World's Smallest Birds

Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Uraeginthus bengalus

Red-cheeked cordon-bleu

The Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu or red-cheeked cordon-bleu 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.

Males have uniformly brown upperparts, pale blue breast, flanks and tail and a yellow belly. There is a red patch on each cheek, but can rarely appear orange or even yellow.

Females are similar but duller and lack the cheek spot. Immatures are like the females, but with blue restricted to the face and throat.

It is a very small finch, measuring only 4.9–5.1 inches in length and weighs 9.9 grams on average, with known extremes in wild populations ranging from 8.9–11 grams.

SONG: More complex, consisting of 4–6 high-pitched notes, the last of which is longer, lower and more burry. Described as "rhythmic but lazy", and has been transcribed as "wit-sit-diddley-diddley- ee-ee".

Unlike many other passerines, but like all cordon-bleu species, the females sing and help defend a small area around their nest site. Their song is less complex than that of the males, and they sing less frequently.

The female song peaks primarily before egg-laying and is thought to help with pair bond maintenance or breeding synchronization.

CALL: A thin, high-pitched piping, often repeated, and variously transcribed as "siii siii" or "tsee tsee".

The Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu is a granivore, feeding principally on grass seeds, but also on millet and other small seeds. It is also known to feed sporadically on beeswax.

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.

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

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

They are common and widespread across much of central and eastern Africa.

Their 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.

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.

Their 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.

Red-cheeked cordon-bleu infographic



  • – Ilipaccon Ogezaoto

  • – Edoloridu Afubwyhe

  • – Iguqapawd Uxunimim

  • – Cokjelb Udamuxav


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