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Alex’s Bird Chirp No.2 Waxbills


Waxbill Family

In May 2020, we updated the Royal Jozini bird list with 10 new sightings on the reserve, being:

Pygmy Goose, Black Chested Snake Eagle, African Goshawk, Crowned Hornbill, Red Crested Korhaan, Kittlitz Plover, Little Sparrow hawk, Black Sparrow hawk, African Palm Swift and Black Crowned Tchagra.

In this ‘chirp’ we stay with small species, the Waxbills. Did you know there are nine species of Waxbills across Southern Africa of which five can be found at Royal Jozini?  They are very small and in the 12cm range. We have confirmed sightings of  four of the five species. (Blue Waxbill, Grey Waxbill, Common Waxbill, Sweet Waxbill). We still need to spot and verify the Orange breasted Waxbill!

The Blue Waxbill is most probably the most common small bird that you can see here.

Blue Waxbills are very water dependent (permanent surface water). They are thus easily spotted close to water and mostly acacia thorns across the reserve. They are also the only Southern African bird with blue under parts. Outside breeding season, they can be seen in flocks of up to 40 birds.

1. Common Waxbill
The Common Waxbill is identified by its bright redbill, red eye-stripe and a red belly stripe. Also common to the reserve, likes dense vegetation along wetlands and watercourses.

They are parasitised by the Pin-tailed Whydah (also found on the reserve).

The Common Waxbill is native to sub-Saharan Africa but has been introduced to many other regions of the world and now has an estimated global occurrence of 10 000 000 square kilometres.

2. Grey Waxbill
The grey Waxbill is largely grey with a black tail and red rump. The bill is grey and the eye-stripe black. This is one of our more uncommon birds in the reserve and tends to be easily overlooked.

They rarely visit gardens and remain around edges of lowland forests and dense thickets. The photos were taken at our rocky birdbath. Unlike most seed eaters, these little Waxbills do not come to bird feeders.

The other two Waxbills are more colorful and easily identified. Although the Orange breasted waxbill is said to be fairly common in our region, we have not seen them as yet in the reserve.

3. Swee-Waxbill
The Swee-Waxbill gets its name from the soft swee call it makes. It is also one of only a few endemic birds to Southern Africa. Normally in pairs or small groups in open areas adjacent to thickets and garden cover.

4. Orange Breasted Waxbill
The Orange breasted Waxbill is also known as the Zebra Waxbill and is identifiable by its red bill/eye stake and orange breast. The Zebra name comes from the dark bars on the flank. They favour moist, rank grasslands close to wetlands. My guess is they would be by the pans where there are lush grasslands like Kadens Pan.

Both these Waxbills are also occasionally parasitized by the pin-tailed Whydah

I hope that you enjoyed this chat with me and that you are excited to go and find these birds. In the next addition we will learn more about the mannikins.