The Paradise Whydahs :
Vidua paradisaea - Eastern Paradise Whydah
Vidua obtusa - Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah
Vidua orientalis - Northern Paradise Whydah
Vidua togoensis - Togo Paradise Whydah
Vidua interjecta - Long-tailed Paradise Whydah
Other common names:
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. interjecta): Congo Paradise Whydah, Nigerian Paradise Whydah, West African Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah, Uelle Paradise Whydah, Exclamatory Paradise Whydah.
Eastern Paradise Whydah (V. paradisaea): African Paradise Whydah, Paradise Widow Bird, Acacia Paradise Whydah, Sharp-tailed Paradise Whydah.
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. obtusa): Chapin's Paradise Whydah.
Northern Paradise Whydah (V. orientalis): Sahel Paradise Whydah, Yellow-naped Whydah; has 3 subspecies: V. o. orientalis, V. o. kadugliensis, V. o. aucupum
Area of distribution:
In the map below, approximate distributions for each species are represented as follows:
Northern Paradise Whydah (V. orientalis): green
Togo Paradise Whydah (V. togoensis): blue
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. interjecta): yellow
Eastern Paradise Whydah (V. paradisaea): red
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. obtusa): purple
Compatibility:Pushy, mixes well with other pushy species
Size:5.5" (female-like) (14 cm)
Approx. cost:$ (US) per pair
Generally peaceful, but some individuals can be aggressive.
When in breeding plumage, the male appears as follows: black bill, black head, chestnut nape, rufous breast, buffy underparts, black back and wings, black dual-length ornamental tail feathers, dark grayish feet. The males of different subspecies are most easily differentiated by their tails:
Northern Paradise Whydah (V. orientalis): cocks have tails which are uniformly broad; longest tail feather measures approximately 195-255mm long × 24-32mm wide.
Eastern Paradise Whydah (V. paradisaea): cocks have long tails which gradually taper and which are approximately three times the body length; longest tail feather measures approximately 245-344mm long × 24-34mm wide.
Togo Paradise Whydah (V. togoensis): cocks have the longest tail; longest tail feather measures approximately 290-360mm long × <30 mm wide.
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. interjecta): cocks have a wider & shorter tail than the Togo Paradise Whydah which barely tapers, a darker and browner nape, and a more two-toned underside (as the maroon breast extends further down the abdomen); longest tail feather measures approximately 260-304mm long × 30-40mm wide (26mm unflattened).
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. obtusa): tail is less than twice the bird's body length; the longest tail feather becomes widest below its mid-point, remains fairly wide almost to its rounded (not pointed) tip, and measures 175-228mm long × 33-41mm wide.
When out of breeding plumage, the male appears similar to the hen: tawny above with narrow mantle streaking. Eastern Paradise Whydah (V. paradisaea) hens have a dark line extending behind the eye and curving down in a C-like pattern behind the ear, whereas in females of the broad-tailed, northern, and long-tailed species this line does not curve down. The Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. interjecta) hen (and cock in non-breeding plumage) has pastel-reddish legs and a light orange bill. Eastern Paradise Whydah (V. paradisaea) hens have gray feet and gray to blackish bills. Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. obtusa) hens have horn colored or slightly pinkish bills and comparatively paler head markings. Juveniles are also similar in appearance to the hens, but with pale rufous feather edges, less strongly defined feather markings, and dark brown bills.
Males develop nuptual (breeding) plumage during the breeding season. Subjectively, when in eclipse (non-breeding) plumage, males may still appear more boldly colored overall, more strongly striped, and have blackish bills instead of brownish like the hen's (Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. interjecta) cocks have orangish bills when not breeding, however). Males sing.
Each whydah species' song tends to mimic the song of its host, interspersing its own innate species' motifs.
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Group of V. paradisaea (Eastern Paradise Whydahs) in Kenya. Photo by Peter Steward.
Group of V. paradisaea (Eastern Paradise Whydahs) and some Straw-tailed Whydahs (pink billed birds) in Kenya. Photo by Peter Steward.
Paradise Whydah male entering breeding plumage (transitional male). Photo by Arno Meintjes.
V. paradisaea (Eastern Paradise Whydah) male in Kruger National Park. Photo by Michel Candel.
Millet, green food (e.g. chickweed, lettuce), sprouted seed.
Northern Paradise Whydah (V. orientalis): open acacia savannah with scattered trees.
Togo Paradise Whydah (V. togoensis): brushy grasslands, savannahs, woodland edges.
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. interjecta): grasslands, forest edges, brushy pasture, borders of cultivated grounds.
Eastern Paradise Whydah (V. paradisaea): acacia savannahs, woodlands.
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. obtusa): open woodlands, acacia savannahs.
Viduine finches are avian brood parasites and require specific species of finches to raise their offspring. Whydahs do not build their own nests, but rather deposit their eggs in the nests of other species which act as hosts. The host species then raises the whydah chicks alongside their own. Male whydahs control territories where the host birds are breeding; they sing a song that mimics that of the host species to attract hens. Whydahs do not form monogamous pairs; rather, a male whydah will breed with numerous females, and a female whydah will go on to breed with numerous males in order to spread her eggs over multiple territories. A single female whydah is estimated to lay around 22 eggs in a breeding season.Parasite-host relationships for the paradise whydahs are as follows:
Northern Paradise Whydah (V. orientalis) parasitizes a red-lored race of the green-winged pytilia, Pytilia melba citerior.
Togo Paradise Whydah (V. togoensis) parasitizes the red-faced (aka "yellow-winged") pytilia, P. hypogrammica.
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. obtusa) parasitizes the orange-winged pytilia, P. afra.
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. interjecta) parasitizes the red-winged pytilia (aka aurora finch), P. phoenicoptera.
Eastern Paradise Whydah (V. paradisaea) parasitizes the grey-lored races of the green-winged pytilia, P. melba.
Host eggs are not removed nor destroyed by the whydah, nor are the host chicks ejected from the nest by the whydah chicks. In fact, fledging success data suggests that the whydah's parasitism does little damage to the host's productivity. Although the whydah egg looks fairly similar to that of the host, the whydah's eggs are approximately 12-15% larger than the host's. Although it is generally believed that baby whydahs have mouth marking patterns, begging calls, and begging postures which "exactly" mimic the host species' in order to avoid detection as well as to enable the chicks to effectively compete while begging, some differences are noted in the field. Togo Paradise Whydah (V. togoensis) chicks, for example, open their bill to a greater degree when begging than does the host chick. Palate characteristics of the host and parasite also differ in the Togo Paradise Whydah: the blue-violet signal markings of the mouth are larger and more elongated in the host than parasite. In contrast to its host chicks, the Eastern Paradise Whydah (V. paradisaea) hatchlings are darker skinned with grayish (instead of sandy-white) down, broader-billed, and their upper bill tubercles are larger than the lower ones; fledgelings are larger than the host and more grayish brown and lack the reddish rump of the host chick. Juveniles resemble the host, however, but by 8 weeks they attain hen-like whydah plumage.Whydahs are thought to learn and mimic the major vocalizations (songs, calls) of their host parents via imprinting. This enables the paradise whydah to attract females of the correct species and to use the correct hosts. In all species of paradise whydah, the male performs a tail-feather exhibition advertising display when perched; some species also perform displays while flying over their territories (e.g. Eastern Paradise Whydah [V. paradisaea]).
Some sources state the paradise whydah is a suitable companion for waxbills and is a very peaceful aviary companion, whereas other reports suggest some birds can become very aggressive and kill other finches. Because males grow long tails when in breeding plumage, whydahs are not suitable to smaller enclosures. Whydahs are ground feeders and should be permitted to hop along the floor of the enclosure. In the wild, some species of paradise whydah are suspected to have hybridized together (V. interjecta × V. paradisaea, V. interjecta × V. orientalis, V. orientalis × V. paradisaea), and reportedly in some cases with indigobirds (V. interjecta × village indigobird, V. paradisaea × village indigobird, V. interjecta × variable indigobird, V. paradisaea × dusky indigobird), as well as with other whydahs (V. paradisaea × queen whydah).
Northern Paradise Whydah (V. orientalis): based on the breeding periodicity of the host, whydahs can be expected to breed during August and September (latter part of the rainy season) in Nigeria, and October to February in the Sudan with a second round occurring from May to July.
Togo Paradise Whydah (V. togoensis): during the dry period immediately following the rainy season (increased ripening seed availability) - October to January; in Nigeria, November and January. Males in Nigeria molt into breeding plumage between mid-September and mid-October.
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. interjecta): north of the equator these whydahs breed during the dry season and nearly year-round near the equator; in Nigeria - November, December, February.
Eastern Paradise Whydah (V. paradisaea): males are in breeding plumage from late November to May/early June in southern Africa; in South Africa, they breed February and March with extremes of November to June (the host breeds February to June). Farther north (Zambia, Malawi), breeding plumage occurs from January or February to July (and the host breeds from January to June); in Kenya from October to March (host breeding March to May); in Ethiopia from May to December, sometimes as late as February or March (host breeds May and June); in Nigeria host breeding occurs in August and September; in Sudan from October to February and again May to July.
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah (V. obtusa): breeding plumage occurs in early February until late July in the southeastern Congo basin, with the host breeding in April and May; in Zambia the host breeds Jan to May; in Malawi from March to June; in Tanzania from April to June; in southern Ethiopia in June.
These birds are nearly impossible to breed in captivity. A large, appropriately-planted aviary with an already-established breeding group of the correct* host species is required. The waxbill host species are themselves a challenge to breed and require copious amounts of live food. (*There are occasional reports of paradise whydahs using an incorrect host species in captivity, such as firefinches or purple grenadiers). For the whydah hen to successfully smuggle her eggs into the host nests, the nests should be well-shielded from view. Once the breeding season commences and the whydah cock is in breeding plumage, the whydah pair should be introduced to the host breeding colony before they begin nesting, as the whydah hen will need to synchronize her egg-laying with that of the host hens'. Viduine finches do not appear to breed before their second year of life.
Presumed Life Cycle:
Clutch size:1-5 (mean 2)
Incubation:Done by the host
Hatch date:After 12-13 days of incubation
Fledge date:At 21 days of age
Wean date:14 days after fledging
First molt:Approx. 8 weeks
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Subspecies and Ranges:
The Paradise Whydah Finches are generally separated in 5 different species. Formerly they were considered conspecific (one and the same species) and all are sometimes placed in a separate genus: Steganura.
Togo Paradise Whydah, Togo Paradise Widow,Vidua togoensis
Found in Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, Exclamations Paradise-Whydah, Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, Exclamatory Whydah, Long-tailed Whydah, Long-tailed Widow, Nigerian Paradise Whydah, Uele Paradise Whydah, Uelle Paradise Whydah, Uelle Paradise Widow, Vidua interjecta
Paradise Whydah - "Gene" Whydah Bird
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (male)
SOUTH AFRICA paradise whydah, Kruger national park
Paradise Whydahs :
Paradise Whydahs are small, resident (non-migratory) African songbirds. These finches were named for the very long, flowing tails of the breeding males - a plumage detail that is thought to attract females during the breeding season. These finches are also known as Widow Birds because of their darker plumages and, again, their long black tails.
These gregarious birds are often seen in large flocks roosting in tree branches, which is a particuarly spectacular sight during the breeding season, when the males show off their magnificent long tails and glossy plumage.
Range: Eastern Africa, from east Sudan to south Angola.
Eastern Paradise Whydah, Vidua paradisaea
Range: Eastern Africa, from southeastern Sudan, Ethiopia (absent Ogaden desert and eastern Bale), Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Ruzizi Valley, in Kivu), eastern Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and from western and southern Angola and southern Zambia east to Malawi and Mozambique and south to central Namibia, central and southeastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and northern and northeastern South Africa. Generally avoid the very arid southwest. Locally common below 1400m in dry wooded habitats and open bush.
Northern Paradise Whydah, Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah, Broad-tailed Whydah, Vidua orientalis
Range: West Africa
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah, Broad-tailed Paradise Widow, Broad-tailed Widow, Chapin's Paradise-Whydah, Nyasa Paradise Whydah, Vidua obtusa
Range: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Male and female Paradise Whydah finches measure about 5 inches (13 cm) in length; except males in breeding plumage grow broad, long tail feathers that increase their length to 16 inches (~ 40 cm). Females and non-breeding males have short tails.
They average a weight of about 0.7 oz (21 grams).
Plumage Details / Males
Non-breeding males look like ordinary sparrows for part of the year with a mostly brownish plumage (in different shades), black stripes on the crown, black marks on the face, a deep brown chest and a creamy-colored
abdomen. About 3 times a year they molt into their glossy breeding plumage with magnificent long tail feathers, which they lose when the season is over.
Breeding Males develop an attractive nuptial (breeding) plumage, with glossy black feathers on the head, back, wings and tail, a vibrant rust color on the upper chest turning white towards the belly. They grow long tail feathers that can reach a length of 14 inches (36 cm) or more.
The bill is black, and the eyes and feet are blackish, dark grey or pinkish brown.
The upper parts are greyish-brown with blackish streaks. The head is boldly streaked buff and dark brown; except for pale eye stripe and a vertical dark ‘C’ mark over the ears that is open towards the bill. Her chest is grey to buffy colored with some indistinct streaking. The abdomen is and under tail coverts (feathers) are whitish. The wings below are pale grey. The bill is grey, paler on the base of the lower bill.
Non-breeding males and females look alike.
The breeding male can be identified by his black, chestnut and buff plumage and long, flowing tail.
The female's plumage is sparrow-like, with a broad whitish stripe down center of her crown.
Immature birds have a plain greyish-brown upper plumage and a grey rump. The face is unmarked except for a slight pale grey eye stripe. The wings and tail are brownish grey. The plumage below is a paler grey, except for a white belly and under tail coverts (feathers). The bill is black, except for brownish markings on the center of the upper bill and at base of the lower bill. The eyes are dark brown. The legs and feet are brownish grey to dark grey.
Diet / Feeding
Paradise Whyadhs feed on large grass seeds, including wild oats, millet and spinifex, as well as taking the occasional termite and grubs. Most foraging is done on the ground or in bushes.
Breeding / Nesting:
Males will mate with 10 or 12 females, who will lay their eggs into the nests of other finch species, specifically members of the family and often Green-winged Pytilias. However, in doing so, they don't destroy the hosts' eggs and simply add 3 - 4 white eggs to the clutch of the hosts, who end up raising both broods. Since the Whydah nestlings are generally larger and louder than the host nestlings, they have an advantage come feeding time.
The incubation time is usually between 11 - 13 days.
Paradise Whydahs are challenging to breed - due to their brood parasitic nature - however, these birds (the males in particular) are quite popular as pets or aviary birds.
These hardy birds are best kept in aviaries and if conditions are right, may successfully breed. Outside the breeding season, they could be kept with other finch species, but they tend to be aggressive when females of their own species are present. Therefore, it is best to keep any male singly if they are not to be bred. If breeding is desired, pairs should be separated during the breeding season, except for their hosts. Outside the breeding season, males are usually more docile.
One male is usually given several females - 3 to 4 females are usually optimal. If you have more females, you can increase the number of males. However, it is best to have at least three or more males in an aviary. Two males often fight to the death. When one aggressive male is confronted by two or more males, chances of deadly aggression is reduced. Of course, the space has to be large enough to accommodate the number of birds kept in it. If the space is tight, even the most peaceful of all birds can turn aggressive. The females should have access to multiple active nests of suitable hosts. They generally favor birds of the genus Pytilia - often the Green-winged Pytilia nests.
As far as housing is concerned, they should have plenty of room to fly around. These active birds enjoy flying back and forward. During the mating season, males will carry their tails horizontally when flying. Their perches should be placed high enough to accommodate their long tails.
As far as diet is concerned, a quality finch food and millet sprays are adequate. They also like live food - particularly when breeding.
Calls / Vocalizations / Sounds:
These finches, in particular females, are general silent.
Their occasional calls are described as shrill, metallic 'teeet's and their songs as harsh chipping and chattering.
Breeding males often imitate the songs of other birds - in particular those that they have been raised by. These are also often the preferred hosts for their eggs. Females also learn to recognize the song of the foster birds they were raised by and choose mates with that same song.
Their nestlings also mimic the unique gape pattern of the nestlings of the host species.
Alternate (Global) Names :
Afrikaans: Breestertparadysvink, Breëstertparadysvink, Gewone Paradysvink ... Catalan: Vídua del paradís ... Chinese: 乐园维达雀, 樂園維達鳥,北维达雀, 宽尾维达雀 ... Czech: Vdovka sahelská / širokoocasá / rajská / tožská / dlouhoocasá ... Danish: Paradisenke, Bredhalet Paradisenke. Korthalet Paradisenke, Togoparadisenke, Langhalet Paradisenke ... Dutch: Breedstaartparadijswida, Breedstaart-paradijswida, Sahelparadijswida, Sahel-paradijswida, Smalstaartparadijswida, Togoparadijswida, Langstaartparadijswida, Langstaart-paradijswida ... Finnish: Leveäpyrstöleski, sahelinparatiisileski, sirppiparatiisileski, Paratiisileski, suippoparatiisileski, kaitaparatiisileski ... French: Veuve à collier d'or, Veuve à courte queue, Veuve à queue courte, Veuve de Chapin, Veuve à collier d'or de Verreaux, Veuve de paradis, Veuve du Togo, Veuve à longue queue, Veuve à queue large, Veuve d'Uelle, Veuve nigériane / nigérienne ... German: Große Paradieswitwe, Senegalparadieswitwe, Breitschwanz-Paradieswitwe, Schmalschwanz-Paradieswitwe, Schmalschwanzwitwe, Spitzschwanz-Paradieswitwe, Togowitwe, Langschwanz-Paradieswitwe, Langschwanzwitwe ... Irish: Víoda parthais ... Italian: Vedova del Paradiso codalarga, Vedova paradisea codalarga, Vedova paradisea orientale / del Togo / codalunga ... Japanese: obirohououjaku, minamiobirohououjaku, toagohououjaku, onagahououjaku ... Kwangali:Harusira ... Norwegian: Storhaleenke, Bredhaleenke, Langhaleenke, Paradisenke, Drageenke, Dragehaleenke ... Polish: Wdówka ozdobna / szerokosterna / rajska, Viúva-do-paraíso-oriental, wdówka dlugosterna / długosterna,rdzawoszyja ... Portuguese: Viúva-do-paraíso-de-cauda-larga, Viúva-do-paraíso-orienta ... Russian: Широкохвостая райская вдовушка, Длиннохвостая вдовушка ... Shona:Nyambubundu ... Slovak: Vdovka rajská / sahelská / širokochvostá / dlhochvostá .. . Spanish: Viuda del Paraíso Norteña de Cola Ancha, Viuda Coliancha / Chillona / del Paraíso de Cola Larga / de Togo, Togolesa ... Swahili: Fumbwe Mkia-mrefu / Mkia-mpana ... Swedish: Sudanparadisänka, Bredstjärtad paradisänka, Vanlig paradisänka, Långstjärtad paradisänka ... Tsonga: Mitikahincila ... Zulu: uJojokhaya