Waxbills are popular African finches from the genus Estrildidae. They have always been very popular in aviculture because of their lively nature and attractive coloration.
Sexes are usually similar, but some do show pronounced coloration differences. The nestlings of many species have very distinctive gap marks, usually in the form of spots or coloured patches on the sides of the mouth. These are to help the parent birds identify their young in the darkness of the next. Birds in this group are relatively easy to cater for.
For the purpose of this leaflet, "Waxbills" are birds from the families, Estrilda (Waxbill Group), Logonosticta (Firefinches), Uraeginthus (Cordon-Bleu group), and the Golden Breasted Waxbill (Amandava subflava). There are other types of birds often classed as waxbills, Such as twinspots, pytillas and crimson-wings, but these should be considered by people already experienced in the care of some Waxbill species.
These are approximately 107 species of¬† "Old World" seedeaters, that come under the family of Waxbill (Estrilda astrild), have sub-species as well as the nominate race.¬† The "Common" Waxbill have 8 sub-species.
At present the majority of the stock available in the market is "wild-caught". This means that it has been captured and shipped to this country, and then sold to you. With the number of experienced birdkeepers that we have in the UK, it is about time that these exotic finches were self supporting within this country. When purchasing any wild-caught birds, you should only do so to establish breeding pairs in captivity.
In the wild the normal habitat of Waxbills varies from open grasslands to scrubland, forest clearings and reed marshes. The mainly seed diet, is usually supplemented with small insect, berries and even ripe fruits. The main part of a waxbills diet in captivity should be made up of a good quality foreign finch mixture or mixed millets and canary seed. Breeders often recommend it is a good idea to provide a dish of separate pannicum millet and Japanese millet, which can be offered either dry or soaked. Millet sprays suspended from the aviary ceiling also make the birds work for some of their food.
The importance of live food, such as mini-mealworms and fruit flies, must never be overlooked by Waxbill keepers, as it is essential to keep the birds in good condition. Live food is also essential for breeding as the nestlings are fed exclusively on insects for the first few days of their lives.
Some green food such as cress and chickweed can also be offered, as can fresh seeding grass heads from the garden or hedgerow. Grit in the form of crushed oyster-shell, grated cuttlefish bone, grated iodine block and small granules of charcoal should be made available at all times.
Drinking and bathing water should always be available. A vitamin supplement added to the water cam be beneficial during the breeding season and when the birds are moulting. Running water also stimulates some species into breeding condition and ensures that bathing facilities are available throughout hot summer months, when breeding pairs need to keep their eggs humid and chicks cool.
Because of their lively nature waxbills are not suited to life in cages, although small indoor flights of about 3ft long by 2ft high by 18inches deep would be suitable for one breeding pair.
If you are constructing the aviary from scratch, then it is recommended that larger galvanised wire mesh is used. Some of the smaller Waxbills have been known to escape through smaller wire mesh.
Planted or landscaped flights connected to a frost- free shelter should be considered. Dense foliage would be beneficial, because it would offer roosting and nesting sites, and would also encourage insects into the flight. Although waxbills need to be protected from the cold winter nights, they can be given access to the flight all year round.
Additional lighting should be provided during the winter months. Because Waxbills have small bodies they need to eat seeds regularly to maintain body weight and temperature. A simple florescent light in the frost- free shelter provides enough extended eating time to allow the birds to survive a long winters night comfortably.
As nearly all species of Waxbill are gregarious they are often best housed in small colonies of the same species, although different species can usually be mixed safely in the same flight.
Exotic finches fight over many different things, a spare female, a special perch, a protected next site and even a single piece of straw being used as nesting material.
Some breeders prefer to bring their entire stock into an indoor flight for the wionter months. They also provide a slight heated environment, not higher than 60-65 degrees C. This provides enough heat during winter for the birds to moult into their Spring/Summer breeding plumage's, and so the breeding season can start early in Spring in the outdoor aviaries.
SPECIES FOR BEGINNERS
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