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Alex’s Bird Chirp No. 4 – Pytilia Family

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Pytilia Family (Melba Finch)

There are two species of Pytilia in the Southern African region of which the Green-winged Pytilia is commonly found in our reserve.

Green-winged pytilias (pytilia melba) are also known as the Melba finch. They inhabit forest savannah and woodland, especially Acacia, vegetation itself that is close to water. They are dependant on surface water. They can be seen bathing in puddles after rain, usually in pairs. Will frequent most of our lodges and waterholes in the reserve.

They are small birds similar in size to the firefinches in the 13cm range and are easily differentiated between sexes. The males and females are similar size but quite different in plumage colour. The male has a distinctive red forehead, throat and cheeks. The breast and wings are a greeny-gold colour with the rest of the underparts white barred with black. The female lacks the red on the head, instead being grey on the entire head and barred from the throat with very little greeny-gold colour apart from the wings.

They feed on see and insects (especially termites). Pytilias are quite shy and reserved by nature and, in spite of their bright colours, are often overlooked by birders.

1. Green-winged Pytilias  
Green-winged Pytilias are monogamous and build untidy ball like nests made of dry grass with a side entrance. The nests are generally located in thorny bushes just one to two meters off the ground.

Interestingly these birds are occasionally parasitized by the Long-tailed Whydah (also found on the reserve).

I hope that you enjoyed this chat with me and that you are excited to go and find these birds.  We will continue in the next “chirp” with the smaller birds.