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Meet The Gold-Breasted Waxbill

Meet the tiny, rare and beautiful golden-breasted waxbill, and find out how to care for it.

By Karl Lieberman

Subscribe to BIRD TALK Magazine The beautiful gold-breasted waxbill (Amandava subflava) is currently being imported into the United States after a nearly 17-year absence from the world market. It is highly desirable in many ways. Its appearance is stunning, especially the male’s, with his blazing red/orange/yellow breast, red eyebrows and neat rows of brown stripes down its sides. No two males are exactly alike. I once heard it poetically put that each waxbill is as different as an African sunset.

Females are a duller version of the male with most of her color contained to the lower abdomen and back. They lack the red eye brows, so even young birds can be sexed visually that way.

Gold-breasted waxbills are considered to be one of the easiest waxbills to breed in captivity and take quickly to domestic life. The base of their diet should be a high-quality dry finch mix, spray millet and (of course) plenty of fresh water for drinking and bathing. Their water dishes should never be deeper than 1 inch due to their extremely tiny size.

Gold-Breasted Waxbill: Diet & Housing
Waxbills take quite readily to fresh egg food, but for wild-caught birds, mealworms are probably going to be necessary for breeding success. Germinated seed is also an excellent food to offer. 

Their size makes it possible for them to slip through standard finch-sized cage wire and, therefore, an enclosure made of 1/4-inch mesh, or even window screen is a good idea. If they are kept in regular finch cages, they are unlikely to escape unless they are badly stressed. Keep their cages as high as possible and away from stressful things, such as cats or small children that can reach the cage.

These birds come from near the equator, where there is little difference in day-length from summer to winter. If kept indoors, the length of a gold-breasted waxbill’s day should be maintained (with artificial lights) at about 15 to 16 hours a day. A timer that dims slowly over an hour or so is a great help. Be sure to leave the lights on all night (very dimly) in case something startles them off the nest so they can easily find their way back.

Breeding Tips For Gold-Breasted Waxbills
For nesting, they use a standard finch-type wicker basket of medium or small size. They like coco fiber for the main structure of the nest but should be offered clean (sterilized) feathers for nest lining. That appears to be very important for success in breeding this species. Feathers are available at craft stores, but I advise soaking them overnight in a mild bleach solution and letting them air dry before offering them to the birds.

Situate nests so that the entrance faces away from the front of the cage.  It is very important to not be nosy with these birds when they are nesting! Avoid even making eye contact with them while they are on the nest as it may trigger them to abandon the nest and you can lose the eggs.
The average clutch size is five and fertility is usually close to 100-percent. Babies fledge the nest at about 16 to 18 days and are even smaller than the parents, so be extra cautious about any stress that might cause them to squeeze out between cage bars.

The babies are silent around five days after they hatch, so don’t be fooled into thinking the eggs are overdue only to find hatched babies that might then be abandoned.

It is very important that we work to breed and preserve gold-breasted waxbills (and other species of African birds currently being imported), because all importation might very well cease forever with the first case of Bird Flu detected in an imported birds.

For monthly information about pet birds and parrots, subscribe to BIRD TALK Magazine by clicking here.

For monthly information about pet birds and parrots, subscribe to BIRD TALK Magazine by clicking here.

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Meet The Gold-Breasted Waxbill

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Reader Comments
I owned a pair of this very beautiful -- tiny birds -- Now -- I'm looking for a pair or two pairs -- of this bird. So - if anyone out there knows a breeder -- please let me know --
James Peacock
James, Asheville, NC
Posted: 9/21/2013 7:48:26 PM
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