Vidua regia (Shaft-tailed whydah) 

Pylstertrooibekkie [Afrikaans]; Harusira (generic term for whydahs) [Kwangali]; Koningswida [Dutch]; Veuve royale [French]; Königswitwe [German]; Viúva-seta [Portuguese]

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Vidua regia (Shaft-tailed whydah)


Shaft-tailed whydah. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko]


Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from southern Angola and south-western Zambia to Namibia (excluding the Namib Desert), Botswana, Zimbabwe and northern South Africa, while scarce in south-central Mozambique. It generally prefers savanna and dry woodland with rank grass, especially with Acacia trees, also occupying fallow croplands with Sickle-bush (Dichrostachys cinerea) and patches of grass.

Distribution of Shaft-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.  

Movements and migrations

Nomadic in the non-breeding season, especially in the arid west where water is scarce.


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

  • Grass seeds
    • Eleusine (millet)
    • Panicum maximum (Guinea grass)
    • Panicum schinzii (Sweet grass)
    • Hyparrhenia hirta (Common thatching grass)
    • Melitis repens (Natal red top)


  • It is a polygynous brood parasite, with each male defending a territory centred on a prominent perch, which is used for calling and displaying. Its primary host is the Violet-eared waxbill, but it occasionally parasitises Black-faced and Blue waxbills.
  • Egg-laying season is from December-May.
  • It finds its host's nests by following one of the breeding pair or searching suitable habitats for waxbill nests, laying a single egg per day in sets of 3-4, with a few days break in between sets.
  • The chick hatch after an incubation period of about 12-13 days and looks very similar to Violet-eared waxbill nestlings. It is often reared in a mixed brood alongside its host's young, leaving the nest after about 16-20 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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