Southern red bishop

Euplectes orix subfamily

Ploceinae taxonomy

Loxia orix Linnaeus, 1758, Angola. other common names

English: Red bishop-bird, Grenadier weaver; French: Euplecte ignicolore; German: Oryxweber; Spanish: Obispo Rojo.

physical characteristics

5.1 in (13 cm); female 0.6-0.9 oz (17-26 g), male 0.7-1.0 oz (21-30 g). Breeding male has red and black plumage, with brown wings and tail. Bill black. Female and non-breeding male sparrowy brown, pale underparts with some streaking. Bill brown. Juvenile like female, buffy edges to feathers before

first molt. Males first molt into breeding plumage in second year.

distribution

Southern Kenya and Uganda south to southern tip of South Africa.

habitat

Tall grassland and cultivation, usually near water. behavior

Gregarious throughout the year, forming large flocks which feed and roost in association with other seed-eaters. Males return to same breeding localities, often to same territory, in successive years; return rate of females much lower. Both sexes may live more than 10 years in the wild.

feeding ecology and diet

Mainly seed-eating, also takes many insects, particularly when feeding young.

reproductive biology

Colonial and polygynous, often hundreds of males holding territories in a single reed-bed. Male builds a series of nests, oval upright structures with side entrances, typically supported by vertical vegetation. Female lines nest once mated and ready to lay. Old nests not demolished. In courtship male fluffs out plumage, resembling black and red bumble-bee, making short flights towards female. May have up to seven females on territory simultaneously. Breeding season dependent on rainfall; in winter rainfall region of South Africa, starts in winter, ends in early summer. Elsewhere during rainy season, usually summer. Lays one to five eggs (generally three). Incubation 12-13 days, fledging 11-15 days. Female alone incubates and feeds young. Nests often subject to heavy predation, and parasitized by Diederik cuckoo.

conservation status

Not threatened; abundant in many areas, benefits from farming activities and building of dams, which provide additional breeding sites.

significance to humans

Locally an important pest of grain crops; in wheatlands of Western Cape, South Africa, large numbers are killed annually. ♦

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