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Weaver Wednesday [164] - Discovery [47]: White-headed Buffalo-Weaver

2015-08-05 (660)

gravit8 Weaver Wednesday (species text)

White-headed Buffalo-Weaver Dinemellia dinemelli

White-headed Buffalo-Weaver
White-headed Buffalo-Weaver,
figure from Ruppell 1845
White-headed Buffalo-Weaver
White-headed Buffalo-Weaver,
figure from Gray 1849
White-headed Buffalo-Weaver map
White-headed Buffalo-Weaver
distribution, type locality circled


The White-headed Buffalo-Weaver was formally named by Wilhelm Peter Eduard Simon Rüppell, a German naturalist and explorer, especially in north-east Africa.

Rüppell obtained specimens of the White-headed Buffalo-Weaver from 2 sources. Martin Bretzka was a German hunter who collected birds for Rüppell. After earlier travels together, Rüppell sent Bretzka back to Ethiopia in 1835 and Bretzka reached Shoa in 1837, where he presumably collected the first White-headed Buffalo-Weaver specimens. Rüppell probably only received these specimens in 1841, and he labelled them as Textor leucocephalus. Bretzka collected at least 2 specimens, which are now in the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt.

Before describing this species, Rüppell visited the museum of the East India Company in London in 1843, where he saw some more White-headed Buffalo-Weaver specimens. These had been collected by Major Sir William Cornwallis Harris, an English military engineer, artist and hunter. Harris led a British diplomatic mission (1841 to 1843) from Bombay to Sahle Selassie, Negus of Shewa. Harris collected at least 4 specimens of the White-headed Buffalo-Weaver. Harris wrote about his travels in 3 volumes (The highlands of Aethiopia) in which he makes occasional reference to birds, but does not appear to have written about the White-headed Buffalo-Weaver. Harris sent his White-headed Buffalo-Weaver specimens to the East India Company Museum where Thomas Horsfield, curator of the East India Company Museum in London, named the species Textor dinemelli. Horsfield named the species after an unknown collector, Dinemelli, but did not describe the species. The specimens are now in the British Museum.

When Rüppell published his description, he chose Horsfield's name rather than his own more descriptive name (leucocephalus = white headed).

The first illustration of a White-headed Buffalo-Weaver is a colour painting by Joseph Wolf of a specimen collected by Bretzka, published in the book on north-eastern African birds by Rüppell. The second illustration is by William Mitchell, published in the book by Gray on bird genera, and based on the specimens collected by Harris.

Scientific citation

Textor dinemelli Ruppell 1845 Syst. Uebers, p.72, pl. 30 Shoa, central Abyssinia.

Meaning of names

dinemelli - Named after Dinemelli (fl. 1840) a collector in Ethiopia about whom nothing is known.

First English name

The white-headed Dinemellia (Reichenbach 1863).

Alternate names

Boehm's Buffalo Weaver, Dinemelli's (Buffalo) Weaver, Ruspoli's White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Unyamwesi White-headed Buffalo-Weaver.


Martin Bretzka and Major WC Harris.

Date collected

1837 (Bretzka) and 1841-43 (Harris).

Locality collected

Shoa = Shewa, central Ethiopia.

Type specimens

Two specimens are in the Senckenberg Museum (Bretzka) and 4 in the British Museum (Harris).

All news items relating to this species

The headers below refer to Weaver News items featuring this species. Click on a header to see the News item, which includes the full news item. (The number in brackets is the date that the news item appeared on Weaver Watch).

Weaver Wednesday [164] - Discovery [47]: White-headed Buffalo-Weaver (2015-08-05)
Weaver Wednesday [13]: White-headed Buffalo-Weaver (2012-09-12)