The Pintailed Whydah (Vidua macroura) is a small bird species that belongs to the family Viduidae, which is also known as the indigobirds and whydahs. Here are some key facts about this bird:
- Appearance: The Pintailed Whydah is sexually dimorphic, which means that males and females have different appearances. The male has striking black and white plumage with long, black tail feathers that can reach up to 20 centimeters in length during the breeding season. The male also has a bright red bill and legs. The female, on the other hand, has a brownish-grey back, a buff-colored breasts, and a streaked head.
- Habitat: The Pintailed Whydah is native to Africa and is found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, savannas, and scrublands. They are also common in agricultural areas and can be found in gardens and parks.
- Behavior: The Pintailed Whydah is a brood parasite, which means that it lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, such as waxbills and fire finches. The host birds raise the whydah chicks as their own, often at the expense of their offspring. The males are known for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve fluffing their feathers and performing aerial displays.
- Diet: The Pintailed Whydah feeds on a variety of seeds, insects, and other small invertebrates. They are often seen foraging on the ground, and will also take insects in flight.
- Breeding: The breeding season for the Pintailed Whydah is from October to April, and the male’s long tail feathers are an important part of his courtship display during this time. The female will lay her eggs in the nests of other bird species, often removing one of the host bird’s eggs in the process. The whydah chicks hatch after around 12 to 13 days and are fed by the host parents until they fledge after around 20 days.
- Conservation status: The Pintailed Whydah is classified as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as it is a common and widespread species with a large population. However, they do face some threats from habitat loss and capture for the pet trade.
Overall, the Pintailed Whydah is a fascinating bird species that is admired for its striking appearance and unusual breeding behavior.
Scientific Name: Vidua macroura
Origin: Central Africa
This is a very impressive and graceful member of the whydah family, however, a little care must be exercised when keeping this species in a mixed collection. A lone bird will not attempt to hurt or disturb small finches, but when there are several pintails there is only one way to ensure peace and harmony, and that is to keep just one cock bird and several hens. If these measures are not adopted there will be a great deal of unrest and the species can be rather aggressive. If possible, the flight should be roomy. It is also wise to provide plenty of food dishes.
Size: 13 cm (5 in)
COCK: (in breeding plumage)
Length: 30 cm (12 in) including the tail where the four long central feathers measure from 18-25 cm (7-10 in). Forehead, nape, and crown of the head: glossy blue-black. Cheeks and throat: white with a white band around the neck. Upper parts: black with rump and upper-tail coverts white. Underparts: white. Black crescenton chest. Four central tail feathers black: flights black-brown. Beak: light red.Legs: dark grey. When not sporting the nuptial plumage the cock resembles thehen.
Centre of the crown of the head: sandy color. Sides edged in black. Mantle: buff striped with black-brown, together with scapulars. Rump: brown with striped markings. Flights and tail feathers: dark brown with huff edges. Throat: white.Underparts: huff mainly, darker on flanks and breast, often with darker markings. Beak: pinky-brown. Legs: light brown. Young birds resemble hens but their beaks are horn-colored.
Mixed millets, spray millet, green food, and some apple form the basic diet. Grit and cuttlefish bone should always be provided. The cock bird has a long weeping tail when in nuptial finery, and food dishes should be placed in high positions off the ground so that the one sole cock bird which should be kept in a mixed collection does not spoil his magnificent tail.
The Pintailed Whydah (Vidua macroura) is a brood parasite, which means that it lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, such as waxbills and fire finches. The host birds raise the whydah chicks as their own, often at the expense of their offspring. Here are some more details about the breeding behavior of the Pintailed Whydah:
- Breeding season: The breeding season for the Pintailed Whydah is from October to April in their native range in Africa.
- Courtship displays: During the breeding season, male Pintailed Whydahs engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract females. They puff out their feathers and perform aerial displays, often while singing a song. The male’s long tail feathers, which can reach up to 20 centimeters in length, are an important part of his display.
- Nesting behavior: Once the female has been attracted to a male, she will lay her eggs in the nest of a host bird. The Pin-tailed Whydah eggs are typically smaller than those of the host species, which can make it easier for the host parents to incubate them. The female may remove one of the host bird’s eggs in the process of laying her own.
- Incubation: The eggs of the Pintailed Whydah are incubated by the host parents, who are often unaware that the egg is not their own. The incubation period is around 12 to 13 days.
- Chick development: The Pintailed Whydah chicks hatch after around 12 to 13 days, and are fed by the host parents until they fledge after around 20 days. The chicks will often outcompete the host bird’s offspring for food, and the host parents may end up raising only Pintailed Whydah chicks.
- Repeat breeding: Male Pintailed Whydahs may mate with multiple females during the breeding season, and may even mate with multiple females at the same time. This can lead to a high rate of parasitism, with many host nests containing Pintailed Whydah eggs.
In their natural state, whydahs are parasitic breeders. The hen lays her eggs, in the nest of a small finch, which incubates them and rears the young. Every whydah species chooses a certain type of finch for this purpose, whose young resemble its chicks in feather color and reflecting papillae (luminous markings in the roof of the mouth). The Pin-tailed Whydah most frequently lays her eggs in the nest of the St Helena Waxbill, Estrildaastrildor the Red-eared Waxbill, and Estrildatroglodytes; both make excellent hosts for Pin-tailed Whydah young. As long as just one cock and, say, four or five hens are kept, it is well worth experimenting by keeping this species with suitable waxbills since this type of breeding is most interesting to observe.
You can, of course, keep just one Pin-tailed Whydah cock with a waxbill collection merely for the beauty of the bird’s nuptial plumage. Overall, the breeding behavior of the Pintailed Whydah is highly unusual and fascinating, as it relies on the bird’s ability to parasitize the nests of other species. Despite the potential negative impacts on the host species, the Pintailed Whydah is a successful and widespread species in its native range.
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