Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda)

Orange-cheeked Waxbill


The orange-cheeked waxbill (Estrilda melpoda) is a common species of estrildid finch native to western and central Africa, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 3,600,000 km2.

Distribution And Habitat

The Orange-cheeked Waxbill is native to west Africa and has been introduced to Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, and Martinique in the Caribbean (Camacho Rodríguez and others 1999, Raffaele and others 1998). It is a common resident in the coastal plains of Puerto Rico (Raffaele and others 1998), where it was introduced before 1874 (Biaggi 1997), and can be regularly seen in the tall grasses and marshy edges of the Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge in the municipality of Lajas, and the Humacao Natural Reserve (Oberle 2018). Habitat includes mostly brushlands, pasturelands, grasslands, marshes (Biaggi 1997), sugarcane fields and borders, seeding grasses at agricultural stations, and road edges (Raffaele 1989b, Raffaele and others 1998). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 375 records within 233 hexagons or 49 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 233 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 5 percent (11) of the hexagons, probable in 45 percent (106), and possible in 50 percent (116) (see map). Orange-cheeked Waxbill distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

Orange-cheeked Waxbill Distribution

Breeding Habits

The Orange-cheeked Waxbill appears to breed from June to August, according to previously published reports (Raffaele and others 1998). The nest is made of both thick and fine grasses, 239Orange-cheeked Waxbill/Veteranoand is usually built at ground level in the base of grass clumps (Biaggi 1997, Raffaele and others 1998). Atlas results show that this species breeds throughout the year with the most breeding activity from March to July (see chart). The breeding activity peaks in June, and it mostly takes place within the subtropical moist forest life zone (see chart). Results suggest that this species breeds throughout the island but mostly within the subtropical moist forest life zone (68 percent of the hexagons) (see table). It also breeds in subtropical wet and lower montane wet forest life zones at higher elevations (18 percent of the hexagons), and in the southern region within the subtropical dry forest life zone as well (14 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map).


The global population size of the Orange-cheeked Waxbill has not been quantified or assessed, but the species is described as common or locally common to abundant (Clement 1999). Due to the lack of evidence for any declines or threats, the current population trend is suspected to be stable, and it is currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2018). In Puerto Rico, nests of the Orange-cheeked Waxbill have been found to be parasitized by the nonnative Pin-tailed Whydah (Raffaele 1989b). Locally, this species is not listed in any of the threatened categories of PRDNER and USFWS. In Puerto Rico, the Orange-cheeked Waxbill has a protected habitat in land of 10 percent or 543 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of beeding was found for this species (5570 km2).