Greenwinged pytilia

Pytilia melba

SUBFAMILY

Estrildinae

TAXONOMY

Fringilla melba Linnaeus, 1758. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Melba finch, melba waxbill; French: Beaumarquet melba; German: Buntastrild; Spanish: Pinzón Melba.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm). Sexually dimorphic with females lacking red on the head. Juveniles resemble a duller version of the female.

DISTRIBUTION

Senegal east across northern Nigeria and southern Niger to Ethiopia and Somalia, south through Tanzania to northern South Africa.

HABITAT

Prefers dry, open areas including semi-desert, thorn scrub, acacia woodland, grassland, savanna, and cultivated areas.

BEHAVIOR

Found either singly or in pairs except at watering holes where small flocks might temporarily congregate. The call is a "see-eh," "wick" or "wit" note. The song, which is sometimes lengthy, is a series of whistles and trills interspersed with "kwik" notes.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds on the ground eating mainly grass seeds and termites, although other seeds and insects are probably eaten.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The nest is usually round or dome-shaped and built of grass and lined with feathers. Three to six white eggs are laid and incubated for 12-13 days. The breeding season lasts from November to June, peaking after the heaviest rains. Nests are often parasitized by the paradise whydah (Vidua paradisaea).

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Kept in aviculture where it proves to be a challenge to breed, requiring a variety of insects in the diet. In captivity males defend a territory against conspecific individuals as well as any bird showing red coloration on the head. ♦

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