Estrildidae, or estrildid finch, is a family of small passerine birds of the Old World tropics and Australasia. They can be classified as the family Estrildidae, comprising species commonly known as munias, mannikins, firefinches, parrotfinches and waxbills,[1] or as a subfamily within the family Passeridae, which strictly defined comprises the Old World sparrows.[2] Despite the word "finch" being included in the common names of many of the species, they are not closely related to birds with this name in other families, such as the Fringillidae, Emberizidae or Passerellidae.

Red browed finch02.jpg
Red-browed finch, Neochmia temporalis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Passeroidea
Family: Estrildidae
Illiger, 1811

See text

They are gregarious and often colonial seed eaters with short, thick, but pointed bills. They are all similar in structure and habits, but vary widely in plumage colours and patterns.

All the estrildids build large, domed nests and lay five to ten white eggs. Many species build roost nests. Some of the fire-finches and pytilias are hosts to the brood-parasitic indigobirds and whydahs, respectively.

Most are sensitive to cold and require warm, usually tropical, habitats, although a few, such as the eastern alpine mannikin, mountain firetail and red-browed finch, and the genus Stagonopleura, have adapted to the cooler climates of southern Australia and the highlands of New Guinea.

The smallest species of the family is the Shelley's oliveback (Nesocharis shelleyi) at a mere 8.3 centimetres (3.3 in), although the lightest species is the black-rumped waxbill (Estrilda troglodytes) at 6 g (0.21 oz). The largest species is the Java sparrow (Padda oryzivora), at 17 cm (6.7 in) and 25 g (0.88 oz).[3]

Species listEdit


Origin of estrildid species

The phylogeography and possible origin of estrildid species have been studied. The following scheme may be useful to represent a hypothetical origin in India in the last and stronger Himalayas uplift (16.5 million years ago), when the monsoon rains regime was established in India (see figure). The conclusions from this study[4][5] are:

  • Estrildids are a monophyletic group with polytomies that may have started evolving by Middle Miocene Epoch (about 16.5 million years ago)
  • This proposed timing is coincidental with the Fringillinae radiation starting time and also with the biggest Himalayan and Tibetan Plateau uplift, triggered by the Indian tectonic plate strongest collision; this established present day southern Asia monsoon regime and other drastic climatic changes, like drier weather in the Tibetan Plateau and Chinese deserts.
  • The estrildids form a monophyletic group which includes several polytomies and comprises African, Asian and Australian birds.
  • The most ancient evolutive group comprises African (African silverbill), Asian (Indian silverbill) and Australian (diamond firetail); this suggests that the whole Estrildids radiation might have originated around India.[4][6][7]
Estrildidae phylogenetic tree
  • The African group Nesocharis is grouped with the African gender Estrilda.
  • The Gouldian finch (Erythrura or Chloebia gouldiae) is definitely included within genus Erythrura with the other species.
  • The Java sparrow (Padda or Lonchura oryzivora) is a very modified species from genus Lonchura: bigger than the rest of Lonchura species, and a noticeable and quite different head pattern. It is endemic to Java, Bali, and the Bawean Islands, although escapes from captivity can be seen today in other neighboring islands.
  • African munias (Spermestes) belong to a genus totally different from Australian and Asian munias.
  • The Australian red-browed firetail (Neochmia temporalis), very similar to African common waxbill (Estrilda astrild), is unrelated to it. Their similarities (bill, red brow, etc.) are due to convergent evolution, since their environmental pressures (weather, habitat, feeding) are similar.[4][7]


  1. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David. "Waxbills, parrotfinches, munias, whydahs, Olive Warbler, accentors, pipits « IOC World Bird List". IOC World Bird List (v8.2).
  2. ^ Christidis, L.; Boles, W.E. (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-643-06511-6.
  3. ^ "Estrildid FINCHes".
  4. ^ a b c Arnaiz-Villena A, Ruiz-del-Valle V, Gomez-Prieto P, Reguera R, Parga-Lozano C, Serrano-Vela JI (2009). "Estrildinae Finches (Aves, Passeriformes) from Africa, South Asia and Australia: a Molecular Phylogeographic Study" (PDF). The Open Ornithology Journal. 2: 29–36. doi:10.2174/1874453200902010029.
  5. ^ Arnaiz-Villena, Antonio; Gomez-Prieto, Pablo; Ruiz-Del-Valle, Valentin (2009). Phylogeography of Finches and Sparrows (PDF). Nova Science Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60741-844-3.
  6. ^ Sibley, C.G.; Monroe, B.L. (1990). Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press.
  7. ^ a b Arnaiz-Villena, A.; Gomez-Prieto, P.; Serna-Ayala, J.M.; Ruiz-del-Valle, V. (2009). El origen de los Estríldidos [The origin of the Estríldidos] (PDF) (Report) (in Spanish).

External linksEdit