Thursday, 7 April 2011

Pin-tailed whydah

Vidua macroura

Common name:

Order Passeriformes
Family Viduidae

These birds occur across sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to southern Africa, where they are common across Zimbabwe, South Africa, patches of Mozambique and northern and eastern Botswana, while more scarce in Namibia.

Pin-tailed Whydahs are 12-13 cm in length, although the breeding male's tail adds another 20 cm to this. They weigh 14-19 g.

They generally prefer grassland, open savanna woodland, hillsides with scattered trees and bushes, sedges and rank grass along watercourses, cultivated croplands and gardens.

Pin-tailed whydahs mainly eat grass seeds that they either take directly or uncover from the soil by scratching. They are know to take the seeds of Guinea grass Panicum maximum, water couch Paspalum distichum, Echinochloa, Urochloa and Setaria. These birds also eat filamentous algae and termite alates.

Pin-tailed whydahs are polygynous brood parasites, with each male assuming a territory centered on a perch, which it uses for calling and displaying. The breeding season varies across their range, but most eggs are layed in August-April. The female lays 2-4 eggs on the nest of other birds, namely common waxbill Estrilda astrild, orange-breasted waxbill Sporaeginthus subflavus, red-billed firefinch Lagonosticta senegala, bronze mannikin Spermestes cucullatus, neddicky Cisticola fulvicapilla and tawny-flanked prinia Prinia subflava. The host incubates the eggs for 11 days and rears the chicks until fledging, which takes place 17-21 days after hatching. The young may remain with the host family for at least another week before joining a whydah flock.

IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
These birds have a very large breeding range and they are described as uncommon. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

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