Weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [129] - Discovery [12]: Red-collared Widowbird

2014-12-03 (601)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Red-collared Widowbird Euplectes ardens

Red-collared Widowbird
Red-collared Widowbird male
(with Shaft-tailed Whydah),
figure from Buffon 1770
Red-collared Widowbird
Red-collared Widowbird male,
figure from Sonnerat 1776
Red-collared Widowbird
Red-collared Widowbird male,
figure from Daubenton 1783
Red-collared Widowbird map
Red-collared Widowbird distribution,
type locality circled


The Red-collared Widowbird was formally named by Pieter Boddaert, a Dutch naturalist, in 1783. The background comments about Boddaert and the Coount of Buffon are the same as listed under the Long-tailed Widowbird.

Boddaert published the first Linnean binomial names (scientific names) for the Red-collared Widowbird. This species was illustrated in Edme-Louis Daubenton's book of illustrations - the coloured engravings by Francois-Nicolas Martinet were published in 1783 as Planches enluminees. But Buffon had also published an earlier version with a limited number of species in a book of plates in 1770, and the only weaver to feature here was the Red-collared Widowbird. The 1770 painting may have been painted by Martinet, but is different to the later version in 1783. Both paintings, however, show a red circle on the breast of the male widowbird instead of a collar. This may be due to the breast feathers being damaged between collection and srrival in Paris.

Boddaert and Buffon gave this species the French name Veuve en feu, ie. burning widow, referring to the bright red breast colour in contrast to the rest of the black plumage. Boddaert also gave the scientific name based on the bright red on the breast of the male.

Buffon noted that the bird originated from Cap de Bonne Esperance & a I'ile Panay, ie the Cape of Good Hope and Panay island in the Philippines. This was based on one of Buffon's many correspondents, Pierre Sonnerat. Sonnerat made several voyages to southeast Asia, visiting the Philippines and Moluccas between 1769 and 1772. He must have collected the Red-collared Widowbird in 1769 (or 1770) in South Africa en route from the Philippines to France, where Buffon illustrated it in 1770. Sonnerat published his travel diary in 1776and also listed this widowbird from "Cap de Bonne Esperance & a I'ile Panay". Why he listed Panay Island is not clear.

The Cape of Good Hope could mean the Cape in its broadest sense, ie either the Western or Eastern Cape. Mackworth-Praed & Grant 1955 restricted the locality to the Eastern Cape, as the Red-collared Widowbird does not occur in the Western Cape. Buffon had many correspondents who sent him specimens from different places in the world, but no details are published for the Red-collared Widowbird as to who collected this species.

Scientific citation

Fringilla ardens Boddaert 1783 Tabl. Planch. Enlum., p39 Cape of Good Hope, S Africa (ex Daubenton, Planch. Enlum., pl 647). Restricetd to E Cape.

Meaning of names

ardens (Latin) = glowing, burning (ardere, to burn).

Alternate names

Black Widowbird, Cut-throat Widow-bird, Flaming Whydah, Red-Hooded Whydah, Red-naped Widowbird.


Pierre Sonnerat.

Date collected

Between 1769-1770, when Sonnerat visited the Philippines (and before the publication of Buffon's 1770 colour engraving of the species).

Locality collected

Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Type specimens

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