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Species Guide
A photo of a Long-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes progne), male
Long-tailed Widowbird, Male

Long-tailed Widowbird

Euplectes progne

The long-tailed widowbird, Euplectes progne, is a medium-sized bird, notable for its striking sexual dimorphism. The males, particularly during the breeding season, are a sight to behold with their predominantly black plumage, accented by vivid orange and white shoulder patches, known as epaulets, and their extraordinarily elongated tails. The females, in contrast, are more subdued in appearance, with streaked tawny and black feathers and shorter, narrower tails.

Identification Tips

Adult breeding males are almost entirely black with distinctive orange and white shoulders and long, wide tails. Their bills are a bluish white. Females and non-breeding males are less conspicuous, with streaked plumage and horn-colored bills. The males' long tails, which can be half a meter in length, make them particularly easy to identify in flight.


This species is typically found in swampy grasslands, where they can be seen in flocks that include one or two males and several females. They are known to roost in reed beds and are found at elevations up to 2,750 meters in the Drakensberg Mountains.


The long-tailed widowbird is distributed across several regions in Africa, with populations in Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Eswatini, and Zambia.


Males are territorial during the breeding season and can be seen performing slow, deliberate wingbeats while flying low over their domains. Their long tails are displayed prominently during these flights. In inclement weather, the males' ability to fly can be hindered by the weight of their tails. Outside of the breeding season, these birds form flocks and roost communally.

Song & Calls

The male's call, particularly during mating season, is a distinctive feature of this species, contributing to its mating rituals and territorial displays.


Breeding occurs from February to July, peaking in March and April. Males defend territories, which females visit before selecting a mate. Females construct dome-shaped nests in tall grasses within these territories, where they lay one to three pale bluish-green eggs streaked with brown.

Similar Species

While the long-tailed widowbird is distinctive, it may be confused with other widowbird species when not in breeding plumage. Careful observation of tail length and plumage details is necessary for accurate identification.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the long-tailed widowbird consists mainly of seeds from various grass species, supplemented by arthropods. They forage in flocks on the ground and may also catch insects in flight.

Conservation status

The long-tailed widowbird is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, with a stable population trend and a large range that does not currently face significant threats.

Long-tailed Widowbird Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Long-tailed Widowbirds on Birda


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