Family Waxbills (Estrildidae)

Least Concern

Black-and-white Mannikin (Spermestes bicolor)


French: Capucin bicolore German: Glanzelsterchen Spanish: Capuchino bicolor

Amadina bicolor


, 1843,

Cape Palmas, Liberia


Assignment of species rank to rufous-backed nigriceps has been based in part on it being “parapatric with bicolor along a line through central Africa without evidence of significant interbreeding”#R, and this arrangement is still followed in some current world lists; evidence for a parapatric distribution is, however, wholly lacking#R and the argument fails to take account of brown-backed woltersi or the fact that poensis back colour varies clinally from black in W to brown in E. Study of vocalizations needed. Birds in S South Sudan and E DRCongo intermediate between poensis and woltersi are sometimes treated as race stigmatophora (from Bukoba, on L Victoria), but better included in poensis. Proposed race minor (from Fanole, in S Somalia) is treated as a synonym of nigriceps. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. b. bicolor (Fraser, 1843) – Black-and-white Mannikin – SW Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, S Guinea and Sierra Leone E to S Nigeria and Cameroon.
  • S. b. poensis (Fraser, 1843) – Bioko and S Cameroon S to N Angola, E to DRCongo (except NE & S), S South Sudan, SW Ethiopia, Uganda, W Kenya and NW Tanzania.
  • S. b. woltersi (Schouteden, 1956) – SE DRCongo and NW Zambia.
  • S. b. nigriceps Cassin, 1852 – Rufous-backed Mannikin – S Somalia, E Kenya and Tanzania S to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and NE & E South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    10 cm; 8–11 g. Nominate race has head to upper breast and upperparts glossy black, upperwing and tail black, usually with one or two white spots on some tertials, lower... read more


    Soft contact calls "sip" and "seep, tsik tsik"; loud contact calls a high... read more


    Tall rank grass in forest clearings, woody marshland, secondary growth, abandoned cultivation, rice... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small grass seeds, including those of millet, sorghum and rice, many small-seeded grasses (Panicum, Digitaria, ... read more


    Season Sept–Nov (during maturation of rice and availability of green algae) in Sierra Leone, May–Aug in Ghana, Nov–Mar or... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to locally common. Common to abundant in W & C parts of range; more local and patchily distributed in E & S. Estimated population in S... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2020). Black-and-white Mannikin (Spermestes bicolor). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 February 2020).