, and up to 5 eggs may be laid. Both sexes incubate the eggs for approximately 13 days, and the young fledge 17 days after hatching.

Interestingly, wild cordon blues often nest in trees occupied by wasp colonies. I’ll write more about this in the future, but it seems that finches nesting in such trees are twice as likely to be successful in fledging chicks as are birds nesting in trees without wasp colonies – probably because the wasps chase off egg and chick predators.

A number of other waxbills are popular in the pet trade…please write in with your observations and questions. Thanks, until next time, Frank.

Image referenced from Wikipedia Commons and first posted by Christiaan Kooyman.


  1. avatar

    thank you for the fabulous information

  2. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks so much for taking the time to write in with your kind comment.

    I look forward to your future questions and observations.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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