Getting dressed to Breed.. Not Undressed…

Long-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes progne)

Now here’s a bird… the male that is… that dresses up for mating.

The Long-tailed Widowbird is a medium-sized bird and one of the most common in the territories it inhabits. Adult breeding males are almost entirely black with orange and white shoulders (epaulets), long, wide tails, and a bluish white bill. Females are rather inconspicuous, their feathers streaked tawny and black with pale patches on the chest, breast and back, narrow tail feathers, and horn-colour bills.

When flying, male Long-tailed Widowbirds are readily visible due to their extremely long tails. Between six and eight of their twelve tail feathers are approximately half a meter long. The tail during flight display is expanded vertically into a deep, long keel below the male as he flies with slow wing beats 0.5 to 2 meters above his territory.

Outside of the breeding season male Long-tailed Widowbirds are large, streaky, but relatively unspectacular birds. Come late October though and this is a species is the bird equivalent of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly. It transforms into a spectacularly well-endowed sexual show-off with a most unlikely bundle of tail plumes…

Males defend territories in the grasslands the species inhabits. Females have a long nesting period and survey these territories and the males that inhabit them, prior to mate selection. Females spend a great deal of time comparing males, (I wonder if length has anything to do with their selection… I mean tail length naturally) then they weave nests, shaped in large dome structures with a lining of seed heads, in the high grass within the males territory.

The female…

Rietvlei 18-10-2012 293

The male when he is not breeding…

Tania rietvlei 01-08-12 032

Tania rietvlei 01-08-12 022

Then the metamorphous starts to take place……

Rietvlei 7-5-2012 013Rietvlei 7-5-2012 020

Tania rietvlei 15-10-2012 137

Tania rietvlei 15-10-2012 135

Tania rietvlei 15-10-2012 113

Rietvlei 18-10-2012 150

Rietvlei 18-10-2012 146

And now I’m dressed for sex.. my tail will continue to grow about another 4 inches.. then watch me strut my stuff.


52 thoughts on “Getting dressed to Breed.. Not Undressed…

  1. Pingback: Long-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes progne) « The Photographic Journey of bulldog.

    • They are not quite full grown yet … but their flight is the real beauty … the almost hover and jerk with the tail hanging is magnificent… I get one flying this year if it’s the last thing I do…

    • Maralee that they are and I’m going to do my best to capture the flights this year, I’ve got the use of a Canon for that purpose as I think the capabilities of my camera will be stretch a step too far…
      I must admit I’m glad the female of our specie is so much prettier than us…

    • Dianne I am so happy that in our specie the females are so much better looking than us…. He is a magnificent bird though when dressed for success, now just to capture the flirty flight…

  2. This is really awesome Rob…..I love all of the pictures that you posted and I’m glad that you put a lot on for us to see…..what a cool story of their “love life”..:)

    • When he does his flirting flyby he makes it look heavier than it is… now for that I’ve borrowed a Canon camera to try and catch the action… I have to get it this year…

  3. Ok, that’s it. I have a disgusting mind!! Am I the only one who started laughing over the last sentence? Bulldog, tell me I’m not the only one :). Seriously though, a wonderfully informative post as usual with great photos!!

    • Well good for you… you’re the only one to admit it… I have been waiting for a comment on that all day,,, I thought maybe everyone though I was being serious or the likes… but there are others out there that have though the same and laughed… but are keeping quiet about it… thank you now I can smile out loud…

  4. This posts illustrates everything I love (and didn’t expect!) about blogging! I got to learn something new, and see it as if I was there!
    What a fascinating bird and process! Thank you for this great show and tell!!

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