The Society for Breeders of African and Asiatic Small Finches
Page last updated: 01 July 2019
In aviculture the term waxbill is generally used to cover not only waxbills, but also the small African and Asiatic finches. These are more correctly defined as Estrildid Finches. Many species are available for the bird-keeper, but historically the majority have been imported wild-caught birds with unfortunately only small numbers of a few species being bred in the UK. Captive-bred birds are also available from breeders on the Continent, some of whom are very successful with Waxbills and other foreign finches.
As part of its measures to prevent the spread of the H5N1 avian flu virus, the EU put in place a temporary ban on the import of wild-caught birds into Europe. With effect from July 2007, this ban was made permanent, indeed even captive-bred birds may be imported only from a few EU-approved countries of origin and all these birds must be either close-ringed or microchipped.
Ideally these species are best housed in an indoor flight where temperature and lighting can be controlled, as most need a minimum temperature of 10-15 degrees C, and at least 12 hours of light. Some species can be housed in an outdoor, planted flight during the warmer months. They can be housed in cages but need larger cages than those generally used for domesticated species such as Bengalese. Waxbills can usually be housed in a group with other species of similar size but, in some cases, pairs of the same species may have to be kept separately when breeding.
"Foreign Finch" seed mixtures are suitable, but a high proportion of smaller seeds is preferable so it may be necessary to add additional pannicum millet. Egg food and a commercially available Insectivorous food should also be available and some live food, such as mini-mealworms, buffalo worms, white worms, fruit-fly etc. is usually required to get the birds into breeding condition and to rear young. Some of these foods are available in frozen form which can be defrosted as and when required. In recent times some of the most successful breeders of waxbills have moved away from using livefood, instead using specialised soft foods often based on the one championed by the well-regarded Belgian breeder Paul De Nil. Water for drinking and bathing, together with small grit and grated cuttlefish bone must be supplied.
Can be difficult but some species are easier than others. The main difficulty is providing an adequate supply of protein in a form which the birds will accept. Unlike the domesticated species, most birds do not readily take egg food or Insectivorous mixtures (but progress is being made in this respect, see previous paragraph), preferring to look for live food such as small insects or pupae. Temperature is important as, being tropical species, many tend to leave eggs or young in the nest rather than brooding continuously. Generally speaking the Asiatic Munias and Mannikins are less dependant on live food than the African species. It may be necessary to resort to fostering eggs under Bengalese. As all Estrildid species build a domed nest it is difficult to carry out any inspection of nests without the risk of parents deserting.