Vidua macroura (Pin-tailed whydah) 

Koningrooibekkie [Afrikaans]; Uhlakhwe, Ujobela [Xhosa]; uHlekwane [Zulu]; Harusira (generic term for whydahs) [Kwangali]; ’Mamarungoana, Selahlamarungoana, Selahlamarumo [South Sotho]; Mutsetse, Tsikidzamutsetse [Shona]; N'waminungu [Tsonga]; Dominikaner-wida [Dutch]; Veuve dominicaine [French]; Dominikanerwitwe [German]; Viuvinha [Portuguese]

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Vidua macroura (Pin-tailed whydah) 

Vidua macroura (Pin-tailed whydah) 
Vidua macroura (Pin-tailed whydah) 

Pin-tailed whydah male, in non-breeding plumage, Ntsikeni Nature Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Top right: Pin-tailed whydah female, Nylsvlei, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Bottom right: Pin-tailed whydah male in non-breeding plumage, Milnerton Sewage Works, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia south to southern Africa, where it is common across Zimbabwe, South Africa, patches of Mozambique and northern and eastern Botswana, while more scarce in Namibia. It generally prefers grassland, open savanna woodland, hillsides with scattered trees and bushes, sedges and rank grass along watercourses, cultivated croplands and gardens.

Distribution of Pin-tailed whydah 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.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of Elanus caeruleus (Black-shouldered kite).

Food 

It mainly eats grass seeds either take directly or uncovered in the soil by scratching. It forages either singly or in mixed-species flocks along with other granivorous species toward whom it is very aggresive, chasing birds up to the size of doves away from food sources. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Grass seeds
    • Panicum maximum (Guinea grass)
    • Paspalum distichum (Water couch)
    • Echinochloa
    • Urochloa
    • Setaria
  • Filamentous algae
  • Termite alates

Breeding

  • It is a polygynous brood parasite, with each male assuming a territory centered on a perch, which it uses for calling and displaying. It is highly defensive of its territory, chasing out other males as well as other species and regularly displaying in an attempt to woo females. Successful males often have a permanent source of food and water within their territory, allowing them to display more frequently thus attract more females.
  • Its main host is Estrilda astrild (Common waxbill), but it may also parasitise the nests of the following bird species:
  • Egg-laying season in the Western Cape is from August-November, peaking from September-October, while in summer rainfall areas it is later, from November-April and peaking from December-March.
  • The female often removes and eats any eggs laid by its host before laying one or two of its own, parasitising in sets of one nest per day over a period of 2-4 days, usually laying about 25 eggs in total in the breeding season.
  • The chicks hatch after an incubation period of about 11 days, and are sometimes reared along with young waxbills. They eventually leave the nest after about 17-21 days, staying with the waxbill family group for at least another week or so before joining a whydah flock.

Threats

Not threatened, in fact it is common and widespread.

References

  • 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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