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Estrilda astrild (Common waxbill)

Rooibeksysie [Afrikaans]; Intshiyane [Xhosa]; iNtiyane [Zulu]; Katjikilili (applied to some of waxbills and twinspots) [Kwangali]; Borahane, Borane (also aplied to other waxbills and firefinches) [South Sotho]; Xindzingiri bhanga (also applied to Violet-eared waxbill and Green-winged pytilia) [Tsonga]; Sint-helenafazantje [Dutch]; Astrild ondulé [French]; Wellenastrild [German]; Bico-de-lacre-comum [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora >Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Estrildidae

Estrilda astrild (Common waxbill) Estrilda astrild (Common waxbill)

Common waxbill. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Common waxbill juvenile, Rondevlei Bird Sanctuary, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Guinea to Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Here it is most common in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, northern Botswana and South Africa, with more localised populations in Namibia. It generally prefers rank vegetation in moist grassland, fynbos and savanna, also occupying moist natural growth bordering on cultivated land and tangled vegetation along rivers and streams.

Distribution of Common waxbill in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It (at different stages of development) has been recorded as prey of the following animals:

  • adults
    • Lanius collaris (Common fiscal)
    • Possibly mantids, as a large individual was found feeding on a still warm waxbill.
  • young
    • Lamprophis fuliginosus (Brown house snake)


It does most of its foraging in flocks of around 30 or more birds, feeding on the seeds and flowers of grasses, supplemented with fruit and insects. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • seeds and flowers
      • Melinis repens (Natal redtop)
      • Panicum maximum (Guinea grass)
      • Panicum laevifolium
      • Paspalum
      • Pennisetum macrourum (Bedding grass)
      • Setaria verticillata (Bur bristle grass)
      • Tricholaena monachne (Blousaadgras)
      • Urochloa mosambicensis (Gonya grass)
    • seeds
      • sedges
      • Verbena bonariensis (verbena)
      • Casuarina (beefwood)
    • fruit of Ficus sycomorus (Sycomore fig)
  • Small insects


  • The nest is built the male, consisting of a horizontal pear-shaped structure with a tubular entrance tunnel, made of stems and inflorescences of green grass, while the egg chamber is lined by the female with fine grass and feathers. Additionally a partially enclosed cup may built on top of the main structure, possibly to confuse predators. It is typically placed on the ground, with the entrance overlooking a small patch of bare soil, although it may conceal it in thick vegetation about 1-3 metres above ground instead.
  • Egg-laying season is year round, peaking from September-October in the Western Cape, but from November-May peaking from December-February elsewhere.
  • It lays 3-9, usually 4-6 eggs, which are incubate by both sexes for about 11-12 days.
  • The chicks are fed and brooded by both parents, leaving the nest after about 17-21 days, after which they return the nest to roost for a few more days.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.