Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura)

Pin-tailed Whydah


The pin-tailed whydah (Vidua macroura) is a small songbird with a conspicuous pennant-like tail in breeding males. It is a resident breeding bird in most of Africa south of the Sahara Desert. The pin-tailed whydah is 12–13 cm in length, although the breeding male's tail adds another 20 cm to this. The adult male has a black back and crown, and a very long black tail. The wings are dark brown with white patches, and the underparts and the head, apart from the crown, are white. The bill is bright red. The female and non-breeding male have streaked brown upperparts, whitish underparts with buff flanks, and a buff and black face pattern. They lack the long tail extension, but retain the red bill. Immature birds are like the female but plainer and with a greyish bill.

Distribution And Habitat

The Pin-tailed Whydah is native to Sub-Saharan Africa and was introduced to Puerto Rico where it was first recorded in 1971 (Raffaele and Kepler 1992). In Puerto Rico, it is most common in the lowlands and can be regularly seen in the grassy fields and fence lines near La Parguera in the municipality of Lajas (Oberle 2018). It also occurs on Vieques, where it is a fairly recent arrival (Gemmill 2015). This species habitat includes mostly grasslands, lawns (Oberle 2018), and fields with short grasses (Raffaele and others 1998). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 281 records within 168 hexagons or 35 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 168 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 10 percent (17) of the hexagons, probable in 48 percent (80), and possible in 40 percent (68), while the species was observed in 2 percent (3) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map). Pin-tailed Whydah 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.

Pin-tailed Whydah Distribution

Breeding Habits

Previously published reports indicate that the Pin-tailed Whydah breeds from April through November, and it does not build a nest; rather, the female lays her eggs in the nests of other birds, especially waxbills and other nonnative finches (Oberle 2018, Raffaele and others 1998). Atlas results show that this species breeding season 237Pin-tailed Whydah/Viuda Colicintaextends throughout the year, with the most breeding activity from May to July (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 forest life zone (72 percent of the hexagons) (see table). It also breeds in the coastal plains of the subtropical dry forest life zone (21 percent of the hexagons) and at higher elevations within subtropical wet and subtropical rain forest life zones as well (7 and 1 percent of the hexagons, respectively) (see table and map).


The global population size of the Pin-tailed Whydah has not been quantified or assessed, but the species is described as uncommon (Borrow and Demey 2001), and 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). After Hurricanes Irma and María in September 2017, the whydah population declined in the Fajardo Christmas Bird Count (Wunderle, Jr. 2017) in the northeast portion of the island and elsewhere, but it has since been found in large groups in the southwest portion of the island (J.A. Salguero- Faría, personal observation 2009). Locally, this species is not listed in any of the threatened categories of PRDNER and USFWS. In Puerto Rico, the Pin- tailed Whydah has a protected habitat in land of 10 percent or 385 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (3943 km2).