Weaver Wednesday  - Discovery : Southern Red Bishop2014-10-08 (579)
Weaver Wednesday (species text)
Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix
IntroductionLinnaeus based his species description on the publication of George Edwards. Linnaeus listed the type locality as Africa interiore.
Edwards etched a copper engraving of the male from a living bird in the Greenwich aviary of George Shelvocke, Secretary to the Right Honourable the Earl of Leicester, Post-Master General (this Shelvocke is not the better known English Royal Navy officer). Shelvocke acquired a large collection of birds from Lisbon, the Southern Red Bishop having been shipped there from Angola.
Edwards called it the Grenadier, after the Portuguese name Grenidiere, but probably referring to the red and black colours of the breeding male Southern Red Bishop which resembled the red uniforms and black headdress of the British Grenadiers.
The first published reference to the Southern Red Bishop was long before Linnaeus or Edwards wrote about it. Johann Schreyer, a German soldier, arrived in the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town) in 1668 and stayed for several years to work as a surgeon. He wrote a book (Schreyer 1681) and described many birds and animals, with some illustrations (but not of the bishop), and wrote of one bird: "as red as a glowing ember and the belly like fine black velvet, and live by the brooks". Of all the birds in Cape Town, only the Southern Red Bishop fits this description. This is one of the earliest published references to any weaver.
Scientific citationEmberiza orix Linnaeus 1758 Syst. Nat., ed. 10, p.177 Interior of Africa (Angola, ex Edwards, 1751, Nat. Hist. Birds, 4, pl. 178).
Meaning of namesorix (Latin oryza = rice); refers to the diet of the Red Bishop, which feeds on grain and seeds.
Alternate namesRed Bishop, Grenadier Bishop, Scarlet Bishop.
CollectorUnknown, sent to Lisbon, where purchased by George Shelvocke.
Date collectedBefore 1750, when Edwards painted the bird.
Type specimensNo type specimens known to survive, but the painting of Edwards serves as a type.