The Green-winged pytilia is a very attractive little finch with a length of about 13 cm. It is quite common throughout Africa south of the Sahara, although within the southern African region it is limited to the northern part of the region and is also largely absent from central Botswana. Their favoured habitat is the Acacia savannah, where they usually stay close to areas of thicker vegetation.
Previously called the Melba finch, the Green-winged pytilia is a popular cage bird.
The males and females are similar in size, but are quite different in their plumage. The male has a red forehead, throat and cheeks; grey head, face and nape of the neck. The rump is red; the tail brown with red edging; the breast is a greeny-gold colour and the balance of the under-parts are white barred with black, The female lacks the red on the head, the entire head being grey, and the throat and breast are white barred with black. Both sexes have orange-red bills and grey-brown legs and feet.
Green-winged pytilias feed mainly on seeds and insects, particularly termites. They generally forage on fairly open ground or in low vegetation, in pairs or in small groups. They are quite shy and retiring by nature and in spite of their bright colouring are often overlooked.
Green-winged pytilias are monogamous and build a nest that is an untidy ball of dry grass with a side entrance, and is generally located in a thorny bush just one to two metres above the ground. The females usually lay a clutch of four or five white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 14 days. The nest may be parasitized by the Long-tailed paradise whydah (Vidua paradisaea).
The scientific binomial for the Green-winged pytilia is Pytilia melba; Pytilia from the Greek for the diminutive form of the grosbeak genus Pitylus; and melba which was the name used by Linnaeus, apparently without explanation and the derivation of which is unknown.