Dancing widows and whydahs

Grumeti · January 2020
By George David Tolchard
Head Guide

Widowbirds and whydahs have been dancing all over the grasslands this month with some lovely displays.

We have a number of different species here on the Grumeti and they all make for fantastic viewing. These birds are most impressive when they are breeding and this usually happens during the summer rains when the grasses are longer. Male widowbirds and whydahs are seen flitting over the top of the golden grasses as they present themselves to the females.

A male’s territory is also known as an arena and this is where he will advertise to the females.

The neighbouring territory may well be taken by another male that is competing for female widowbirds in the same way. Watching the males dance around their arena is a marvellous experience.

This month we have seen the yellow-mantled widowbird very active as well as others such as the fan-tailed and white-winged widowbirds and the very impressive red-collared widowbird (below right).

Whydahs this month include the pin-tailed, straw-tailed, eastern paradise and steel-blue, all of which are impressive to see in breeding plumage. When the males are advertising like this at this time of year they are entirely conspicuous and therefore exposed to predation but it’s worth the risk in order to gain breeding rights with the females and continue their bloodline.

In non-breeding season the male birds will undergo a feather moult, losing their brilliant display feathers as they return to a rather drab eclipse plumage once again.

Main image: A red-collared widowbird. Photo by Emma Wilson

By George David Tolchard
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