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.