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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: The Paradise-Whydah

Air Date: Week of

The exact reasons for intricate breeding displays like that of the male Eastern Paradise Whydah are still up for debate within the scientific community. But whatever the reason, this Whydah catches eyes with his long trailing tail feathers. (Photo: Bernard Dupont, CC).

BIRDNOTE®: THE PARADISE-WHYDAH: Imagine if you had to grow your own evening gown just to attend a party. That's essentially what males of the East-African songbird species the Paradise-Whydah do every breeding season. These little finches sprout incredible tail feathers, many times the length of their bodies, all so the females of the species get to pick who wore it best. BirdNote®’s Mary McCann has the scoop.


CURWOOD: We stay with African birds with this Birdnote from Mary McCann.


[Paradise-Whydah song, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/28128281#_ga=2.130237135.1927678623.15..., 0.22-.28] 
A few times each year, the Eastern Paradise-Whydah puts on its party clothes. 
This small finch, found in East Africa, is just five inches long, with a black tail, brown back, and patterned face markings. But when it’s time to mate, the male molts into breeding plumage. His head turns glossy black, his neck golden yellow, and breast a vivid orange.

Not every male Paradise-Whydah is “Mr. Right”. (Photo: Josh More, CC)

But the best part? He sprouts extravagant, long, black tail feathers two or three times the length of his body. 
[Paradise-Whydah song, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/28128281#_ga=2.130237135.1927678623.15..., 0.22-.28] 
The male Paradise-Whydah’s tail feathers are not just super long but also broad, as if they belonged to a much bigger bird. It almost looks like the bird is wearing a long black cape. That’s how it got its nickname, “the widow bird” -- because it looks like a widowed woman in black mourning clothes. 
[Paradise-Whydah song, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/28128281#_ga=2.130237135.1927678623.15..., 0.22-.28] 
It’s a competitive scene during breeding season, with lots of long-tailed males chasing one another. 
 [Eastern Paradise-Whydah call, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/28128281#_ga=2.130237135.1927678623.15... , 0.32-.33] 

Ahh, much better! (Photo: R. A. Killmer, CC)

The more a male gets chased, the more likely he is to grow a slightly shorter tail, which could make it harder for him to stand out for the ladies. 
So just remember: never underestimate the power of a good party outfit. 

Written by Bob Sundstrom
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. ML 28128281 recorded by Andrew Spencer
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2020 BirdNote   June  2020    Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#  EPWH-01-2020-06-16       EPWH-01  

Whydah is pronounced WHY-duh

about chasing males http://southafrica.co.za/long-tailed-paradise-whydah.html


CURWOOD: For pictures, head to the living on earth website LOE.org and stay tuned for a brief lesson in speaking chimpanzee with Jane Goodall.



Click here to learn more about this story on the BirdNote website

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | “Let’s talk about birds: Paradise-Whydah”


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