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Long-tailed Widowbird

Long-tailed Widowbird
Photo Information
Copyright: Stephen Earle (StephenE) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 19 W: 0 N: 111] (533)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-11-12
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon 40 D, 100-400L is
Exposure: f/6.3, 1/1600 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2007-11-13 2:03
Viewed: 7253
Points: 40
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Taken at the Rietvlei nature reserve in Pretoria South Africa.

A large widow-bird. In breeding plumage the males have very long black tails and a red shoulder patch Size 18-60 cm: Female about the same size as a Cape Sparrow - the breeding male is larger. Afrikaans: Langstertflap

The bill is short, strong and conical. The bill is pale blue-grey in breeding males and horn-coloured in females or non-breeding males. The legs and feet are black (breeding) or brown (non-breeding).

The male has a very long, floppy looking black tail and is jet black all over, save for the red patch on the shoulder, which is bordered below by a whitish band. The wings are broad and floppy looking.

The upperparts of the female are heavily streaked blackish on brown. The underparts are are brownish white, with dark brown streaking on the breast and flanks. The female has a short floppy looking tail, and is much larger than other widows

The Long-tailed widow is a common species of grassland - usually moist grassland near vleis.

It is a gregarious bird, and forms large flocks in winter. In summer the male is most likely to be seen sitting on a perch or conducting it's characteristic display flight, in which it flies slowly above the grassland, with jerky, stiff wing beats, which appear erratic in timing. At the same time the tail is held arched, so that it appears wide and heavy. In normal flight, the tail streams out behind the bird horizontally.

It eats seeds and insects.

It is not a noisy species. The male calls zik, zik, zik, zik in flight display. And sings a repeated phrase of 4 lower and 4 higher notes: twi-twi- twi- twi- twi- zizizizizizi.

Nesting takes place between mainly from December to March to February. Males are polygynous (have more than one partner), but breed in well defined territories. Males build rudimentary nest shells quite low down in the grass, to which females are attracted. Females then complete the nest. The nest is an oval shell with a side top entrance, which is woven, weaver-style from grass stems. It appears untidy and is well concealed by incorporating surrounding growing grass - which form a bower above the nest cup.

meyerd, nainnain, sandpiper2, fiftysomething, SelenE, coolnik, JoseMiguel, fartash, horia, darwin has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

Hi Stephen,
a sensational and rare but perfect shot of a widow bird, my congratulation for your knack of the right split-second. All the technical parameters are just right, wonderful.

You might know that simple clipping- off- tailfeather experiments have brought to light that such feathers are the result of sexual selection, not natural (environmental) selection.

Best gards,

  • Great 
  • jesst Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 368 W: 0 N: 172] (2441)
  • [2007-11-13 2:44]

I like it. Wonderful flight and very good shot.

Brilliant !!!

Nothing to critique here Stephen, a masterpiece. 10/10

Great sharpness, great background, great moment, even caught the eye.

Well done


Fantastic shot.So difficult to get the composition right when there is so much tail but you have done this amazingly well.

  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2007-11-13 3:55]

Hi Stephen,
What a beauty! Composition, POV, focus and sharpness are very good. TFS
Best wishes,

HI stephen,
this is a magnificient pic trackin it in the undulating flight is a feat that 8u have done brilliantly.
the sharpness is simply amazing and so is the composition of course the BG is neutral and complements the subject colour wise.
i feel it is highly underrated here.

H Stephen,
This bird really deserves its name!
It's amazing its long tail and the nice pose you caught on it, with the smooth curve.
Very well exposed and focus on the subject.
DOF works fine to isolate the subject here.
Congratulations and thanks for share it.
My best regards,

Very nice shot, great details on the bird's flight. Nice job in keeping the whole bird in focus, given its length.


  • Great 
  • arunk Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 26 W: 0 N: 19] (272)
  • [2007-11-13 9:30]


Very well taken, sharpness and colours are good
and the bird is in flight, add value to the picture
Arun krishnaiah

  • Great 
  • horia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2158 W: 224 N: 4749] (16656)
  • [2007-11-13 10:48]

Stephen, this is absolutely magnificent!

Not only is this bird hardly seen here on TN (it might actually be a first) but you managed to present it pin-sharp and perfectly clear with a beautiful in-flight! I'm speechless!
The pose here is simply fascinating and that curve that those extra long tail feathers make is just a terrific add-on to hte overall composition.
Very beautiful colors and perfect bokeh in teh BG, too.
My hat's off to you!

Bravo and TFS

great capture, TFS Ori

This is an interesting bird. Like a red winged blackbird here, but with a very distinct tail.
Your capture of it is very detailed, and shows off the shape of the bird well. Very good in flight!!
TFS Stephen

Hi Stephen
Simply stunning capture
***** tfs jon

Amazing Shot!What a lovely bird!
TFS Rajpal navalkar

trop belle pour que je la laisse passée
félicitaions++++ tres bel oiseau de belles couleurs, bon bg
bravo et merci de partager


Hello Stephen,
Wow, Beautiful capture of this widow-bird in flight!
Outstanding focusing and details here, also lovely colours and nice composition.
What a nice shot from you!
TFS and regards,

Hello Stephen
Very intersting spieces you captured,
I've seen a silimar spieces here in Bangalore.
Perfect focusing,exposure and BG,Superb shot.


  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2007-11-14 7:26]

Hello Stephen,
What an amazing photo! I've seen them flying in the wild but never had the opportunity to make a photo of them. This one makes me jalous. Excellent, sharpness, colours, BG, composition, POV and DOF.

  • Great 
  • EOSF1 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 119 N: 5267] (23955)
  • [2007-11-14 16:14]

Fantastic shot Stephen ! What a great bird too ! Pin sharp, great background, and perfect pose of the bird ! Great colors ! Thanks,


  • Great 
  • badar Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 106 W: 0 N: 160] (785)
  • [2007-11-24 20:39]

Hi Stephan,
What an amazing bird. Well captured, like the pan presentation.

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