Animal-World > Birds > Types of Finches > Pintail Whydah

Pintail Whydah

Family: Viduidae Male Pintail WhydahVidua macrouraPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Affan Dagasan, Sweden
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We also saw a Pintail Whydah today at Craig Park in Fullerton. What a beautiful bird.  Debbie

   These are fine birds to enjoy for their antics and the splendid breeding plumage of the male. The Pintail Whydah is one of the most common forms of Whydah available.

   "Whydah" is the name of a town in Nigeria where these birds are common. Pintail Whydahs are also called "Widow Birds" due to the long tail the male has during the breeding season. During this time It is twice the length of his body and often black. In the wild, when the males are not in their wonderful breeding plumage, they are surprisingly inconspicuous.

  Though the Pintail Whydahs are not difficult birds to keep, they are best if kept by themselves or with only a select few other bird types, as they can be rather quarrelsome. Breeding them is difficult as they are parasitic breeders, which means they only lay their eggs in another birds nest, and are quite particular about it.

For more information about the care of Finches see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Finch


Geographic Distribution
Vidua macroura
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Data provided by GBIF.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Actiniform
  • Class: Elasmobranchii
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Viduidae
  • Genus: Vidua
  • Species: macroura

Scientific name: Vidua macroura Learn more about the Pintail Whydah "Family", the Plodeidae Finches here: Finch Families

Description:    The Pintail Whydah males are very attractive when in breeding plumage. It is glossy black above with white on its underside. The sides of its head and the lower back are white, and it has a white stripe across the wings. The long narrow tail feathers are 10" (25 cm) giving the male and overall length of 13" (33 cm) when in breeding plumage, and an overall length of 6" (15 cm) in a non-breeding male. The female is tawny colored, speckled with black and is 5" (13 cm) in length.

Distribution:    Pintail Whydahs are found throughout tropical Africa, the savannahs and steppes.

Care and Feeding:    Fresh food and water must be provided daily. A good finch seed mix will provide their everyday need of grass seeds and millets and is readily available at a pet store. In a separate cup supply green foods regularly, such as chickweed and spinach. Other supplements to include sparingly are egg foods, apple and pear. Finch treats of seed with honey, fruits and vegetables are fun for your bird too, as well as nutritious!
   Grit with charcoal is essential to aid in digestion and it contains valuable minerals and trace elements. Grit should be provided in a special cup or sprinkled over the bottom of the cage floor. Provide a cuttlebone because the calcium it provides will give your bird a firm beak, strong eggshells when breeding, and will help prevent egg binding. The lime in the cuttlebone also aids in digestion.
  Give your finch a bath at least once a week and daily during the summer by placing a dish that is 1" deep with a 1/2" of water on the bottom of the cage. Bathing is very important to finches during molting and breeding.
   Their nails may occasionally need to be trimmed, but be careful never to clip into the vein as the bird can quickly bleed to death. Bird nail trimmers and styptic powder to stop the bleeding are available at pet shops.

Housing:    Pintail Whydahs do well indoors in a cage. Place the cage where it is well ventilated though free from drafts, and against a wall at eye level. It should have good light but be away from doors and windows where direct exposure to sunlight can make it overly warm.
   Provide two or three good softwood perches about 3/8" to 3/4" in diameter. Tree branches of a similar size also make good perches and will help to wear the claws down naturally. Provide separate dishes for food, water, treats, and grit. Place paper on the cage bottom that can be sprinkled with grit, or use a grit paper.
   Pintail Whydahs also do very well in aviaries or bird rooms. The screening should be 3/8" square mesh. Dishes for food, water, grit and bathing water must be included along with perches and a wide variety of nests. Leafy branches, tall grasses and reeds, and dense bushes will make the space more enjoyable for the finches.

Maintenance:    Although finches require very little time, a clean environment as well as fresh food and water daily is a must to prevent disease and illness. The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Every two to three days change the paper on the bottom of the cage and sprinkle it with about 1/8" of fresh grit. Weekly wash and dry the entire cage, including the perches.

Social Behaviors:    The Pintail Whydahs can be a rather quarrelsome finch and it is best to avoid mixing them with other finches of similar color, and keep only one male with several females. Because they are rather assertive birds, small finches are best not housed with them.

Handling/Training:    Finches are simply enjoyed for their antics and play rather than training. When you need to handle your finch to examine it or clip it's nails, place your palm on it's back and wrap your fingers around the bird with your thumb and forefinger on either side of it's head.

Activities:    Like most finches, Pintail whydahs are very active and need to have room to fly.

Breeding/Reproduction:    Pintail Whydahs are parasitic breeders. This means they lay their eggs in the nests of a waxbill to be incubated and reared. The Common Waxbill, the St. Helena Waxbill, is the only nest they will lay in and that finch is rarely bred in captivity.
   In order for the male to attract a mate, he must be able to imitate the songs and calls of the foster finch perfectly. Consequently, the Pintail Whydah will have perfected two sets of songs, that of his species and that of the foster species. If he is successful, the female will deposit her eggs in the nest of the waxbill and the hatchlings will grow up with the waxbill babies.
   The hatchlings have a mouth pattern and a first plumage that matches that of the other nestlings, as well as the postures and begging calls. As the hatchlings age, they learn the calls and patterns of the foster parents so that they may find the right foster parents to deposit their own eggs into when they are mature. Quite fascinating, but it makes it difficult to breed them in captivity!

Potential Problems:    Pintail Whydahs are fairly hardy birds and almost all illnesses can be traced to improper diet, dirty cages, and drafts. A balanced diet and plenty of exercise will prevent most illnesses. Know your birds and watch for real drastic changes as indications of illness.
   Some signs of illness to be aware of are droppings that are not black and white, feathers that are fluffed and the bird tucks it's head under it's wing, lack of appetite, wheezing, and acting feeble and run down.
   Some of the common illnesses and injuries your finch could contract are broken wings or legs, cuts and open wounds, overgrown beaks and nails, ingrown feathers, feather picking, metabolic problems from lack of exercise, weight loss, heat stroke, shock, concussion, egg binding, diarrhea, mites, colds, baldness, scaly legs, sore eyes, tumors, constipation, and diarrhea.
   First you can try and isolate the bird in a hospital cage where you cover all but the front of the cage and add a light bulb or heating pad to keep the interior of the cage at a constant temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove all perches and put food and water dishes on the floor. If you don't see improvements within a few hours, take the bird to an avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Availability:    Pintail Whydahs are relatively expensive little birds.

Author: Clarice Brough, CAS
Lastest Animal Stories on Pintail Whydah

Debbie - 2014-07-19
We also saw a Pintail Whydah today at Craig Park in Fullerton. What a beautiful bird.

  • Carol - 2014-09-18
    Just saw a pair of whydahs on ground under my bird feeder. First time ever seeing these exotic birds! 9-18-2014 Mission Viejo
Reply
Nelly - 2013-05-04
I have a male Pintail Whydah who is not hand tamed at all. His nails started getting too long and making it difficult for him to get around. I tried to very carefully trim them but the clenched his feet and I was too scared I'll hurt him if I tried to separate his toes. After this I decided to let a vet or breeder do it. While I started looking for someone who could do this, I noticed his nails getting shorter and caught him in the act of biting them off. Make sure your Whydah cannot catch itself on anything in its cage if its nails are long. If it is not hand tamed and you are not experienced in trimming nails then find someone who is experienced to do it for you. If the preceding is not an option then don't panic. Apparently Whydahs will give themselves a pedicure when they get annoyed enough with the situation. While it is not recommended that you put sandpaper covers on their perch (it hurts their feet), I have cut a sandpaper perch cover in half and taped it to the bottom half of his favourite perch. That way his nails get filed when they are long enough to reach the paper, but he is never standing on the sand paper. Hope this information is helpful to someone.

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-05-04
    That's some great information about their nails. I am glad to know Pintail Whydah will give themselves a pedicure! I had an untamed male kept in an aviary and never had an issue with its nails, must have taken care of it himself. For other finches I've kept in cages, I usually provide just one sandpaper perch, and the others not, so they aren't forced to be on this type of perch non-stop. It has worked well.
Reply
Janet mukri - 2014-06-22
I walk Craig park in Fullerton area, and was thrilled to see two Pintailed Whydahs, but didn't know what type of bird it was. Today I met a bird watcher and his son who were very informative about the species, and told me there are actually 4 males in the park! They are so beautiful and a pleasure to watch!

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-06-27
    What a nice surprise for you. They are beautiful birds, I use to have a male and he was awesome, especially when his tail was full (they molt the tail off and then regrow it).
Reply
Don - 2013-05-15
Just spotted the pin tailed Whyda in my back yard in La Habra Heights, CA (Southern CA). As soon as I saw it I knew it was not in my backyard bird book! Searched the net and found out what it was. I am guessing it escaped a sanctuary or someone had it as s pet.

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-05-15
    Yeah, not the typical backyard bird in your area huh? Glad you could ID it and hope you can locate its place of escape:)
  • Rick - 2014-06-04
    We also live in La Habra Heights and have had a male at our feeders off and on for the past year. Two females or juveniles joined him briefly, but have not returned. My wife and I enjoy his arrival and displays, and the many other birds at our feeds are not particularly afraid of his antics.
Reply
B.C.S. - 2009-10-22
Thanks for your site. Now I finally know what bird this is. I live in Milton,FL and have seen this bird at my feeders for three years. True to other comments, it is very aggressive... and beautiful.

  • Kathy Rogers - 2010-10-09
    Hi there, I just read your note about the Pintail. I just bought one from Ivys here in Pensacola, guess we are almost neighbors. I did not know they were wild this far north. I would think the cold would kill them, well good luck with you visitor...Kathy 10/9/10
Reply
Hector Perez - 2007-09-17
I live in Puerto Rico and here on this island the Pintail Whydah is a very common finch. I paid just $15.00 in a pet store for one of them. I heard that they lay eggs in the Society Finch nest. I have mine living with Societies and I'll find him a female to see what happens. Thanks for the information and something new about this finch!

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