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Gold-breasted Waxbill

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Is the Gold-breasted Waxbill right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Golden-breasted Waxbill; Zebra Waxbill; Orange Breasted Waxbill

Scientific name: Amandava subflava

The basics:
The Gold-breasted Waxbill is the tiniest of the captive-bred finches-- and one of the most desired. In the 1960s birdkeeper's classic, Finches and Soft-billed Birds, authors Henry Bates and Robert Busenbark enthusiastically proclaimed that this bird “is as variable as a desert sunset. No two males are exactly alike.”

While they are not beginner's finches, the Gold-breasted Waxbill is often a bit easier to breed than some of the other waxbills, and it is often a good choice for an experienced Society or Zebra Finch breeder looking for the opportunity to step up to a bigger challenge. Despite their tiny size, they are also relatively long-lived compared to some of the other small finches.

There are three subspecies, with two of them known to aviculture, the smaller nominate A. subflava subflava, and the slightly larger, less colorful A. s. clarkei.. This highly successful finch has an enormous range throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where it seems to adapt to just about every possible type of habitat where seeding grasses may be found, from a high and dry mountain meadow to a marshy reedbed.

Appearance:
The tiny Gold-breasted Waxbill is a true gem, especially the dapper male with his vivid deep orange-red eye-stripe, golden throat, and sunset-colored underparts. Females are quite a bit duller and lack the eye-stripe.

Weight:
5 - 8 grams (0.17 - 0.28 pz.)

Average size:
9 - 10 centimeters (3.5 - 4 in.)

Lifespan:
10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The tiny, yet confident, Gold-breasted Waxbill seems to do well in a mixed-species aviary, getting along very well with birds of non-competing species that will leave it alone. Know where your feet are when you stroll in a walk-in aviary, because they do like to play and feed on the ground, and it would be a tragedy to accidentally step on one of these tiny gems. Each breeding pair does need its own cage, not to be shared with another pair of its own species, although you can house multiple pairs in a very large walk-in aviary. Once you enjoy success with a pair of Gold-breasted Waxbills, they may breed again and again. To protect the female's health, rest the pair after they have produced three broods, perhaps by removing the nesting material and changing the timer on the lights to provide a shorter “day."

Housing:
The Gold-breasted Waxbill is an active, busy, and tiny bird that demands a large flight of at least 36” in length, 24” in width, and 18” in height per pair. Have visual barriers so that the pairs can hear but not see each other, to prevent territorial tension during the breeding season. Pay special attention to the bar spacing, which should be 1/4” rather than the usual 1/2” offered to many finches. Believe it or not, a baby Gold-breasted Waxbill has been known to find its way on the wrong side of a 1/2” bar spacing. Also, close up any little gaps where you service the cage for food, water, treats, and toys.

A planted mixed-species aviary, especially one that gives some access to direct sunlight, may show the Gold-breasted Waxbill at its best. However, you would need to provide sufficient heat or have a place to move them inside during the cooler months. Have a double door and inspect the aviary regularly to make sure that there are no gaps that could allow your birds to escape or mosquitoes (or any other pest) to enter. A couple of cautions: Do not colony breed your Gold-breasted Waxbills. Instead, house them with non-competing unrelated species. Also, do not include their very close relatives, the Green Avadavat or the Strawberry Finch in their flight, because breeders have reported that these birds can hybridize.

Diet:
Gold-breasted Waxbills demand a high protein diet, and they cannot be kept successfully for long if you are unwilling to supply live food. The backbone of the diet is a high quality small seed mix, perhaps mixing together finch and canary blends, fresh enough to sprout – and you should test it by sprouting regularly. You can also sow the seeds in sterile soil and, when they start to sprout, you can place the pots in their flight so they can enjoy the green food. These finches will also appreciate the milky seeding heads of grasses, in addition to the sprouts. You should also supply a finely chopped salad that includes chickweed, greens, apple, carrot, and broccoli.

Don't skimp on the eggfood, high quality finch pellet, and, most importantly, a daily supply of live insects. You will need a supplier who can provide truly tiny insects, to meet the needs of these tiny birds. As you approach the breeding season, increase the supply of tiny white-skinned mealworms, waxworms, and perhaps ant pupae or fly larvae to bring them into season. Don't run short on the live food, or the pair will almost certainly stop feeding their youngsters. All finches should have access to a small amount of clean grit, as well as a clean cuttlebone.

As ground feeders, Gold-breasted Waxbills sometimes do better at eating a varied and healthy diet if you feed them with food bowls on the floor. Be careful that the water dishes are shallow enough to never present a drowning risk to a bathing bird.

Written by Elaine Radford

wonderful

sweet birds, peaceful waxbills, bright orange chest, facial markings, smaller flight cages

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