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Red-headed Quelea - BirdForum Opus

Quelea erythrops
Photo by Alan Manson
Cedara Farm, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa


Length 11 cm, mass 15-26 cm.

Adult breeding male: The head is red, nape buffy and back and tail brown. The breast and flanks are pale brown and the belly is white. Bill black.

Adult non-breeding male: Head brown with a broad, yellow eyebrow, white chin and yellowish throat. The bill is brown. The edges of the primaries are yellow, unlike those of non-breeding widowbirds and bishops, which are buff.

Adult female: Similar to the non-breeding male, but with pale orange face and throat.


Africa: Senegal to Ethiopia and eastern South Africa.




Wetlands, damp grassland and adjoining woodland.


Occurs in large flocks (sometimes more than 1000 birds) and smaller groups. Eats grass seeds and insects.


Probably polygynous; nests in reed beds in colonies of up to 10 000 nests. Colony sites change in successive seasons. The oval nest is tightly woven by the male using blades of grass, and has a side entrance with a hood. One to three eggs are incubated for about 13 days by the female. The nestling period is 12-14 days during which the young are fed by the female.


  1. Clements, JF. 2008. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2008. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist.
  2. Hockey, PAR, WRJ Dean, and PG Ryan, eds. 2005. Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. 7th ed. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. ISBN 978-0620340533
  3. Sinclair, I and P Ryan. 2003. Birds of Africa South of the Sahara. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0691118154
  4. Birdlife Trogons Birdclub Blog, June 2011, showing series of photographs of birds in various stages of moult.

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