Breeding Orange-cheeked Wax bills


The Orange-cheeked Waxbill, until very recently, has been one of the most commonly imported waxbills. Because of this, relatively few aviculturists have taken up breeding these birds because replacements had been readily and cheaply available.

Unfortunately, the Orange-cheeked Waxbill has developed the reputation for being a poor breeder over the years. Yet if properly managed, they are free and prolific breeders. Crucial for success is privacy for the breeding pair. This means

· that each breeding pair must have either a small aviary or flight cage entirely to themselves. Without a shadow of a doubt, overcrowding has been one of the most important factors in the limited breeding success of this wax bill.

I initially acquired four domestically raised Orange-cheekeds. They were placed with eight wile.I caught birds in a flight 6 ft. long by 2 ft. wide, along with Cordon Bleus and Black-cheekeds. They all got along perfectly together. This was in May. By early autumn all of the Orange cheekeds had come into breeding condition and their behavior changed very suddenly and abruptly. The males began displaying and fighting over the hens. Eventually three pairs formed and the excess birds, including the much larger Black-cheekeds, were repeatedly and savagely attacked. The now began nest building in earnest. Soon two pairs had eggs but the bickering continued. One pair was actually evicted from their nest by another halfway through incubation. The new pair proceeded to build another nest on top of the one that they had taken over. They soon had eggs but were driven away by the original pair who re-


claimed their old nest site. In this extremely stressful environment, none of the nestings survived and I eventually removed all of the pairs into individual breeding cages.

In the breeding cages two of the pairs immediately went into a molt, but the third pair consisting of a domestically raised hen and a wild caught male produced a clutch offive eggs in a large finch wicker basket nest. No effort was made to incubate them. When a second clutch appeared a few weeks later, eggs were removed and placed under Societies (Bengalese). Two of them hatched in about 13 days but survived only a day. They do not appear to have been fed, although they appeared very similar to young Societies, being light skinned with white gapes. The adult Orangecheekeds again had eggs within a few weeks. These were incubated almost to the point of hatching before being abandoned. All had been fertile. Soon there was a new clutch but the usual pattern followed. These were incubated about a week. In February the pair went into a very heavy molt and all breeding activity ceased.

In May the male began singing and displaying. The old nest was relined and rebuilt with whatever the birds could find; I did not think that they were really that serious and had not supplied much in the way of nesting material. But while just making a routine check, I was shocked to find three eggs in the nest. I did not have much hope for this clutch and assumed that it would soon share the fate of the previous ones. To make matters worse, the hen proved an extremely light sitter, flying wildly off the nest whenever I entered the room. She


often remained off the eggs for long periods of time. The male was preoccupied with the construction of a nest on top of the large wicker basket which contained the eggs. He took great delight in adding various types of things to it: millet sprays, wood chips, pieces of greenfood, and even shredded newspaper. Here he roosted and when his hastily and flimsily build domain fell apart, he would immediately rebuilt it.

On the morning of the 13th day, both Orange-cheekeds were seen foraging on the bottom of the cage. I supp lied egg food, white worms, and small newly molted mealworms. Over the next couple of days, the consumption of the mealworms increased dramatically until they were actually eating over 100 a day. White worms were also eaten in large amounts but gentles, waxworms, and wingless fruit flies were ignored. During this time I never heard any begging sounds coming from the nest. And only five days after the suspected hatching date, the hen ceased to brood at night, joining her mate in his untidy domain atop the regular nest.

About three days later I poked my finger into the nest and was greeted by quite loud peeping. A few days later I discovered a chick huddled in a corner of the cage. It was already half feathered, with a black beak, looking much like a young Zebra Finch. It was immediately returned to the nest. When they were not much more than two weeks old, two chicks left the nest, already able to fly fairly well but so small I feared that they would go through the wire of the cage. They returned to the nest frequently at first, but after about a week never went into it again. After being so silent in the nest, they now began begging very loudly whenever they wanted to be fed. They continued to grow very rapidly and were nearly completely self supporting within 10 days. The parents fed them much less live food after they left the nest. They were chased by the male when the hen commenced to incubate a new clutch.

Only two weeks after being removed from their parents, the young Orangecheekeds had practically completed their juvenile molt. One of them proved to be a male, andatsixweeksofageisalready singing and displaying like an adult.

Orange-cheeked Waxbills are very easy to feed and will thrive on any quality finch mixture as long as they have a source ofanimal protein in the diet. Live-

food is essential for the rearing of young. All of my Orange-cheekeds are especially fond of seeding grasses and also use them for nesting material.

Orange-cheekeds are lively, active, inquisitive birds with very charming personalities. Their future in aviculture is far from secure. Few are bred annually anywhere. If aviculturists don't make the effort very soon, this species will almost


certainly die out by the beginning of the next century or even before then. And that will be a tragedy.






Black, Robert, The Orange-cheeked Waxbill American Cage Bird Magazine, Nov. 1986, pp. 11-14.

Hinze, Ian. Orange Cheek Barometer Estrildian, v. 1 n. 3, 1993, pp. 15-19.

Osbourn, Adrian. Orange-cheeked Waxbills.

Estrildian, v. 2 n. 1, 1993, pp. 30-32 .•