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waxbill

waxbill, common name for small, brightly colored weaver finches of the Estrildini tribe of the family Estrildidae. Most are African with the exception of two S Asian species of avadavats, and one Australian species ( Estrilda temporalis ), which may not properly belong in this group. Considerable adaptive radiation may be seen in the African species, which include a number of small seedeaters such as the lavender finch ( E. subflava ); larger seedeaters such as the bluebills (genus Spermophaga ); large-headed and large-billed species (genus Pirenestes ); the arboreal, insect-catching Negro finches (genus Nigrita ); and the tiny, short-billed, omnivorous flower-pecker finch ( Parmoptila woodhousei ). Timid, social birds, waxbills are typically found in small flocks but may sometimes descend upon a field en masse. They tend to form stable, long-lasting pairs, and both mates share in nesting, incubation, and the care of the offspring. Their pure white eggs number from 4 to 10 per clutch. Their young are curiously marked on palate and tongue; a five-dot, domino pattern on the palate is common and is displayed by the nestlings when begging for food. Waxbills are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Estrildidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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