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Pin-tailed Whydah

Vidua macroura


Fringillidae – finch family

Conservation Status:

Least concern, IUCN


Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa


Woodlands, open savanna and cultivated areas


The Pin-tailed whydah performs a wonderful flight display during the breeding season, hovering over in front of a female to display its beautiful long tail, while the female perch on a branch watching his agile flight. This hovering flight causes the tail feathers to make waves in the air, as if he is dancing.

The adult male has a black back and crown and a very long black tail. The wings are dark brown with white patches, and the under-parts and the head, apart from the crown, are white. The bill is bright red. The female and non-breeding males have streaked brown upper-parts, whitish under-parts with buff flanks and a buff and black face pattern. Non-breeding males lack the long tail extension but retain the red bill.

All reproductive behavior relates to the fact that all whydah species are brood parasites.  Each whydah species parasitize a specific species of weaver finch.  Pin-tailed parasitize the nests of waxbills.  The waxbill species varies with the distribution of the host species over the large geographic distribution of the Pin-tails.  Males imitate the calls of the host species that fostered them.  Only females reared by the same host species will respond as she has imprinted to those calls. This assures that whydahs similar in appearance do not interbreed even if sharing a territory.  Pin-tailed hatchlings copy their host’s babies in gape pattern, down color and pattern and begging behavior.  Because the waxbills do not distinguish between their own and the strangers, usually all survive.

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