Fun Pin-tailed Whydah Facts For Kids

Hannah Bowyer
Nov 18, 2022 By Hannah Bowyer
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Isobel Murphy
Fact-checked by Shray Sharma
Check out pin-tailed whydah facts here.

The pin-tailed whydah (vidua macroura), also called a 'widowbird', is one of the most beautiful native songbirds of the sub-Saharan Africa. It was later introduced in Puerto Rico, California, and other Orange Counties.

Pin-tailed whydahs are brood parasites which means that they do not make their own nests, but rather lay their eggs on the nests of other birds.

In their native range in sub-Saharan habitats and South Africa, pin-tailed whydahs take advantage of more than 20 bird species to foster and raise their offspring. As cute as they seem, there is a rising concern about how an influx of pin-tailed whydahs can affect native birds.

If you liked reading these fun facts about pin-tailed whydah birds, you may also want to check out our articles about the glossy black cockatoo and the southern short-tailed shrew.

Pin-Tailed Whydah Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a pin-tailed whydah?

Pin-tailed whydahs are beautiful songbirds. They are a Southern African bird species that belongs to the Viduidae birds family group which includes birds such as whydahs, indigobirds, and cuckoo finch birds.

What class of animal does a pin-tailed whydah belong to?

Pin-tailed whydahs belong to the Aves class of birds. Of 10,000 bird species, the pin-tailed whydah is one of 100 bird parasites.

How many pin-tailed whydahs are there in the world?

Although there is no official record of how many pin-tailed whydahs exist, it is evident that there is a growing number of pin-tailed whydahs in the world. They have made their way from southern Africa to other parts of the globe through the exotic pet trade since the early '90s.

Today, the pin-tailed whydah can be found in other regions including North America and Southeast Asia.

However, Mark Hauber has noted that the existence of pin-tailed whydahs outside of Africa is mainly due to human transport and not through migration. This means that the growing number of pin-tailed whydahs is contained locally.

Where does a pin-tailed whydah live?

Pin-tailed whydahs originated from sub-Saharan Africa, commonly sighted in the savannas. Although in recent years, researchers have noted an influx of pin-tailed whydahs in parks in North America in places such as California and New York.

What is a pin-tailed whydah's habitat?

These African native birds are typically found in open habitats such as tropical grasslands, experiencing warm temperatures throughout the year. They also often reside in fields, forest clearings, and cultivated spaces, especially near bodies of water.

Who do pin-tailed whydahs live with?

Pin-tailed whydahs live in small groups. Typically one long-tailed male and several females live with their non-breeding young. They blend with other finches that can potentially be hosts of their offspring.

This is also why breeders usually place them with a waxbill colony. Since whydah's parasitism involves leaving their eggs in other birds' nests, baby pin-tailed whydahs are forced to live with their host parents until they become independent. Nonetheless, pin-tailed whydahs live together during the non-breeding season.

How long does a pin-tailed whydah live?

A pin-tailed whydah can live up to 12 or more years.

How do they reproduce?

An adult male pin-tailed whydah develops a breeding plumage during the mating season. It grows beautiful long pin-tailed whydah tail feathers, sometimes up to twice his body length!

In the breeding season, it courts a potential female partner by flapping its long black feathers as it sings and dances in the air. Its artistic feather display and playful churring aim to lure his partner into mating.

After mating, the male pin-tailed whydah moves on and finds another partner to reproduce with, while the female pin-tailed whydah lays her eggs on another bird's nest.

The breeding season in different regions may vary but it is usually during the summer months, the same time as the breeding season of host species. Both male and female pin-tailed whydahs are polygamous.

What is their conservation status?

Pin-tailed whydahs do not classify in any risk category. Its conservation status is noted as Least Concern.

Pin-Tailed Whydah Fun Facts

What do pin-tailed whydahs look like?

The female and the non-breeding male both have brown and white streaks on their bodies with a red-orange bill. The rest of the body has black and brown feathers.

An adult male in full breeding plumage will display a long tail and will have dark brown wings with white patches and a bright red bill. The inner section of the body which includes the nape, rump, chin, neck, underparts, and throat is pure white. They have brown eyes and gray feet.

How cute are they?

Pin-tailed whydah (Vidua macroura) birds can be really cute, especially males in full breeding plumage. This, and their distinct breeding routines (including the impressive dance that male pin-tailed whydah display) have made them popular in the exotic pet trade.

How do they communicate?

Pin-tailed whydah (Vidua macroura) birds are songbirds with a distinct pin-tailed whydah call. The males' courting habits include flapping and chirping in the air, with a beautiful feather tail display.

Baby whydahs are believed to mimic some patterns of the hosts' own hatchlings in order to prevent detection. Their begging calls and begging postures can be alike, but whydah chicks are often bigger and louder than the hosts' chicks, which enables them to get more attention and resources from the host parents.

How big is a pin-tailed whydah?

While female pin-tailed whydahs remain at about 4.7 in (12 cm) long, a male pin-tailed whydah can grow an additional 7.9 in (20 cm) long tail during the mating season. This gorgeous feather tail can range up to twice as long as the male pin-tailed whydah's own body.

How fast can a pin-tailed whydah fly?

Although males perform spectacular flight displays during the breeding season, pin-tailed whydahs are not good flyers. They cannot fly long distances and cannot cross waters.

Their existence in other parts of the globe was not by migration but rather caused by human transport and exploitation. Both male and female pin-tailed whydahs have unpredictable and sloppy flying patterns during the non-breeding season.

How much does a pin-tailed whydah weigh?

The weights of the pin-tailed whydah range from 0.04-0.06 lb (20-30 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male and female pin-tailed whydahs are both called 'Vidua macroura' in scientific terms. There is no specific term for male or female pin-tailed whydahs. In Africa, these native finches are known as 'koninggrooibekkie' which means 'king with a red beak'.

What would you call a baby pin-tailed whydah?

There is no particular name for a baby pin-tailed whydah (Vidua macroura). These chicks do not experience the care of their own mothers in a dedicated pin-tailed whydah nest as they are left in other birds' nests even before hatching.

What do they eat?

Pin-tailed whydahs are insectivores and often prey on butterflies, bees, and ants. They also savor greens and seeds.

Are they beneficial?

Pin-tailed whydahs are known to be a brood parasite species.

Although the female pin-tailed whydah can produce more than 20 eggs per breeding season, pin-tailed whydahs take no responsibility for their offspring, simply laying and leaving their eggs on the nests of other bird species. Even though some species are able to recognize whydah's eggs, birds like the common waxbill and the orange-breasted waxbill can be very naive.

Tricked into fostering the parasite whydah's eggs, the host species have to use their own resources to raise pin-tailed whydah chicks.

This can be detrimental to the welfare of the host species' own offspring because foster mothers need more resources to look after these additional babies. Sometimes, the hosts' own chicks don't survive.

Such a parasitic lifestyle exhibited by whydahs can disrupt the local ecosystem and an influx of these brood parasites in a habitat can have a damaging effect on other bird species.

Would they make a good pet?

Having pin-tailed whydahs as pets may take a lot of work. For instance, male pin-tailed whydahs and their long feathered tail require a bigger enclosure during the breeding season.

Males can also be very aggressive. They have the tendency to bully other finches of the same or smaller sizes, even in the non-breeding season.

Despite this, people remain very fascinated with the beauty of pin-tailed whydahs and many still choose to have them as pets. However, if these brood parasites escape from human captivity and start breeding it can threaten other bird species and also damage the local ecosystem.

Did you know...

The eggs of a parasitic pin-tailed whydah are usually one-third bigger than the host's eggs. Despite the difference in the texture of the eggs, they still manage to trick other finches. A common waxbill is often their victim because these birds share the same characteristics.

Mother whydahs do not destroy the host species' eggs, unlike other parasitic birds. They only add two to four eggs to the existing ones in the host's nest. The surviving offsprings grow up together but juvenile pin-tailed whydah birds tend to be more aggressive than others when competing for resources and attention.

What's special about the pin-tailed whydah?

The distinct breeding routine of pin-tailed whydahs is something special about them, as well as the fact that they are brood parasites. Males play an important role in breeding with a spectacular performance during courtship.

They exhibit boldness and arrogance as they display their charming long feather tails to attract their potential partner.

They hover in a circular motion, then flick their wings as they sing for their potential mate. Such a performance can be daunting and this has caught the attention of many exotic pet enthusiasts across the globe.

How to pronounce 'whydah'?

'Whydah' is pronounced 'wai-duh'.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the hermit thrush or the Indian roller

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our lilac-breasted roller coloring pages.

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Written by Hannah Bowyer

Bachelor of Communication specializing in Media Arts Production, Communication, and Media Studies

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Hannah BowyerBachelor of Communication specializing in Media Arts Production, Communication, and Media Studies

A fitness enthusiast with a passion for helping people find their best selves, Hannah is a qualified personal trainer who is currently training to be a yoga instructor. She is also knowledgeable about mindfulness and meditation. Hannah has lived and worked in many different countries across Asia and the Americas over the last four years, and loves to write about her travels. Her dynamic nature is reflected in her love for running, whether it's towards a plane or a personal best.

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Fact-checked by Shray Sharma

Bachelor of Technology specializing in Computer Science Engineering

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Shray SharmaBachelor of Technology specializing in Computer Science Engineering

As an aspiring web and app developer, Shray has a passion for working with promising startups. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Maharaja Surajmal Institute Of Technology while gaining experience in digital marketing. Shray has already earned a Google Analytics Certification and is well-equipped to handle analytics and data management tasks. He has also served as a marketing manager at Parallax Virtual Arts, where he oversaw the company's social media, content, and SEO strategies. Shray's goal is to create engaging content that resonates with audiences and offers valuable insights.

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