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The Southern Red bishop 

The southern red bishop : (Euplectes orix) also known as the red bishop is a small passerine bird belonging to the bishop and widowbird in the family Ploceidae. It is a small dumpy sparrow-like weaver, about ten to eleven centimeters in size and is a common resident in wetlands and grasslands in Africa south of the equator. Formerly, you can regard this species as the Red bishop in the North and South Africa. However over the years, the native Red bishop was classified into two separate birds called the Northern Red bishop and the southern Red bishop. Both species have similar appearances since they are sister species, though they do have some distinct features to distinguish their differences. At first glimpse, you will have a difficult time identifying the differences between the two species; the Northern and southern Red bishop. Both birds have almost the same color of plumage, including black and orange and sometimes red though these bright colors only vary its placement on both birds. In Uganda, the Pearl of Africa you can find this marvelous bird in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Physical description

It is thin, small dumpy sparrow like weaver with a length of 10-11 centimeters with a thick conical bill. The breeding male is a mix of velvety vermilion and black, the narrow black fore crown is diagnostic and they are brightly colored with red (occasionally orange) and black plumage. The face, throat and forehead are black and the rest of the head is red. The upper parts are red apart from the brown wings and tail. The upper breast and under tail-coverts are red while the lower breast and belly are black with a short tail and strong buff eyebrow and are difficult to tell apart from other bishops.  The non-breeding females and males have streaky brown plumage, paler below, brown with blackish- brown central streaks on feathers, cheeks and ear-coverts are pale brown. Chin and throat are whitish, breast and flanks are pale buff with fine central streaks. Belly, vent and under tail-coverts are white. Wings and tail are brown and there is a pale yellow stripe above each eye that is mostly and normally spotted in the male. The female is very similar to the non-breeding male but she is smaller and less densely streaked on the underparts and her bill, legs and feet are pale pinkish and her eyes are dark brown.  Females and juveniles have thick, conical, horn-colored bills, males have a darker tinge to their bills and young males molt into their adult plumage at the early age of one year, but in most cases its always 18months to two years old.  

Behaviour

The red Bishop is a gregarious bird, which is often fond of the company of others, and usually go out in flocks whenever they build nests, they do it in groups thus creating nests in colonies not individually. Although there are no many records about their predators, studies show that these birds build their nests withing reed beds near water to provide coverage from any nearby predators. The species feeds mainly on seeds from numerous plant species and arthropods and forages in small groups with the common starling birds. The species usually feeds twice a day; in the morning and in the late afternoon. The male bird is polygamous and may own up to seven or six females or even more in his territory. It performs several displays from threat to courtship, the threat display shows the male with fluffed out plumage, usually the rump, exposing its black facial mask surrounded by the red- orange ruff. The southern red bishop also performs Bumble-Bee-like flight with rapid wing-beats producing buzzy sounds during the breeding period. It flies airily about over the reed bed, with fluffed out plumage. Pairs and small flocks are always close to water when breeding and mixed species colonies occur in reed beds and swampy grasslands however they disperse into neighboring scrubs in the non-breeding season, often in flocks. The female species has various twittering calls and a nasal contact call while the male has a buzzing song. The song is an extended fizzling sizzle.

Reproduction

The southern red bishop is a highly polygamous and colonially a breeding weaverbird. The male successful mating is determined by the total number of nests built per male during the breeding season, and it is declined by the proportion of unstable nests; nests that become squashed or deformed per male.  The number of nests built increased with longer territory tenures, larger proportions of unstable nests, shorter time delays between consecutive nest- building attempts and shorter nest-building times. Nests are characterized by the density of fibers in the nest chambers describing size and transformation. Females prefer nests that are more densely woven and have larger entrance roof covers and the nest durability. However this preference probably reflects only a general rejection of bad nests, since nest characteristics do not differ among males and cannot detectable effects on male mating success. Young males have small nests built in number, consequently having lower mating success compared to the old males who have an increased number of nests. During the breeding season, the male birds build several nests averaging seven in the colony in order to attract females and to perform their display-flight to attract females using their puffed body plumage this is why they are described as sexually dimorphic. Nest building work can last for two to three days. The female lines the interior with plant grass and seed heads, and continues during the incubation. The nest is usually placed in reeds, maize fields, sedges and other aquatic plants standing in water, and often 2 metres above the water. The bird also performs displays like the Bumble-Bee-like flight with rapid wing-beats producing buzzy sounds while singing. And the other, the males performs aerial displays over the territory to attract females in his colony during the breeding season. The female lays 3pale blue-green or turquoise eggs. Sometimes, two females lay in the same nest, involving double brood. The incubation lasts about 12-13 days and incubated by the female only. After hatching, she also feeds the chicks, firstly by regurgitation of seeds. Later they fledge at the age of 11-15 days after hatching, but they are always able to leave the nest at the age of 10 days if they are disturbed. The young male can breed at two years whilst the young female can breed at one year of age. The other interesting fact is that the species are polygamous; one male are free to mate with females averaging six which is natural to them. This draws the reason as to why the males build a number of nests in colonies.

Feeding and diet

Apparent on the feeding habit, this species has a very simple food source, mainly including grass seeds. The bird also feeds on various grasses which are carotenoid producing pigments that give them the orange or red plumage. Besides the grass, they also eat small insects and they are considerably good at hunting insects, whether on land or whilst flying like beetles, caterpillars, termites, spiders, flies dragonflies and their larva in seaweeds on beaches. The diet of the bird varies throughout the seasons, depending on what their body needs since the pigments on their plumage is very diet- dependent. In addition the bird also feeds on seeds of wheat, maize and about 24 other plant species.

 

 

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