Weaver news

Weaver Wednesday [133] - Discovery [16]: Yellow-mantled Widowbird

2014-12-30 (610)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Yellow-mantled Widowbird Euplectes macroura

Yellow-mantled Widowbird
Yellow-mantled Widowbird,
figure from Brown 1776
Yellow-mantled Widowbird
Yellow-mantled Widowbird,
figure from Daubenton 1783
Yellow-mantled Widowbird map
Yellow-mantled Widowbird
distribution, type locality circled


The Yellow-mantled Widowbird 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. Gmelin noted the locality for the Yellow-mantled Widowbird as "kingdom of Whidah, and to the river Senegal".

There were, however, several authors who referred to the Yellow-mantled Widowbird before Gmelin, but not providing a scientific binomial name.

The earliest reference is by Francois Salerne, a French naturalist who translated the ornithological work of John Ray, an English naturalist. Salerne added many details and some new species in the translation, including the first reference to the Yellow-mantled Widowbird, in 1767. Salerne named it Le Gros-bec noir (Black Grosbeak) and listed the origin of this species as "Kingdom of Judah in Africa, and sometimes in Senegal". This dual locality was copied by subsequent authors, but later restricted as Judah [Whydah] = Dahomey = Benin, probably because the range of the Yellow-mantled Widowbird in Senegal is far south of the Senegal River.

Peter Brown, an English naturalist and illustrator, was the first to illustrate the Yellow-mantled Widowbird. He called it the Yellow shouldered Oriole and gave a description of the bird. He referred to Linnaeus (for the name Oriole) but did not provide a binomial name. Brown notes that his specimen was brought over from Holland by Thomas Pennant. Pennant travelled in Europe but not in Africa, so he would have obtained it from someone else.

Statius Muller, who first described the Village Weaver, gave a Latin name for the Yellow-mantled Widowbird in 1776 but his name was invalid.

Another colour illustration of the Yellow-mantled Widowbird is found in Daubenton 1783.

Most likely a specimen of the Yellow-mantled Widowbird arrived in France from Benin together with other specimens, and was illustrated in the publications of Salerne and Daubenton but only formally described by Gmelin 13 years after the first illustration.

Scientific citation

Loxia macroura Gmelin 1789 Syst. Nat., 1(2):845 'in regno Whidah' = Benin.

Meaning of names

macroura (Greek): Makros, long; -ouros, tailed.

Alternate names

Gold-backed Whydah, Yellow-mantled Whydah, Yellow-shouldered Whydah, Yellow-shouldered Whydah, Yellowshouldered Widow.



Date collected

Before 1767.

Locality collected

in the kingdom of Whidah, & to the river Senegal = Benin.

Type specimens

Type specimen not located; the illustration of Brown 1776 serves as a type.