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Steel-blue Whydah - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Steel-blue Widow

Breeding male
Photo by Mike Barth
Awash National Park, Ethiopia, July 2014
Vidua hypocherina


10-11 cm (4-4¼ in), breeding male 30-31 cm (11¾-12¼ in) including tail.


  • Glossy blue-black plumage with (usually concealed) small white patch on upper flank
  • Extremely elongated central two pairs of tail feathers
  • Dark brown upperwing, white inner webs of primaries and secondaries (visible as broad white band from below), white underwing-coverts
  • White short and stubby bill
  • Grey legs
  • Similar to female in non-breeding, but with more distinctly blackish and white head markings


  • Dark brown crown with whitish central streak
  • Whitish supercilium
  • Light greyish face with dark streak behind eye and indistinct streak below greyish ear patch
  • Grey-brown upperparts with black streaks
  • Dark tail with white edge on inside and tips of feathers and narrower white edge on outer margin
  • Brown upperwing, buffy white inner webs of primaries and secondaries
  • Grey breast, whitish throat, side of breast and flanks, streaked buff and grey
  • White undertail-coverts and underwing-coverts
  • Grey bill, darker on upper mandible

Juveniles are similar to females.

Similar species

Female and non-breeding male differ from other Whydahs by tiny pale bill, grey legs and more definite eyestripe. They also have a less strongly patterned face, less rufous on head and upperparts and a smaller grey bill than Pin-tailed Whydah.


Eastern Africa: South Sudan, northeast Uganda, Ethiopia, northwest and southern Somalia, Kenya and south to central Tanzania.
Uncommon in its range.


This is a monotypic species.


Bushy habitats below 1400m and dry savanna.



Feeds on small grass seeds. Forages on the ground. Searches for seeds by rapidly kicking aside topsoil with one foot and then the other, then hops backwards and pecks.


A brood-parasitic, main hosts are Black-cheeked Waxbill and Black-lored Waxbill. Lays in May in South Sudan, season June to September at Lake Baringo (Kenya) and May to July at Lake Victoria. Lays one or two eggs in a parasitized nest.


A resident species, some seasonal movements occurs.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved August 2014)

Recommended Citation

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