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Yellow-crowned Bishop Euplectes aferIUCN: Least concern Discovery: 018
IntroductionThe Yellow-crowned Bishop was formally named by Johann Friedrich Gmelin, a German naturalist. Gmelin described many new bird species in a book in 1789 in the style of Linnaeus' publications, giving a brief description in Latin and a synonomy, including a reference to Peter Brown, an English naturalist and illustrator. Gmelin noted the locality for the Yellow-crowned Bishop as Africa.
Peter Brown was the first to write about, and illustrate, the Yellow-crowned Bishop. He called it the Black-bellied Grosbeak and gave a description of the bird. Brown notes that his specimen was in the collection of Thomas Pennant,an English ornithologist. Pennant travelled in Europe but not in Africa, so he would have obtained it from someone else. The bishop would have been brought by ship from Africa to England, where it would have been purchased by Pennant [note: in the species text, Brown misspelled Pennant as Tennant, but acknowledged Thomas Pennant in the Preface].
The type locality was later restricted to Senegal, based on Vieillot 1805 who listed specimens from Senegal and Ethiopia. The Ethiopian specimens are based on a different subspecies of the Yellow-crowned Bishop, and thus cannot be a type locality. Buffon 1778 had noted that James Bruce, a Scottish traveller, mentioned and painted the Yellow-crowned Bishop in Ethiopia.
Scientific citationLoxia afra Gmelin 1789 Syst. Nat., 1(2), p.857 Africa (Senegal; Grant & Praed, 1944, BBOC, 65, p.10).
Meaning of namesafer (Latin): African, from Africa.
First English nameBlack-bellied Grosbeak (Brown 1776).
Alternate namesGolden Bishop, Napoleon Bishop, Taha Bishop.
Date collectedBefore 1776.
Locality collectedAfrica = Senegal.
Type specimensType specimen not located; the illustration of Brown 1776 serves as a type.
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  - Discovery : Yellow-crowned Bishop on 2015-01-14
1. Basic biology
Identification. The Yellow-crowned Bishop is small with a short tail. The male in breeding plumage is black with golden upperparts other than a black nape band. The width of the nape band and the amount of yellow on the sides of the neck varies in the different subspecies.
Distribution. The Yellow-crowned Bishop has a patchy distribution spread across sub-Saharan Africa. There are three subspecies:
Euplectes afer afer is found in western Africa (light blue on map).
E a strictus is found in Ethiopia (green on map); this race is larger than the nominate, the breeding male has a narrow black band on the hindneck, and the yellow on the side of the neck extends to a point behind the lores.
E a taha is found in southern to eastern Africa (red on map); the breeding male has a prominent black band on the nape, with some yellow feathers on the side of the breast and flanks.
In southern Africa there are many recent records for this species around the edge of its range. In particular, there seems to be a range expansion into the Western Cape. It also often shows local nomadic movements.
There are established populations, mostly due to escaped cagebirds, in the USA and West Indies; and small introduced populations in Portugal and Spain.
Habitat. The Yellow-crowned Bishop inhabits open grassy valleys, usually at low altitudes, and is generally closely associated with wet areas. It breeds in very wet areas such as swamps or seasonally flooded habitats.
Food. The Yellow-crowned Bishop feeds mainly on small grass seeds. In winter it feeds on a greater variety of grass species, including young maize. Nestlings are fed on insects.
Breeding. Displaying males are attractive as they fluff out the yellow feathers on the back while flying over their territories.
The nest is an oval ball, built of grass strips and lined with grass seedheads. The nest is supported by vertical grass stalks with a side entrance near the top. The nest is built by the male - the female lines the nest. Nests are well hidden in a tuft of grass, sometimes in bushes, or in rushes and sedges. Nests are usually in waterlogged or flooded areas, <1 m above the ground or water surface.
The clutch size is 2-4 (mean 3). Eggs are incubated by the female. The young are initially fed by the female, and later by both sexes.
The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday : Yellow-crowned Bishop on 2012-07-04
2. Breeding facts
mainly Jul-Oct from W Africa E to W Sudan and in NE DRCongo, Oct in Ethiopia, Jan-Apr in S DRCongo and Angola; records in Jan-Jun in Kenya and Tanzania; in S Africa mainly Dec-Mar, some records as late as May in areas with erratic rainfall
attached usually less than 1 m above ground or water to vertical stalks, hidden in tuft of grass or in bushes, rushes and sedges, often in flooded or waterlogged area
built by male
in small colonies
2-4 eggs, average 3 (South Africa)
white with fine dark spots, often concentrated at thick end
average size of 88 eggs 17.9 x 12.8 mm (South Africa)
in captivity, incubation by female only, period 12-14 days
Chicks and nestling period
male assisted with feeding of young, nestling period c. 13 days
Breeding information based on Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15.
3. Photos of Weaver Nests
Thumb-nails of most recent PHOWN records - click on one to see its full record
See all PHOWN records for this species here.