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The cordon bleu finch is a small, brightly-colored songbird, also known as the cordon bleu waxbill. There are three sub-species of the bird that are differentiated by distinctive markings, but they share many other similar traits and preferences. In the wild, these finches are found in many parts of Africa, and they are also raised in captivity and sold as pets around the world. They are relatively easy to care for and make pleasant pets, especially in small spaces.
Some enthusiasts consider the cordon bleu finch to be one of the most attractive small songbirds. Fully-grown adults reach a relatively petite size of only about 5 inches (12.5 cm), and males have brighter coloration than the females do. The beak is a dark reddish-pink color, and the birds have dark eyes. The body shape is compact and rounded, with short slender legs and moderately long tail feathers. The main feather colors are light brown on the top of the head, back, wings, and lower part of the belly, and brilliant sky blue on the face, tail, and body.
There are three different sub-species of the cordon bleu finch, but they are easy to tell apart due to the noticeable markings, especially on the male birds. One sub-species is the red-cheeked cordon bleu, or Uraeginthus bengalus; as the name suggests these birds have bright red circular patches on their cheeks. The blue-breasted cordon bleu, or Uraeginthus angolensis, has more extensive areas of bright blue feathers, particularly on the breast and flank areas. The last sub-species is called the blue-capped cordon bleu, or Uraeginthus cyanocephala, with blue feathers on the top of the head instead of brown.
The cordon bleu finch originated in east Africa, and it can still be found in the wild throughout much of the continent. It lives in dry warm areas such as the savannahs, and consumes a diet of green leafy plants and grasses along with a variety of insects and worms. During the breeding season, they pair up and build nests together, then the female lays three to six eggs. Both male and female incubate the eggs, and, once they are hatched, the chicks grow quickly and are able to wean at four to six weeks old.
It is also possible to raise cordon bleu finches in captivity, and they are sold around the world as pets. They are fairly easy to maintain under the right conditions. They require a steady warm temperature of approximately 68° to 70° Fahrenheit (20° to 21° Celsius). They need plenty of fresh water and will eat a diet of seeds and millet, as well as regular feedings of live food such as mealworms, ant eggs, and insect larvae. Many owners enjoy their song, and they often have a lifespan of around five years when kept as pets.