Fringilla melba Linnaeus, 1758.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Melba finch, melba waxbill; French: Beaumarquet melba; German: Buntastrild; Spanish: Pinzуn Melba.
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.
Senegal east across northern Nigeria and southern Niger to Ethiopia and Somalia, south through Tanzania to northern South Africa.
Prefers dry, open areas including semi-desert, thorn scrub, acacia woodland, grassland, savanna, and cultivated areas.
Found either singly or in pairs except at watering holes where small flocks might temporarily congregate. The call is a “seeeh,” “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.
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).
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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