Weaver species

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Rachel's Malimbe Malimbus racheliae

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 059

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


Rachel's Malimbe
Rachel's Malimbe male,
figure from Cassin (1862)
Rachel's Malimbe
Rachel's Malimbe female,
figure from Sjostedt (1895)
Rachel's Malimbe map
Rachel's Malimbe
distribution, type locality circled


The Rachel's Malimbe was formally described by John Cassin, an American ornithologist and curator of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP), now Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Cassin named this species after his daughter, Rachel: "I name the present beautiful bird after my loved and only daughter. Should her pathway in the world be pleasant, may she know also the great gratification that comes from the pursuit of Natural History..."

The Rachel's Malimbe had been collected by Paul Belloni Du Chaillu, a French-American traveler, zoologist, and anthropologist. Du Chaillu was sent in 1855 by the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia on an African expedition. Until 1859, he explored West Africa near the equator, especially the delta of the Ogooue River and the estuary of the Gabon. During his travels from 1856 to 1859, he observed many gorillas. He became famous in the 1860s as the first modern European outsider to confirm the existence of gorillas, and later the Pygmy people of central Africa.

In addition to his zoological work on gorillas, Du Chaillu collected and identified a number of new species to science, including mammals and the type specimens of thirty-nine valid species of African birds.

The first illustration of a male Rachel's Malimbe is by Cassin (1862), a few years after he described the species. The next illustration was a female published by Sjostedt (1895). The nest does not appear to have been illustrated or photographed yet.

Scientific citation

Sycobius racheliae Cassin 1857 Prov. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, p.36 River Muni (Spanish Guinea).

Meaning of names

racheliae - After Rachel Cassin (fl. 1857), daughter of John Cassin, who described this species.

First English name

Rachel's Malimbe (Bannerman 1921), decades after it was first described.

Alternate names



Paul Belloni Du Chaillu.

Date collected


Locality collected

Muni River, Equatorial Guinea.

Type specimens

The type specimens are in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (ANSP 14100, ANSP 14101).

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 [176] - Discovery [59]: Rachel's Malimbe on 2015-10-28

1. Basic biology

Rachel's Malimbe
Rachel's Malimbe male,
courtesy of Nik Borrow
Rachel's Malimbe
Rachel's Malimbe female,
courtesy of Nik Borrow

Identification. The Rachel's Malimbe Malimbus racheliae has a black face and orange-red crown like other malimbes in its range (eg. Red-vented Malimbe), but it is the only one with yellow on the lower breast and undertail-coverts. The female Rachel's Malimbe resembles the male but the head and neck are black instead of red. The juvenile is browner than the female with a little yellow on the chin and upper throat, and with a paler bill. The female Gola Malimbe has a yellow breast while female Rachel's Malimbe has a yellow breast tinged with orange (and ranges do not overlap).

Distribution. Rachel's Malimbe is found in Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon (see map below, based on Birds of Africa. It is very poorly known and has a restricted range, but is not listed under any threat categories, as it is found in several reserves and is not uncommon.

Habitat. Rachel's Malimbe inhabits primary rain forest. It mostly remains in the canopy, but may descend in the understorey to 10m above the ground. It also visits the edge of forest in groves of parasol trees. Rachel's Malimbe is usually found in trios, but is also solitary, in pairs, or in small family parties in mixed foraging flocks of insectivores. Trios usually consist of 2 males and 1 female which keep together all year, but accompanied by their young after the breeding season. They have been recorded to bathe in streams on the forest floor. Rachel's Malimbe map

Food. The Rachel's Malimbe feeds mainly on insects, including caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers and mantids. It forages actively in canopy foliage.

Breeding. The Rachel's Malimbe is a solitary nester, monogamous, and territorial. The nest is retort-shaped, resembling that of the Red-vented Malimbe, and is attached to the tips of lianas just below canopy and 8-12 m above the ground over open spaces.

At three nests, two males and one female were seen to be building together. Fledglings are fed by a trio of adults, indicating some form of co-operative breeding.

No other information about breeding is known and the eggs have not been described.

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [104]: Rachel's Malimbe on 2014-06-11

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Breeding season
Nest-building activity and sightings of dependent juveniles indicate breeding in Apr, Jun and Nov in Nigeria and Mar, Jun and Nov in Gabon
Nest site
attached to tips of lianas just below canopy 8-12 m above ground over open space
Nest building
at three nests, two males and one female seen to be working together during construction
Colony size
Solitary nester; apparently territorial
Clutch size
no information
Egg colour
no information
Egg size
no information
no information
Chicks and nestling period
Observation of a fledgling fed by two males and one female

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