Family Weavers (Ploceidae)

Least Concern

Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea)


French: Travailleur à bec rouge German: Blutschnabelweber Spanish: Quelea común

Emberiza quelea


, 1758,

India; error = Senegal


Has hybridized with Q. erythrops in captivity. Proposed race spoliator (described from KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa) is both morphologically and genetically inseparable from lathamii. Distribution of races difficult to state with accuracy; species has been recorded from all mainland countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and ranges listed below reflect areas where always likely to be found, and where breeding may occur; separation of races based partly on postulated independent movements of the three populations. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • Q. q. quelea (Linnaeus, 1758) – S Mauritania, W & N Senegal, Gambia, C Mali, Burkina Faso, SW & S Niger, N Nigeria, Cameroon, SC Chad and N Central African Republic.
  • Q. q. aethiopica (Sundevall, 1850) – S Sudan, E South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea S to NE DRCongo, Uganda, Kenya, C & E Tanzania and NW & S Somalia.
  • Q. q. lathamii (A. Smith, 1836) – SW Gabon, S Congo, Angola (except NE and arid coastal SW), S DRCongo and R Congo mouth, Zambia, Malawi and W Mozambique S to Namibia (except coastal desert) and C, S & E South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    12 cm; 15–26 g. Small, short-tailed weaver. Male nominate race breeding shows considerable variation in extent of black and white on forehead and crown; most commonly... read more


    Male song in short bursts, with preliminary chatter, a warbling section "tweedle toodle tweedle",... read more


    Most abundant in semi-arid habitats, including dry thornveld and bushed grassland, visiting... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet primarily grass and cereal seeds, collected both when on the plant and from ground; also insects. Prefers seeds 2 x 1 mm in size;... read more


    Season mainly Aug–Nov in W Africa, and Jun–Sept in Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia; in DRCongo, Sept in E and Jan–May in S;... read more


    Apparently resident in some areas, but large-scale movements occur throughout range. In W Africa (... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Considered one of the most abundant wild bird species in world. Peak post-breeding population estimated at c. 1,500,000,000 individuals. Aerial... read more

    Recommended citation

    Craig, A. (2019). Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea). 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 19 June 2019).