Weaver species

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Red-bellied Malimbe Malimbus erythrogaster

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 096

Categories: long tube, cooperative, Malimbus, fruit,
News items about species


Red-bellied Malimbe
Red-bellied Malimbe female (L), male(R),
figure from Reichenow (1896)
Red-bellied Malimbe
Red-bellied Malimbe male,
figure from Ogilvie-Grant (1910)
Red-bellied Malimbe map
Red-bellied Malimbe
distribution, type locality circled


The Red-bellied Malimbe was formally described by Anton Reichenow, a German ornithologist and herpetologist.

The Red-bellied Malimbe was collected by Georg August Zenker, a German zoologist and botanist.

In 1886 Zenker accompanied Italian explorers on an expedition to the lower reaches of the Congo River, where he then settled on a plantation in Gabon. The company had to give up the plantation in 1889, so the company owner made Zenker head of the research station at Yaounde in the interior of Cameroon - Zenker remained here from 1889-1895.

Zenker collected 5000 plant specimens and a number of birds which were sent to the Berlin Museum. Zenker collected two Red-bellied Malimbes, a male and a female, sometime between 1889 and 1893, probably closer to 1893. The types are in the Berlin Museum. Zenker also collected the Yellow-capped Weaver in the same time period but probably before the Red-bellied Malimbe as the weaver was described first.

The first illustration of the Red-bellied Malimbe was of the type male and female, published by Reichenow (1896). The next illustration was by Ogilvie-Grant 1910 of the male.

Scientific citation

Malimbus erythrogaster Reichenow 1893c, Orn. Monatsb., 1, p.205, Jaunde, Cameroon.

Meaning of names

erythrogaster, Greek: Eruthros, red; gaster, the belly.

First English name

Red-breasted Malimbe (Shelley 1905b).

Alternate names

Red-bellied Weaver, Red-breasted Malimbe, Semliki Red-bellied Malimbe.


Georg August Zenker.

Date collected

Between 1889-1893.

Locality collected

Jaunde, Cameroon.

Type specimens

The types are in the Berlin Museum (ZMB_31798, ZMB_31799).

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday 2, a weekly series about the discovery of each weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [213] - Discovery [96]: Red-bellied Malimbe on 2016-07-13

1. Basic biology

Red-bellied Malimbe
Red-bellied Malimbe female (left), male (right),
figure from Reichenow 1896
Identification. The Red-bellied Malimbe is the only malimbe with entirely red underparts from the breast to the vent; the vent may be black in eastern populations, however. The red head and black face are shared with several other malimbe species.

The female is similar to the male but has a orange-red chin and throat, and is paler below. The juvenile is duller and browner than the female.

Distribution. The Red-bellied Malimbe is found in Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, PRCongo, and DRCongo (see map below, based on Birds of Africa).

There are no subspecies and the Red-bellied Malimbe is poorly known.

Habitat. The Red-bellied Malimbe inhabits high canopy in the interior of dense lowland forest, keeping at least 25 m from the forest floor. It also occurs in open dry forest and secondary forest. It is usually in pairs or small family parties.

The Red-bellied Malimbe joins mixed-species foraging flocks. It regularly perches on dead branches at the top of trees. Red-bellied Malimbe map

Food. The Red-bellied Malimbe feeds on insects including beetles, caterpillars, bugs, grasshoppers and their eggs. It also feeds on small snails, some fruit and some small seeds. It forages in open tops of emergents and in thinly leaved trees, amongst clusters of dead leaves, and on dead branches and trunks.

Red-bellied Malimbe
Red-bellied Malimbe nest,
figure from Collias 1964

Breeding. The Red-bellied Malimbe is usually a solitary nester but may be colonial. It appears to have helpers at the nest.

The nest is a well-woven globular chamber with an entrance tube 18cm long. The nest is placed very high in forest, in thick outer foliage, or attached to branches of tall trees. It is woven of pieces of small vines. The long spout seems to be added during the rearing of the young. The eggs are unknown, and nothing else is known about its breeding habits.

Nests may be clustered in the same tree as the nest of Crowned Eagles Stephanoaetus coronatus, which provides protection from monkeys.

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [112]: Red-bellied Malimbe on 2014-08-06

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Breeding season
Jul in Nigeria, Feb-Mar in Cameroon and Gabon, and Dec in PRCongo; in DRCongo, Mar in Itombwe and Mar-Apr and Aug-Sept in Ituri region
Nest site
attached to outer leafy branch high in canopy
Nest building
no information
Colony size
Solitary nester in Nigeria, and small colonies up to 20 nests reported in DRCongo
Clutch size
no information
Egg colour
no information
Egg size
no information
no information
Chicks and nestling period
no information

Breeding information based on Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 15.

3. Photos of Weaver Nests

No records yet - be the first to submit a PHOWN record!
See PHOWN summary page for this species here.

PHOWN (Photos of Weaver Nests) provides valuable info on breeding distribution and colony sizes of weavers.
You can contribute by registering and submitting photos at Virtual Museum webpage.

4. Breeding distribution

Google map showing distribution (For species with small ranges you need to zoom in at the correct area to see the range):
yellow blob - range of weaver species; read more about this here.
- PHOWN records with photos
- PHOWN records with no photos (Nest Record Cards, other records)
- Birdpix records
- comments on out of range records, or interesting records
- type locality
CLICK on the marker on the map to see individual record details.

5. Range changes

Not South African species

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday 3, a weekly series about range changes in South African weaver species.
This species text first appeared as n/a