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Species Profiles

The following are descriptions of some of the species which fall within the scope of the Waxbill Finch Society.
This page will be added to at regular intervals. Members' contributions are welcomed.


Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu

Gold-breasted Waxbill

St Helena Waxbill

Orange-cheeked Waxbill

Black-crowned Waxbill

Red Avadavat

Lavender Waxbill

Yellow-winged Pytilia

Peter’s Twinspot

White-headed Nun

Bronze-winged Munia

Red-headed Finch

Violet-eared Waxbill

Red-faced Crimson Wing

Black-cheeked Waxbill

Blue-capped Waxbill

African Silverbill

Tri-coloured Mannikin

Melba Finch

Cut-throat

Green-backed Twinspot

Black-headed Nun

Javan Munia

New Britain Mannikin

Red-eared Waxbill

Yellow-mantled Whydah

Orange Bishop

Red-winged Pytilia

Black-bellied Firefinch

Bar-breasted Firefinch

Red-billed Firefinch

Blue-billed Firefinch

Dybowski’s Twinspot

Dusky Munia

Moluccan Munia


Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu

Uraeginthus bengalus
Alternative names:
Cordon bleu (this is more correctly used for the Blue-breasted Waxbill)
Red-cheeked Blue Waxbill
Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu  

Length 12.5-13 cm.

Cock Face, throat, breast and flanks light bright blue. Rump and upper tail coverts a slightly duller blue. A large patch of dark crimson on the cheeks involving most of the ear coverts. Central tail feathers a dark greenish or greyish blue. Top of the head and the rest of the upper parts a slightly reddish dark brown. Centre of lower breast and under tail coverts pinkish buff. Bill pink or reddish with a black tip. Legs and feet pale brown.

Hen A little paler than the cock with no red cheek.

Distribution and Habitat From Senegal and Guinea east to Eritrea and south to coastal and western Tanzania and northern Zambia.

Inhabits thorn scrub, savanna, dry woodland, cultivated areas with bushes or shrubs, gardens, villages and roadsides. Often in very arid country but only if surface water is available.

Feeds mostly on the ground. Known to take seeds of grasses, termites and other small insects. In captivity feeds largely on small pannicum millet but will also take white millet and small canary seed. Will eagerly take any small live food such as mini mealworms or buffalo worms Will also take bloodworm (Mosquito larvae) if offered in water. Quite large quantities of live food will be taken when feeding young.

Breeding In the wild, nests often in thorn bushes. Nest is roundish, quite small with a side entrance and built of grass stems. In captivity will use wicker baskets lined with grass or coconut fibre and some feathers.
The clutch is usually three to six eggs and incubation usually starts with the third egg. Sexes take turns with incubation which lasts around 11 days and young fledge at 17 to 19 days.

Courtship display The cock bird will hold a piece of grass in the beak and bob up and down. As he rises he throws his head backwards. The head feathers are often raised to give the head a triangular appearance.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
RCCB distribution map
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Gold-breasted Waxbill

Amandava subflava
Alternative names:
Golden-breasted Waxbill
Zebra Waxbill
Gold-breast photo  

Length 8 cm (3 in).

Description A tiny bird with a shortish tail and red upper tail coverts, throat and breast olive grey, dark yellow underneath, sides grey with fine yellow wavy lines, the female has pale yellowish underparts and lacks the red eyebrow stripe of cock. Young birds have yellowish-grey plumage and dark markings on their beaks at the time of fledging fledging. The larger and more colourful Clarke’s Waxbill (A.s.clarkei) has a bright yellow abdomen with no orange tinge and comes from southern Africa. Clarke’s is very rare in the UK.

Distribution and Habitat Widespread across Africa, south of the Sahara desert. The Gold-breasted Waxbill is usually found in flocks and roosts communally. It is often found in tall grasslands or savannas, usually near water, perhaps the edges of swamps or marshes, but also feeds in drier areas including cultivation. It feeds mainly on the ground or from the stems of long grasses, with insects also being eaten.

Housing Goldbreasts are excellent avicultural subjects and when well catered for are quite long lived. It is a delightful bird to keep, but rather delicate in response to cold, damp weather conditions. They can be housed with other waxbills and finches provided these are not aggressive and can be kept in small colonies of their own kind. They may display stronger territorial instincts when breeding but serious disputes are unlikely. Careful acclimatisation is essential and you should not rush imported Gold-breasted Waxbills into an outside flight until the risk of cold weather has passed - they should not be expected to over-winter without additional heating and lighting.

Breeding They can be induced to breed in a suitable Finch breeding cage or indoor aviary where they may breed two or three times in succession. The cock displays to the hen by hopping around her on the ground, showing a triangular head posture and angled tail. In their natural surroundings they readily adopt old nests of weavers or similar species and reline or renovate them to their liking. This encourages the species to adopt the aviculturist’s choice of nesting receptacle and you will find this waxbill is keen to breed in both half open-fronted wooden nest boxes and wicker nesting baskets. These should have a small amount of soft grass placed in them which pairs will add to and sometimes line with a few feathers. Nests are built not just for breeding as Goldbreasts also like to roost in them.

Some Goldbreasts can be very proficient parents and extremely good sitters and yet others can be completely disinterested in their offspring without any apparent reason. The four to six eggs are incubated by both parents alternately and hatch in twelve days. On hatching the young are at first fleshy-pink with tufts of white down, but after a few days they become dark brown.Both parents take turns incubating and brooding. The young may remain in the nest for more than three weeks and even after fledging will return to the nest at night for some time longer.

The young are yellow-grey when they leave the nest, with yellow-red tail feathers and black bills. These fledglings are similar to young Red Avadavats (a.amandava) with whom there is a close relationship.

Feeding The Golden-breasted Waxbill will thrive on a diet based on a Foreign Finch seed mixture with a little live food (eg mini mealworms) and some commercially available egg food, with greenfood provided when available (such as natural seeding wild grasses and chickweed). They are very accommodating birds and are eager to breed, seeming to prefer to breed in a cage. They are very easy to feed and house and they do not require high temperatures once established, a bird-room temperature of around 10 degrees C in the winter will suffice.

Originally produced for and published in “The Estrildian”
Reprinted here by kind permission of Howard Robinson and “The Estrildid Forum”

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
Gold-breast distribution map
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St Helena Waxbill

Estrilda astrild
Alternative names:
Common Waxbill
st helena waxbill  

Length 12-13cm, 4.5-5 inches.

Description Bright red bill, red eye stripe narrowing from front to back to taper off at the rear of the ear coverts, head is greyish. Upper parts are light to medium brown, under parts paler with pink tinge to lower breast and belly. Fine but obvious striping to whole body is a feature which differentiates E. astrild from E. troglodytes, the Red-eared Waxbill. Dark brown tail which can appear comparatively long and is often flicked from side to side.

The sexes are difficult to separate, some feel that the male tends to display more vivid pink underparts in breeding condition, and that the striping on females is less distinct. Juveniles are paler in all respects with narrower eye stripe and a black beak. There are many geographical races of this species with subtle differences in plumage.

Distribution and Habitat Widely believed to be the commonest and most widespread of the African waxbills, and found throughout most of Africa south of the Sahara. Has also been introduced onto surrounding islands and further afield to Portugal, Spain and also South America. Nests in loose colonies in long grass and is typically (but not exclusively) found in grassland, such as the savannah. Also frequently found close to water.

Housing The St Helena is among the more hardy of the waxbills but nevertheless the normal guidelines apply, and they should not be made to suffer the hardships of exposure to the UK winter. When kept in an aviary a heated shelter is essential, a damp atmosphere must be avoided at all costs. It is important to provide artificial lighting to prolong feeding opportunities during the darker months. In the author’s experience these birds are not aggressive to other species in a mixed collection but, as always, care should be taken when introducing new birds to an established group.

Feeding Should have a variety of small seeds available, for instance a good foreign finch mix, wild seeds, maw and niger. Millet sprays of both the red and yellow varieties are acrobatically appreciated. Seeding grasses should be presented when available and small insects are taken keenly.

Breeding Mating display often includes holding nesting material in beak while bobbing up and down, copulation usually takes place in the nest. Will build a nest in suitable vegetation or utilise nest baskets. The nest is constructed of grass stems and will often be lined with small feathers. A ‘cock nest’ may occasionally be built on top of the main construction. A clutch consists of 4-5 white eggs, incubation is 12-13 days and hatched young will remain in the nest for about a further 3 weeks. In the wild the pear-shaped nest tends to be constructed close to the ground, in tall grasses. This species is parasitised by the Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura), its egg hatching alongside those of the host (one of which the whydah will have removed) and the nestlings co-existing peacably.

References: Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Restall (1975); Soderberg (1956).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
St helena distribution map
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Orange-cheeked Waxbill

Estrilda melpoda
Alternative names:
Red-cheeked Waxbill
orange-cheeked waxbill  

Length 10cm, 4 inches.

Description Easily identifiable bird by virtue of it’s orange face, which is always present, including at juvenile stage. Grey head, brown back and wings, orange-red rump and black tail. Underparts buff to pale grey. The sexes are difficult to separate, some suggest that brighter/larger orange cheek patches are indicative of a male, but this is thought to be unreliable. Juveniles are paler versions of the adult. There is at least one sub-species of the orange-cheek (Estrilda melpoda tschadensis), which displays generally ruddier appearance.

Distribution and Habitat Western and Central Tropical Africa. Prefers grassland in close proximity to water or grassy clearings in forested areas.

Housing The Orange-cheeked seems to be one of the hardier waxbills but nevertheless it is unreasonable to expose them to the hardships of a typical UK winter and expect them to thrive. If kept in an aviary a heated shelter is essential, a combination of cold and damp will always have ill consequence. It is also necessary to provide artificial lighting to prolong feeding opportunities during the darker months. It is a particular pleasure of the author to observe the enthusiasm of these birds in the bird bath, though one should stand well back to avoid a soaking! Although Orange-cheeks will live peacefully in groups or alongside other species, if kept in these conditions breeding results will be poor. For optimum breeding success they should be kept one pair to a flight.

Feeding Should have a variety of small seeds available, for instance a good foreign finch mix, wild seeds, maw, niger and millet sprays. Seeding grasses should be presented when available and small insects are taken keenly. Most Orange-cheeks seem to appreciate soaked seed and will tackle broccoli florets. During their time in the nest livefood forms a significant proportion of the diet of young birds.

Breeding The nest in the wild is pear-shaped and constructed of grass stems, often on, or close to, the ground. A ‘cock’s nest’ is often added. Orange-cheeks will build in suitable vegetation in a planted aviary, or they may use nestboxes or baskets where available. Artificial nest sites should be shielded by vegetation, for instance conifer prunings, to offer privacy to their occupants who are highly likely to abandon a disturbed nest. A clutch consists of 4-6 white eggs, incubation is 12-13 days and hatched young will remain in the nest for up to three weeks. The young will become independent after about a further two weeks.

References: Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Serle, Morel and Hartwig (1988); Verhoef-Verhallen (1999); Goodwin (1982).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
map for orange-cheek
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Black-crowned Waxbill

Estrilda nonnula
Alternative names:
Black-capped Waxbill
White-breasted Waxbill
Black-crowned waxbill  

Length 11-12cm, 4.5 inches.

Description This and the Black-headed Waxbill are very similar. Much paler grey on upperparts than the Black-headed and has virtually all white (tinged grey) underparts whereas the Black-headed has black on the vent and a larger area of red on the flanks.

Male Lores and forehead to crown and nape jet-black. Back and wing coverts ash grey finely barred dark grey or black. Rump and upper tail coverts deep crimson. Tail black and rounded at the tip. Face white extending to entire underparts except for greyish tinge on sides of breast, lower breast and flanks. Undertail coverts tinged grey. Small crimson patch on lower flanks. Bill patterned in light red and black on both mandibles.

Female Similar to male but slightly greyer brown mantle with less distinct barring, and white parts are usually more suffused with grey particularly in vent area. Differences are more apparent when viewed in good sunlight.

Distribution and Habitat S.E. Nigeria, Cameroons, S.W. Sudan, Uganda, S.W. Kenya, E. Congo, Zaire.

Inhabits forest clearings, forest edge, cultivated areas or savannah with abundance of bushes.Feeds largely on grass seeds including cultivated millet. Catches flying termites on the wing. Said also to feed on buds. Highly social, sometimes in very large flocks.

Housing In captivity is reasonably hardy, but needs minimum temperature of 10 to 15 degrees C.

Feeding Will feed on a mixture of small millets and canary seed and appreciates honey water/nectar. When feeding young requires small live food such as small, white mealworms, buffalo worms, white worms, bloodworms, fruit flies etc.

Breeding In the wild, nests usually in a bush or tree from less than one to about six metres high. Several nests may be sited in the same tree. Nest built of grass stems usually with a shortish entrance tube sloping down and lined with feathers, vegetable down and fine fibres. Usually 4 to 6 eggs , incubation period is 11 to 13 days and young fledge at 20 to 22 days old. Both sexes share incubation by day. All calls are very soft and high pitched, the nest call being a faint soft twittering. Male may display holding a stem of grass and jerking the head upwards but female may display in similar manner, usually without the grass.

Will nest and breed in a colony or as a single pair (as it is difficult to sex accurately it is easier to use the colony system).

Suffers from a tendency to lose feathering on the head when over two years of age (probably a dietary deficiency). This does not, however, appear to affect breeding capacity.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
Black-crowned map
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Red Avadavat

Amandava amandava
Alternative names:
Tiger Finch
Strawberry Finch (bird dealers often use this name for the race A.a.punicea only)
Red Munia
red avadavat  

Length 10cm, 4 inches.

Description The Red Avadavat is the only Estrildid where the cock has an “eclipse” plumage. Outside the breeding season the cock resembles the hen. In the breeding season the cock is coppery red to deep scarlet. The lores are black and there is a narrow white stripe just below the eye and he has a crimson bill. Wings and tail are dark brown, the ventral regions blackish and the top of his head and back are reddish brown. Lower breast, flanks, wings and rump are dotted with white.

The hen is dark brown, paler beneath and inclining to yellowish or pale gold on the belly with white spots on the wings and a red rump. When there is a lack of natural light the plumage will lose colour. Even in non-breeding colour cocks can be identified as hens are more greenish or dull olive.

Distribution and Habitat The nominate race Amandava amandava is found in Pakistan, Kasmir, India, S.Nepal, Assam and Bangladesh. The subspecies A.a.punicea is from Indochina, Java and Bali. The subspecies A.a.flavidiventris iinhabits Burma, Yunnan, Lombok, Sumba and Timor.

Inhabits riparian or marshy areas, tall grass, reed beds. Also sugar cane fields, clearings in the jungle or cultivated areas.

Housing Are reasonably hardy but need to be kept in heated accommodation during the colder months.

Feeding Feeds mainly on seeds of grasses in the wild, but seem to feed mainly on small yellow millet in captivity. When feeding young, will take live food such as small white-skinned mealworms and fruit fly, soaked seed and egg-food.

Breeding Nest is built by both cock and hen and is roundish with a side entrance and sometimes a short tubular entrance. Sometimes low down or even on the ground. Usually four to six eggs, incubated by both birds, hatching in 11-12 days and the young fledge in about 20-21 days.

Females will often show aggression to other females if a cock in breeding plumage is present. The courtship display of holding a piece of grass or feather in the bill and bowing can be performed by either sex.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
red avadavat map
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Lavender Waxbill

Estrilda caerulescens
Alternative names:
Lavender Finch
Red-tailed Waxbill
lavender waxbill  

Length 10cm, 4 inches.

Description A small dove-grey finch with crimson lower back, rump and tail. Narrow black stripe from gape to and beyond eye. Lower flanks spotted with white. Bill black at tip and reddish at base. Legs black.Sexes are alike but can be sexed by call, the call of the cock is usually a two-note, two-syllable call, much louder than the hen’s single-note call.

Distribution and Habitat Tropical W.Africa, Senegal, Mali, N.Ghana, N.Nigeria, N.Cameroons.

Inhabits semi arid country with bushes and trees and some open areas of short grass. Feeds on the ground and in trees and bushes on seeds (including seeds of small fruit) and small insects. Roosts by preference in old nests.

Housing In captivity can be sensitive to temperature changes and is best kept at a minimum of 10-15 degrees C. Can be kept in a group unless one pair decide to go to nest, when they may attack others of the same species possibly with serious consequences.

Breeding Any two birds regardless of sex will carry out a greeting display by alternately bowing to each other.

Usually builds a rounded nest with downward sloping entrance tube. Will often build a cock’s nest on top of the real nest which will be decorated with feathers, droppings, dead nestlings etc. Both sexes incubate. Young fledge 16-18 days after hatching and are usually self-sufficient at about 20 days from fledging. A plentiful supply of live food will be required when feeding young. Will take small mealworms, buffalo worms, white worms, blood worms (mosquito larvae) wax-moth larvae, fruit-fly, small spiders etc.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
lavender waxbill map
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Yellow-winged Pytilia

Pytilia hypogrammica
Alternative names:
Golden-winged Pytilia
Red-faced Pytilia
Red-faced Aurora Finch
yellow-winged pytilia  

Length 12.5-13cm, 5 inches.

Description Face is red, with top of head medium grey, as is the back. Rump and upper tail coverts red, tail is black. Median and greater coverts yellow (shade is variable) sometimes with tint of green or orange, primary coverts and flight feathers are grey. Underwing coverts barred white and grey. Breast is grey, becoming darker grey with fine white barring lower down, underparts grey with undertail coverts being dark grey with white tips. Bill is black and eyes red.

Female does not have the red face and is generally lighter grey, showing brownish tinge. Juveniles are as the female, but somewhat paler with bill less black.

Distribution and Habitat: Western Africa including Sierra Leone, parts of Guinea and Cameroon. Found in open country or savannah, sometimes in lightly-wooded areas.

Housing: Seems to be relatively hardy but should ideally be kept inside during the colder months, or if remaining in aviary accommodation must be given a heated shelter.

Feeding: Basic diet will be a good foreign finch mix, with extras such as wild seeds and seeding grasses in season. Insects are taken throughout the year but are especially important during the breeding season, when a lack will almost certainly result in nest failure. Green food such as chickweed and broccoli heads will often prove attractive.

Breeding: The nest in the wild is usually built in a bush, and consists mainly of grasses. In captivity an open-fronted nest box seems to be the preferred platform. An average clutch is 4 eggs, incubation is carried out alternately by both parents and lasts approximately two weeks, with hatched young remaining in the nest for up to three weeks. As previously mentioned, they are unlikely to be reared successfully without plentiful live food.

References: Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Goodwin (1982); Verhoef-Verhallen (1999).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
yellow-wing map
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Violet-eared Waxbill

Uraeginthus granatina
Alternative names:
Grenadier Waxbill
Common Grenadier
 

Length 14-15cm, 5.5-6 inches.

Description: Band of deep blue between tops of eyes and base of bill, which is red in mature adults. Purple cheeks; chin and throat are black, rest of head is deep brown, and this colour extends down mantle and back. The underparts are this same shade of brown. Black tail, with deep blue edges.Wings are a lighter shade of brown and edges of component feathers are lighter still.

Females are a lighter shade ofthe same basic colouration, and have a somewhat shorter tail. Juvenile colouration resembles the adult female but is duller and has much less obvious cheek patch, the bill is black.Undergoes partial moult at 25-35 days, shedding the feathers only of those parts of the head that are purple, blue or black in the adult, the complete moult to adult plumage takes place several weeks later.

Distribution and Habitat: Widely distributed over most of southern Africa. Frequents dry scrub, open woodland with a thorn understorey, and sometimes scrub vegetation along the banks of streams. The Violet-eared Waxbill often occupies territory a long way from water, in this situation it is thought that they may feed on termites as an alternative source of moisture.

Housing: Not one of the hardier waxbills in the UK climate. Should ideally be kept inside during the colder months, but if remaining in aviary accommodation must be given a heated shelter. Goodwin states that these birds will not tolerate others of their own or even closely-related species in close proximity and should therefore be kept one pair to an aviary.

Feeding: Should have a good foreign finch mix, with extras such as wild seeds and seeding grasses in season. These birds are more insectivorous than most waxbills and will benefit from live food, and/or a specialist softbill-type mixture, all the year round.

Breeding: The rounded nest is built of grass stems or similar, and lined with feathers. It has a side entrance which may feature a rudimentary porch. A clutch is 2-5 eggs, and incubation is around 13 days, with hatched young remaining in the nest for up to three weeks. Youngsters will not be reared successfully without plentiful live food. Breeding in an outdoors aviary is often unsuccessful in the British climate, the parents will sleep out of the nest after the first week and the chicks may suffer in a cold snap.

References: Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Goodwin (1982); Restall (1975); Verhoef-Verhallen (1999).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
Violet-eared location map
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Red-faced Crimson Wing

Cryptospiza reichenovii
Alternative names:
Reichenow’s Crimson Wing
Red-eyed Crimson Wing
Nyasa Crimson Wing
Forest Finch
red-faced crimson wing  

Length 11.5cm, 4.5 inches.

Description: Basic colour is olive (which is darker on the upperparts than underneath), with red on the back, rump, wings and flanks, bill is dark grey. The male has a crimson eye patch, on the female this is pale olive.

Juveniles resemble the female but crimson colouring is absent on the flanks and less extensive elsewhere. Males begin to develop their eye spots around 3 weeks after fledging.

Distribution and Habitat: Inhabits dense undergrowth in forest and bamboo and thus, despite it’s widespread distribution, it is rarely seen. Usually feeds on grass seeds on the ground but takes other seeds and some insects and may even extract seeds from conifer cones. Likes to be close to forest edges, streams, paths or other small clearings, streams etc, probably for feeding purposes.

Housing: Should ideally be kept inside during the colder months, but if remaining in aviary accommodation must have a heated shelter available. Given this basic care, the Red-faced Crimson Wing has been found to do well in the UK.

Feeding: Should be provided with as varied a selection of seeds as possible, with seeding grasses supplied in season. Also likes chickweed and takes soft food and live food such as mini mealworms, spiders etc. Soaked seed is particularly useful when birds are rearing young.

Breeding: Built mainly by the cock bird, nests will be constructed in boxes or baskets, using grasses, coconut fibre etc and lined with feathers and/or moss.The nest may have a short entrance tube. Both birds take turns to incubate the 3 to 4 eggs. Fledging takes place at about 21 days, and the cock will continue feeding the young for up to 12 days. The fledglings may return to the nest for the first few nights after leaving it, but this is not invariable.

References: Goodwin (1982); Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Restall (1975); Williams and Arlott (1980).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
red-faced crimson wing map
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Black-cheeked Waxbill

Estrilda erythronotos
Alternative names:
Black-faced Waxbill
black-cheeked waxbill  

Length 12-13cm, 4.5-5 inches.

Description: Head and throat grey, being darker on the crown, with black side patches. Bill is black at tip, fading to blue-gray at base. Back is brown, faintly barred. Wing coverts and secondaries striped black and white. Rump and tail coverts red, underparts grey with pink tinge becoming red on flanks and belly, with black vent. Female is paler, with brown vent. Juveniles resemble the female, with a darker bill. There are several geographical variants with subtle plumage differences.

Distribution and Habitat: Frequents dry grassland with thornbush or acacia scrub, the edges of woodland and sometimes cultivated areas. Feeds on (or close to) the ground, mainly on grass seeds and millet. Will also take small insects, fruit and buds and the blossoms of fruit trees (possibly to obtain pollen or nectar).

Housing: Should be kept in a controlled environment as this species is particularly sensitive to cold and to temperature changes generally.

Feeding: A standard waxbill seed mixture, with additional wild/weed seeds as basic diet. Supplement with seeding grasses whenever possible. Black-cheeked Waxbills are thought to favour aphids, ant pupae and soft mealworms when feeding young and will also utilise sprouted seed.

Breeding: Builds a relatively large nest with an entrance tube, consisting mainly of grass stems. The nest will often have a ‘cock nest’ on top, this frequently has feathers added, whereas the main nest rarely does. A clutch may be 3-6 eggs and is incubated by both sexes for 12 days. Fledging takes place at 22 days.

References: Goodwin (1982); Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Restall (1975).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
black-cheeked map
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Blue-capped Waxbill

Uraeginthus cyanocephalus
Alternative names:
Blue-headed Waxbill, Blue-capped Cordon Bleu, Blue-headed Cordon Bleu
Blue-capped waxbill  

Length 13cm, 5 inches.

Description: Male has head, breast and flanks all blue, with brown mantle, back and wings. Bright red bill. Underparts are buff, fading to white at the vent. Female is similar but with brown forehead and crown, and blue parts are paler. Juveniles resemble the female, but with less extensive blue, adult plumage is gained at about 5 months.

Distribution and Habitat: Ocurs in dry bush and scrub country of East Africa, locally abundant but rather less common than the Red-cheeked Cordon Blue. Feeds on the ground, mainly on seeds but also takes some insects such as ants and termites.

Housing: Does well in a mixed aviary, but can be aggressive towards similarly-coloured birds in the breeding season. Sensitive to the cold and should therefore be given sheltered and heated accommodation.

Feeding: A standard waxbill seed mixture, with additional wild/weed seeds as basic diet. Supplement this with seeding grasses whenever possible and live food when raising young. Goodwin states that this waxbill is particularly fond of white and panicum millets, and tends to swallow a proportion of this without shelling it.

Breeding: The Blue-capped Waxbill is among the most regularly bred in aviculture and will reliably bring up its young, given a supply of small livefood when feeding them. Will nest in standard boxes or build in vegetation, ivy for example, using grasses, coconut fibre, etc, and often lines the nest with feathers. Four to six eggs are incubated for around 11 days and fledging takes place when chicks are around 18 days.

References: Goodwin (1982); Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Restall (1975), Williams and Arlott (1989).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
blue-capped map
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African Silverbill

Lonchura cantans
Alternative names:
Warbling Silverbill, Black-rumped Silverbill
african silverbill  

Length 10-11cm, 4-4.5 inches.

Description: Pale sandy brown with darker speckling to the head and barring to the body. Wing primaries, rump and tail feathers are black. Underparts paler, starting as pale buffish brown on chest and fading to off-white on the belly and under-tail coverts. Bill is silver-blue, sometimes with darker upper mandible. Female is much the same as the male, though the colouration of the black feathering may be less intense. The central tail feathers are said to be broader and more rounded at the tip in the female than in the male. Juvenile is similar to the adult, but with browner tint above and less distinct barring and speckling.

Distribution and Habitat: Favours dry habitat such as savannah or sparse scrubland, but is also found in cultivated areas. Usually found in flocks and generally feeds on the ground, taking mainly grass seeds.

Housing: Fits in well in a mixed aviary, though caution needs to be exercised due to a high inclination to hybridise. Gray (1958) lists species running from many of the Mannikins through to the Common and Black-rumped Waxbills as being known to have cross-bred with African Silverbills. Conversely, breeding success is likely to be impaired if kept in the company of more assertive species.

Feeding: These birds are almost entirely seed-eating, even when feeding young. Most observers suggest that live food is seldom, if ever, taken. Sprouted seed may, however, be appreciated and it has been reported (Immelman) that egg food will be utilised during breeding.

Breeding: The African SIlverbill is regularly bred in captivity and is often used for fostering purposes in the manner of the Bengalese. Will nest in standard boxes and baskets or build in vegetation, also has a propensity for the utilisation of old nests such as those of weavers. An average of five eggs are laid, incubation is around 11 days and the young fledge at around 21 days.

References: Avon, Tilford and Woodham (1982); Goodwin (1982); Restall (1996).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Melba Finch

Pytilia melba
Alternative names:
Green-winged Pytilia
Melba Finch pic  

Length 12cm, 5 inches.

Description: On the adult male, forehead, chin and throat are red, with the rest of the head and the neck being grey. The bill is bright red and the eyes orange or reddish-brown. The back is green or olive, which carries down to the upper rump, the lower rump and upper tail coverts are red and this colour extends into the tail feathers. The wing coverts and outer webs of the flight feathers are green, the inner webs being brown. Breast is yellowish or golden with a green tint, and has spotting showing through lower down. The belly and flanks are darker green and heavily barred with white; the centre of the belly often showing more white and less green.

Females lack any red on the head, which is therefore all grey, the throat is off-white to pale grey, belly and flanks are darker grey with pale barring. This barring is less distinct than on the male. The female’s bill is dark brown, with pink to base of lower mandible. Juveniles are similar to adult female but colours are duller, including the bill. Young males will show red to the head in the first moult. There are several geographical variants which differ mainly in the amount of red on the head, different intensities of yellow hue on the breast, and in the brightness of the barring on the underparts.

Distribution and Habitat: Inhabits the drier areas of Africa, favouring thorn scrub, open woodland, savannah and the edges of cultivated areas. Feeds mainly on grass and millet seeds, but takes some insects - mainly termites.

Housing: The cock Melba Finch is usually aggressive to other males, particularly of any species showing red to the head, it is therefore advisable to keep breeding pairs in distinct compartments. Experienced keepers suggest that this is a bird requiring more heat than most, which would indicate indoor quarters being advisable for most of the year.

Feeding: In the wild this species is said to feed mainly on seeds and termites. Immelman et al (1963) suggest that birds in aviculture will thrive only if fed a wide variety of insect food throughout the year to supplement the usual foreign finch seed mixtures.

Breeding: The Melba Finch would seem to be very difficult to breed in captivity. In the wild, a dome-shaped nest of grasses and other vegetation is built close to the ground and lined with feathers. A clutch may be up to 6 eggs and incubation is 13 days, fledging takes place at 21 days. Paradise Whydahs will parasitise the nest of this species and might therefore be an interesting aviary companion, though a close watch must be kept for signs of aggression.

References: Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Goodwin (1982); Restall (1975).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Cut-throat

Amadina fasciata
Alternative names:
Ribbon Finch
cut-throat pic  

Length 12 to 13cm,4.5 to 5 inches.

Description: Forehead, crown and nape are pale sandy brown with a hint of pink, most feathers showing black bars towards their tip, the back is similarly coloured, but with the barring becoming more v-shaped. The face and throat are creamy white, with a broad band of red across the lower throat and extending up the side of the face, behind the eyes. This band is, of course, what gives the bird its common name. The breast is creamy white, shading to fawn lower down and on the underparts. There is a chestnut patch on the belly.

The female is similar to the male, but without the red band or (in most cases) the chestnut on the belly. Juveniles are paler versions of the adult, including the red band on the male.

Distribution and Habitat: Inhabits the drier areas of Africa but is a frequent visitor to water. Favoured habitats are thorn scrub, open woodland, savannah and often cultivated areas in the proximity of villages. Will usually be seen in flocks rather than individually.

Housing: Cut-throats are known to be aggressive to other birds (even larger ones), especially in the breeding season. They will spoil the nests of other birds if kept in a mixed community, and often throw out the eggs and young. Restall states that females seem to succumb to the vagaries of the UK weather earlier and more frequently than males, and for this reason one is likely to see more males than females in aviculture. This would seem sufficient reason for playing it safe and providing good sheltered accommodation all-year round, particularly to newly-acquired birds.

Feeding: In the wild the Cut-throat feeds mainly on grass and millet seeds, with some insects - especially termites. As with most species covered by the WFS, live food is appreciated when feeding its young, although it is said to be one of the few among our species that will raise fledglings successfully on seed and eggfood. Feeding could therefore consist of the usual foreign finch seed mixture with other seeds added for variety, and certainly seeding grasses and other weeds/wild plants will be gladly accepted.

Breeding: Very undemanding in choice of nest site and will often use an old nest or, as mentioned earlier, one that it has emptied of its rightful occupants. The nest will usually be lined with feathers and if constructed from new consists of grasses and similar material. 4 to 6 eggs are laid and incubation is 12 to 14 days, fledging takes place at around 21 days.

References: Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Goodwin (1982); Restall (1975).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Red-eared Waxbill

Estrilda troglodytes
Alternative names:
Black-rumped Waxbill, Grey Waxbill, Pink-cheeked Waxbill, Common Waxbill (this name is also used for the St Helena Waxbill)
red-eared waxbill pic  

Length 10cm, 4 inches.

Description: Male and female are similar in appearance. Upper parts light brownish grey with cross barring. Deep scarlet eye stripe running narrowly under, as well as more widely above the eye. Throat and ear coverts silky white, usually tinged with pink or grey. Underparts as upper but much paler. Ventral area rosy red. Undertail coverts white, usually tinged with pink. Rump, upper tail coverts and tail black. There is a great deal of variation in the amount of red on the underparts. Bill bright red to crimson.

Housing: Generally not aggressive. When kept in an aviary a heated shelter is essential.

Distribution and Habitat: From Senegal and The Gambia east to NE Congo, Uganda, Eritrea and NW Abyssinia.

Feeding :Feeds both on the ground and from growing vegetation. Takes grass and other seeds together with midges and small insects.

In captivity will eat panicum, white millet, small canary seed and other small seeds. Seeding grasses, soaked seed, small insects or ant pupae should be provided when they are nesting.

Breeding: Nests are often built on the ground in grass or under a small bush, often with a cup-shaped cock’s nest at the side, but will nest above ground in a bush or basket. Nest is built of grass, coconut fibre or similar material and is usually lined with feathers or other soft material. Usually four or five eggs, which are incubated by both sexes. Incubation period is 11 to 12 days.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Yellow-mantled Whydah

Euplectes macrourus
Alternative names:
Gold-backed Whydah, Yellow-backed Whydah, Yellow-backed Widow, Yellow-mantled Widow Bird
yellow-mantled whydah  

Length 18-22cm, 7-8.5 inches.

Description: The cock bird is predominantly black from head to tail, except for his mantle across his shoulder, which is golden-yellow in colour. Some colouring may also show on the wing tips. The hen (shorter than the cock) is brown in colour with a lighter brown stripe across the eyes, the hen is almost indistinguishable from that of the Orange Bishop, perhaps appearing slightly larger.

Housing: The writer has
found the Yellow-mantled Whydah to be a friendly bird and does not pose a threat to other birds in the aviary; although it is true to say the male will chase off intruders in his space, as will most cock birds. I have never known my cock bird to be violent to others. I would not advise that they are housed with birds smaller than themselves. My aviary is 8’ x 8’ x 7’ high (not including the air-lock). It has a concrete floor, which I cover with Dry-Bird or Easy-Bed, and I have secured a lot of conifer branches inside, not only does this provide perches it also gives them cover should they wish to hide. Although the Whydah is a hardy bird, I still cover my aviary during the winter months with insulated panels. My Whydahs can be quite tame and (as the fancy takes them) they will take mealworms from my fingers, and I have noticed that the male will always pass them to the female.

Feeding: Foreign Finch seed, insects e.g. mealworms, wax worms and crickets. Green foods such as spinach, dandelion, chickweed etc, fruit, if they will take it, soaked millet sprays and egg food.

Breeding: When displaying, the cock will stretch his neck and whilst appearing to stand on tiptoe, he ruffs his neck feathers out and shouts out a high-pitched cheee cheee. Most whydahs are polygamous and are happy with 2-6 hens; I have two hens to my one cock. They build their nests using grasses and coconut fibre; mine have started building a nest high amongst some conifer branches that I have placed in the aviary. In their natural habitat they prefer to nest near water in long grass or bamboo.

Lays between two to four eggs which are pale green with blotches of olive-brown or olive grey spots and will sit for approx fourteen days. During the breeding season it is strongly advisable to increase the feeding of live food; not only is this valuable food for the young it also encourages the adults into breeding. The male will feed the female while she is sitting on the eggs.

Thanks to Roger Bryant for supplying this text, for a fuller version see www.feathered-friends.co.uk.

 
 
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Orange Bishop

Euplectes orix franciscana
Alternative names:
Red Bishop, Grenadier Weaver
orange bishop cock  

Length 13cm, 5.5 inches.

Description: A member of a large family of weavers that originate from Africa. During the breeding season the cock bird is very colourful with a thick orange ruff on the back of his head, around his throat and covering his chest, while his face and abdomen are jet black and velvet in appearance. When in eclipse plumage he is indistinguishable from the hen, which resembles a hen house sparrow in colouring with a pale buff stripe just above the eye.

Housing:
These birds are not suited to cage life. They will do well in a large aviary with plenty of bamboo, the leaves of which will be stripped for nest construction purposes. The writer has also used cotoneaster, privet and conifer bushes. Another good alternative to use is cut branches from conifer trees/bushes. These birds are hardy and will tolerate our British weather provided they have cover and are free from draught. I have housed them with waxbills and have not encountered any problems with this, although I do have a large aviary; in fact the waxbills make good use of discarded weaver nests! If your aviary is not very large it might be best not to house them with smaller birds.

Feeding: Live food is very important if you want them to breed. I feed mine on mealworms all year round but the supply is vastly increased during the breeding season. They will also take wax worms, spiders, crickets, small locusts and stick insects. They also enjoy a good foreign finch mix and the occasional helping of small parakeet seed. Also provided is millet sprays both dry and soaked, egg food, green foods such as chickweed, cress, lettuce (not Iceberg), broccoli florets and the stem grated, grasses, herbs etc.

Breeding: Weavers will normally construct their own nest, although there are exceptions to every rule and the writer has had one that used a wicker dome basket. I have found that they will use hay, coconut fibre, raffia and pampas grass, but they love fresh long green stems of grass. I am lucky and live near a Council owned field, that is never sprayed with pesticides and is allowed to grow wild during the summer months. The cock bird builds an oval shaped nest and when completed he will hang from the nest and put on a display for the hen, if she doesn’t like it he starts all over again and builds another… and sometimes another!

Thanks to Laura Bryant for supplying this text, for a fuller version see www.feathered-friends.co.uk.

 
 
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Red-winged Pytilia

Pytilia phoenicoptera
Alternative names:
Aurora Finch, Crimson-winged Pytilia
red-winged pytilia  

Length: 5in (12cm).

Description: Head and back are grey. Underparts are paler grey with fine white barring. Upper tail coverts crimson, tail is crimson with some brown streaks. Wings are grey-brown with the visible parts of most coverts and the outer edges of the flight feathers being crimson, showing as a large crimson patch on the side of the resting bird. Eyes are red and the bill is black, thin and finely pointed. The female tends to be a palerversion of the male, often with less extensive red markings. Juveniles resemble the female but with a more brown appearance and the eye is brown.

Distribution and Habitat: Favours open woodland and savannah, dense grassland or bamboo thickets and is said to be more often seen in trees than most waxbills. Usually seen singly or in pairs.

Housing: An inoffensive bird not known to be aggressive to other species or its own kind and usually very steady. Has been known to do well in a planted flight with heated shelter, but it is thought that best breeding results will be obtained by maintaining a temperature around 20 degrees.

Feeding: In the wild the Red-winged Pytilia feeds mostly on the ground, taking mostly grass seeds and some small insects such as ants and termites. In captivity a good foreign finch mixture supplemented with soft food is a basic requirement and the addition of seeding grasses in season will be appreciated. Successful breeding has been achieved by supplying ant pupae and mealworms at the appropriate time.

Breeding: The nest is usually loosely constructed in a bush or small tree and will be sparsley lined with feathers . 3 to 4 eggs are laid and incubation is 12 to 13 days and carried out by both sexes, fledging takes place at around 21 days. Breeders have experimented with supplying artificial vegetation nesting sites, apparently with some success.

References: Clement, Harris and Davis (1999); Goodwin (1982); Restall (1975).

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Black-bellied Firefinch

Lagonosticta rara
 
Black-bellied Firefinch  

Length: 5.5-6in (13-14cm).

Description: Male : Head, face, neck, chin and throat to upper flanks deep scarlet. Mantle, back and wings black. Underparts jet black. Bill large and blue black.
Female : Head to nape bright red. Mantle and wings olive brown. Underparts olive brown. Bill as male.

Distribution and Habitat: Cameroons to S.Sudan
N. Uganda and Kenya
Zaire, E. Sierra Leone and S.E. Senegal.
Inhabits savanna, grassland and cultivated areas.

Feeding: Feeds mainly on the ground on small seeds but will take termites and other small insects. In captivity will take panicum and spray millet and other small grass seeds. Insect food seems essential for rearing young. Egg food will sometimes be taken. Some breeders consider that insect or egg food should be supplied at all times.

Breeding: Prefers to roost low down and nesting is usually low down in a clump of grass or a bush or in the thatch roof of a hut.

The male will display to the female on the ground by hopping up and down with a piece of grass in the bill with head held obliquely upward.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
Black-bellied map

Bar-breasted Firefinch

Lagonosticta rufopicta
Alternative name:
Speckled Firefinch
bar-breasted firefinch  

Length: 4.5in (11cm).

Description: Male : Similar to Red-billed Firefinch but plumper with broader looking tail and larger bill. Front of forehead carmine with the rest of the forehead, crown, nape, mantle, back and wings a dark earth brown. Under-wing coverts buff. Lower parts of rump and upper tail coverts wine red. Tail brownish black with variable amounts of red. Breast and flanks red with small white spots or bars, but there is much individual variation in these markings. Bill pink to purplish red.
Female : Like the male except that she sometimes has the red of the face and breast a little paler.

Distribution and Habitat: Senegal, Gambia, S Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria Ghana N.Cameroons,
N.Congo, S.Sudan, Part of Uganda

Inhabits grass savanna and thick cover along streams and rivers. Also often in villages. Often tame and confiding round human habitation. In captivity at first shy and timid. Generally in damper areas than those frequented by Lagonosticta senegala.

Sometimes found in small flocks of six to twenty individuals.

Feeding: Feeds largely on the ground on small seeds.
Feeding requirements in captivity similar to those of the Red-billed Firefinch.

Breeding: Hybids between this species and the Red-billed Firefinch are fertile.
Nests in the wild are often in tall grass quite near the ground.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
bar-breasted map

Red-billed Firefinch

Lagonosticta senegala
Alternative names:
Common Firefinch, Senegal Firefinch
red-billed firefinches  

Length: 4in (9-10cm).

Description: Male : Top of head, mantle and back a slightly reddish light earth brown strongly washed with red, carmine or scarlet. Red is most extensive on forehead and hind neck. Wings brown with a varying amount of red. Rump and all but the outermost tail feathers rose red. Sides of the breast spotted with small white spots to varying degrees. Iris brown and eye rims yellow and conspicuous. Bill red or pink.
Female : Buffish brown with red stripe from base of lower mandible to, and sometimes over, the eye. White spots on the breast larger and usually more profuse than on the male.
Juvenile : Like the female but with no red on the face and no white spots and an entirely black bill.

The mainly red bill distinguishes it from the other firefinches.

Distribution and Habitat: Tropical and Southern sub-tropical Africa.
Widely distributed but absent from some tropical forest and desert areas.

In the wild very tame and usually in pairs or small parties. Lives in Acacia woodland or in cultivated areas and villages around human dwellings.

Feeding: Feeds mainly on the ground on grass and other small seeds. Will take small insects but in the wild will rear young almost entirely on green seeds. Dry seed alone is not adequate unless some insect food is also available.

Breeding: Will nest in a variety of sites, in a hole in a building or bank, even on the ground and especially in thatched roofs of huts. Uses feathers, preferably white, to line the nest. Usually only the male builds the nest. Both sexes brood and the incubation period is 11 to 12 days with young fledging at 18 days. They are fed by the parents for a further 8 to 10 days.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
red-billed map

Blue-billed Firefinch

Lagonosticta rubricata
Alternative names:
Dark Firefinch, African Firefinch (sometimes also used for other species)
blue-billed firefinches  

Length: 4.5in (10-11.5cm).

Description: Dark grey crown and nape. Mantle, back and wing coverts olive brown. Rump and upper tail coverts wine red. Centre of belly sooty grey.
Bill upper mandible dark grey or black, lower mandible black at tip and pink at base.
Female: Upper parts a paler shade of brown, the top of the head may be brown or more grey than that of the male. Rump, tail, breast and flanks paler than the male. Breast buff and ventral area blackish brown.

Differs from Bar-breasted (Lagonosticta rufopicta) by lack of white barring on the sides of the breast and mainly dark (not red) bill.

Differs from Black-bellied (Lagonosticta rara) by brown or grey brown mantle and back (not red). Black-bellied female has a grey head and face and both sexes have a much greater extent of black on the underparts.

Distribution and Habitat: Western, eastern, central and southern Africa.

Inhabits edges of forest and savanna woodland, thick cover along streams, densely grown valleys in hill country. Apparently needs a combination of fairly low cover and grass, Not found in open grassland.

Feeding: Feeds largely on grass seeds. Also takes termites and other small insects.

In captivity some breeders consider that live or egg food is necessary at all times but Goodwin reports that his birds showed little interest unless they were rearing young. He also reports that his birds, although timid at first, soon became tame and were very inquisitive and found their way round quickly.

Breeding: Nest in bushes or shrubs and sometimes at ground level, usually lined with feathers. Incubation period about 11 days. Fledge at approximately 15 days old.
Birds will perform a greeting display by bowing alternately with twitching tails. In the courtship display the male will bob up and down with a feather or piece of grass in the beak, throwing his head back.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Peter’s Twinspot

Hypargos niveoguttatus
Alternative names:
Red-throated Twinspot
Peter's Twinspot pic  

Length: 4.75-5in (12-13cm).

Description: Male - Forehead to crown deep grey, mantle and back reddish brown. Face, breast and neck deep crimson. Underparts black, boldly spotted with white on sides. Bill greyish blue and legs are slate grey.

Female is paler with buffish grey on the head. Throat and breast buff.

Distribution and Habitat: Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zaire, Kenya and Tanzania.

Inhabits lowland bush or grassland, evergreen thickets, acacia scrub at edges of secondary forest near streams. Occasionally close to human habitation.

Feeding: Feeds on a variety of seeds and occasionally small insects.

In captivity readily takes panicum and other millets, canary seed and half ripe grass seeds. Probably needs live food to rear young.

Breeding: Often prefers to nest on the ground among cover.

Incubation period 12-13 days (sometimes longer) and young fledge at about 21 days.

It has been reported that in the wild they may indulge in a communal display with males hopping round displaying to each other and the hens watching.

In captivity, pairs in breeding condition are often aggressive not only towards conspecifics but also towards related or similarly coloured species.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
Peter's Twinspot map
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Green-backed Twinspot

Mandingoa nitidula
Alternative names:
Green Twinspot, Schlegel’s Twinspot
green-backed twinspot photo  

Length: 4-4.5in (10-11cm).

Description: Male is red or deep orange-red around the eye, with head and back a deep moss or olive green. Breast, belly and flanks dark grey to black, boldly spotted with white. Bill fairly short, slender and pointed, all black or with red at tip. Legs and feet pinkish brown.

Female is similar to male but somewhat duller and lacks the bright red face. Face buff or fawn brown. Breast, belly and flanks rather greyer than the male and spots are less distinct.

Juvenile is similar to the female but much duller and lacking the spots on the underparts. Young males show tinges of green on the breast and spots appear gradually in an erratic or random fashion.

The above description is of the nominate race, M.nitidula nitidula. M.n. chubbi is brighter in colour. M.n.schlegeli has a larger bill. Face is deep scarlet and breast deep red to golden orange.

Distribution and Habitat:

M. nitidula nitidula - Tanzania, Zaire, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Natal and N.E. Cape Province.

M. nitidula schlegeli - Sierra Leone, S. Guinea, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, Zaire and Angola.

M. nitidula chubbi - Sudan, S. Ethiopia, Kenya, N. Tanzania and Zanzibar.

Inhabits dense riverine or secondary forest, edges of forest. Tall or rank grassland, evergreen thickets and other dense undergrowth. Occasionally in open ground but always near cover.

Feeding: Feeds on a variety of small seeds and insects but has been known to take rice.

In captivity they need a plentiful supply of insect food as well as dry and soaked seed.

Breeding: Incubation period 12 – 13 days. Fledging at about 21 days.

Both adults and young make a snapping sound when in the nest if they feel threatened.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Dybowski’s Twinspot

Euchistospiza dybowskii
Alternative names:
Dusky Twinspot
Dybowski’s twinspot pic  

Length: 4.75in (12cm).

Description: Male has entire head, nape, chin and breast slate-grey. Mantle, back and upper tail are crimson. Lower breast is dark slate-grey and flanks and under tail black with bold white spots on flanks. Bill is black, eyes are red with a pale blue eye ring.

Female is slightly smaller than the male and is paler grey on the head and breast. Red of mantle is duller. Eyes are reddish brown with pale grey eye ring. Wings are blackish brown.

Juveniles are similar to female but lack white spots. Adult plumage is attained within three months.

Distribution and Habitat: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Zaire and Southern Sudan.

Found in grassy savanna, in grass clumps near rivers, along the edges of forest and sometimes in cultivated areas.

Feeding: Feeds on the ground, mainly on grass seeds but also small insects sometimes by digging in soft ground.

Breeding: In captivity will often nest on the ground, building their own nest on a heap of materials. The nest is built with grass fibres or similar material on a base of coarser material and lined with feathers.

Usually 4 - 6 eggs. Both sexes incubate and brood and young are brooded for anything from 7 to 14 days.

They are territorial and adult males will fight each other and attack juveniles as soon as they show adult plumage.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
dybowski’s location map
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White-headed Nun

Lonchura maja
Alternative names:
White-headed Munia, White-headed Mannikin, Maja Mannikin
White-headed Nun pic  

Length: 4.5in (11.5cm).

Description: The head is white, upper breast, back and wings are reddish brown. The eyes are brown, the beak is a silver blue and the legs are dark grey. It is difficult to distinguish between the sexes. The male’s head is sometimes a brighter white usually after the second moult, also the male’s beak is larger than the females. Juvenile’s back and wings are a lighter brown and the breast and under parts are a beige shade.

Distribution and Habitat: The White-headed Nun originates from southern Thailand, Malay Peninsula and Indonesian Islands. They are found in open grassland and rice fields, sometimes in enormous flocks to feed and roost.

Housing: The White-headed Nun is not aggressive toward other species if kept in a mixed aviary. Breeding success can be achieved by keeping a small flock in an outside aviary dependant on size. There is a danger of hybridisation if kept with other mannikin species.

Feeding: In the wild these mannikins feed almost entirely on seeding grasses direct from the seed head. These birds don’t require live food to raise their young. In captivity they take eggfood sparingly but soaked and sprouting seed is recommended.

Breeding: WFS records suggest that this bird has not been bred consistently in good numbers in captivity. In its natural habitat, the nest is more round than oval, constructed of blades of grass, bamboo and other large leaves in clumps of grass and bamboo. They also use abandoned weaver nests adapting the entrance to suit.

It is recommended to plant bamboo in an aviary, as this will provide the most natural nest site for this species. Nest baskets of various sizes should be hung at different heights to encourage breeding. White-headed Nuns are quite a shy bird and seldom breed in cages. Best results in cages occur when the cage is situated in a quiet part of the bird room with plenty of cover.

Average clutch size is 3 to 7 and incubation is about 13 days. Youngsters fledge approximately 21 days later.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
White-headed Nun distribution map
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Black-headed Nun

Lonchura atricapilla (sometimes Lonchura malacca atricapilla)
Alternative names:
Black-headed Munia, Black-headed Mannikin, Chestnut Munia or Mannikin
black-headed mannikin  

Length: 4.25 to 4.5in (10.5 to 11.25cm).

Description: Head, upper breast, centre of belly and under tail coverts are black. The rest of the underparts are a chestnut reddish/brown. The lower breast and flanks are brown. Eyes are brown, beak is silver grey and the legs are dark blue/grey. Both sexes are very similar though the black upper breast on the males is slightly larger and also the beak is bulkier, though this cannot always be relied upon when sexing. Juveniles are much lighter in general than the adult. There are several subspecies of the Black-headed Nun, in some of which the black head and upper breast are a dark brown.

Distribution and Habitat: The Black-headed Nun is found in open grassland, reed beds, rice fields and marshes. Where this preferred habitat does not exist other cultivated land or clearings in forests will be utilised. They form large flocks throughout the year other than in the breeding season. At this time flocks are smaller due to adult birds going to nest.

Housing: The Black-headed Nun is quite a placid bird and mixes well in a communal aviary. However breeding success is more likely by keeping a single pair in an aviary/cage of its own. There is a danger of hybridisation if kept with other mannikin species.

Feeding: In the wild these mannikins feed almost entirely on seeding grasses direct from the seed head, though they will feed on the ground if circumstances dictate. Rice is a favourite when available. There appears to be no appetite for insects, even when feeding young.

Breeding: WFS records suggest that this species, like the Tri-coloured Mannikin, is bred infrequently in captivity. In its natural habitat, the nest is made of fresh green leaves and grasses. It is roughly a 6 inch oval with an entrance on the side. The nest is constructed in reeds, grasses, bamboo etc. The average clutch size is 3 to 5 and incubation is about 13 days. The young are brooded for a further 10 days. Youngsters fledge approximately 3 weeks after hatching and are raised primarily on grass seed.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Tri-coloured Munia

Lonchura malacca (sometimes Lonchura malacca malacca)
Alternative names:
Tri-coloured Munia, Tri-coloured Nun
tri-coloured munia  

Length 11-12.5cm (4.5-5 inches)

Description: Sexes alike. Head, breast, throat, centre of and tail black. Nape, belly,tibial feathers and under tail coverts black. Rest of under parts white. Mantle, back and most of wings light chestnut. Underwing coverts white to reddish buff. Rump and upper tail coverts glossy dark chestnut, spotted bars of black. Bill palish grey and legs leaden blue or slate

Distribution and Habitat: Southern India. In the wild inhabits marshes, reed beds, wet grassy areas,
sugar cane and rice fields. Probably feeds largely on grass seeds. Usually in small or large groups, but when breeding in pairs or small groups.

Housing: The Tri-coloured Munia is generally considered not to be aggressive toward other species if kept in a mixed aviary. However there is little doubt that best breeding success will be achieved by keeping a small flock in an aviary of its own. There is a danger of hybridisation if kept with other Mannikin species.

Feeding: Will take millets and canary seed both dry and soaked and green food, especially seeding and flowering
grasses and chickweed, millet sprays.Usually refuses insects and soft food. The usual grit and cuttlefish bone should be provided. When feeding young may take large quantities of soaked seed.

Breeding: WFS records suggest that this bird has been infrequently bred in captivity. In its natural habitat, the nest is a roughly oval construction of leaves and grasses measuring 6 or 7 inches in diameter, often with a tubular entrance porch. The nest is constructed in reeds, grasses, bamboos etc, usually within 2 metres of the ground. Average clutch size is 4 or 5 and both sexes share the incubation of about 13 days. Youngsters fledge between 22 and 28 days old.

The Census of Reported Breedings of this species in the UK between 2002 and 2007 show variations from 3 to 17. The best year being 2006.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Dusky Munia

Lonchura fuscans
Alternative names:
Dusky Mannikin
Dusky Munia  

Length: 4in (10cm).

Description: The Dusky Munia is similar to the Java Mannikin but without the white on the belly. They are completely brownish black with darker tips creating a scaled look. There are variations in colour of each individual some being more scaled than others. The upper beak is black and the lower beak is a bluish grey as are the legs. The sexes are very difficult to distinguish. Juveniles are dark drab to burnt umber above, slightly darker on the wings and tail. Below it is dark drab. The beak is black on fledging.

Distribution and Habitat: Dusky Munias are found mostly in lowland Borneo, occurring up to only 500m or so. Will be found in open grassland, cultivated land, paddy rice fields, reedbeds and riverbanks. They may be found in gardens and around human habitation.

Housing: The Dusky Munia is little different from other Munias within its range. It is somewhat a skulking bird described as mouse like. Keeping low in vegetation and feeding on the ground mostly. One of its characteristics is little fear of man.

Feeding: Feeds both on the ground and in vegetation, climbing up stems to reach seeding grasses. They eat all kinds of grass seeds and weed seed and they have a particular liking to growing rice.

Breeding: WFS records show that this species is progressively being bred each year. In its natural habitat, the nest is usually found in holes in banks, among exposed roots and in holes in trees. The Dusky Mannikin accepts various nesting receptacles in captivity from wicker baskets to half-open nest boxes. Average clutch size is 3 to 6 and incubation is about 13 days. Youngsters fledge in approximately 3 weeks.

Reference: Restall (1996)

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Bronze-winged Munia

Lonchura cucullata
Alternative names:
Bronze-winged Mannikin
bronze-winged mannikin  

Length: 3.5 to 4in (9 to 10cm).

Description: Sexes alike. Entirely black head to chin, throat and centre of breast. Mantle, back and wings dark brown. Mantle, back and wings dark brown, tinged greyish. Scapulars glossed with green. Rump and upper-tail coverts barred black and white. Has white underparts except for smudges of black on sides of breast, becoming black crescents on flanks.

Distribution and Habitat: Senegal and Gambia to Sierra Leone and east to Guinea, southern Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic to Uganda, south and south-west Sudan and west Kenya, south through Gabon, Congo to north-west Angola.

Has been introduced into Puerto Rico.

In the wild inhabits open country, scrub and cultivated areas.

Housing: In captivity has been bred in cages and aviaries. Highly gregarious and can be kept in a colony, but can sometimes be aggresive to other species. Usually roosts in nests which may be built specially for this purpose and frequently dismantled and rebuilt. Fairly hardy but temperature should not be below 10 degrees C. Fairly tame only taking alarm at the last moment.

Feeding: Various millets and grass seeds. May take small quantities of insects. When feeding young prefers half ripe grass seeds and hard seeds are often ignored. Egg food and insect food may be taken.

Breeding: May use baskets and boxes or sometimes build their own nest. Incubation period usually about 12 days and young fledge at 18-21 days old.

The Census of Reported Breeding of this species in the UK
shows a variation of between 0 and 23 per year between 2002 and 2007. The best years being 2005 and 2007.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Javan Munia

Lonchura leucogasroides
Alternative names:
Javan Mannikin, Black-rumped Munia
javan munia  

Length: 4 to 4.5in (10 to 11.5cm).

Description: Sexes alike. Generally dull or drab brownish wih a distinctive black foreface, chin, throat and breast. White lower breast and dark brown or blackish undertail coverts and tail. Bill blackish or dark horn grey upper mandible and pale greyish blue lower mandible. Legs and feet grey or bluish grey. Very similar to the White-bellied Munia (Lonchura leucogastra).

Distribution and Habitat: Southern Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok. Introduced into Singapore. In the wild inhabits cultivated areas rice fields, gardens and bushy and grassy areas. Eats grass seeds and cultivated rice, both ripe and unripe. Usually found in pairs or small parties.

Housing: In captivity this species seems well suited to cage life being relatively tame. Temperature should be maintained at above 10 degrees C.

Feeding: A Foreign Finch mixture, panicum and Japanese Millet and millet sprays. Most egg food and some insects may be taken. Cuttlefish bone, charcoal and a mixture of grits grits should be available.

Breeding: These birds have been bred in cages measuring 2ft x 18in x 18in with nest boxes (5in x 6in x 6in) attached to the outside of the cage. May use baskets and boxes. Usually 5 or 6 eggs are laid,
Incubation period usually about 12 days and young fledge at 18-21 days old.

The Census of Reported Breeding of this species in the UK shows a variation of between 5 and 36 per year between 2002 and 2007. The best years being 2005 to 2007.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Moluccan Munia

Lonchura molucca
Alternative names:
Moluccan Mannikin
moluccan munia  

Length: 3.75 to 4.5in (9.5 to 11.5cm).

Description: Sexes alike. Head, breast, upper tail coverts and tail black. Nape, sides of neck, mantle and back medium earth brown. Wing coverts a slightly darker and more reddish brown. Secondaries, primary coverts and primaries blackish brown. Underwing coverts mainly buffish but those along the wing edge white with fine wavy and/or crescent bars or spotted bars of black. Bill with upper mandible leaden grey or bluish grey. Very similar to the White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata).

Distribution and Habitat: The Moluccans and nearby islands, the Celebes, the Lesser Sunda islands (excluding Lombok and Bali) and the Kangean islands. In the wild inhabits grassy and bushy areas at forest edges, clearings and cultivated areas. Not wary of humans. Probably feeds largely on grass seeds. Usually in family parties or small groups.

Housing: In captivity this species seems well suited to cage life, seeming to appear to prefer to breed on their own in a cage rather than in an aviary. Temperature should be maintained at above 10 degrees C.

Feeding: A Foreign Finch or Budgie mixture with Japanese millet and millet sprays, seeding grasses and a few mealworms together with the usual grit and cuttlefish bone. When feeding young may take large quantities of soaked seed and some greenfood.

Breeding: These birds have been bred more successfully in cages than in aviaries. Usually 4 to 5 eggs are laid, but up to 7 have been recorded. Incubation period about 15 days, fledging at about 21 days old. Both sexes share incubation.

The Census of reported Breedings of this species in the UK shows a variation of between 1 and 36 per year between 2002 and 2007, the best year being 2007.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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Red-headed Finch

Amadina erythrocephala
red-headed finch  

Length: 4.75 to 5in (12 to 13cm).

Description: Male has an all red head and face except the lores. Sandy or grey brown upper parts and slightly
Darker wings with pale buff tips to coverts and edges of tertials. Dark or grey brown tail with white spots on
tips of outer feathers. Underparts heavily barred or scaled. Females lack any red on the head and are
uniform grey brown or sandy on head, face and upper parts and prominently barred or scaled below.

Distribution and Habitat: Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Cape Province, Transvaal and Natal.

In the wild inhabits cultivated areas rice fields, gardens and bushy and grassy areas. Eats grass seeds and
cultivated rice. Both ripe and unripe. Usually found in pairs or small parties.

Housing: In captivity this species seems well suited to cage life.

Feeding: A good Foreign Finch mixture with red and panicum millet and egg food. Some insect food may be taken
but does not seem to be essential. Cuttlefish bone, crushed eggshell and a mixture of grits should always be available, together with fresh water.

Breeding: In the wild they are highly social and often two or three pairs will prospect for nest sites together and nest close to each other. In captivity they have been found to be less aggressive than the Cut-throat Finch but it would seem unwise to chance keeping them with weaker species that one hopes to breed from or with Cut-throats as there would be a big risk of hybridisation. These birds seem well suited to cage breeding and have been bred in 24” x 12” double breeding cages. Incubation period usually about 12-14 days and young fledge at 20 days old.

The Census of reported Breedings of this species in the UK shows a variation of between 41 and 46 per year between 2002 and 2007.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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New Britain Mannikin

Lonchura spectabilis
New Britain Mannikin  

Length: 3.75 to 4.25in (7.5 to 10.5cm).

Description: Male: Head, face, chin and throat black. Mantle,back and scapulars light chestnut
or warm brown. Breast white. Upper tail coverts golden orange. Lower flanks black. Bill stout and deep pale grey.
Legs and feet dark grey. Females:Similar to male but slightly less intense colouring.

Distribution and Habitat: New Britain and New Guinea.

Occurs in lowland grass lands and feeds mainly on small seeds. In the wild associates in flocks of up to 30 or 40 birds.

Housing: They have been bred in double breeding cages but were found to be aggressive if housed with other pairs.

Feeding: It has been reported that in captivity they will take millet, canary seed and spray millet and will feed young on spray millet, soaked seed and green seeds and at about seven days old will feed mini mealworms and buffalo worms.

Breeding: Nest is large, ball shaped and made of grasses with a tubular entrance. Will build nests for roosting but these have a larger entrance hole. Both sexes incubate by day but only the hen at night. Usually three to five eggs are laid. Incubation period is 14-15 days and fledge at 21 days. Young are usually independent 14 – 18 days after fledging.

The Census of reported Breedings of this species in the UK shows two being bred in 1998, two in 2005 and two in 2008.

For further general information see Care of Waxbills page.

 
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