Northern Red Bishop (Euplectes franciscanus)

Northern Red Bishop


The northern red bishop or orange bishop (Euplectes franciscanus) is a small passerine bird in the family Ploceidae. It is part of the largest genus in the family with over 60 different species. Its sister species is the Southern red bishop (Euplectes orix). This species is most recognizable by the bright reddish orange with contrasting black plumage displayed by the breeding male. It is most common throughout the northern African continent but has also been introduced to areas in the western hemisphere. This short-tailed bishop is small in size, about 11 cm and weighing about 12-22 grams. The striking red-orange feathers are produced by pigments derived from compounds in their diet. Specifically, the yellow, orange, and red pigments originate from compounds called carotenoids, which are very diet-dependent. Lutein and two red fractions (R1 and R2) derived from lutein are the two dominating carotenoids that contribute to the bird's pigment in the wild. Northern red bishops held in captivity lack the R2 red fraction carotenoid from their diet. This plumage is present on the backside of the male and wraps around the chin to back of the head, throat, and breast, with a dark black crown, forehead, flank, and belly. The tail and upper wings are brown, with pale legs and a black bill.

Distribution And Habitat

The Northern Red Bishop is native to Africa and has been introduced to some of the West Indies islands such as Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Croix (Raffaele and others 1998). Its popularity as a cage bird has allowed the establishment of feral populations worldwide (del Hoyo and others 2013). First observed on Puerto Rico in 1971 (Raffaele and Kepler 1992), it is uncommon in the north coast from San Juan to Arecibo and favors mostly sugarcane fields bordered by grassy edges (Raffaele 1983, Raffaele and others 1998) and wet tall grassy fields of the lowlands (Oberle 2018). It is considered a rare visitor, from Puerto Ricos mainland, on Vieques (Gemmill 2015). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 150 records within 86 hexagons or 18 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 86 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 5 percent (4) of the hexagons, probable in 60 percent (52), and possible in 34 percent (29), while the species was observed in 1 percent (1) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map). Northern Red Bishop distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding. 233Northern Red Bishop/Obispo Anaranjado

Northern Red Bishop Distribution

Breeding Habits

The Northern Red Bishop builds a bulky spherical nest, usually in dense cane or reeds, and often near water (Raffaele and others 1998). Previously published reports indicate that breeding occurs from March to November (Raffaele and others 1998). Nevertheless, atlas results show that this species breeding season extends throughout the year, with the most breeding activity from May to August (see chart). The breeding activity peaks in June, and it mostly takes place in the subtropical moist forest life zone (see chart). Results show that this species breeds mostly within the subtropical moist (69 percent of the hexagons) and subtropical dry forest life zones (30 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map).


The global population size of the Northern Red Bishop has not been quantified or assessed, but the species is described as common to abundant throughout its distribution range (Urban and others 2004). Due to the lack of evidence for any declines or substantial threats, the current population trend is suspected to be stable. This species is currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2018). Locally, this species is not listed in any of the threatened categories of PRDNER and USFWS. In Puerto Rico, the Northern Red Bishop has a protected habitat in land of 9 percent or 172 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (2009 km2).