Transitional widowbirds

Bird ringing in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal

From 9-21 October 2019 I helped Rute catch and ring birds in Pietermaritzburg. The project was for studying the effect of moulting feathers on selection. The target species were Southern Red bishops, Red-collared Widows, and Fan-tailed Widows. 39 species and over 200 birds were caught including 21 recaptures. The “oldest” recaptures were 2 Levaillant’s Cisticola that had both been ringed at Cedara in 2015.

Many Fan-tailed Widows were caught at Cedara and Darvill. The males were moulting into breeding plumage, and were at different stages as shown below.

Fan-tailed Widow
Fan-tailed Widow – 60% breeding plumage


Fan-tailed Widow
Fan-tailed Widow – 80% breeding plumage


Fan-tailed Widow
Fan-tailed Widow – 100% breeding plumage


Several Red-collared Widows were caught at Darvill and Cedara, males also being in transitional plumage. Two males were photographed on the same day at Victoria Golf Estate – male 1 was mostly brownish with a growing tail, while male 2 had a collar developing as well as some black feathers on the underparts.

Red-collared Widow
Red-collared Widow – transitional plumages of 2 males, tails not fully grown yet


Table. Birds ringed and retrapped (not including data from other ringers at same sessions)

  Species   Latin  Cedara  Darvill  Golf  Hilton
  Blacksmith Lapwing   Vanellus armatus  1
  Red-eyed Dove   Streptopelia semitorquata  1
  Laughing Dove   Streptopelia senegalensis  1
  Lesser Honeyguide   Indicator minor  1
  Lesser Striped Swallow   Hirundo abyssinica  1
  Brown-throated Martin   Riparia paludicola  1
  Southern Black Tit   Parus niger  1
  Dark-capped Bulbul   Pycnonotus tricolor  1
  Sombre Greenbul   Andropadus importunus  1
  African Stonechat   Saxicola torquatus  1
  Cape Robin-Chat   Cossypha caffra  1  1
  Lesser Swamp-Warbler   Acrocephalus gracilirostris  1
  African Reed-Warbler   Acrocephalus baeticatus  5  2
  Little Rush-Warbler   Bradypterus baboecala  4
  Levaillant’s Cisticola   Cisticola tinniens  14  1
  Croaking Cisticola   Cisticola natalensis  1
  Dark-capped Yellow Warbler   Chloropeta natalensis  1  1
  Southern Double-collared Sunbird   Cinnyris chalybeus  1
  White-bellied Sunbird   Cinnyris talatala  1
  Olive Sunbird   Cyanomitra olivacea  1
  Amethyst Sunbird   Chalcomitra amethystina  1
  Lesser Masked-Weaver   Ploceus intermedius  4
  Village Weaver   Ploceus cucullatus  14  2  7  3
  Cape Weaver   Ploceus capensis  3
  Thick-billed Weaver   Amblyospiza albifrons  2
  Red-billed Quelea   Quelea quelea  6  2
  Red-headed Quelea   Quelea erythrops  1
  Southern Red Bishop   Euplectes orix  7  3
  Red-collared Widowbird   Euplectes ardens  9  19
  Fan-tailed Widowbird   Euplectes axillaris  59  29
  Bronze Mannikin   Spermestes cucullatus  2  1
  Red-backed Mannikin   Spermestes bicolor  3
  Common Waxbill   Estrilda astrild  1
  Pin-tailed Whydah   Vidua macroura  3
  Cape Canary   Serinus canicollis  1
  Olive Thrush   Turdus olivaceus  2
  Cape White-eye   Zosterops virens  2  4
  Number of sessions  5  1  2  3
  Totals (ringed+retrapped)  133  70  23  9

Thanks to Karen and Ebby for help with ringing!

  If you would like to ring colourful birds in KwaZulu-Natal, book a trip with Dieter at Birds4Africa!
Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.