African Silverbill
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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. African Silverbill
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  • Scientific Name: Lonchura malabarica cantans
  • Sub Species in country / area of origin:  Lonchura malabarica malabarica - Indian Silverbill.
  • Origin / Distribution:  Africa and parts of Saudi Arabia
  • Habitat In Wild:  Arid areas and open grasslands and has adapted to use farmland.
  • Status In Wild:  ?
  • Status In (Australian) Captivity:  Generally secure but numbers can fluctuate wildly.
  • Age To Sexual Maturity:  ?
  • Adult plumage: attained at about 3 months.
  • Best breeding years (estimate): 2nd - 5th.
  • Lifespan (estimate):  approx. 7 years
  • Sexing:  Monomorphic / Dimorphic
  • Mutations: ?
  • Availability:  Bird dealers.  The Indian Silverbill is no longer available in Australia.  African Silverbill populations in Australia vary widely depending upon the bird's popularity.
  • Temperament:  Not a common bird in aviaries.  Usually a prolific breeder in captivity and is suitable as a colony breeder in aviaries.
  • Cost (Victoria) Per Pair: - Normal colour (Approx.) $200
  • Description Of Adults: Member of the Mannikin family. Genus Lonchura.
  1. Length: Approx.110 - 115 mm (or approx. 4.5 inches)
  2. Colour ( "normal" colour ): Refer photo/s above if available.
  3. Weight: Approx. 14 gms (or approx. 1/2 oz)
Aviary Notes:

Read notes on "Finches - Non Australian" web page and use in conjunction with details outlined on this page.

Level Of Knowledge Required: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced / Specialist Breeders Only.

Government Regulations & By-Laws:  Refer to "Government Laws" page.

Housing Requirements:  Click on "Housing birds" web page for general details on the housing of Non Australian Finches or read on for specific details for this finch.

The African Silverbill prefers an aviary with tall grasses and dense shrubs.  Will hybridize with many other species of finches.

Can be bred as a single pair in a large canary style cage but results may not be as good as in an aviary. 

Diet / Feeding:  Click on "Feeding birds" web page for general details on the nutrition of  Non Australian Finches or read on for specific details for this finch.

A great bird for those who do not like feeding live foods.  They generally do not eat insects even during breeding season.  However some people have an opposing view and state that their pairs have their best breeding results if live foods and seeding grasses are available during the breeding season.

The African Silverbill requires a good quality finch mix, seeding grasses and some fruits (e.g. apple) and some green leafy vegetables.  Sprouted seed if available.

Basic seed mix should include Canary seed, White French Millet, Japanese Millet, and Yellow and Red Panicum.

If the birds are not eating live foods, the amount of seeding grasses must be increased significantly during breeding season.

Nesting:  A basic overview only.

  • Roosting nest: Yes / No
  • Nesting months:  May breed year round if conditions are suitable but late Spring to early Autumn gives the best results.
  • Nesting receptacles:  Will build a nest in a shrub or dry brush.  Equally it will build a nest in a wide variety of artificial nests.
  • Nest:  Both parents build a large dome shaped nest from grasses.  Nest is lined with feathers and soft fine grasses such as November or swamp grass.
  • Who incubates the eggs: Hen / cock / both share.

A moderate number of inspections are generally tolerated by the African Silverbill.  Nests should be left in the aviary throughout the year as the nests may be used as a roosting nest.
More details on finch nests and a selection of finch nest photos can be located on the "nests", "finch nests" and "finch nest photos" web pages.  Click on "Up" then "nests" then "finch nests" and "finch nests photos" in the navigation bars.

Breeding: Egg Colour White.  Clutch/s per year 2 - 3.  Eggs per nest 2 - 4.  Incubation approx. 11 - 12 days.  Fledge approx. 21 days.  Independent approx. another 3 - 4 weeks.

The African Silverbill is generally housed one pair per small aviary.  Can be housed in a mixed species collection, as a colony in a suitably sized aviary or as one pair per cage.  Will hybridize with other mannikins.

In an aviary it is generally safe to leave the young in the same aviary after they become independent.  Young birds (when they become fully independent) must be removed when bred in a cage.

Care must be exercised if the young are left in the same aviary as the parents.  The young colour up very quickly and soon resemble the parent birds.  It is easy to sell off a parent bird instead of the intended young.  equally you do not want one of the young birds pairing up with one of the parent birds.  Leg rings are recommended for the young birds as well as different colours for each parent bird.

Artificial incubation, hand rearing or fostering will not be covered on this web site.  It is too complex and diverse in nature to be attempted here.  Refer "Specific References" as listed below and "General References" listings.

Health Issues:  Refer  "Avian Health Issues" web page for information and references.

  • Worming and parasite control and Quarantine requirements of new birds or sick birds are considered to require veterinary advice and therefore not covered on this web site.  Refer above option - "Avian Health Issues" web page.
  • Avian medicine is advancing at a rapid pace.  Keep updating your knowledge and skills.

General References:  Refer to references listed on "Book References" web page.

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture
  • A/A Vol 56 No 6 Jun 2002Page 125-129 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 27 No 12 Dec 1973 Page 213-215 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 26 No 7 Jul 1972 Page 98
  • A/A Vol 25 No 12 Dec 1971 Page 185-186.
  • A/A Vol 20 No 6 Jun 1966 Page 85, 88 (Inc colour plate).
  • A/A Vol  7 No 11 Nov 1953 Page 132-133 (Indian Silverbill).
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 17 Issue 4. Aug-Sept 2004 Page 226-228.

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