The African finches belong to the Estrildidae – a diverse family of Old World finches comprising around 146 species divided into approximately 34 genera.
The name “finch” is a generic name given to many different birds, including waxbills, firefinches, twinspots, seedcrackers, and many others.
In Africa, 74 estrildid species spread across 25 genera occur. They show extensive plumage colors and patterns – many are extremely beautiful. They are poor vocalists, with concise songs and various chirps, warbles, chatters, and buzzes produced chiefly.
They are tiny – ranging in size from 3 in (7.5 cm) to 6.7 in (17 cm) and weighing between 0.21 oz (6 g) and 0.9 oz (25 g).
They mainly feed on seeds and berries – owing to their perfectly designed, thick, short beaks. They are gregarious, as they often forage on the ground in flocks. They occur in a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, forests, woodlands, deserts, scrubland, and agricultural land.
When it comes to nesting, the estrildid finches usually create dome-shaped nests, and many are communal nesting sites. They raise many young, and each clutch ranges from five to ten eggs.
The following article will describe the 74 species of African finches.
1. Genus Amadina
1.1 Cut-throat Finch (Amadina fasciata)
The Cut-throat Finch was named after the male’s red band on the throat that the female lacks. They have grey-brown plumage with black barring and scaling overall.
The tail is blackish-brown, the belly has a chestnut-brown patch, and the beak is pale. They are found in Africa’s southern, eastern, and Sahel regions.
1.2 Red-headed Finch (Amadina erythrocephala)
The Red-headed Finch male has a distinct red head, a plain greyish-brown upperside, a pale beak, and white-spotted underparts with dark barring and scaling. The female is similar to the male but with a grey head. They occur in southern Africa.
2. Genus Amandava
2.1 Orange-breasted Waxbill (Amandava subflava)
The Orange-breasted Waxbill has yellow to orange underparts, a red rump, eyes, bill, and eyebrow stripe, dark olive-green upper parts, and olive-green barring on the flanks. The female is duller than the male. They are found in southern, eastern, central, and western Africa.
3. Genus Brunhilda
3.1 Black-cheeked Waxbill (Brunhilda charmosyna)
The Black-cheeked Waxbill has a grey back, head, throat, and chest. The wings have black barring, the face and upper tail are black, the bill is blue-black, and the belly, flanks, and rump are red. Females are duller than males. They occur in eastern Africa.
3.2 Black-faced Waxbill (Brunhilda erythronotos)
The Black-faced Waxbill has a grey head with a black face mask as well as a grey back, throat, and chest. The bill is blue-black, and the wings are barred black.
The upper tail is black, while the rump, flanks, and belly are red. The female is duller than the male. They are found in southern and eastern Africa.
4. Genus Clytospiza
4.1 Brown Twinspot (Clytospiza monteiri)
The Brown Twinspot has dark brownish-green upper parts, a dark beak, a dark grey head, a red rump, and rufous-cinnamon underparts spotted in white.
The male has a red patch on the throat, while the female has a white patch. They are found in central Africa.
5. Genus Coccopygia
5.1 Angola Waxbill (Coccopygia bocagei)
The Angola Waxbill has an olive-green back and wings with fine dark grey barring, a dark grey head, a red and black bill, a yellow belly, a greyish-white chest, a red rump, and a black tail.
Males have black throat patches, which are absent on females. The females are also paler. It is only found in Angola.
5.2 Swee Waxbill (Coccopygia melanotis)
The Swee Waxbill has a grey head, a red lower back, rump, and upper tail, and an olive-green back and wings.
The underparts are pale grey, the lower mandible is red, and the upper mandible is dark. The male has an additional black face and throat patch. They occur in southern Africa.
5.3 Yellow-bellied Waxbill (Coccopygia quartinia)
The Yellow-bellied Waxbill has a yellow belly, an olive-green back and upper wings, a black tail, a grey head, a red lower back, rump, and upper tail, a pale grey chest, and a red and black beak.
The male has a black facial mask. They are found in southern and eastern Africa.
6. Genus Cryptospiza
6.1 Abyssinian Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza salvadorii)
The Abyssinian Crimsonwing has a red back and rump, black wings and tail, an olive-grey head, a dark bill, and olive-grey underparts.
Males have red on the flanks that separate them from females. They occur in eastern Africa.
6.2 Dusky Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza jacksoni)
The Dusky Crimsonwing has dark grey underparts, a dark grey head with a red face mask, a red back, flanks, and rump.
The wings and tail are black, while the bill is dark. They are found in the Albertine Rift of eastern Africa.
6.3 Red-faced Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza reichenovii)
The Red-faced Crimsonwing has a red back, rump, and flanks, a black tail and wings, an olive head and underparts, and a dark bill.
The male has a red face, while the female has a pale yellow face. They inhabit eastern and central Africa.
6.4 Shelley’s Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza shelleyi)
Shelley’s Crimsonwing has a red bill, a red back and rump, black wings and a black tail, an olive throat, olive-yellow underparts, and orange flanks.
The male has a red crown, while the female has an olive crown. It only occurs in the Albertine Rift of eastern Africa.
7. Genus Delacourella
7.1 Grey-headed Oliveback (Delacourella capistrata)
The Grey-headed Oliveback has an olive back, wings, rump, and upper tail, yellow flanks, grey underparts, a grey crown, nape, and neck.
They also have a white face and cheeks, a dark beak, and a black bib on the throat that extends onto the jawline. They are found in central and western Africa.
8. Genus Estrilda
8.1 Anambra Waxbill (Estrilda poliopareia)
The Anambra Waxbill has finely barred, dull buffy underparts, darker olive upper parts, a pale greyish head, a reddish-brown rump and beak, and pale eyes.
It is only known to occur in southern Nigeria and Benin.
8.2 Black-crowned Waxbill (Estrilda nonnula)
The Black-crowned Waxbill has a whitish head and throat with a black crown, forehead, and rear of the eye, lightly barred grey upperparts, dark wings, whitish underparts, and a red wash from the flanks to the rump.
They inhabit central and eastern Africa.
8.3 Black-headed Waxbill (Estrilda atricapilla)
The Black-headed Waxbill has a black crown, forehead, lores, and rear of the eye. The rest of the head and throat are whitish.
The upper side is grey with fine barring, while they have dark wings and a whitish chest. The belly, flanks, and rump have a red wash, while the vent is black.
They are found in central Africa.
8.4 Black-lored Waxbill (Estrilda nigriloris)
The Black-lored Waxbill is grey-brown overall with thick barring, a pinkish wash, a red bill, and a black line from the lores to behind the eye.
They are only known to occur in two locations in the southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
8.5 Black-rumped Waxbill (Estrilda troglodytes)
The Black-rumped Waxbill has a plain brownish-grey back, a white under tail, finely barred greyish-brown underparts, a black rump, a red eye stripe, and a red bill.
The head, wings, and body have a pinkish-brown wash on males that the females lack.
Their native range is within central and western Africa.
8.6 Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild)
The Common Waxbill has a brownish-grey body with dark bars, a dark vent, a red patch on the belly, a red bill, and a red face mask.
The throat and cheeks are whitish. Females are paler than males.
They occur throughout most of southern, central, and eastern Africa and parts of western Africa.
8.7 Crimson-rumped Waxbill (Estrilda rhodopyga)
The Crimson-rumped Waxbill has finely barred grey-brown upper parts and paler grey-buffy undersides with red patches on the wings and upper tail.
A prominent red eye stripe is visible; the rump is red, while the cheeks and throat are whitish.
They are found in eastern Africa.
8.8 Fawn-breasted Waxbill (Estrilda paludicola)
The Fawn-breasted Waxbill has an olive-brown upperside, a whitish or yellow underside, a grey to olive head with large amounts of variation, a red bill, a red rump, and a black tail.
They occur in central Africa.
8.9 Kandt’s Waxbill (Estrilda kandti)
Kandt’s Waxbill has a subtly barred brown upper side, a red rump, a black tail, red flanks, a black crown and face mask, white cheeks, a white nape, throat and chest, and a dark belly.
They are found in a small part of eastern and central Africa.
8.10 Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda)
The Orange-cheeked Waxbill has a brown back, a red rump, a grey head, greyish underparts, a black tail, an orange face, and a red beak.
They are found in western and central Africa.
9. Genus Euodice
9.1 African Silverbill (Euodice cantans)
The African Silverbill has a silver-grey beak, a brown upperside, dark barred wings, a dark rump and tail, a creamy underside, and a pale creamy face.
They occur in western, central, and eastern Africa.
10. Genus Euschistospiza
10.1 Dusky Twinspot (Euschistospiza cinereovinacea)
The Dusky Twinspot is dark overall, except for the red rump and the white spots on the dark belly and red flanks.
It is found in the Albertine Rift and Angola.
10.2 Dybowski’s Twinspot (Euschistospiza dybowskii)
Dybowski’s Twinspot is primarily dark with a grey head, a red mantle, back and rump, brown wings, and white spots on the belly.
It occurs in central and western Africa.
11. Genus Glaucestrilda
11.1 Cinderella Waxbill (Glaucestrilda thomensis)
The Cinderella Waxbill is light grey overall, with a bright red rump, belly, and flanks, a dark pink bill, a black eye stripe, and a black tail.
Males have red and black patches under the tail, while females are paler with more grey underneath. They occur in Namibia and Angola.
11.2 Grey Waxbill (Glaucestrilda perreini)
The Grey Waxbill is primarily grey, with a red rump, a black tail, a dark bill, and a dark line through the eye.
They occur in central, eastern, and southern Africa.
11.3 Lavender Waxbill (Glaucestrilda caerulescens)
The Lavender Waxbill is plain silvery-grey overall with a red rump and tail. The bill is purplish, and a dark eye stripe is present.
On males, the underside is paler, while the females have darker underparts. They inhabit western Africa.
12. Genus Granatina
12.1 Purple Grenadier (Granatina ianthinogaster)
The male Purple Grenadier has a rufous head, throat, neck, and chest, a dark brown back and wings, a purple belly, purple-blue around the eye, a red bill, and a blue tail.
Females have a cinnamon-brown head and chest, white barring on the underside, whitish-blue areas below and above the eyes, a brown back and wings, a blue rump, a dark tail, a red bill, and a pale belly.
They are found in eastern Africa.
12.2 Violet-eared Waxbill (Granatina granatina)
The Violet-eared Waxbill male has a warm chestnut-brown body, olive-brown wings, a bright blue rump and forehead, a black tail, a red eye and bill, purple cheeks, a black throat, and a chestnut belly.
The female is paler with a buffy throat and underparts. They occur in southern and south-central Africa.
13. Genus Hypargos
13.1 Pink-throated Twinspot (Hypargos margaritatus)
The Pink-throated Twinspot male has a pink head, throat, rump, and upper tail. The belly is black with white spots, while the back and crown are brown.
Females have greyish-brown heads, and throats, while the undersides are grey. The flanks are black with white spots. It occurs in a small region of South Africa, Mozambique, and Eswatini.
13.2 Red-throated Twinspot (Hypargos niveoguttatus)
The male Red-throated Twinspot has a bright red head with a grey crown, a red throat, and a red chest. The belly is black with white spots, the back is brown, and the rump and upper tail are red.
The female has a brownish head and an orange chest. They are found in eastern and central Africa.
14. Genus Lagonosticta
14.1 African Firefinch (Lagonosticta rubricata)
The African Firefinch male has a grey crown, nape, and neck, an olive-brown back and wings, a red rump and upper tail, and bright red underparts with a few white spots on the flanks.
The bill is blue-grey, and the under tail is black. Females are duller than males. They occur in southern, central, eastern, and western Africa.
14.2 Bar-breasted Firefinch (Lagonosticta rufopicta)
The Bar-breasted Firefinch has a brown back and wings, a red head, a grey-brown crown, a red bill, a red or white spotted or barred chest, and a buffy-grey belly.
They occur in western and central Africa.
14.3 Black-bellied Firefinch (Lagonosticta rara)
The Black-bellied Firefinch male has a red head, throat, back, chest, rump, and upper tail, a dark beak with a pinkish base, a black belly, and brown wings.
The female differs by having a grey head, a pinkish chest and throat, and a brown back. They are found in western and central Africa.
14.4 Black-faced Firefinch (Lagonosticta larvata)
The male Black-faced Firefinch has a black face, a yellow eye-ring, a red rump and nape, a dark bill, a dark vent, a dark brown back, and variably colored underparts from pale grey to pink and rosy red.
The female has a grey-brown body and head, a red wash on the underside, and a pale undertail. They are found in central and western Africa.
14.5 Brown Firefinch (Lagonosticta nitidula)
The Brown Firefinch has a dark brown body and head, a reddish face and throat, a red bill, and white spotting on the chest. Females have less red on the face and throat.
They inhabit central Africa.
14.6 Chad Firefinch (Lagonosticta umbrinodorsalis)
The Chad Firefinch male has a brown back, dark wings, a grey head with a red face mask, a red throat and rump, a blue-grey bill, black under the tail, and pinkish-red underparts with a few white spots on the rump.
The female is more brown and dull. They are found in northern Cameroon and western Chad.
14.7 Jameson’s Firefinch (Lagonosticta rhodopareia)
Jameson’s Firefinch has a pink head and underparts, a blue-black bill, a brown back, dark wings, bluish legs, white spots on the flanks, a red rump, and a black tail.
The female has a buffy underside, while the rest of the body is brownish-grey and darker, except for a red spot between the eyes and beak. They occur in southern, central, and eastern Africa.
14.8 Mali Firefinch (Lagonosticta virata)
The Mali Firefinch has a blue-grey bill, a brown back and wings, a grey crown, nape and neck, a red face, rump, upper tail, and underparts, and a black under tail. White spots are sometimes present on the flanks.
This species occurs in Mali and Senegal.
14.9 Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala)
The male Red-billed Firefinch has a brown back, wings, and under tail, a red head, neck, and rump, a pink beak, a yellow eye-ring, and red underparts.
The female has buff underparts, a tiny spot between the eyes and beak, and brown upper parts. They are found in southern, central, eastern, and western Africa.
14.10 Rock Firefinch (Lagonosticta sanguinodorsalis)
The Rock Firefinch males have red backs, faces, throats, rumps, and undersides. Females have a reddish-brown back, greyish-red underparts, and a greyish-brown face. Both sexes have a bluish-grey beak, black under tail, yellow eye-ring, and brown wings.
White speckling is sometimes seen on the flanks. They are found in central Nigeria and northern Cameroon.
15. Genus Mandingoa
15.1 Green Twinspot (Mandingoa nitidula)
The Green Twinspot has olive-green upper parts, an olive-green chest and tail, a dark bill, a red face mask, and a black belly with prominent white spots.
The female is similar to the male but has a yellowish face. They occur in southern, eastern, central, and western Africa.
16. Genus Nesocharis
16.1 Shelley’s Oliveback (Nesocharis shelleyi)
Shelley’s Oliveback has a black head, a bluish bill, and a yellow-green back, wings, and rump, while the nape and underparts are grey. The male has an additional yellow-green chest.
They are only found in southwest Nigeria, western Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea.
16.2 White-collared Oliveback (Nesocharis ansorgei)
The White-collared Oliveback has an olive-green back, wings, and rump, a black head, a bluish bill, and a grey nape and underparts.
The males also have a white collar on the nape and an olive-green chest. They occur in central Africa.
17. Genus Nigrita
17.1 Chestnut-breasted Nigrita (Nigrita bicolor)
The Chestnut-breasted Nigrita has a dark grey crown and upper parts, a black beak, and dark brownish-red underparts and faces.
The female has paler underparts. They inhabit western and central Africa.
17.2 Grey-headed Nigrita (Nigrita canicapillus)
The Grey-headed Nigrita has completely black underparts, extending onto the head above the eye and forehead. The upper parts are primarily dark grey, the wings are dark with white spotting, and a white line is on the head.
The eye is red, and the bill is dark. They are found in western, central, and eastern Africa.
17.3 Pale-fronted Nigrita (Nigrita luteifrons)
The Pale-fronted Nigrita male has black underparts, grey upper parts, dark grey wings, and a paler grey rump. The crown and forehead are pale whitish-grey, the bill is dark, and the face and throat are black.
Females have grey underparts and upperparts, dark grey wings, a dark face mask, a dark bill, and a whitish forehead. They occur in western and central Africa.
17.4 White-breasted Nigrita (Nigrita fusconotus)
The White-breasted Nigrita has pale, whitish underparts, a black upper head, a brown back and wings, a dark bill, and a dark rump and upper tail.
They are found in western and central Africa.
18. Genus Ortygospiza
18.1 Quailfinch (Ortygospiza atricollis)
The male Quailfinch has a brown-grey back, dark brown and white barring on the chest and flanks, a red beak, white tail edges, and a buffy-orange belly. The head pattern varies from grey, brown, or black with or without white spectacles.
The female has a two-toned black and red bill and is dull brown overall. They occur in southern, central, eastern, and western Africa.
19. Genus Paludipasser
19.1 Locust Finch (Paludipasser locustella)
The Locust Finch has dark grey upper parts with white spots, an orange rump and wings, an orange-red head and bill, a yellow eye, an orange-red chest, and a grey belly.
Females are similar to males but have pale underparts with strong barring. They are found in central and eastern Africa.
20. Genus Parmoptila
20.1 Jameson’s Antpecker (Parmoptila jamesoni)
Jameson’s Antpecker males have brown upper parts, a chestnut face and underparts, and a red forehead. Females have pale brown upper parts, a tawny-brown face and cheeks, and buffy underparts with dark chevrons.
They occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania.
20.2 Red-fronted Antpecker (Parmoptila rubrifrons)
The Red-fronted Antpecker male has brown upper parts, a red forehead, white scales on the face, and a chestnut underside.
The female has brown upper parts, a white speckled head, and pale underparts with dark chevrons. They are found in western Africa.
20.3 Woodhouse’s Antpecker (Parmoptila woodhousei)
Woodhouse’s Antpecker has a pale underside with dark speckles and barring, a reddish-chestnut head and throat, and a brown crown, back, tail, and wings.
The female is similar to the male but has a rufous throat. They inhabit western-central Africa.
21. Genus Pyrenestes
21.1 Black-bellied Seedcracker (Pyrenestes ostrinus)
The Black-bellied Seedcracker has a red head, nape, neck, throat, chest, rump, flanks, and tail. They have black bellies, wings, backs, white crescents around the eyes, and large dark bills.
The females have duller brown instead of black patches. They are found in central and western Africa.
21.2 Crimson Seedcracker (Pyrenestes sanguineus)
The Crimson Seedcracker has a dark brown back and belly, a bright red head, neck, nape, throat, chest, flanks, rump, and tail, a large dark bill, and white crescents above and below the eyes.
The female is duller than the male, with a less extensive red head. They occur in western Africa.
21.3 Lesser Seedcracker (Pyrenestes minor)
The Lesser Seedcracker has a red head, throat, rump, and tail. The nape, neck, back, wings, and underparts are brown, and the bill is dark.
Females have less red than males. They are found in eastern Africa.
22. Genus Pytilia
22.1 Green-winged Pytilia (Pytilia melba)
The Green-winged Pytilia has an olive-green back, wings, and chest, a red bill, tail, and a red rump. The head, neck, and nape are grey, and the forehead and throat are orangy-red. The underside is pale with dark barring.
The female has a pale chest with barring and a plain grey head. They are found in southern, central, eastern, and western Africa.
22.2 Orange-winged Pytilia (Pytilia afra)
The Orange-winged Pytilia has an olive-green nape, back, and wings, a red face, throat, and forehead, and a red bill, tail, and rump. The crown and neck are grey. The underside is mottled olive green, and the wings have golden edges.
The female is similar to the male but paler underneath with a plain grey head. They occur in southern, central, and eastern Africa.
22.3 Red-billed Pytilia (Pytilia lineata)
The Red-billed Pytilia is grey overall with a red bill, rump, tail, and wings. The underside has fine white barring. The females are duller and browner than the males.
They are found in Ethiopia only.
22.4 Red-winged Pytilia (Pytilia phoenicoptera)
The Red-winged Pytilia has a grey back, head, and chest. The wings, rump, and tail are red, the underparts are grey and finely barred, and the bill is dark.
Females are paler. They are found in western and central Africa.
22.5 Yellow-winged Pytilia (Pytilia hypogrammica)
The Yellow-winged Pytilia has a brownish-grey back, neck, and nape, a red face and throat, yellow wings, and a red rump and tail.
The underside is finely barred, white, and buff. The females have a completely grey head. They inhabit central and western Africa.
23. Genus Spermestes
23.1 Grey-headed Silverbill (Spermestes griseicapilla)
The Grey-headed Silverbill has a brown back, a grey head with white spots on the face, dark brown and black wings, a black tail, and a white rump.
The underside is buff and white. They are found in eastern Africa.
23.2 Black-and-white Mannikin (Spermestes bicolor)
The Black-and-white Mannikin has a black head, throat, and chest, a pale bill, white underparts, and black and white barring on the wings, flanks, and tail.
The back color varies greatly geographically, with birds in the north having plain black backs and those in the south having reddish-brown backs.
Some birds with black backs show no barring on the wings, flanks, and tail. They are found in southern, central, eastern, and western Africa.
23.3 Bronze Mannikin (Spermestes cucullata)
The Bronze Mannikin has a black, glossy head, throat, and chest, a brown back and wings, dark barring on the whitish vent, flanks and rump, a black tail, white underparts, and a blue-grey and black bill.
They occur in southern, central, eastern, and western Africa.
23.4 Magpie Mannikin (Spermestes fringilloides)
The Magpie Mannikin has a brown back and wings, a black head and throat, black scalloping on the flanks, white underparts, and a black tail.
They are found in southern, central, eastern, and western Africa.
24. Genus Spermophaga
24.1 Grant’s Bluebill (Spermophaga poliogenys)
Grant’s Bluebill males have black upper parts, from the nape down to the tail, and a black belly. The rump, flanks, chest, throat, face, and forehead are red. The bill is blue and red.
The female shares some features with the male but has white spots on the dark undersides, an orangy chest and rump, and a dark head and upper parts. They occur in central Africa.
24.2 Red-headed Bluebill (Spermophaga ruficapilla)
The Red-headed Bluebill has a blue bill, white crescents around the eyes, and a red head, nape, neck, throat, flanks, rump, and chest.
The upper parts are black, and the males have black bellies. Females have white spots on the black belly. They inhabit central and eastern Africa.
24.3 Western Bluebill (Spermophaga haematina)
The Western Bluebill has bright red underparts, a red rump, a blue bill, black upper parts, and a black head. Males have blueish-white eye-rings, and black bellies, while females have white spots on the black bellies and red faces.
They are found in western and central Africa.
25. Genus Uraeginthus
25.1 Blue Waxbill (Uraeginthus angolensis)
The male Blue Waxbill has pale brown upper parts, a light blue face, throat, chest, flanks, rump, and tail, a pale brown belly, and a blue-grey beak. The female is paler than the male and has more brown on the underside.
They are found in southern, central, and eastern Africa.
25.2 Blue-capped Cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus cyanocephalus)
The Blue-capped Cordon-bleu has pale brown upper parts, a light blue tail, throat, chest, and flanks, while the belly is pale brown, the beak is pink, and they have a pale eye-ring.
The male has a blue head. Females have a blue face and a brown crown, neck, and nape. They inhabit eastern Africa.
25.3 Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus)
The Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu has a light blue face, throat, chest, flanks, rump, and tail, a brown belly and upper parts, a red patch on the cheek, and a greyish beak. The females are much duller overall, with no red cheek marks and browner underparts.
They are found in central, eastern, and western Africa.
The finches of Africa are highly diverse. They are incredibly colorful, and some have exceptional patterning that makes them stand out in their environments. The African finches occur throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from the far west to the south.
Some species have extensive distributions, while others are very range-restricted, and little is known about them There aren’t many places in Africa where you won’t be able to find a single finch species.