Swee Waxbill (Coccopygia melanotis)


The Swee Waxbill is 9–10 cm long with a grey head and breast, pale yellow-grey belly, olive back and wings, red lower back and rump, and a black tail. The upper mandible of its bill is black and the lower red. The male has a black face, but the female’s face is grey. Juveniles are much duller than the female and have an all-black bill.

Swee Waxbill (male) – BirdPix 58249 – Gregg Darling, Patensie, Eastern Cape Province, 11 August 2018. Swee Waxbill (female) – BirdPix 7129 – Des Darling, Hankey, Eastern Cape Province, 29 March 2014.


The Swee Waxbill is endemic to southern Africa, occurring from Limpopo Province in South Africa south through Swaziland and south-western Mozambique and all along the coastal region of South Africa to the Western Cape Province. Its distribution in South Africa is displayed in the SABAP2 map below.

SABAP2 distribution map for Swee Waxbill, downloaded on 07 November 2022. Details for map interpretation can be found here


It generally prefers edges of montane and coastal forest, wooded valleys in fynbos, bushy hillsides, grassy clearings in woodland, alien tree plantations, and gardens. They are often found in groups while foraging for food.

Swee Waxbills at the bird feeder – BirdPix 176837 – Robyn Kadis, Franschhoek, Western Cape, 28 July 2021.
Feeding on grass seeds – Harold Porter Botanical Garden – BirdPix 213713 – Gerald Wingate, Betty’s Bay, Western Cape, 12 March 2022.


It mainly eats seeds which it usually eats directly off of grasses. They supplement their diet with insects caught on the ground and in vegetation.

Foraging on the lawn – BirdPix 125308 – Andrew Kruger, Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal, 02 July 2016.

Egg-laying season is from October to April. Both sexes build the nest, consisting of an oval-shaped structure with a side-top entrance. They use dry grass to build the nest and then line it with soft grass inflorescences, feathers, and other plant material. The nest is typically placed in a tree, bush, garden pergola, or Aloe.

The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 19-22 days, becoming fully independent about 15-19 days later.

Swee Waxbill nest in an Aloe – University of Cape Town campus – BirdPix 31043 – Dieter Oschadleus, Cape Town, Western Cape, 06 October 2016.

Further Resources

Species text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

More common names: Suidelike Swie (Afrikaans); Xidzingirhi (Tsonga); ubuSukuswane (Zulu); Astrild à joues noires (French); Gelbbauchastrild (German); Groenrugastrild (Dutch).

Recommended citation format: Loftie-Eaton M and Daniel KA 2022. Swee Waxbill Coccopygia melanotis. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at http://thebdi.org/2022/11/08/swee-waxbill-coccopygia-melanotis/

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.