Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n waxbill One of numerous small Old World birds of the family Ploceidæ and subfamily Spermestinæ, whose bills have a certain waxen appearance, due to the translucency of the horny covering, which may be white, pink, red, etc. The name appears to have attached more particularly to the members of the genus Estrelda in a broad sense, but is of extensive and varied application. The Java sparrow is a good example. (See cut under sparrow.) The original waxbill, first so named by Edwards in 1751, the waxbill grosbeak of Latham (1783), Loxia astrild of Linnæus, and now Estrelda astrida, or Estrelda astrild, or Estrilda astrilda (for the name thus wavers in spelling), is a South African bird, ranging as far as Matabeleland on the east and Damaraland on the west coast. It has also been introduced in various places, and is a well-known cage-bird. It is scarcely over 4 inches long, the wing and tail each about 1¾ inches; the bill is bright-red; the eyes and feet are brown. The general aspect is that of a brown bird, but this ground-color is intricately varied with several other colors. The vent is black, and there is a crimson streak on each side of the head. The blue-breasted waxbill (E. cyanogastra), the orange-cheeked (E. melpoda), the red-bellied (E. rubriventris), the grenadier (Uræginthus granatinus), and various others are among the small exotic birds which form the dealer's stock of amadavats, senegals, blood-finches, straw berry-finches, paddy-birds, and the like.