Weaver species

Choose different species from drop-down list and press 'Go' button. See Full species list.

Black Bishop Euplectes gierowii

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 076

Categories: red bishops,
News items about species


Black Bishop
Black Bishop male,
figure from Cabanis (1880)
Black Bishop
Black Bishop male,
photo of type specimen
Black Bishop map
Black Bishop
distribution, type locality circled


The Black Bishop was formally described by Jean Louis Cabanis, a German ornithologist and director of the Berlin University Museum, who described several other weavers.

The Black Bishop was collected by Otto Schutt, a German railway engineer who worked in various countries, being in Angola in 1878-1879, where he collected many birds. Paul Gierow accompanied Schutt on his travels, and Cabanis named the bishop after Gierow, as Cabanis had already named other bird species after Schutt (eg. Black-billed Turaco Tauraco schuetti).

Bocage (1893) restricted the type locality from Angola to Cuango River, Malanje Province. This was not based on ornithological publications or from label data, but Bocage drew on his regional knowledge and possible routes taken by Schutt. Schutt wrote a book on his travels in Angola (Reisen Im Sudwestlichen Becken Des Congo).

The first illustration of the Black Bishop was published in Cabanis (1880). The second illustration was published by Fischer (1884), of subspecies friederichseni (see Biology of the Black Bishop).

Scientific citation

Euplectes Gierowii Cabanis 1880 Ornithologisches Centralblatt, 5(1), p. 6, Angola.

Meaning of names

gierowii, After Paul Gierow.

First English name

Ansorge's Bishop-bird (Shelley 1905).

Alternate names

Angola Black-Bishop, Ansorge's Bishop-bird, Gierow's Bishop-bird, Massailand Bishop, Northern Black-Bishop, Southern Black-Bishop.


Otto Schutt and Paul Gierow.

Date collected

1878 or 1879.

Locality collected

Cuango River, Malanje Province, Angola.

Type specimens

The type specimen is in the Berlin Museum (ZMB 24389).

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday 2, a weekly series about the discovery of each weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [193] - Discovery [76]: Black Bishop on 2016-02-24

1. Basic biology

Black Bishop
Black Bishop, gierowii
figure from Cabanis 1880
Black Bishop
Black Bishop, friederichseni
figure from Fischer 1884
Black Bishop
Black Bishop, ansorgei
figure from Hartert 1899
Identification. The Black Bishop is a relatively poorly known species, with scattered populations. It is the largest and least common of the red and black bishops (see also Southern Red Bishop, Black-winged Bishop and Zanzibar Bishop). The breeding male is distinguished from the sympatric Black-winged Bishop by a mainly black head, orange-yellow back, and black rump; the orange breast-band width varies with race. The female and non-breeding male are blacker above than other bishops (especially male), heavily streaked, with a broad creamy supercilium - other bishop species are smaller, females paler, and not spotted below.

Black Bishop map

Distribution. The Black Bishop is found in widely separated populations which form 3 subspecies (see map below, based on Birds of Africa):
E. g. ansorgei, or Northern Black Bishop, from Cameroon across to Ethiopia and western Kenya (see red on map). The breeding male of this subspecies has more extensive black on the crown and throat, a narrower orange collar on the upper breast, and the lowermost underparts are buff with broad dark streaks.
E. g. gierowii, Angola Black Bishop, in DRCongo and Angola (see blue on map). The male of this subspecies has the mantle yellow, not orange.
E. g. friederichseni, or Southern Black Bishop, in southern Kenya and Tanzania (see green on map). The male male has the hindcrown and nape to back bright orange, rump buff with dark feather centres, a broad orange band around the breast, black lower breast and belly, buff thighs and undertail-coverts.
In most parts of its range, the Black Bishop is uncommon to rare. The subspecies may be emerging species.

Habitat. The Black Bishop inhabits tall grassland, in swampy or drier bushy areas, and also scrub and sugar cane. In Kenya it is found in areas with more than 1000 mm annual rainfall, whereas in Tanzania it occurs in drier country. It is often found with the Black-winged Bishop in East Africa.

Food. The diet of the Black Bishop includes seeds and insects, the latter including winged ants and alate termites. It forages mainly in pairs and small groups, and joins mixed species flocks in the non-breeding season.

Breeding. The Black Bishop is polygynous, and the male holds a territory containing three or four nests. The nest is coarsely woven, with a large entrance high on one side. It is built with grass, and lined with grass seedheads. The nest is usually placed above the above ground in elephant grass, attached to one vertical stalk and some leaf blades, although one nest was in the fork of a shrub.

The clutch is 2-4 eggs, and the eggs are bright blue, sometimes with fine black or red-brown spotting. Nothing else is known about its breeding habits.

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [61]: Black Bishop on 2013-08-14

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Breeding season
May-Aug in NE DRCongo, Apr-Oct and Dec in Uganda, May in Kenya, and Apr-Jun and Dec in Tanzania
Nest site
in Uganda 2 m above ground in elephant grass, attached to one vertical stalk and some leaf blades, one nest in Tanzania was 1 m above ground in fork of wood shrub
Nest building
No information
Colony size
male holding territory holding three or four nests
Clutch size
2-4 eggs
Egg colour
bright blue, sometimes with fine black or red-brown spotting
Egg size
size 20.6 x 15.3 mm
No information
Chicks and nestling period
No information

Breeding information based on Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15.

3. Photos of Weaver Nests

Vm 9572

Vm 9286

Thumb-nails of most recent PHOWN records - click on one to see its full record
See all PHOWN records for this species here.

PHOWN (Photos of Weaver Nests) provides valuable info on breeding distribution and colony sizes of weavers.
You can contribute by registering and submitting photos at Virtual Museum webpage.

4. Breeding distribution

Google map showing distribution (For species with small ranges you need to zoom in at the correct area to see the range):
yellow blob - range of weaver species; read more about this here.
- PHOWN records with photos
- PHOWN records with no photos (Nest Record Cards, other records)
- Birdpix records
- comments on out of range records, or interesting records
- type locality
CLICK on the marker on the map to see individual record details.

5. Range changes

Not South African species

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday 3, a weekly series about range changes in South African weaver species.
This species text first appeared as n/a