Family Whydahs and Indigobirds (Viduidae)

Least Concern

Dusky Indigobird (Vidua funerea)


French: Combassou noir German: Trauerwitwe Spanish: Viuda sombría
Other common names: Variable Indigobird

Fringilla funerea


, 1847,

Natal, South Africa


In the past treated as conspecific with V. purpurascens. Formerly considered conspecific with V. chalybeata. Has been treated as conspecific with V. wilsoni, V. nigeriae, V. camerunensis and V. codringtoni, but differs from first two in size, plumage and song mimicry; differs from V. camerunensis in morphology, and molecular studies indicate no recent common ancestor; sympatric with V. codringtoni without interbreeding, and the two parasitize different host species. Possibly interbreeds with V. chalybeata in S DRCongo. Race nigerrima sometimes treated as a full species. Indigobirds with green to blue breeding plumage in W DRCongo (Kwamouth, Bandundu) may be of this species; field studies needed. Described taxa V. funerea lusituensis and V. funerea sorora are synonyms, respectively, of V. codringtoni and V. camerunensis. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • V. f. nigerrima (Sharpe, 1871) – W Kenya, Tanzania, S & SE DRCongo, N Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique (except extreme S) and E Zimbabwe.
  • V. f. funerea (Tarragon, 1847) – N & E South Africa, Swaziland and extreme S Mozambique (S of R Limpopo).
  • Descriptive notes

    10–11 cm; 11–19 g. Male nominate race breeding is black with dull bluish-purple to purplish-blue cast (plumage not very glossy, even when fresh), concealed white... read more


    Song with metallic chatters, dry churrs and grating notes (like those of other indigobirds) mixed... read more


    Moist woodland and edges of montane and riverine forests, inhabiting roadsides, orchards with... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small grass seeds, taken from ground. Laying female eats eggs of host. Breeding male forages within his territory, female feeds with him... read more


    Males in breeding plumage in Mar–May in Malawi; in South Africa, males in breeding plumage, song, courtship and mating Jan–Mar... read more


    Mainly resident. Reported movements of ringed individuals covering 4 km, 15 km and, in E South... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally common. Singing male conspicuous when perched on treetop or telephone wire, otherwise easily overlooked. Estimated population... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2019). Dusky Indigobird (Vidua funerea). 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 22 May 2019).