Cuckoo-finch

The cuckoo-finch (Anomalospiza imberbis), also known as the parasitic weaver or cuckoo weaver, is a small passerine bird now placed in the family Viduidae with the indigobirds and whydahs. It occurs in grassland in Africa south of the Sahara. The male is mainly yellow and green while the female is buff with dark streaks. The eggs are laid in the nests of other birds.[2]

Cuckoo-finch
Parasitic Weaver (Anomalospiza imberbis)
Midmar Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Viduidae
Genus: Anomalospiza
Shelley, 1901
Species:
A. imberbis
Binomial name
Anomalospiza imberbis
(Cabanis, 1868)
Synonyms

Crithagra imberbis Cabanis, 1868

Taxonomy

Anomalospiza imberbis, Polokwane Voëlpark
Trapped bird at Polokwane, Limpopo

The species was described in 1868 by the German ornithologist Jean Cabanis based on a specimen from East Africa, probably from the coast opposite Zanzibar.[3] It was initially placed in the genus Crithagra but later moved to a genus of its own, Anomalospiza. The name of the genus means "anomalous finch" with spiza being a Greek word for finch. The specific name imberbis comes from Latin and means "beardless".[4]

Its closest relatives are thought to be the indigobirds and whydahs of the genus Vidua.[5] These birds are now usually considered to form a family, Viduidae. Previously they were treated as a subfamily, Viduinae, within either the estrildid finch family, Estrildidae, or the weaver family, Ploceidae.[2]

Description

The cuckoo-finch is a small finch-like bird, about 11–13 cm long.[6] It has a short tail, large legs and feet, and a large, deep, conical bill. The adult male has a black bill and a yellow head and underparts. The upperparts are olive-green with black streaks.[7] The yellow areas become increasingly bright prior to the breeding season as the feathers become worn.[8] The adult female is buff with heavy black streaking above and light streaks on the flanks; its face is largely plain buff and the throat is buff-white.[6][7] It has various chattering calls.[9] Displaying males have a nasal song.[7]

Distribution and habitat

The cuckoo-finch has a scattered distribution across sub-Saharan Africa where it occurs in open or lightly wooded grassland, especially near damp areas.[8]

In West Africa, it occurs in Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, eastern Nigeria, and north-west Cameroon with vagrant records from Gambia and Mali.[10] Further east it is found in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, southern and eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and locally in the Republic of the Congo.[6][10] In southern Africa, it occurs in Malawi, Zambia, southern and eastern Angola, north-east Namibia, northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, eastern South Africa, and Swaziland.[11]

It has a large range and an apparently stable population and so is classified as least concern by BirdLife International.[12]

Behaviour

Anomalospiza egg mimicry
Cuckoo-finch eggs (right two columns) closely resemble the eggs of their host species (tawny-flanked prinia and red-faced cisticola shown).

The cuckoo-finch typically occurs in pairs or small flocks during the breeding season and larger flocks outside the breeding season. It forages on the ground or perched on the flower heads of grasses or herbs. It feeds mainly on grass seeds.[9]

The species is an obligate brood parasite, laying its eggs in the nests of cisticolas and prinias. The eggs are white, pale blue or pink with brown, reddish or violet markings. They are 17–17.3 mm long and 12.5–13 mm wide. The eggs are incubated for 14 days.[9] The young bird fledges after 18 days and remains dependent on its hosts for another 10–40 days.[8] The young of the host bird usually disappear although there have been records of the host's nestlings surviving alongside the young cuckoo-finch.[8][9] Sometimes two cuckoo-finch chicks have been found in the same nest.[8]

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Anomalospiza imberbis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b Payne, Robert (2010). "Family Viduidae (Whydahs and Indigobirds)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Christie, David (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 15: Weavers to New World Warblers. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-84-96553-45-3.
  3. ^ Lowther, Peter E. (2005). "Host list of avian brood parasites - 5 - Passeriformes: Viduidae" (PDF). Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  4. ^ Kidd, D. A. (2003). Collins Gem Latin Dictionary. Collins.
  5. ^ Sorenson, Michael D.; Robert B. Payne (2001). "A single ancient origin of brood parasitism in African finches: implications for host-parasite coevolution". Evolution. 55 (12): 2550–2567. doi:10.1554/0014-3820(2001)055[2550:ASAOOB]2.0.CO;2. PMID 11831669.
  6. ^ a b c Sinclair, Ian; Peter Ryan (2003). Birds of Africa south of the Sahara. Cape Town: Struik.
  7. ^ a b c Zimmerman, Dale A.; Donald A. Turner, Donald; David J. Pearson (1999). Birds of Kenya & Northern Tanzania. London: Christopher Helm.
  8. ^ a b c d e Johnsgard, Paul A. (1997). The Avian Brood Parasites: Deception at the Nest. Oxford University Press.
  9. ^ a b c d McLachlan G. R.; Liversidge, R. (1981). Roberts Birds of South Africa. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. ISBN 0-620-03118-2.
  10. ^ a b van Perlo, Ber (2002). Collins Illustrated Checklist: Birds of Western and Central Africa. London: Collins.
  11. ^ van Perlo, Ber (1999). Collins Illustrated Checklist: Birds of Southern Africa. London: Collins.
  12. ^ BirdLife International (2009) ["Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2014-04-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=8596&m=0 Species factsheet: Anomalospiza imberbis]. Downloaded from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2014-04-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) on 17 January 2010.

External links

Black-billed weaver

The black-billed weaver (Ploceus melanogaster) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae found in central Africa.

Bob-tailed weaver

The bob-tailed weaver (Brachycope anomala) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family. It is monotypic within the genus Brachycope.

It is found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Chestnut weaver

The chestnut weaver (Ploceus rubiginosus) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

It is found in eastern and south-western Africa.

Crested malimbe

The crested malimbe (Malimbus malimbicus) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family.

It is found in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Uganda.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

List of brood parasitic passerines

This is the list of the brood parasites in order Passeriformes, the perching birds. Instead of making nests of their own, and feeding their young, brood parasites deposit their eggs in the nests of other birds.

Note that the vampire finch is a parasite, but is not brood parasitic.

Little weaver

The little weaver (Ploceus luteolus) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

It is found in western, central and eastern Africa.

Marsh widowbird

The marsh widowbird (Euplectes hartlaubi) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

Maxwell's black weaver

The Maxwell's black weaver (Ploceus albinucha) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family.

Preuss's weaver

The Preuss's weaver (Ploceus preussi) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family, which is native to the African tropics.

Red-headed malimbe

The red-headed malimbe (Malimbus rubricollis) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family.

It is found in Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda.

Red-vented malimbe

The red-vented malimbe (Malimbus scutatus) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family.

It is found in Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical swamps.

Slender-billed weaver

The slender-billed weaver (Ploceus pelzelni) is a species of bird in the weaver family, Ploceidae.

It is found in central and western Africa.

Southern brown-throated weaver

The southern brown-throated weaver (Ploceus xanthopterus) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

It is found in southern Africa.

Speckle-fronted weaver

The speckle-fronted weaver (Sporopipes frontalis) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae.

It is found in Africa from Mauritania and Gambia in the west to Ethiopia and Tanzania in the east.

Its natural habitat is dry savanna.

Vieillot's black weaver

Vieillot's black weaver (Ploceus nigerrimus) is a species of bird in the family Ploceidae. It is named after the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot.

Vitelline masked weaver

The vitelline masked weaver (Ploceus vitellinus) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family.

It is found in western, central and eastern Africa.

Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley

The Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley is the hydrothermal system created on 10 June 1886 by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera, on the North Island of New Zealand. It encompasses Lake Rotomahana, the site of the Pink and White Terraces, as well as the location of the Waimangu Geyser, which was active from 1900 to 1904. The area has been increasingly accessible as a tourist attraction and contains Frying Pan Lake, which is the largest hot spring in the world, and the steaming and usually pale blue Inferno Crater Lake, the largest geyser-like feature in the world although the geyser itself cannot be seen since it plays at the bottom of the lake.Waimangu is a Māori-language word meaning "black water". This name comes from the water that was thrown up by the Waimangu Geyser, which was black with mud and rocks.

From the 1890s onwards, the valley has gradually been re-populated naturally by plants ranging from hot water-loving algae and bacteria to mosses and many species of native ferns, shrubs and trees. These in turn support native birdlife including kereru, tui, fantail, bellbird, and pukeko, as well as introduced bird species such as mynah, magpie, shining cuckoo, finch and sparrow.

A population of black swan thrives in the lower parts of the valley and on Lake Rotomahana. According to local guides, these have been introduced to the region from Western Australia by George Edward Grey in the 19th century along with wallaby.

As a rare eco-system completely naturally re-established following a volcanic eruption, Waimangu is protected as a Scenic Reserve, administered by the Department of Conservation NZ. The developing local native forest is the only current New Zealand instance of vegetation re-establishing from complete devastation without any human influence such as planting. Many of Waimangu's geothermal features are ranked as Category A - extremely important, of international significance.

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