Vidua chalybeata (Village indigobird, Steelblue widowfinch) 

Staalblouvinkie [Afrikaans]; Staalvink [Dutch]; Combassou du Sénégal [French]; Rotschnabel-atlaswitwe [German]; Viúva-azul [Portuguese]

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Vidua chalybeata (Village indigobird, Steelblue widowfinch)  Vidua chalybeata (Village indigobird, Steelblue widowfinch) 
Vidua chalybeata (Village indigobird, Steelblue widowfinch) 

Village indigobird male, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Top right: Village indigobird male, Gambia. [photo Martin Goodey ©]Bottom right: Village indigobird female. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in a horizontal band from Senegal to Ethiopia, extending south through Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi to southern Africa. Here it is locally common in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, northern and south-eastern Botswana, northern Namibia and north-eastern and northern South Africa, generally preferring Acacia savanna and thorny thickets along rivers, Colosphermum mopane (Mopane) woodland near water, edges of cultivated areas, citrus orchards with patches of grass and gardens in settlements.

Distribution of Village indigobird 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.  


It mainly eats grass seeds, doing most of its foraging on the ground, uncovering food in the soil. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Grass seeds
    • Echinochloa colonum (Swamp grass)
    • Setaria
    • Urochloris
    • Dactycynodon
  • Insects


  • Polygynous, territorial brood parasite, using a system whereby each male owns a territory centered on a perch used for calling. Males chase any male intruders out of their territory, of both the same species as well as other indigobirds and whydahs. If a female enters a males territory he escorts her to his call site while chattering loudly, sometimes giving a calling display before attempting to mate. Typically in any given area there is one male who mates with the majority of females, usually because he sings more than the other males.
  • Its most common host is the Red-billed firefinch as well as other firefinch species, such as the Brown firefinch.
  • Egg-laying season is from December-June, peaking from March-April.
  • The female often finds firefinch nests by listening out for their calls, or following a bird carrying nest lining. It enters the nest regardless of whether it is occupied, often removing or eating any existing eggs before laying one of its own, much to the indignation of the firefinch if present, who may try to scare off the indigobird unsuccessfully. It lays sets of 1-4 eggs per day, usually laying a total of 22-26 eggs in a breeding season. The egg usually hatches after about 11-12 days of incubation.
  • The chick usually leaves the nest after about 17-18 days, after which it remains in the care of its host parents for 10-14 days before joining a flock of indigobirds.


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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