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Widowbird, red-collared

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
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Johan van Rensburg
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Widowbird, red-collared

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:21 pm

Red-collared widowbirds Euplectes ardens are striking members of the bird community in grasslands and shrubby savannah of southern and eastern Africa. These birds are noted for pronounced sexual dimorphism. During the non-breeding season, both male and female have a brownish or buff coloration that blends with the winter browns of grass and other vegetation. During the summer breeding season, males moult and produce black feathers over most of their body, a characteristic bright red collar as well as elaborately long tail feathers that can be up to 300mm in length.

Large view

During the breeding season, males secure and defend a territory from a prominent perch against other males as well as males of other species, notably southern red bishops, white-winged widowbirds and yellow-crowned bishops. Males perform a flight display that has a “bouncy rowing” appearance with exaggerated wing beats and spread tail to attract females to their territory where they build multiple nest frames. Females choose a male for breeding based on tail length alone (evidence from various experiments points at this conclusion). She then lines a nest frame in his territory with fine grass and incubates the eggs and feeds the nestlings. Beyond initially building the nest frame, males do not participate further in raising their offspring. After the breeding season, males moult to return to their pre-breeding coloration and appearance.

Red-collared widowbirds are mainly seedeaters, but they will also take termites aerially and on the ground. Sometimes nectar and small berries are included in their diet.
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