Sporaeginthus subflavus (Orange-breasted waxbill, Zebra waxbill)  

[= Sporaeginthus subflavus

Rooiassie [Afrikaans]; Katjikilili (applied to some of waxbills and twinspots) [Kwangali]; Borahane, Borane (also aplied to other waxbills and firefinches) [South Sotho]; Xidzingirhi (generic term for firefinches and waxbills; also applied to Ground woodpecker [check]) [Tsonga]; Goudbuikje [Dutch]; Bengali zébré [French]; Goldbrüstchen [German]; Bico-de-lacre-de-peito-laranja [Portuguese]

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Sporaeginthus subflavus (Orange-breasted waxbill, Zebra waxbill)   

Orange-breasted waxbill, Cedara farm, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]


For information about this species, see www.birdforum.net/opus/Zebra_Waxbill

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches across sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to western Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Here it is locally common in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and north-eastern and eastern South Africa, while rare in northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip (Namibia). It generally prefers moist grassland, reedbeds, grassy savanna and rank vegetation on forest edges. 

Distribution of Orange-breasted 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.  

Predators and parasites

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

  • adults
    • Thelotornis capensis (Savanna vinesnake)
  • chicks and eggs
    • Dasypeltis scabra (Common egg-eater)
    • small raptors
    • Lanius collaris (Common fiscal)

It has been recorded as host of these parasites:

  • Myrsidea srivastava (feather lice)
  • Passeromyia heterochaeta (Nest fly)
  • Onychalges odonturus (feather mite)
  • Ptilonyssus astridae (mite)
  • Ornithophila metallica (hippoboscid fly)


It mainly eats seeds taken directly from grass inflorescences or the soil, supplemented with insects. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Grass seeds
    • Digitaria milanjiana (Milanje finger grass)
    • Hyparrhenia cymbaria (Thatching grass)
    • Melinis repens (Natal red top)
    • Panicum novenmere (Black-seed panicum)
    • Setaria sphacelata (Moss African bristle grass)
  • Insects


  • It usually uses the nest of another bird, especially Southern red bishop but also widowbirds, weavers, cisticolas and prinias. It may add a new entrance on the side if it was originally placed on the bottom, after which the female lines the interior with feathers. The male may rarely build an untidy ball-shaped nest instead, made of dry grass inflorescences, culms and leaves and lined with finer material, such as feathers.
  • Egg-laying season is from January-June, peaking from February-May.
  • It lays 3-7 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 13-14 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 17-19 days and becoming fully independent about two weeks later.


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. 



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