Pin-tailed Whydah

Vidua macroura

The little Pin-tailed Whydah (12cm long, without the tail, and weighing only about 15g) is most known for the aggressive nature of the breeding males, which carries tails almost double their own body length and have no qualms tackling birds many times their own weight, like doves and pigeons, over a food source or territory!

Pin-tailed Whydahs are brood parasites, meaning that the female lays her eggs (usually 1 or 2 but up to 4 at a time) in the nests of other birds, mostly small seed-eaters like waxbills, for them to raise the chicks, often after removing some or all of the host birds’ eggs. A single Pin-tailed Whydah female may lay up to 25 eggs in a season. Their breeding season stretches from spring to autumn. Males are polygamous and highly territorial. The chicks hatch after about 11 days of incubation and leave the nest at about 3 weeks old, staying with their host family for about another week before joining a Whydah group.

Their habitat ranges from savanna, grassland, reedbeds and scrublands to suburban parks, orchards and gardens. They feed mostly on seeds and termites. In South Africa they occur in all our provinces, though they’re rather sparsely distributed in the arid Northern Cape, while outside of our borders Pin-tailed Whydahs occur over most of the continent south of the Sahara. The IUCN considers the Pin-tailed Whydah to be of least concern.

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33 thoughts on “Pin-tailed Whydah

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Nee, hulle is fisies baie kleiner as die flap, AJ, maar hulle “attitude” is baie groter.
      There’s many birds employi g the “brood parasitism” strategy, though as a percentage of the total they are definitely in the minority.

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  1. Pingback: Pin-tailed Whydah – New Bird in My Garden | The Shower of Blessings

  2. Anne

    I always look forward to their return shortly before the start of the spring breeding season. For several years a single male adopted our garden as his territory, which made every other bird have to run the gauntlet to get to the feeders. Now we are a more or less neutral communal source of food, so have seen up to five males and numerous females feeding at the same time – not in perfect harmony mind you!

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  3. Miriam Hurdle

    It’s wonderful to see you post and read about this bird. I had the first visit from a Pin-tailed Whydah today. I took as many photos as I could from a distance. I couldn’t see him when he flew away because I was hiding when taking photos. I had our first hummingbird nest with a growing baby. I’ll post some photos later. Thank you for your post because I was trying to find out about my new visitor.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Imagine having a bird from a different continent visiting your garden, Miriam!!! Wow! I’d imagine he was probably an escapee from an exotic aviary, but still it must have been very special!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Traditionally we’d only think of cuckoos employing the strategy of having birds of other species raise their chicks. And then where does that leave the theory about baby birds imprinting on their caregivers? Really fascinating, agreed Tina!

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