The Goldbreasted Waxbill

Goldbreast [-ed Waxbill]8,10,11,13,23,30,31,34, 35,37,40,41
Amandava subflava
Hardiness:Reasonably hardy once acclimated
Singing ability:Subpar
Compatibility:Passive, mixes well with other passive species
[Compatibility Chart]
Size:3.5" (9 cm); (A.s. clarkei 9.3 cm)- the smallest Estrildid finch
Weight:About 7 grams (A.s. clarkei 7.5 grams)
Approx. cost:$70-95 (US) per pair

Other common names

Goldbreast, Gold-breasted Waxbill, Golden-breasted Waxbill, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Orangebreast, Zebra Waxbill
    The Goldbreasted Waxbill has 2 subspecies:
  • A. s. sublfava - The northern subspecies, from Senegal to Ethiopia
  • A. s. clarkei - The southern subspecies--"South African Gold-breasted", "Giant Golden-breasted" or "Clarke's Waxbill"--from Gabon to southern Kenya southward

Other reported latin names include: Fringilla subflava and Sporaeginthus subflavus



Area of distribution

Tropical Africa, south of the Sahara desert, except for equatorial rain forest and extremely arid regions. Also found in south-western Saudi Arabia.



Friendly, sociable, active, can be territorial.

Physical descriptions

Red beak, red or orange-red irides, olive back and wings, olive flanks with yellow or buff bars, bright yellow underbelly, red rump, black tail, pale brown legs. Cocks also sport a red eye stripe. The northern subspecies has fiery orange color on the breast and belly which the southern subspecies tends to lack, although some A. s. clarkei cocks may still have an orange or orange-red patch in the center of the upper breast.

Juveniles are much duller in appearance than adults: buff-brown above, dull buff underparts with a wash of yellow on the breast center, unbarred flanks, orange-tinged rump and uppertail coverts. Brown eyes, black bill.

Mutations include: pied (splashes of white feathers) and yellow (in Australia, bird is largely yellow in color but retains red and orange coloring); a fawn bird may have been spotted in the wild.


The hen is duller overall than the cock and lacks the red stripe over the eyes. The cock on the right in the below graphic is of the A. s. sublfava subspecies (lots of orange on the breast/belly).

Sexing Goldbreasts


Monotonous, high-pitched, series of chirps; cocks will sing in the early morning hours starting before dawn, and again at dusk; sometimes they will sing during the day.


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Male Goldbreast

Photo by Lim Chaikok
Pair; hen on right. Photo by Lim Chaikok.

Photo by Lim Chaikok
Cock. Photo by Lim Chaikok.

Photo by Natasha Alba
Cock. Photo by Natasha Alba.

Photo by Natasha Alba
Cock. Photo by Natasha Alba.

Photo by Alice Chodura
Clumping together. Photo by Alice Chodura.

Photo by Aurélien LEQUOY
Cock. Photo by Aurélien LEQUOY.

Photo by Aurélien LEQUOY
A. s. clarkei cock (note the lack of orange on the belly). Photo by Aurélien LEQUOY.

Photo by Ian White
Cock. Photo by Ian White.

Photo by Indy di
Pair; hen on right. Photo by Indy di.

Favorite foods

Green food, soaked millet, green seeds, small-grained millets, small live food (small mealworms, ant pupae, termites, small insects).

Natural habitat

Inhabits marshes, borders of streams and swamps where reeds and wet grassy areas abound. Feeds in open, dryer areas.


Goldbreasts live together in small to large groups in the off-season. They chiefly feed on the ground, eating grass seeds, small invertebrates (mealworms may be worked through the bill until the "pulp" is ingested and the chitin exterior discarded), and growing grass tips; they may spend a fair amount of the time on the ground even when not feeding. May also feed on grass stems & can climb these easily.

Goldbreasts tend to perch fairly near the ground on reeds, low bushes, and grass heads. In the wild, Goldbreasts roost communally in reedbeds. During the mating period, males tend to fight. Cocks of the northern subspecies build nests among grass stalks, reeds, or small bushes using fine grasses to form a rounded nest with a tubular side entrance. The southern subspecies prefers to take over the abandoned domed nests of other species, such as weavers, which they may then build a nest within or simply spruce up by installing a new lining. Cocks and hens of both subspecies line their nests with feathers.

Courtship involves the male hopping around the female with tail angled toward her, bowing; the female accepts by crouching and quivering her tail. In captivity, Goldbreasted Waxbills mix well with other peaceful species and may engage in inter-species allo-preening with willing partners.

Special considerations

These tiny birds may require cage bar spacing of 1/2" square or less to prevent escapes. Young goldbreasted finches are exceptionally tiny and may need even smaller mesh than this to prevent escape. Although hardy once acclimated, Goldbreasts may benefit from moderately heated enclosures in cooler months and extended lighting to allow for longer winter-time feeding. Newly imported birds especially require careful acclimation. Birds may appreciate some vertical perching options such as bamboo to "climb" on & ample bathing opportunities.

If housed primarily indoors and given a deficient diet lacking vitamins D & A, Goldbreasts may develop a darkening of the plumage called "induced melanism" which may correct itself upon the next molt after the bird is given better diet & lighting. Claws tend to overgrow in captivity necessitating somewhat frequent nail trims. Hens have a tendency to become egg bound (particularly immature hens), especially if breeding in cold weather or with an inadequate diet, so provide your pairs with adequate heat and a source of calcium. Due to their ground-feeding and insect-eating habits, these birds may suffer from intestinal parasites and may benefit from a regular deworming program. "Skewbald" wing feathers (white primary flight feathers) may occur in fledglings and are not a true mutation but thought to be the result of malnutrition. Affected young will molt into normal adult colors.

These birds can do well in a mixed aviary with other passive species; providing plenty of cover will reduce minor bickering. Goldbreasted Waxbills have reportedly hybridized with: green avadavat (Amandava formosa), red-billed fire-finch (Lagonosticta senegala) (possibly), Common (St. Helena) Waxbill (Estrilda astrild), Black-rumped (red-eared) waxbill (E. troglodytes), African silverbill (Lonchura cantans), red-cheeked cordon bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus), and red avadavat (A. amandava).

Breeding season

Breeding starts at the end of the rainy season as the dry season begins. In captivity, breeding can be stimulated at any time of year provided the right conditions; spring-summer breeding is typically recommended.

Breeding tips

Birds aged 1-4 years are most suited to breeding. A breeding diet (consisting of greens, grass seeds, soaked seed, sprouted seed, egg food, and small livefood options or insectivore diet options such as dried ant eggs) should be offered starting one month prior to breeding.

These birds make use of ample hiding opportunities, especially during breeding. Therefore a fairly well-planted aviary or spacious flight with plenty of seclusion is preferred. They may also prove prolific cage breeders. Pairs can be bred individually, in a colony setting (ensuring at least three pairs and an equal number of hens and cocks), or in a mixed aviary. Nesting options to provide include: wicker baskets, tube-style nests, and/or closed or semi-open nest boxes. Any nest type provided should be hidden within/under "dense cover" and at heights from 3 to 6 feet (1-2m) off the ground. Birds may also opt to build their own nests in thick bushes or make use of abandoned nests of other species if available. The following nesting materials should be provided: coconut fiber, fine grass, hay, bast, and pale or white feathers. May or may not tolerate nest checks.

Hatchlings are covered in white down and are fed small insects such as ant pupae and mealworms at first, then green seeds as they get older. Parents cease brooding the young at night around 10 days of age, so ensure the enclosure stays adequately warm. If a disturbance causes premature fledging, do not attempt to replace the young in the nest. Instead, bring the young indoors at night (releasing them back into the aviary in the morning) or ensure that the enclosure will be warm enough at night so the chicks do not become chilled; a small brooder can be placed on the floor of the enclosure if necessary. Once it is time for nestlings to fledge, the parents may withhold food and call from outside of the nest to encourage young to emerge. After fledging, the parents may lead the chicks back to the nest each night for the next two weeks.

Juveniles emerge from the nest dull brown above and dull buff below with an orange tinge to the rump. When begging for food, a juvenile crouches, twists its neck, opens its bill, and flutters its wings; as the parent approaches to feed, the juvenile then raises the far wing or both wings if the parent approaches from directly in front. Even after weaning, young can be safely left with the parents, although removing them may help stimulate the hen to start her next clutch, and may be necessary in smaller enclosures with space constraints. The parents may reuse their nest or build a new one for the next brood.

During the non-breeding season, birds should be fed an austerity diet where greens, sprouted seed, live food, and egg food are restricted.

Life Cycle

Clutch size:3-6 eggs
Incubation date:After the third-fourth egg is laid; both parents share incubation duties during the day, and then hen incubates at night
Hatch date:After 11-14 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 17-21 days of age
Wean date:3 weeks after fledging (6 weeks of age).
First molt: Around 2 months of age

Related Article(s)

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Goldbreasted Waxbills

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