Origin: West and Central Africa
Scientific Name: Lonchura malabarica
African Silverbill is an adaptable, easy-to-breed species. A peculiar trait of the bird includes the habit of involving itself in incubating the eggs and other bird species and rearing the young hatched ones, which do not belong to them. The African Silverbill has many other advantages. It is hardy and can withstand extremes of temperature. It lives happily with other very small seedeaters.
There is also an Indian Silverhill but the bird is not that physically hardy.
Size: 10 to 12 cm (4 to 41/2 in)
Head: creamy-brown. Body: cream yellow. Wings: dark brown. Underparts: pale buff. Rump: black. Tail: black. Beak: silver. Legs: dull pink.
HEN: The hen has a similar look to that of her male counterpart, so it is impossible to determine the sex of these birds by appearance. It is best to purchase several birds and allow them to choose their mate. The cock has a pleasant voice.
African Silverbill Diet: (Seedeater)
Plain basic canary seeds and mixed millets form the basic diet. Millet sprays are also relished and occasional green food, grit, and cuttlefish bone should be provided.
African Silverbill Breeding
The African Silverbill has a very peaceful nature and breeds happily among other species of small birds, such as waxbills, in a mixed collection. Several pairs often nest at the same time and may help each other while feeding the chicks, once they are all out on the perches.
This bird may sometimes develop the unfortunate habit of making ‘sandwich nests’. The bird constructs a nest, lays eggs, and then immediately makes another nest on top. To prevent this, nest boxes or baskets should be filled with nesting material, and tightly packed with a small amount of space left for the birds to complete their preparations. A quiet place must be selected for the nest boxes and baskets.
The birds use soft materials such as mosses, soft grasses, and feathers, constructing a narrow slip-in entrance. Four eggs form the normal clutch and the incubation period is 12 days. While feeding the young, the parents should be given some extras such as soaked bread and hard-boiled egg, some chopped meal worms, and fresh ants’ eggs. Soaked and sprouted seed is better than dry seed during the breeding season.
This bird hybridizes with the Spice Bird quite frequently and gets prepared to hatch and rear the young of restless sitters, such as the Cordon Bleu and the Red-Eared Waxbill.
This species also interbreeds with Bengalese, so these can be used as foster parents in emergencies.
One pair of African Silverbills can rear 20 young ones in one season. The group may all be left together to form a colony and true pairs may be identified with split plastic rings.
A large population of birds is trapped as cage bird pets. But the species faces no extinction threat because the bird can freely mix with other birds due to its easy breeding character.