Redbilled Buffalo Weaver Bubalornis niger

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Taxonomic history

Bubalornis niger A. Smith, 1836, Rep. Expd. Expl. Cent. Afr.: 52
The Redbilled Buffalo Weaver was first described in 1836 by Andrew Smith after his trip to the interior. In Smith's type description he gave the locality as 'Country about Kurrichaine'. In his diary he noted that he first saw the species on 1 August 1835 along the Great Marico River at c.25 00'S, 26 23'E (Oschadleus HD. 2007. The type-localities of six of Sir Andrew Smith's Ploceidae specimens. Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 127:145-152). In Smith's Illustrations (Smith 1841) he provides the first ever illustration of this species and gave more details about the bird. Smith recorded the birds feeding on buffalo, hence the genus and group name, but this has not been reliably recorded again. Smith was a reliable observer, and he knew both species of oxpecker, which he observed with rhinos, so he must have seen unusual behaviour.

Smith's type description of the Red-billed Buffalo Weaver (1836)

Smith's illustration of an adult (male) Redbilled Buffalo Weaver (1841)

Identification, ageing and sexing

Identification: Easily identified by its plumage. The black (male) or brownish black (female) and red-orange bill, with white wing patches are diagnostic. There is no seasonal change in plumage.

Sexing: The female is browner than the black male. The unique phalloid organ, in front of cloaca, is smaller in the female than in the male.

Ageing: The young bird is similar to the adult female, but underparts are white, streaked with dark brown.

Adult male Red-billed Buffalo Weaver

Adult female Red-billed Buffalo Weaver

Young Red-billed Buffalo Weaver
Phalloid organ
(Winterbottom 1999a)

M: 15.7 +- 0.29 mm, n=109
F: 6.1+-0.19 mm, n=68

Where to watch

This species is common throughout much of its range in Africa. One conspicuous colony is in a large baobab tree in Mopani camp in the Kruger National Park.

Red-billed Buffalo Weaver colony in Mopani, Kruger NP, with Red-headed Weaver nests

Add your own Red-billed Buffalo Weaver colony - see Weaver Watch project

Maps and records in South Africa

Red-billed Buffalo Weaver ringing records and movements in southern Africa (as at 4 June 2009) Current

Red-billed Buffalo Weaver atlas records in southern Africa (as at 4 June 2009) Current

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