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Aves Bird of the week - Common Waxbill - Estrilda astrild

The Common Waxbill - Estrilda astrild - is native to sub Saharan Africa. It has been introduced to many parts of the world. Common Waxbills inhabit open country with long grass and rank vegetation. They are often found near water in marshes and among reeds... They can become tame and will enter gardens, parks and farmland.


It is a small bird, with a slender body, short rounded wings and a long graduated tail. The bright red bill of the adult gives the bird its name. The plumage is mostly grey-brown, finely barred with dark brown. There is a red stripe through the eye and the cheeks and throat are whitish. There is often a pinkish flush to the underparts and a reddish stripe along the centre of the belly. The rump is brown and the tail and vent are dark/black. Black undertail coverts, with black legs and feet. Females are similar to the males but are paler with less red on the belly. Juveniles are duller with little or no red on the belly, fainter dark barring and a black bill.


The Common Waxbill has a variety of twittering and buzzing calls and a distinctive high-pitched flight-call. Only the cock sings. Two low, harsh notes followed by a "throaty bubbling" note with a rising inflection.


The diet consists mainly of grass seeds but insects are also eaten on occasions, especially during the breeding season when more protein is needed. These waxbills typically forage in flocks. They usually feed by clinging to the stems with their long, spindly claws and picking from the flower heads but they will also search for fallen seeds on the ground. They need to drink regularly as the seeds contain little water.


The nest is a large ball of criss-crossed grass stems with a long downward-pointing entrance tube on one side. The nest is built the male, consisting of a horizontal pear-shaped structure with a tubular entrance tunnel, made of stems and inflorescences of green grass, while the egg chamber is lined by the female with fine grass and feathers. Additionally a partially enclosed cup may be built on top of the main structure, possibly to confuse predators. It is typically placed on the ground, with the entrance overlooking a small patch of bare soil, although it may also be concealed in thick vegetation about 1-3 metres above ground. The egg-laying season is year round, peaking from September-October in the Western Cape. Four to seven white eggs are laid. They are incubated for 11 to 13 days and the young birds fledge 17 to 21 days after hatching. Both parents take part in incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

Not threatened. This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion. The species is widespread and common.

Bird watching

These beautiful little birds can be seen on the following Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures: -

Aves Arid Birding Tour/Safari/Adventure.

Aves Eastern Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North East Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North West Birding Tour / Safari Adventure.

Aves Western Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves West Coast Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.



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