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Written by Lainey McClaflin
Originally published in The NFSS
Bulletin, Vol. 13 No. 6. November-December 1996
Although the Gold-breasted Waxbill is the tiniest
finch in captivity, it is by no means the most delicate. Gold-breasts
are generally very healthy, and are able to hold their own among much
larger and more dominant finches. We keep our Gold-breasts in aviaries
with all our other finches, both when they are breeding and when they
are resting. They always manage to get enough to eat and drink, and can
almost always defend their own nesting sites successfully.
Our Gold-breasts tend to eat a little of everything, bit do not seem to
have any strong preferences. They like sprouted seeds, as well as spray
millet, but they also eat the other food we give them, including
Lafeber granules, eggfood, fruits, vegetables and worms. Baby
Gold-breasts particularly enjoy the Lafeber granules, as their tiny
beaks have trouble cracking seeds. Gold-breasts like to take baths
every day, but the young are so small they can easily drown if the bath
water is too deep.
While breeding, our Gold-breasts do best in aviaries between 4’x3’x3’
and 6’x3’x3’, but I think larger aviaries would work just as well. They
particularly like to find secluded nest sites surrounded by grasses,
branches and artificial foliage. Our Gold-breasts nest high, but I have
heard that they will also nest low. They choose small wicker baskets
and small tube nests most often, but some build their own nests in
branches, and some prefer large, half-open, wooden nest boxes.
Fertility is high among our Gold-breasts, and five chicks per clutch is
common. From these large clutches, we will sometimes lose one or two
chicks before they finish their first moult. It is particularly
important to make sure the fledglings are eating well and are warm
enough until they get their first colouring.
On a few occasions we have had problems with competition for nest sites
between Blue-capped Cordon-bleus and Gold-breasts in a mixed breeding
aviary. Sometimes these two species get along fine, raising their young
side by side. But once in a while, we have had our Blue-caps take over
the Gold-breast nests, dumping out either the Gold-breast eggs or
chicks, and then using the nest as their own.
Banding Gold-breast chicks can be challenging, as most bands fall off
their minute legs. Size “A” closed bands sometimes stay on if you put
them on just after the chicks fledge. It is also possible to use open
aluminium bands if you crush them down to size before putting them on.
Gold-breasts’ legs break easily, so it pays to be extra careful when
banding them. It is also important to keep an eye on Gold-breasts’
claws, as these can quickly become long and curly, making it difficult
for the birds to perch.
For many years importers had been bringing in Gold-breasts from the
wilds of Africa in enormous numbers. Now, suddenly, the U.S. has passed
legislation to prevent further imports of this species. The Gold-breast
needs all our attention and breeding efforts if we want to enjoy its
small brilliance in years to come.
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