Tag Archives: Southern red bishop

Bishops and Monkeys

I always feel so sorry for the birds and animals that are driven away from their habitats by urbanisation.  We take over their areas and then complain when they come into our homes and gardens foraging for food.  Fortunately Durban has some amazing parks and public gardens in many suburbs and the famous Durban Botanical Gardens is a haven for some of these poor displaced creatures.  Rob and I often go to this oasis in the concrete jungle to photograph the birds and enjoy the beautiful trees and flowers.  On a visit this month we were privileged to see Southern red bishops in their striking breeding colours.

Southern red bishop

The Lotus plants growing in the little lake provide a lush backdrop for photographs, as well as a perfect place for the bishops to build their nests.  I could sit here for hours just watching these busy little birds as they go about their business.

Southern red bishop Southern red bishop

If you want to read more about them, click here for Rob’s post which gives details about the birds.

Southern red bishop

It’s not only the Southern red bishops that are the attraction at the Durban Botanical Gardens – we also quite fancy visiting the charity kiosk to indulge in tea and scones or crumpets after watching the birds.  We had an audience as we relaxed with a cuppa – this monkey and her baby were looking for an opportunity to grab a scone if they could.

Mother and baby monkey

Feeding the monkeys is forbidden, but that doesn’t prevent them from trying to look cute enough to win you over enough to break the rules.

The Breakfast Club

Over the years we’ve belonged to a number of interesting clubs that have contributed greatly to our interests and hobbies.  Hiking clubs, birding and sports clubs and the like, but I think that the most rewarding one of all has been our very own breakfast club.  Like the others, this one has its share of members who come and go, but Rob and I, being the core and founder members, are always there to keep it going and wherever our path takes us we are assured of a faithful following, hungry and grateful for our contribution to their lives.  The members of this club are, of course, our beautiful avian friends that we feed every morning.

Long-tailed paradise whydah

Initially it takes a few days for the club to get noticed, but once the word spreads we are inundated with guests.  We often find them waiting even before we have opened our doors in the morning.  They get quite impatient too – if we are late delivering they set up a dawn chorus of chirps to remind us that they’re hungry.  It’s gratifying to see how popular our unofficial restaurant has become.


We get to know the little quirks and eccentricities of some of the regulars and that’s what makes a club like this so interesting.  It really broadens one’s knowledge of temperaments and dominant characters and personalities.  And when we move house we get to meet new and different friends and our next club is soon established and vibrant.


Here in Windhoek we have a wonderful pageant of birdies who visit us every morning.  Apart from the usual house sparrows and canaries, we get to see a number of very colourful birds.  And of course their plumage often changes with the seasons, so we also see them tranforming from their drab winter outfits and developing fine breeding feathers, then strutting their stuff in front of the ladies as they get more beautiful.


Because of the regular supply of seeds and bread, a number of southern masked weavers have built nests in the trees next to our fence.  We’ve been able to watch them rearing their babies and launching them into the world (sometimes with disastrous results!)  If we could offer crawling and flying insects as well we would have a much wider variety of birds to welcome to our space, but unfortunately that is a little more difficult than buying a packet of seeds or a loaf of bread from the local supermarket!

Southern masked weaver

Some of the birds we’ve fed here include :

Bulbuls, blue waxbills, red-headed finches, southern masked weavers, red-billed queleas, rosy-faced lovebirds, southern red bishops, long-tailed paradise whydahs, chestnut weavers, acacia pied barbets, shaft-tailed whydahs, laughing doves, speckled pigeons, pale-winged starlings, great sparrows, canaries, white-browed sparrow weavers.  (I’m sure there are a few that have slipped my mind!)


It’s delightful to start the day off watching these beautiful little creatures getting stuck in to their breakfast.  Kind of sets a peaceful tone for the rest of the day.  An added bonus is that we can photograph them too.





Bird of the week – Week 3 : Southern red bishop

During the hot summer months the reed beds around Windhoek are spotted with small bright red birds with black masks and black bellies that buzz around looking like giant bumblebees, calling in a sizzling “zik-zik-zik”. Making no attempt to hide themselves as they puff their feathers out in a display designed to impress the more numerous females, these are the beautiful male Southern red bishops.

Southern red bishop

Seemingly proud of their colourful plumage, perhaps celebrating the wonderful transformation from their drab eclipse plumage of winter, the males flaunt themselves over their small territories; as small as 3 square metres in the dense reed beds and up to a hundred times larger than this in the more open grasslands.

Southern red bishop

This small, short-tailed weaver, just about 12 cms long when fully grown, is common through most of Africa south of the equator. The females are slightly smaller than the males and do not adopt the colourful plumage of the males during the breeding season, remaining rather drab and hard to identify little brown jobs.

Southern red bishop

The bishops are polygynous and the more successful males can attract up to eight females, and in consequence are kept quite busy building nests. The oval, woven nests are often built over water; the males being responsible for the basic structure, while the lining of the nest is contributed by the female, who will lay 1 to 5 eggs. The bishops are parasitised by the Diderick cuckoo (Chrysococcyx caprius)

Bishops feed mainly on seeds, for which they are well equipped with short heavy bills, but will also take insects and nectar. Gregarious throughout the year, non-breeding flocks can number hundreds of birds, and they are no friends of the farming community when they cause heavy losses to grain crops.

Southern red bishop

The scientific name for the Southern red bishop is a rather pointless Euplectes orix – Euplectes is from the Greek, meaning “well woven”, presumably referring to their nests, and orix from the Greek meaning “rice”, perhaps referring to the birds diet, which is mainly seeds. Not really descriptive, is it? Especially as the nests are not really well woven when compared to some of the other weavers, and they certainly don’t eat rice in Namibia. Why wasn’t that gorgeous male just called Rufus episcopus – the Red Bishop? Now that would have made sense!

Southern red bishop