St. Helena Waxbill
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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. St Helena waxbill
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  • Scientific Name:  Estrilda astrild
  • Sub Species in country / area of origin: 19
  • Origin / Distribution:  Island of St Helena. Most of Middle and Southern Africa
  • Habitat In Wild:  Has one of the widest distributions of the African waxbills and occupy an equally diverse habitat range always around water source.  Have adapted to farmlands and urban areas.
  • Status In Wild:   Varies according to the sub-species.
  • Status In (Australian) Captivity: Common
  • Age To Sexual Maturity: ?
  • Adult plumage: attained at about 4 months  
  • Best breeding years (estimate):  12 months - 5th year.
  • Lifespan (estimate): approx. 7 - 9 years
  • Sexing: Monomorphic / Dimorphic. Easily sexed.
  • Mutations: Yes
  • Availability: Pet shops & bird dealers
  • Temperament: Usually non aggressive and are good in a mixed colony in a planted aviary.  Used by breeders of Pin tailed Whydahs to raise the young Pin tailed Whydahs.  The Pin tailed lay their eggs in St Helena nests.
  • Cost (Victoria) Per Pair: - Normal colour (Approx.) $50
  • Description Of Adults:
  1. Length: Approx. 110 - 120 mm (or approx. 4 - 4.5 inches)
  2. Colour ( "normal" colour ): Refer photo/s above if available.
  3. Weight: Approx. 9 gms (or approx. 1/3 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" web 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.

In the wild they congregate in large groups during the non breeding season.  In an aviary they are usually kept in a colony by the breeders of Pin tailed Whydahs.  They prefer an aviary with tall grasses and dense shrubs.

Can be housed in a planted aviary as a single pair in a mixed finch collection, as a colony of St Helena's, or even as one pair in a "budgie or canary" cage about 600 - 1000mm long x 500mm wide x 500mm deep (24 - 40 x 20 x 20 inches).  In the wild they feed on the ground and in the aviary they also spend a lot of time on the floor of the aviary feeding.

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.

Natural diet includes seeds of a wide range of grasses as well as insects.

They require a good quality finch seed mix, seeding grasses and some green leafy vegetables such as silverbeet or endive.  Live food is beneficial during the non breeding season and essential during the breeding season.  Small mealworms, small crickets and other small insects can be offered.  Sprouted or soaked seed if available.

Fruit is not usually consumed by these birds but may do so if they are housed with birds that eat fruits.

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

Nesting:  A basic overview only.

  • Roosting nest: Yes / No
  • Nesting months:  Spring to early autumn
  • 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.  In a breeding cage they will use a half open wooden nest box.
  • Nest:  Both parents build a dome shaped nest with a downward sloping entrance tunnel.  The nest is about 150mm (about 6 inches) in diameter and made of grasses.  Grasses of up to 200mm (8 inches) in length are used.  Nest is lined with feathers and soft fine grasses.  The nest may have two levels with the top smaller cavity being used by the cock bird.
  • Who incubates the eggs: Hen / cock / both share.  Both share incubation during the day but only the hen incubates at night.

Nests are generally built at the low to medium height level in the aviary.  Parent birds generally reuse the nest for subsequent clutches.  Adequate new nest material must be available for the birds to refurbish the old nest or build a new nest for the next clutch.

To maximize the survival rate of the young, the nest should be built in the covered section of the aviary.

The parent birds generally good parents with a high fledging rate.

Some birds will have large clutches of young and allowing the adult birds to raise more than 3 clutches per season may result in the birds having a poor subsequent season.

The parent birds generally maintain good nest hygiene by removing the faeces sac from the 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 3 - 4.  Eggs per nest 3 - 7.  Incubation approx. 12 - 14 days.  Fledge approx. 3 weeks.  Independent approx. another 3 - 4 weeks, some need 5 weeks.  The young may return to the nest for about one week after fledging.

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

Hens should be allowed to mature fully before they start to breed.  Best results are obtained if the hen is about 12 months of age prior to laying.  The short delay of about 3 months while the birds fully mature, can be made up by more reliable parenting skills and better productivity in future years.

Due to the nest design, nest inspection is not easy but a moderate number of inspections are generally tolerated especially with birds housed in cages.  In an aviary it is generally safe to leave the young in the same aviary as their parents after they become independent.  Young birds (when they become fully independent) must be removed when bred in a "budgie or canary" style cage.

Some breeders separate the hens from the cock birds during the non-breeding season.  After the separation, the hens can easily be paired up with a different partner for the next breeding season.

Pin tailed Whydah uses the St. Helena Waxbill nest to lay its eggs.  The St. Helena Waxbills then incubate the eggs and raise the young.

A closed metal leg ring will be necessary to accurately record the genetic background of each bird especially if colour mutations are being bred.

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 58 No. 9 Sept 2004 Page 193-196.
  • A/A Vol 55 No. 3 Mar 2001 Page 61-63 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 54 No. 11 Nov 2000 Page 245-248
  • A/A Vol 54 No. 5 May 2000 Page 100-104
  • A/A Vol 53 No. 1 Jan 1999 Page 18-20.
  • A/A Vol 51 No. 1 Jan 1997 Page 9-13
  • A/A Vol 44 No. 7 July 1990 Page 162-165
  • A/A Vol 34 No. 10 Oct 1980 Page 195-197 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 27 No. 4 Jun 1973 Page 49-50
  • A/A Vol 23 No 12 Dec 1969 Page 169-176 (Inc photos).
  • A/A Vol 19 No 5 May 1965 Page 76.
  • A/A Vol 17 No 4 Apr 1963 Page 60-61.
  • A/A Vol 13 No 8 Aug 1959 Page 114, 124.
  • A/A Vol 13 No 3 Mar 1959 Page 48-49, 50.
  • A/A Vol 13 No 1 Jan 1959 Page 27.
  • A/A Vol 11 No 7 Jul 1957 Page 97-99.
  • A/A Vol  7 No 7 Jul 1953 Page 87-88.
  • A/A Vol  6 No 1 Jan 1952 Page 4-5.
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol  6 Issue 7. Feb-Mar 1993 Page 346-348

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