When we lived in Namibia we were fortunate enough to come across a number of different kinds of waxbills and were always delighted when the colourful Blue and Violet-eared waxbills came to feed in our garden. We don’t see enough of these sweet little birds in our garden here in Durban for some strange reason, so imagine how pleased we were to have a chance to photograph Swee waxbills (Coccopygia melanotis) during our visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town in December. We also saw Common waxbills whilst we were there, but, as their name suggests, they are fairly common, so our focus was on the Swees.
We followed a happy pair flitting about in the flowers, calling to each other with gentle ‘swee swee‘ sounds. They are easy to tell apart as the male’s cheeks and ear coverts are black, whilst the female has a pale grey face. Both have reddish orange tail markings and distinctive black upper and red lower mandibles.
They are mainly seed-eaters, but also forage on the ground or on plant stems for small insects and larvae. They’re mainly found in small groups or pairs, which are monogamous and territorial. When they are ready to breed (between October and April) the building of the nest is a team effort, with the male bringing in the material. According to Roberts Birds of S A, larger clutches of eggs are sometimes laid by two different males (between three and nine eggs) at one day intervals. Both parents are involved in the incubation and the feeding.
It certainly was a treat to see these lovely little birds in such a nice setting and to be able to add a few more photos to our collection.