Widow Birds

Widow Birds

 

(Viduinae), a subfamily of birds of the family Ploceidae, order Passeriformes. There are nine species. The best-known type is the paradise whydah (Steganura paradisaea), which is widespread in the African savannas (south of the Sahara). Widow birds live in flocks. They are polygamous and are nest parasites; the female deposits the eggs singly in the nests of weaverbirds (a group to which they belong). Widow birds eat seeds. Females and males not in the breeding period, and also young birds, are not brightly colored and resemble sparrows; in the mating period the males develop long tail feathers and brilliant black color predominates (hence the name widow bird). Closely related to the widow birds are weaverbirds of the genera Vidua, Hypochera, and others; in some species males in nuptial plumage also have long tails and a predominant black color; they are sometimes incorrectiy called widow birds.

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In his classic study of widow birds, Andersson (1982) found that male widow birds with artificially extended (reduced) tails secured more (fewer) mates per territory compared with unmanipulated control males.