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Uraeginthus bengalus

Uraeginthus bengalus, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Subsectio: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Cladus: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Infraclassis: Aves
Ordo: Passeriformes
Subordo: Passeri
Infraordo: Passerida
Superfamilia: Passeroidea

Familia: Estrildidae
Genus: Uraeginthus
Species: Uraeginthus bengalus
Subspecies: U. b. bengalus – U. b. brunneigularis – U. b. katangae – U. b. littoralis – U. b. ugogoensis

Uraeginthus bengalus (Linnaeus, 1766)

Syst. Nat. p. 323
Vernacular names
čeština: motýlek rudouchý
English: Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu
español: Cordón Azul de Mejillas Rojas
français: Cordonbleu à joues rouges
日本語: セイキチョウ
svenska: Rödkindad fjärilsfink

Uraeginthus bengalus

The red-cheeked cordon-bleu or red-cheeked cordonbleu (Uraeginthus bengalus) is a small passerine bird in the family Estrildidae. This estrildid finch is a resident breeding bird in drier regions of tropical Sub-Saharan Africa. Red-cheeked cordon-bleu has an estimated global extent of occurrence of 7,700,000 km2.


In 1760 the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson included a description of the red-cheeked cordon-bleu in his Ornithologie based on a specimen that he mistakenly believed had been collected in Bengal. He used the French name Le Bengali and the Latin Bengalus.[2] Although Brisson coined Latin names, these do not conform to the binomial system and are not recognised by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.[3] When in 1766 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the twelfth edition, he added 240 species that had been previously described by Brisson.[3] One of these was the red-cheeked cordon-bleu. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial name Fringilla bengalus and cited Brisson's work.[4] The specific name bengalus is based on the erroneous belief that the species came from Bengal.[5] The type location was subsequently designated as Senegal.[6] The species is now placed in the genus Uraeginthus that was introduced by the German ornithologist Jean Cabanis in 1851.[7]

The red-cheeked cordon-bleu, the blue-capped cordon-bleu, and the blue waxbill form a species group within the genus. Further, the red-cheeked cordon-bleu may form a superspecies with the blue waxbill, with which it shares similar habitats.[8]

There are four subspecies, which differ primarily in the amount of blue on the face and underparts of the females.[9]

U. b. bengalus (Linnaeus, 1766) – south Mauritania to Guinea and east to Ethiopia, Uganda and west Kenya
U. b. brunneigularis Mearns, 1911 – south Somalia, central and east Kenya and northeast Tanzania
U. b. ugogensis Reichenow, 1911 – south Kenya and north, west and central Tanzania
U. b. katangae Vincent, 1934 – northeast Angola, south Democratic Republic of the Congo and north Zambia


Like other members of its genus, the red-cheeked cordon-bleu is a very small finch, measuring only 12.5–13 cm (4.9–5.1 in) in length.[10] It weighs 9.9 g (0.35 oz) on average, with known extremes in wild populations ranging from 8.9–11 g (0.31–0.39 oz).[11] The adult male has uniformly brown upperparts, pale blue breast, flanks and tail and a yellow belly. There is a red patch on each cheek, but this can rarely appear orange or even yellow. Females are similar but duller, and lack the cheek spot. Immature birds are like the female, but with blue restricted to the face and throat.

Its contact call is a thin, high-pitched piping, often repeated, and variously transcribed as siii siii or tsee tsee.[12][13] The song is more complex, consisting of 4–6 high-pitched notes, the last of which is longer, lower and more burry. Described as "rhythmic but lazy",[12] it has been transcribed as wit-sit-diddley-diddley-ee-ee.[13] Unlike many other passerines, but like all cordon-bleu species, female red-cheeked cordon-bleus sing; they also help to defend a small area around their nest site. Their song is less complex than that of the males, and they sing less frequently. Female song peaks primarily before egg-laying, and is thought to help with pair bond maintenance or breeding synchronization.[14]

Habitat and range

The red-cheeked cordon-bleu is common and widespread across much of central and eastern Africa. Its range stretches from the West African countries of Senegal, Gambia and southwestern Mauritania east through southern Mali, southern Niger, southern Chad and southern Sudan to Ethiopia and northwestern and southwestern Somalia, and then south to southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, eastern Angola, northern and western Zambia, southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. It has also been introduced to the Hawaiian Islands of Hawaii and Oahu.[15] It has been found one time (in 1924) on Cape Verde and was recorded in the Maadi area in northern Egypt during the mid-1960s; the latter birds may have been escaped cage birds, as there have been no records since.[16] It has been photographed in the Los Angeles Area (5/19/20) as well.

It is found in all habitats except forest interiors,[12] at elevations ranging from sea level to 2,430 m (7,970 ft).[17]

It is frequently seen at open dry grassland and savanna habitats as well as around human habitation.


The red-cheeked cordon-bleu is a granivore, feeding principally on grass seeds, but also on millet and other small seeds.[18] It is also known to feed sporadically on beeswax.[19] Larger granivores, such as the pin-tailed whydah will chase cordon-bleus from food sources, limiting the feeding opportunities of the smaller birds and affecting their foraging success.[20]


The nest is a large domed grass structure with a side entrance in a tree, bush or thatch into which 4–5 white eggs are laid.

The red-cheeked cordon-bleu is reported to be "among the most popular exotic finches".[21] While it has no special housing requirements, its habit of roosting on open branches (rather than in a nest or other protected area) makes it sensitive to low temperatures. During the breeding season, captive males become very aggressive towards each other, and birds disturbed during incubation will typically leave the nest.[21]

Niagara Falls Aviary, Canada

Ngorongoro National Park, Tanzania

Nanyuki, Kenya

Female in Kenya


BirdLife International (2018). "Uraeginthus bengalus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T22719493A132129720. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22719493A132129720.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés (in French and Latin). Volume 3. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. pp. 203–205, Plate 10 fig 1. The two stars (**) at the start of the section indicates that Brisson based his description on the examination of a specimen.
Allen, J.A. (1910). "Collation of Brisson's genera of birds with those of Linnaeus". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 28: 317–335. hdl:2246/678.
Linnaeus, Carl (1766). Systema naturae : per regna tria natura, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Volume 1, Part 1 (12th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 323.
Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
Paynter, Raymond A. Jr, ed. (1968). Check-list of birds of the world. Volume 14. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 333.
Cabanis, Jean; Heine, Ferdinand (1851). Museum Heineanum : Verzeichniss der ornithologischen Sammlung des Oberamtmann Ferdinand Heine, auf Gut St. Burchard vor Halberstadt (in German and Latin). Volume 1. Halberstadt: R. Frantz. p. 171.
Lewis, Adrian; Pomeroy, Derek E. (1989). A Bird Atlas of Kenya. Rotterdam, Netherlands: CRC Press. pp. 543–544. ISBN 978-90-6191-716-8.
Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Waxbills, parrotfinches, munias, whydahs, Olive Warbler, accentors, pipits". World Bird List Version 8.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
Clement, Harris & Davis, p. 361.
Dunning Jr., John Barnard, ed. (2008). CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 506. ISBN 978-1-4200-6444-5.
Stevenson, Terry; Fanshawe, John (2004). Birds of East Africa. A & C Black. p. 548. ISBN 978-0-7136-7347-0.
Barlow, Clive; Wacher, Tim (1997). A Field Guide to the Birds of The Gambia and Senegal. Pica Press. pp. 372–373. ISBN 1-873403-32-1.
Marler, Peter; Slabbekoorn, Hans William (2004). Nature's Music: The Science of Birdsong, volume 1. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0-12-473070-1.
Sibley, Charles G.; Monroe, Burt Leavelle (1990). Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 692. ISBN 978-0-300-04969-5.
Cramp, Stanley, ed. (1994). Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, volume VIII: Crows to Finches. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 420. ISBN 978-0-19-854679-5.
Ash, J. S.; Atkins, John D.; Ash, Caroline P. (2009). Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea: An Atlas of Distribution. London, UK: Christopher Helm. p. 349. ISBN 978-1-4081-0979-3.
Clement, Harris & Davis, p. 362.
Horne, Jennifer F. M.; Short, Lester L. (June 1990). "Wax-eating by African Common Bulbuls" (PDF). The Wilson Bulletin. 102 (2): 339–341.
Savalli, Udo M. (1990). "Interspecific aggression for food by a granivorous bird" (PDF). The Condor. 92 (4): 1082–1084. doi:10.2307/1368749. JSTOR 1368749.

Koepff, Christa; Romangnano, April (2001). The Finch Handbook. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 0-7641-1826-9.

Clement, Peter; Harris, Alan; Davis, John (1993). Finches and Sparrows: An Identification Guide. London, UK: Christopher Helm. ISBN 0691034249.

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