IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)

Brief Summary

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The Northern Red Bishop (Euplectes fransciscanus) occurs in an east-west band across Africa south of the Sahel in the Sudanian Savanna. It has also been introduced (via the cagebird trade) to the southwestern United States (around Los Angeles, California, where it was established in the 1980s, and Phoenix, Arizona, where it was established in the late 1990s) and is established (since the 1960s?) as a local exotic in the West Indies in Puerto Rico, Martinique, and Guadelupe, where it is found mainly around sugarcane fields bordered by grassy edges (Raffaele et al. 2003; Dunn and Alderfer 2011). 

Northern Red Bishops are found in tall open grasslands and amidst tall crops and the rank margins of cultivated areas. They favor natural seasonally flooded areas for nesting, as well as cultivated areas, such as in rice in Mali, sugarcane in Mauritania, millet in Sudan, and maize in Ethipia. They are found from lowlands and coastal areas up to around 2000 m elevation and are year-round residents over most of their range, although in Africa west of around 20° E, regular movements associated with the rainy and dry seasons are evident.

Northern Red Bishops feed mainly on grass seeds, along with some insects (especially for feeding young). Large flocks form in the non-breeding season, often mixed with other species as well. During the breeding season, males are territorial, although territories may be clustered. The complex song is high and buzzy. Males perform display flights, with puffed out plumage, over their territories. The nest, a globular structure with a side entrance, is built by the male. A typical clutch consists of 2 to 4 plain blue eggs and incubation and feeding of young are by the female only.

Northern Red Bishops are common to abundant over much of their wide range. Some taxonomic uncertainty remains regarding the relationship of this species with the Southern Red Bishop (E. orix), with which it has sometimes been considered conspecific (i.e., members of a single species), and the Zanzibar Bishop (E. nigroventris). Individuals of these three taxa are very similar in appearance (females with similar plain brown plumage, breeding males with similar dazzling black and red-to-orange plumage), but a molecular phylogenetic analysis (Prager et al. 2008) supported those treating the Northern and Southern Red Bishops as distinct species (e.g., Craig 1993) and, in fact, indicated that they are not even sister taxa.

(Craig 2010 and references therein)


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