Long-Tailed Widowbird

Long-Tailed Widowbird


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Population size
127-147 mm

The Long-tailed widowbird is a medium-sized African bird, 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-colored bills. Males of this species are known for their distinctly long tails, which contain twelve tail feathers. Of these twelve tail feathers, between six and eight are approximately half a meter (approximately 20 inches) long. Non-breeding males are slightly larger than females and for the most part, they are colored in the same manner as the females, except in that they are more broadly streaked above and below and have wings and wing shoulders with the morphology of the breeding males. The non-breeding males also rarely have elongated brownish-black tail feathers.


There are three known isolated populations of Long-tailed widowbirds. The first is found in the Kenyan highlands, the second in Angola, southern Zaire, and Zambia, and the third in southern Africa. Long-tailed widowbirds are generally found in swampy grassland and other open areas with tall grass.

Long-Tailed Widowbird habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Long-tailed widowbirds are social and during the non-breeding season, they congregate into flocks and often roost in reed beds. They are active during they and do most of their foraging in flocks. The birds feed on the ground and may occasionally hawk insects airily.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Long-tailed widowbirds are herbivores (granivores). Their diet generally consists of seeds, but they may supplement it occasionally with arthropods.

Mating Habits

February-July, peak in March-April
12-14 days
1 month
2-3 eggs

Long-tailed widowbirds are polygynous meaning that one male mates with more than one female. Breeding takes place from February to July, reaching its peak in March and April. During this time the males defend territories and each male will have a number of females in its territory. The males fly with their tails drooping and somewhat spread, and with slow regular movements of their wings. Females often mate with the male within whose territories they nest. Females weave nests, shaped in large dome structures with a lining of seedheads, in the high grass within males' territories. The nests are placed 0.5-1 meters (19-40 inches) off the ground in the upper third of the high grass, where the females raise their 2 to 3 chicks. Incubation typically takes about 12-14 days. The chicks fledge 17 days after hatching but remain dependent on their mother for about 2 weeks more.


Population threats

Long-tailed widowbirds do not face any known threats at present and their population is not considered threatened.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Long-tailed widowbird total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.


1. Long-Tailed Widowbird on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-tailed_widowbird
2. Long-Tailed Widowbird on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22719244/94619254

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