Family Whydahs and Indigobirds (Viduidae)

Least Concern

Village Indigobird (Vidua chalybeata)


French: Combassou du Sénégal German: Rotfußwitwe Spanish: Viuda senegalesa

Fringilla chalybeata

Statius Müller

, 1776,

Brazil; error = Senegal


Formerly considered conspecific with V. wilsoni, V. camerunensis, V. nigeriae, V. codringtoni, V. funerea and V. purpurascens. These species differ, however, in breeding plumage of male, in bill and leg colours and, usually, in song, and in some cases also in nestling mouth pattern and colours; up to four species occur sympatrically, with no morphological evidence of interbreeding. Present species possibly interbreeds with V. funerea in S DRCongo and with V. purpurascens in NE Tanzania. Races sometimes thought to form three groups, W & NC “chalybeata group”, single-taxon NE “ultramarina group”, and C & S “amauropteryx group”, possibly representing three separate species. Race amauropteryx has in the past been treated as a distinct species, having a red bill, but in SW Zambia, NW Zimbabwe and N Botswana red-billed and white-billed individuals occur together in mixed populations having same songs and competing for same call-sites and breeding females. Races neumanni and centralis intergrade in NE Africa. Green-glossed birds in Senegal sometimes separated as race aenea, but occur together with blue and greenish-blue birds; proposed taxon incognita (from SE DRCongo) is regarded as a synonym of centralis. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • V. c. chalybeata (Statius Müller, 1776) – Senegal Indigobird – S Mauritania and Senegambia E to C Mali (Mopti), S to N Sierra Leone and Guinea.
  • V. c. neumanni (Alexander, 1908) – E Mali and N Ivory Coast E to S Chad, N Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan.
  • V. c. ultramarina (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Ethiopian Indigobird – Ethiopia and N Eritrea.
  • V. c. centralis (Neunzig, 1928) – S & E DRCongo (Kasai, Katanga, and around lakes Albert, Edward, Kivu and Tanganyika) E to Uganda, inland Kenya and inland Tanzania; perhaps NE Zambia#R.
  • V. c. okavangoensis Payne, 1973 – W & S Angola, N Namibia, W Zambia (upper R Zambezi) and N Botswana.
  • V. c. amauropteryx (Sharpe, 1890) – South African Indigobird – coastal E Africa from S Somalia S to S Tanzania, Mozambique, and inland from S & E Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe (R Zambezi below Kazungula) S to N South Africa (S to North West Province, Free State, and KwaZulu-Natal at Ndumu and Hluhluwe); also S Eastern Cape and Swaziland.
  • Descriptive notes

    10–11 cm, 11·3-15 g. Male nominate race breeding is black with green to steel-blue gloss, concealed white flank patch; upperwing and tail black to dark brown, inner... read more


    Song of breeding male a mix of dry rapid chatters, scratchy notes and rustling churrs, and... read more


    Thornbush savanna and brush along rivers, roadsides, edges of cultivated land, citrus orchards with... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly small grass seeds, taken on ground. Also small termites (Isoptera), taken when these emerge in rains; female eats host's eggs.... read more


    Lays in late rains and early dry season, season longer in areas with permanent water: Jul–Dec in Senegal and Gambia, and Jun–... read more


    Resident. In seasonal habitats, will move a few kilometres to surface water. One ringed individual... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common. Locally numerous in W Africa in cities, e.g. Dakar (Senegal), Banjul (Gambia), Bamako (Mali), Kano (Nigeria), towns and villages, and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2019). Village Indigobird (Vidua chalybeata). 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 May 2019).