High frequency bird

Let’s Chirp with Tim Cockcroft

GREETINGS all! Welcome to another edition of “Let’s Chirp”.

PREFERS COMPANY: The swee waxbill is often seen in small flocks Picture: TIM COCKCROFT

This week your ears had better be tuned to some very high-frequency sounds… you may well need it!

We are going to look at a bird that gets its name from its call – the swee waxbill. These beautiful creatures are fairly common around the edge of forests, wooded areas, gardens and low bushes where there is grass nearby.

Both the male and female are colourful birds. The green-gold back, red rump, off-white underparts with an ever so slight yellowish wash on the belly, grey head and the male’s black face (the only difference between the sexes) are diagnostic. The bill is two-toned – black on the upper mandible and red on the lower mandible.

The swee waxbill is often seen in small flocks, feeding on seeding grass, either perching on the grass stems or going down to the ground to feed on fallen seeds. If disturbed, they fly up together into a low bush, but soon return to where they had been feeding before. Occasionally they will sit on open branches of larger trees, preening or sunning themselves. They keep in contact with one another by uttering a very high-pitched “swee… swee” call. In my opinion, if the call were any higher-pitched, these birds would be difficult to hear. You can go to http://www.xeno-canto.org/373871 to hear my recording of the call.

The nest is an oval with the entrance being on the side near the top. The waxbill sometimes becomes the involuntary host parent of the pin-tailed Whydah, which is a brood parasite, laying its eggs in the said nest of Mr and Mrs Swee.

Well folks, that’s it for another Chirp. Please remember that I am available for birdwatching tours in and around the Port Alfred area. You can contact me on 072-314-0069 for more information. Until next time… take care!


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