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Weaver Wednesday [167] - Discovery [50]: White-winged Widowbird

2015-08-26 (664)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

White-winged Widowbird Euplectes albonotatus

White-winged Widowbird
White-winged Widowbird,
figure from Cassin 1849
White-winged Widowbird
White-winged Widowbird,
figure from Hartlaub 1863
White-winged Widowbird map
White-winged Widowbird
distribution, type locality circled


The White-winged Widowbird was formally described by John Cassin, an American ornithologist.

The White-winged Widowbird was collected by Jules Pierre Verreaux, a French botanist and ornithologist. Jules and his brothers were professional collectors of and traders in natural history specimens, who worked in South Africa and other parts of the world. The White-winged Widowbird specimens are labelled as Port Natal (Durban) and Cap. de B. Esp. (the Cape - Jules Verreaux worked at the South African Museum for several years, but the species would have been collected north of the Cape). Unfortunately, the Verreaux brothers did not usually keep good records on localities and dates of where specimens were collected. Although the precise collection locality is not certain, Durban is adequate as a type locality for the White-winged Widowbird.

White-winged Widowbird specimens were sent to the Verreaux business in Paris where Edward Wilson obtained 3 of the widow specimens to take to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, formerly the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP), the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the New World. Cassin was curator of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences and he described many species of bird as they arrived at the museum.

The first illustration of a White-winged Widowbird is a colour painting published by Cassin 1849. The second illustration was published by Hartlaub 1863, of the subspecies eques that was collected by John Hanning Speke.

Scientific citation

Vidua albonotata Cassin 1848 Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philad., p65 Port Natal = Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

Meaning of names

albonotata/albonotatus - Latin albus, white; notatus, marked (notare, to mark).

First English name

The white-shouldered Widow (Reichenbach 1863).

Alternate names

Angola White-winged Whydah, Cinnamon-shouldered Widowbird, East African White-winged Whydah, The white-shouldered Widow, White-fronted Widow-Bird, White-winged Whydah.


Jules Verreaux.

Date collected

Long before 1848, but date unknown.

Locality collected

Port Natal = Durban.

Type specimens

ANSP 14224, ANSP 14225 and ANSP 14226 in Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.