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Weaver Wednesday [152] - Discovery [35]: Blue-billed Malimbe

2015-05-13 (638)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

Blue-billed Malimbe Malimbus nitens

Blue-billed Malimbe
Blue-billed Malimbe
figure from Gray 1849
Blue-billed Malimbe
figure from Bannerman 1949
Blue-billed Malimbe map
Blue-billed Malimbe
distribution, type locality circled


The Blue-billed Malimbe was formally described by George Robert Gray, an English zoologist, author, and head of the ornithological section of the British Museum. Gray started at the British Museum as Assistant Keeper of the Zoology Branch in 1831, when he would have found the specimen brought to the museum years earlier.

The Blue-billed Malimbe had been collected by Captain Edward Sabine, an Irish astronomer, geophysicist, ornithologist, explorer, and soldier.

Sabine travelled halfway around the world to study the the "oblateness" (shape) of the Earth and carried out measurements on the intertropical coasts of Africa and the Americas. Sabine had struck up a friendship with Douglas Clavering, an officer of the British Royal Navy, who agreed to take Sabine on board the Pheasant. They travelled to Sierra Leone, the Island of St Thomas, Ascension Island, Bahia, Maranham, Trinidad, Jamaica, and New York during the years 1821-23.

The first illustration of a Blue-billed Malimbe is in Gray (1849), although it is a poor illustration (the original may be in colour, the internet scanned version is not). The next potential illustration is by Reichenbach (1863), who illustrated most weavers known at that time - he described 3 malimbes but the paintings of these species do not appear to have been published. This species was not illustrated again until Bannerman (1949).

Scientific citation

Ploceus nitens Gray 1831; Zool. Misc., 1, p.7; Sierra Leone (cf. Sharpe, 1890, Cat. Birds Brit. Mus., 13, p.481).

Meaning of names

nitens Latin: shining, glittering (nitere, to shine).

First English name

Red-breasted Weaver (Gray 1831).

Alternate names

Red-breasted Weaver, The shining Malimbus, Lake Albert Malimbe, Gray's Blue-billed Weaver, Great Blue-billed Weaver.


Captain Edward Sabine.

Date collected

Between 1821 - 1823.

Locality collected

Sierra Leone.

Type specimens

One type specimen is in the British Museum (BM Old Vellum Cat. 21 no. 82a).