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Weaver Wednesday [121] - Discovery [4]: Southern Red Bishop

2014-10-08 (579)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix

Southern Red Bishop
First pic of Southern Red Bishop,
from Edwards 1751
Southern Red Bishop
George Edwards
painter of Southern Red Bishop type,
from wikipedia
Southern Red Bishop map
Southern Red Bishop distribution,
type locality circled


Linnaeus 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 citation

Emberiza orix Linnaeus 1758 Syst. Nat., ed. 10, p.177 Interior of Africa (Angola, ex Edwards, 1751, Nat. Hist. Birds, 4, pl. 178).

Meaning of names

orix (Latin oryza = rice); refers to the diet of the Red Bishop, which feeds on grain and seeds.

Alternate names

Red Bishop, Grenadier Bishop, Scarlet Bishop.


Unknown, sent to Lisbon, where purchased by George Shelvocke.

Date collected

Before 1750, when Edwards painted the bird.

Locality collected


Type specimens

No type specimens known to survive, but the painting of Edwards serves as a type.