Weaver species

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Black-winged Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus

IUCN: Least concern     Discovery: 001

Categories: red bishops, Linnaeus, pest,
News items about species


Black-winged Bishop
First pic of Black-winged Bishop,
figure from Swainson 1837
Black-winged Bishop map
Black-winged Bishop distribution,
type locality circled
Linnaeus, from wikipedia
Linnaeus, figure from wikipedia


Linnaeus thought this species came from India, or the [East] Indies ("in Indiis"), a common mistake in his day, as the ship bringing this specimen probably came from the far East but stopped at African ports along the way, where African specimens could have been added to the cargo. Gyldenstolpe (1924) first noticed the error, and restricted the type locality to Senegal as the type specimen matched other specimens from Senegal.

Linnaeus noted the source of the type specimen as "mus ad fr", ie. the Museum Adolphi Friderici, a collection maintained by the King of Sweden, Adolf Fredrik.

Swainson (1837) obtained described a specimen from Senegal as a new species (Crimson-crowned Weaver Euplectes flammiceps), but this was later discovered to be the same species as the Black-winged Bishop. Nevertheless, his painting is the first published illustration of this species, many decades after Linnaeus first described it.

Scientific citation

Loxia hordeacea Linnaeus 1758a Syst. Nat., ed. 10, p173 'in Indiis', errore = Senegal, vide Gyldenstolpe 1924.

Meaning of names

hordeaceus (Latin) - of barley; referring to its diet.

First English name

Yellow-rumped Grosbeak (Latham 1783).

Alternate names

Fire-crowned Bishop.


Unknown, but kept in the Museum Adolphi Friderici.

Date collected

Before 1754, since Linnaeus studied the collection from 1751-1754.

Locality collected

Unknown, type locality restricted to Senegal.

Type specimens

The type is in the Swedish Museum of Natural History (Naturhistoriska riksmuseet) in Stockholm. Modern photos of the type are at here.

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 [118] - Discovery [1]: Black-winged Bishop on 2014-09-17

1. Basic biology

Black-winged Bishop
Black-winged Bishop
feather, from
Rochebrune 1884

Black-winged Bishop
Black-winged Bishop, male and female,
from Butler 1899

The Black-winged Bishop (or Fire-crowned Bishop) Euplectes hordeaceus is wide-spread through tropical Africa. It is one of 5 'red bishop' species (where the males in breeding plumage are mainly red and black). The Black-winged Bishop male in breeding plumage is distinguished from the other 'red bishops' by having both a red crown and red breast band. Females and non-breeding birds are dull coloured, with a broad yellowish supercilium, and a rich brown breast-band. In flight, the black wings (retained in the non-breeding season) contrast with the brown upperparts (the wings are brown in the other 'red bishops').

This species was described by Linnaeus, based on a specimen from Senegal, and photos of the holotype may be viewed here. Black-winged Bishop map

The Black-winged Bishop is found from Mauritania in West Africa across to Ethiopia and south to Angola and north-eastern Zimbabwe (see red on map left, based on Birds of Africa). It occurs on Sao Tome (possibly introduced), Zanzibar and Pemba Islands. Several subspecies have been proposed but plumage differences appear to be individual variation and the species is thus treated as monotypic.

The Black-winged Bishop inhabits bushed grassland, rice fields, and tall grassland, as well as open areas in forested country. It is usually in pairs or small groups but forms large roving flocks in the non-breeding season, and is often found in mixed-species flocks.

Its diet is grass seeds, and also rice and green maize. Insects include caterpillars and termite alates. The Black-winged Bishop spends much time near the tops of tall grasses, but forages mainly on the ground in savanna, often concentrated at sites of abandoned cultivation, with secondary growth of tall grasses.

Black-winged Bishop
Black-winged Bishop nest, from Chapin 1917

The Black-winged Bishop is polygynous, and the highly territorial males attract up to 4 females. In display, the male perches prominently in his territory with plumage fluffed out. He swivels about, calling constantly, and flies up 4-5 m then glides back to his perch. Males also perform a horizontal display flight between perches with the body feathers puffed out, and wings flapping slowly.

The nest resembles the nest of the Southern Red Bishop but has a larger side entrance and distinct overhanging porch. The nest is placed in tall grass or coarse vegetation, 0.8-3.0m above ground. It is usually supported by grass stems on either side of the large entrance. During droughts, the first nests are built 3 weeks later than average, and more nests are built in trees than in grass. This species seldom breeds in colonies, and is often solitary or with 2 males close together. The male constructs the nest, and may work on more than one at a time. The female lines an accepted nest with fine grass. Only the female incubates the eggs and feeds the chicks. Nests may be parasitized by the Diederik Cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius.

The above is based on Weaver Wednesday, a weekly series about weaver species.
This species text first appeared as Weaver Wednesday [58]: Black-winged Bishop on 2013-07-24

2. Breeding facts

Pair bond
Polygynous, with up to four females per male
Breeding season
Jul-Aug in Senegal, Ghana and Togo, Aug-Sept in Mauritania, Mali, Liberia and Burkina Faso, Aug-Nov in Gambia, Sept-Jan in Sierra Leone, Aug-Oct in Nigeria Sept-Dec in Cameroon, and Dec-Jan and Apr on Sao Tome; breeds Aug-Oct in Sudan, and Apr-May and Aug-Oct in Ethiopia; Jan-May in Angola; in DRCongo, Aug-Oct in Uele and Jan-May in S region, Apr-Aug in Uganda, recorded in most months (mainly Apr-Jul) in Kenya, Feb-Jun in Tanzania (during drought, first nests three weeks later than average), but May-Aug on Zanzibar; Jan-Apr in Zambia and Zimbabwe, Feb-May in Malawi and Jan-Mar in Mozmbique
Nest site
supported 0.8-3.0 m above ground by vertical stems of tall grass or other vegetation; duing drought in Tanzania, more nests built in trees than in grass
Nest building
built by male, lined by female
Colony size
Male defends territory of 400-1200 m2. Often solitary nester, sometimes a few males close together
Clutch size
2-4 eggs
Egg colour
light blue-green, rarely with tiny black spots
Egg size
average size of 17 eggs 18.5 x 13.8 mm (DRCongo)
incubation by female alone, one report of male on nest containing eggs, period 12-14 days
Chicks and nestling period
chicks fed by female only, nestling period 11-13 days, up to 16 days in unfavourable conditions

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

3. Photos of Weaver Nests

Vm 5770

Thumb-nails of most recent PHOWN records - click on one to see its full record
See all PHOWN records 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