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Dusky Indigobird - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Variable Indigobird)

Alternative name: Variable Indigobird

Male in breeding plumage.
Photo by megan perkins
Creighton, South Africa, January 2007
Vidua funerea


Length 11-12 cm, mass 15 g
Adult breeding male: Dull bluish or greenish black; Tail and flight feathers blackish brown. Eyes dark brown, bill white or pale pink, legs and feet orange-red.
Adult non-breeding male and adult female: Head with bold buff and dark brown stripes and back buff, streaked black. Greyish white below, darker on breast and flanks.

Similar Species

The southern race can be distiguished from other Indigobirds by the pale bill and orange-red legs and feet. However, the northern race (found north of the Limpopo River) is very similar to the Purple Indigobird; here it is best distiguished by call.

Photo by Alan Manson
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa


Sub-Saharan Africa. Discontinuous; Malawi, much of Zambia, eastern Zimbabwe, parts of Mozambique, eSwatini, Lesotho and eastern South Africa. There are isolated populations in Tanzania, Kenya, Cameroon and Nigeria.


Vidua funerea has two subspecies:

  • V. f. funerea from eastern South Africa, eSwatini, Lesotho and Mozambique south of the Limpopo River; legs and feet orange-red in adult breeding male and pale purplish grey or pale orange in female; and
  • V. f. nigerrima from eastern Zimbabwe northwards; slightly smaller than the nominate race; the legs and feet are pale purple in both sexes.
Photo by CollinBax
Imfolozi, KwaZulu-Natal, December 2009


Woodland, forest edges, grassy rank vegetation, cultivated lands and gardens.



Forages on bare and sparsely vegetated ground for small seeds. Takes termite aletes in flight. Females and nonbreeding males are inconspicuous, often feeding in mixed-species flocks.


The Dusky Indigobird is a brood parasite, the host species being the African Firefinch.


Males are conspicuous in breeding season when they call for long periods from a prominent perch.
Male gives harsh 'chichichichi' call
Song: incorporates both scratchy notes and trills and tinkling phrases from the song of the African Firefinch (host).


  1. Clements, JF. 2011. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to August 2011. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/downloadable-clements-checklist

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