Family Whydahs and Indigobirds (Viduidae)

Least Concern

Shaft-tailed Whydah (Vidua regia)


French: Veuve royale German: Königswitwe Spanish: Viuda real

Emberiza regia


, 1766,

Africa = southern Angola


This species and V. fischeri are sometimes placed together in a separate genus, Tetraenura; the two may be sisters#R. Occasionally hybridizes with indigobirds (species undetermined) in the wild. Birds in S Mozambique described as race woltersi, but do not differ constantly in plumage colour from those elsewhere in species’ range. Monotypic.


S Angola, S & W Zambia, N & E Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, S Mozambique, and N South Africa (Limpopo Province S to extreme N Northern Cape, N & W Free State and N Mpumalanga).

Descriptive notes

10–11 cm, breeding male 27–30 cm; 12–17 g. Male breeding has forehead and crown black, throat, broad collar and most of underparts pale rusty brown, mantle... read more


Mimics song and calls of Violet-eared Waxbill. Mimetic song a warbled series of rapid sharp "chay"... read more


Semi-arid grassy thorn-scrub and acacia savanna, especially in umbrella thorn (Acacia tortilis... read more

Food and feeding

Small grass seeds, taken from ground. Breeding female eats eggs of host. Forages for seeds by "double-scratching": kicks sand and leaves... read more


Laying Feb–Apr in Namibia, Feb–Mar in Botswana and Dec–May in South Africa; males in breeding plumage Dec–Apr in... read more


Generally resident; partially nomadic in non-breeding season. Numbers fluctuate locally from year... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Locally common; abundance variable both regionally and annually. Estimated population in S Mozambique c. 500 individuals; in South Africa, 1000 birds... read more

Recommended citation

Payne, R. (2019). Shaft-tailed Whydah (Vidua regia). 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 25 April 2019).