Species of the week

Meet the Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, one of the species in which the male is more vain and graceful than the female

Scientific name: Vidua paradisaea
Common name: African Paradise-Whydah; Long-tailed Paradise Whydah
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Viduidae
Conservation status: Least concern
Diet: Small grass seeds
Size: 12 cm (breeding male 36 cm)
Weight: 18–24 g


Physical description

Breeding males strongly differ from females, having long tails, black upperparts and head, a yellow hind collar and belly and a reddish chestnut breast.

The elongate tail feathers of breeding male are stiff, curving downward and tapering gradually to a point, differing from Broad-tailed Paradise-whydah (similar species), that has tail tips which broader and taper very rapidly to a point at the tip.

Female, non-breeding male and juveniles are grey-brown above, with an off-white head stripped with black. Non-breeding males have a dark line extending behind the eye and curving down in a C-like pattern behind the ear, whereas in females of the broad-tailed, and long-tailed species this line does not curve down.

jos

male

Habitat and feeding
Mixed woodland with scattered trees and bushes, and acacia savanna.
It feeds from small grass seeds, scattered on open ground, along tracks, paths, roadsides, and near old livestock pens and water sites.

Breeding habits
Wydahs are brood parasites, mostly of waxbills and pytilias. They deposit their eggs in the nests of other species which act as hosts. The host species then raises the whydah chicks alongside their own. Male whydahs control territories where the host birds are breeding; they sing a song that mimics that of the host species to attract hens.

This particular species parasites the Green-Winged Pytilia.

Host eggs are not removed nor destroyed by the whydah, nor are the host chicks ejected from the nest by the whydah chicks.

Whydahs do not form monogamous pairs; rather, a male whydah will breed with numerous females, and a female whydah will go on to breed with numerous males in order to spread her eggs over multiple territories. A single female whydah is estimated to lay around 22 eggs in a breeding season.

In all species of paradise whydah, the male performs a tail-feather exhibition advertising display when perched; this particular species (V. Paradisaea) also performs displays while flying over their territories

Breeding season
Males are in breeding plumage in South Africa, in February and March, with extremes of November to June (the host breeds February to June).

Call
A sharp “chip-chip” and a short “chroop-cherrup” song. Listen here:

Whydahs are thought to learn and mimic the major vocalizations (songs, calls) of their host parents via what we call in Ethology of “imprinting”. This enables the paradise whydah to attract females of the correct species and to use the correct hosts.

Distributionviuva distrib
Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa.
In Mozambique it occurs throughout the territory.

Curiosities:

  1. In the wild, some species of whydah are suspected to have hybridized together (V. interjecta × V. paradisaea, V. interjecta × V. orientalis, V. orientalis × V. paradisaea).
  2. For the whydah hen to successfully smuggle her eggs into the host nests, the nests should be well-shielded from view. Once the breeding season commences and the whydah cock is in breeding plumage, the whydah pair should be introduced to the host breeding colony before they begin nesting, as the whydah hen will need to synchronize her egg-laying with that of the host hens.
  3. This species was observed by Biodinâmica team during field work undertaken for the MOCOTEX Agri-investment in Zambezia, regarding the ongoing project of a Biodiversity Baseline Assessment and definition of the Biodiversity Management Plan, Ecosystem Services Plan and Monitoring Plan of the same investment.

Sources
Pictures