Pin tailed Whydah
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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. pin tailed whydah
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  • Scientific Name: Vidua macroura
  • Sub Species in country / area of origin: None
  • Origin / Distribution: Most of Africa south of the Sahara desert.
  • Habitat In Wild: Open Savannah, local villages and farmlands.
  • Status In Wild: Secure
  • Status In (Australian) Captivity: Rare
  • Age To Sexual Maturity: About 2 years
  • Adult plumage: Eclipse plumage attained at about  2 - 3 months  
  • Best breeding years (estimate): 24 months - 12th year.
  • Lifespan (estimate): approx. 12 or more years.
  • Sexing: Monomorphic outside breeding season / Dimorphic in breeding season.
  • Mutations: None
  • Availability: Specialist breeders
  • Temperament: Parasitic bird and generally kept with a colony of Saint Helena Finches.  The St Helena breeding pairs raise the whydah's young as well as their own.  Require a large planted aviary.  One cock bird can be kept with multiple hens.
  • Cost (Victoria) Per Pair: - Normal colour (Approx.) $1500
  • Description Of Adults:
  1. Length: Cock bird Approx. 300 mm (or approx. 12 inches) in nuptial plumage (mostly tail feather), Hens about 130 mm (or approx 5 - 6 inches)
  2. Colour ( "normal" colour ): Refer photo/s above if available.
  3. Weight: Approx. 15 - 17 gms (or approx. 1/2 oz)

The name "the king of six" refers to the 6 long tail feathers in the cock bird's nuptial plumage.  The hen maintains the same tail length throughout the year and the plumage has only minimal variation during the year.  During the non-breeding season the hen and cock bird look similar.  Juveniles are monomorphic.  The cock bird will lose the nuptial plumage and attain the eclipse plumage in about May each year.  The nuptial plumage is attained in about October or November but this can vary according to the age of the bird and the proximity of other cock bird/s.

Aviary Notes:

Level Of Knowledge Required: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced / Specialist Breeders Only.

Government Regulations & By-Laws:  Refer to "Government Laws" web page.

Refer to "St Helena Waxbill" web page for details of housing, feeding, nesting and breeding of St Helena Waxbills.

Housing Requirements: Click on "Housing birds" web page for full details on the housing of Weavers & Whydahs or read on for specific details for this finch.

Adult birds are not suitable for housing in canary style cages.  May be kept with other finches but with their rarity in Australian aviaries it would be best to give each pair an aviary of their own along with the St Helena hosts.

In Australia these parasitic birds and generally kept with a colony of Saint Helena Finches.  The St Helena breeding pairs raise the whydah's young along with their own.  Require a large planted aviary.  One cock bird can be kept with multiple hens but only one cock Pin tailed per aviary.  If more than one cock bird is in the same aviary during the breeding season, the dominant bird may kill the other cock bird.

Pin tailed Whydahs need a large well planted aviary for themselves and the host St Helena finches.  Multiple cock birds can be kept in the same aviary only when the cock birds are in their eclipse plumage.

One cock bird can be housed with up to 6 hens in an aviary.

Pin tailed Whydahs spend a lot of time on the ground.  

Diet / Feeding: Click on "Weavers & Whydahs" web page for full details on the nutrition of Weavers & Whydahs or read on for specific details for this finch.

Weavers and whydahs are seed eaters that require significant quantities of live food to raise their young.  A variety of insects gives best results e.g. mealworms, crickets, small grass hoppers, small cockroaches, termites, moths etc.

A good quality finch mix, seeding grasses/grains and a variety of insects are necessary.  Some fruits (e.g. apple) and some leafy green vegetables can be offered.  Some people supply soaked or sprouted seed.

Basic seed mix should include Canary seed, White French Millet, Japanese Millet, and Yellow and Red Panicum.

The diet must be suitable for both the host and the Pin Tailed.  Multiple feed stations should be available in the aviary to allow all birds to get full access to at least one feed station.  More than one water bowl could also be beneficial and minimize any risk of territorial dominance around the water bowl.  Keep in mind there could be 20 or more birds in the same aviary.

Nesting:  A basic overview only.

  • Roosting nest: Yes / No
  • Nesting months:  Spring to early autumn.  Same as the St Helena Waxbills.
  • Nesting receptacles:  St Helena Waxbills will build a nest in a shrub or dry brush.  Equally it will build a nest in a wide variety of artificial nests.  In a breeding cage they will use a half open wooden nest box.
  • Nesting materials:  St Helena Waxbills build a dome shaped nest with a downward sloping entrance tunnel.  The nest is made of grasses.  Nest is lined with feathers and soft fine grasses.  The nest may have two levels with the top smaller cavity being used by the cock bird.
  • Who incubates the eggs: Hen / cock / both share.  Both St. Helena Waxbill parents build the nest.

Pin tailed Whydahs do not build their own nests.  They lay their eggs in other host estrildid finch nests which in Australia is usually the St. Helena Waxbill nest.  Nesting has to be synchronized to maximize the breeding results of both species.

There must be adequate suitable nest sites and suitable nest materials available for all the St Helena pairs to build good nests.  Parent St Helena birds generally reuse the nest for subsequent clutches.  Adequate new nest material must be available for the birds to refurbish the old nest or build a new nest for the next clutch.

Breeding: Egg Colour ....  Clutch/s per year .. multiple.  Eggs per nest 1.  Incubation approx.  12 - 14 days.  Fledge approx. 3 weeks.  Independent approx. another 3 - 4 weeks.

They will not breed without the support of a parasitic host/s.  Pair bonding is strong but the same birds do not have to be paired up each breeding season.  The Pin tailed Whydahs do not take any part in the incubation of the eggs or rearing of the of the young.  The hen Pin tail does not destroy or interfere with the St Helena eggs.  Both species of eggs and young are treated equally by the St Helena birds.

Parasitic bird and generally kept with a colony of Saint Helena Waxbills.  The St Helena breeding pairs raise the whydah's young.  Successful breeding requires a large planted aviary.  One cock Pin tailed bird can be kept with multiple hens but only one cock Pin tailed per aviary.  Success can only be achieved if the St Helena finches and the Pin tailed Whydah birds are synchronized in their nesting and laying cycle.

The Pin tailed young generally leave the nest a day or so before the St Helena young.

A Pin tailed hen will lay one egg in a St Helena nest, however if there are multiple Pin tailed hens in one aviary more than one Pin tailed egg may be laid in one St Helena nest.

In an aviary it is generally safe to leave the young in the same aviary after they become independent.  However care and observation must be used to check if any young are being harassed and take appropriate action such as removing the young (fully independent) bird and placing it in another safer aviary or holding cage.

Due to the nest design, nest inspection is not easy but a moderate number of inspections are generally tolerated especially in birds housed in cages.  In an aviary it is generally safe to leave both species of young in the same aviary after they become independent.  Care has to be taken to ensure the aviary does not become over crowded.

The cock bird the nuptial plumage includes a longer set of 4 black tail feathers.  In the eclipse plumage both sexes are similar.  The nuptial plumage is only retained for the breeding season.  The nuptial plumage is attained about one month prior to the breeding season and looses the nuptial plumage within about one month of the end of the breeding season.

In Australia there are no records of Pin Tailed Whydahs hybridizing with other species of Weavers or Whydahs.

Artificial incubation, hand rearing or fostering will not be covered on this web site.  It is too complex and diverse in nature to be attempted here.  Refer "Specific References" as listed below and "General References" listings.

Health Issues:  Refer  "Avian Health Issues" web page for information and references.

  • Worming and parasite control and Quarantine requirements of new bird/s or sick bird/s are considered to require veterinary advice and therefore not covered on this web site.  Refer "Avian Health Issues" web page option.
  • Avian medicine is advancing at a rapid pace.  Keep updating your knowledge and skills.

General References:  Refer to references listed on "Book References" web page.

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture
  • A/A Vol 48 No. 10 Oct 1994 Page 243-246 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 48 No. 11 Nov 1994 Page 256 (Error correction for V48 No.10)
  • A/A Vol 19 No 3 Mar 1965 Page 43-47 (Inc colour plate).
  • A/A Vol 14 No. 12 Dec 1960 Page 161-162.
  • A/A Vol 6 No 4 Apr 1952 Page 44-46.
  • A/A Vol 5 No 12 Dec 1951 Page 140-142.
  • A/A Vol 5 No 3 Mar 1951 Page 29-30.
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 10 Issue 10. Aug-Sept 1997  Page 486-489
  • ABK Vol  4  Issue 7.  Feb-Mar 1991  Page 305-308

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