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Weaver Wednesday [208] - Discovery [91]: Jackson's Widowbird

2016-06-08 (723)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Jackson's Widowbird Euplectes jacksoni

Jackson's Widowbird
Jackson's Widowbird male & female,
figure from Sharpe (1891)
Jackson's Widowbird
Jackson's Widowbird eggs,
figure from Ogilvie-Grant (1910)
Jackson's Widowbird map
Jackson's Widowbird
distribution, type locality circled


Jackson's Widowbird was formally described by Richard Bowdler Sharpe, an English zoologist and ornithologist who worked as curator of the bird collection at the British Museum of natural history.

The Jackson's Widowbird was collected by Frederick John Jackson, an English administrator, explorer and ornithologist.

In 1889 Jackson led an expedition designed to open up the regions between Mombasa and Lake Victoria, which was largely unknown to Europeans at that time, and if possible to obtain news of Emin Pasha. He travelled towards Lake Victoria, reaching Lake Naivasha in Sep, and continued up the escarpment to Lumbwa on 14 Oct 1889. Here Jackson obtained the first Jackson's Widowbird, a male.

Jackson then went north and east to travel around the Lake Victoria to Mt Elgon, where he collected new bird species, including the Brown-capped Weaver (which was described by Sharpe a few months before describing this widow).

On Jackson's return from Uganda through Kenya, along the Rift Valley lakes. He passed Lake Baringo in June 1890 and then collected more specimens of Jackson's Widowbird flocks in the grasslands near Lake Nakuro and again at Lake Elmenteita (the males were in breeding plumage). Jackson reached Lake Naivasha on 27 June 1990. The specimens from Nakuro and Elmenteita are labelled as 22 Jul 1890 but this should be June 1890, based on his travel itinerary.

The first illustration of Jackson's Widowbird was of the male syntype, published by Sharpe (1891). The next illustration was of the eggs of this species in Ogilvie-Grant (1910).

Scientific citation

Drepanoplectes jacksoni Sharpe 1891a, Ibis p.246, pl. 5, Masailand, near Lake Nakuru, western Kenya Colony.

Meaning of names

jacksoni, Named after Sir Frederick Jackson (1860-1929) Governor of Uganda, 1911-1917, naturalist, collector, and author.

First English name

Jackson's Whydah (Shelley 1905b).

Alternate names

Dancing Whydah, Jackson's Dancing Whydah, Jackson's Whydah.


Frederick John Jackson.

Date collected

14 October 1889 and June 1890.

Locality collected

Masailand (Lakes Nakuru and Elmenteita, and Lumbwa), Kenya.

Type specimens

Six syntypes are in the Bristish Museum (eg BM 1893.12.1.3), and Tervuren Museum.