Bird One

I thought I’d start this series with Uraeginthus bengalus, since many volunteers have asked me about this bird over the last year and a half. Yes, this is the tiny stun-gun of a bird better known as the Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, and he’s well deserving of a blue ribbon for his striking appearance. I say “he” because (sorry, ladies) the female of this species is somewhat drab in comparison and lacks the eponymous red cheek. This is a very common bird, widespread throughout Ethiopia, although personally I’ve only seen it in a few spots, notably around Arsi and in Bahir Dar; I never caught a glimpse of one in Debre Markos. The Cordon-bleu is a type of waxbill and is a very abiding little (around 5 inches long) creature – in other words, it’s unlikely to fly away in fright when you approach. On the contrary, it will probably just go about its business, feeding on the ground in an open patch (alone or in a small flock, possibly mixed with other little ground-feeders). This makes the Cordon-bleu very easy to spot and identify. The female is brown above and blue below, much like her relative, the Blue-capped Cordon-bleu. Not to worry, though, if you see one, you can be assured it’s the former; the Blue-capped is uncommon and only likes the habitat in areas of Ethiopia that very few, if any, foreigners step foot in. I took these shots of a male feeding in and around a puddle in the perpetually torn-up sidewalks of Bahir Dar. Until the next episode, happy birding!

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