Bird of the week – Week 25 : Violet-eared waxbill

A grenadier may be an infantryman equipped with grenades, as in the familiar Grenadier Guards in the British Army. Or a grenadier may be a fish with a large head and body and long tapering tail. Or it may be a common name for any member of the waxbill family of small birds. Thus the Violet-eared waxbill, one of the most colourful and beautiful of the waxbills, is also known as a Common grenadier. The waxbills are also known as Cordonbleus, but a bird by any other name…
The Violet-eared waxbill is a small bird with a length of about 14 cm, and although the males and females are the same size, the female is paler and less brightly coloured than the male. With its violet cheeks, red bill, rump and forehead of blue, and deep chestnut body, the male is gorgeous and is, as a result, quite highly prized as a cage bird in some parts of the world.
It is locally quite common in the drier parts of Southern Africa and also further north into Angola and Zambia, especially in those areas with acacia thickets and riverine bush; also in cultivated fields, where they forage on the ground, feeding mainly on seeds and insects. They often forage in the deep shadow of dense bushes or thickets.
Violet-eared waxbills are usually to be found as solitary birds, in pairs or in small groups and are often found in the company of Blue waxbills.
The call of the Violet-eared waxbill is a repeated tiu-woo-wee and it also has a song not unlike a canary twittering. The nest is a ball of dry grass stems, with a side entrance and is often lined with feathers. The female usually lays 4 or 5 eggs that hatch in about 12 days. It is sometimes parasitised by the Shaft-tailed whydah (Vidua regia).
The scientific name of the Violet-eared waxbill is Granatina granatina; granatina from the Latin for a garnet, a reference to the birds purple cheeks and ear-coverts. And repeated for emphasis!

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