Black-faced waxbills are a fairly common sight throughout most of the drier areas of the southern African region, being absent only from the wetter eastern and southern parts of the region. They are also found well to the north, reaching as far as Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.
They are gregarious birds and quite conspicuous as they hop through the trees and bushes, almost constantly on the move. They spend a fair amount of time on the ground and their preferred habitat is arid grassland and riverine forest in areas that have permanent surface water, on which they are dependant.
Black-faced waxbills are fairly small birds, about 13 cm in length and the males and females are similar in size and in the colouration of their plumage. They have grey-brown heads and backs; barred wings; crimson rumps; black facemasks; black bill, legs and feet; and crimson eyes.
They feed mainly while on the ground, on seeds and on insects, although they may also catch insects while in flight. The call of the Black-faced waxbills is a loud “pee-pee-wee”.
Black-faced waxbills are monogamous and build a large ball-shaped nest high up in a tree or shrub. The female lays a clutch of two to four white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of 12 days.
The scientific binomial for the Black-faced waxbill is Estrilda erythronotos;; Estrilda from the Latin for “a star”, and erythronotos from the Greek for “red-backed”. Thus a red-backed star, which is a rather odd description. The Black-faced waxbill certainly has a bright red rump, but I don’t have a clue about the star.