The Common (St. Helena) Waxbill
|Common (St. Helena) Waxbill8,11,12,13,23|
|Hardiness:||Somewhat hardy once acclimated|
|Singing ability:||Not very melodious|
|Compatibility:||Passive, mixes well with other passive species|
|Size:||4.5" (11.5 cm)|
|Approx. cost:||$40 (US) per bird|
Other common names
Common Waxbill, St. Helena Waxbill, Red-billed Waxbill, Barred Waxbill, Brown Waxbill, Pheasant Finch
Area of distribution
Tropical and southern Africa.
Generally peaceful, but defensive of the nest; active.
Red beak, red eye stripe, grey-brown plumage which is distinctly barred with dark lines on the back, wings, and body, a brown rump, a dark brown tail, a black undertail, and a rose-to-crimson stripe extending down the abdomen. The juvenile is more buff colored with less distinct cross-barring on the feathers, a black bill, and fainter markings (the crimson stripe extending down the abdomen and the black undertail are only faintly indicated).
: The Black-rumped (Red-eared) Waxbill (Estrilda troglodytes
) is often confused with the Common Waxbill due to their similar appearances. Both species have red beaks, a similar overall body coloration, and the red eye stripe. They can be differentiated, however, since the Black-rumped (Red-eared) Waxbill lacks the distinct dark cross-barring on its feathers, has a black
rump, an off-white
undertail, and has white lining around its tail.
The cock's abdomen is a darker, more extensive pink, while the hen's markings are slightly paler in comparison. The hen's undertail coverts are also blackish brown
instead of black like the cock's. Only the cock sings.
Two low, harsh notes followed by a "throaty bubbling" note with a rising inflection. Songs may vary between individuals.
If you keep this species and have a photo of your birds to share, please submit your photo
for possible inclusion on this site! Credit will be given to you.
Photo by Lim Chaikok.
Small-grained millets, insects
(ant pupae, green aphids, termites, fruit flies), soaked seed.
Marshes, open country with tall grasses, forest and woodland, bushes, and in tall grasses and reeds along rivers in savannahs and steppes, gardens, and sugar cane plantations.
Usually found in small to large flocks outside of the breeding season. Smaller flocks come together at night to roost communally in large numbers in reed beds, thick bushes, and papyrus swamps.
These birds must be kept warm during colder months. Hens have a tendency to become egg bound, especially if breeding in cold weather, so provide your pairs with adequate heat and a source of calcium. In captivity, the nails of this species tend to become overgrown and will need periodic clipping (in the wild, their tendency to perch on abrasive reed and grass stems prevent claw overgrowth). Common Waxbills are parasitized by the Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura
). Common Waxbills have been known to hybridize with the Black-rumped Waxbill and the Goldbreasted Waxbill (Amandava subflava
), so take care not to allow these species to interbreed.
In the wild, Common Waxbills breed during the African rainy season.
- Cape Province: September-January
- South Africa: November-April
- Zimbabwe: November-April
- Mozambique: February-April
- Malawi: January-April
- Kenya: November-January and March-July
- Uganda: March-May
- Ethiopia: May-June
- North-eastern Congo: March, June, October
- Cameroon: November
- Sierra Leone: September-October
- Cape Verde Islands: late August
Only one pair of Common Waxbills should be housed per enclosure, unless the enclosure is very large. Better success comes from aviary breeding than cage breeding. Aviaries should be planted with plenty of dense bushes. The cock performs his courtship dance by jumping up and down while holding a piece of straw or a feather in his beak, then sings with his tail pointed toward the hen. Copulation usually occurs in the nest. Common Waxbills in captivity may make use of a nest box, or may build a spherical nest close to the ground in a bush, clump of grass, shrub, tree, or creeper. Nests built "from scratch" have a side entrance and a bowl-shaped roosting nest ("cock nest") on top. The cock nest is thought to act as a decoy since the birds will fuss noisily around the cock nest, carrying objects into it, when the pair becomes alarmed or suspicious. They make use of coconut fiber and grasses to build the nest, and occasionally use feathers to line the inside. Do not perform nest checks
as this species will desert the nest if disturbed. Each chick hatches with white nodules at the base of its beak which aids the parents in finding the hungry mouths in the dark recesses of the nest. Common waxbills do not seem to require live food
to the extent that most other waxbills do, although it should be offered for optimal results. Soaked seed and egg food
should also be offered. Juveniles emerge from the nest with blackish beaks.
|Clutch size:||4-6 eggs|
|Incubation:||both parents incubate|
|Hatch date:||After 11-13 days of incubation|
|Fledge date:||At 21 days of age|
|Wean date:||5 weeks of age|
|First molt:||2 months of age|
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Common (St. Helena) Waxbills