Quelea erythrops (Red-headed quelea) 

Rooikopkwelea [Afrikaans]; Roodkopwever [Dutch]; Travailleur à tête rouge [French]; Rotkopfweber [German]; Quelea-de-cabeça-vermelha [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Ploceidae > Genus: Quelea

Quelea erythrops (Red-headed quelea)  

Red-headed quelea, Speke Bay, Lake Victoria, Tanzania. [photo Adam Riley ©, Rockjumper Birding Tours]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs from West Africa to across much of the DRC and surrounding countries, with isolated populations from southern Tanzania through north-eastern Mozambique to southern Africa. Here it is uncommon in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia and localised patches of Mozambique, extending south to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It generally prefers grassland near water in southern Africa, but in other areas of its distribution it also occupies cultivated areas, such as rice paddies.

Distribution of Red-headed quelea 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.  

Movements and migrations

It is primarily a breeding migrant to southern Africa, mainly present from about July-November (recorded in East London, KwaZulu-Natal.)


The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Grass seeds
    • Echinochloa
    • Rottboellia
    • Pennisetum
  • Insects


  • Polygynous, highly colonial breeder, living in colonies with hundreds to thousands of nests, sometimes up to about 10 000!
  • The nest is built by the male in about 3 days, consisting of an oval-shaped structure with a side entrance covered by a hood made of tightly woven green grass blades, typically suspended between reed stems.
  • Egg-laying season is from November-March.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 12-14 days, but she may leave the nest for long periods.
  • The chicks are fed solely by the female, leaving the nest after about 12-14 days.


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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