Discover the Long Tailed Widow Bird

Mundia Mubita,

Growing up in a remote township, in Kalulushi district, playing in the bush was the only major thing any child longed to do. This had many activities which I can now safely say it was an amazing childhood experience that most of the children of nowadays will never experience.

From playing in the rain, fishing, swimming, moulding clay, wild fruit picking bird hunting to all sorts of mischief that any child can get into.

The one that dominated all the others was bird hunting, as you aware Zambia is blessed with over 750 bird species all distributed throughout the country.

Most children would attest to this that the bird that captivated their hearts the most is the Long Tailed Widow Bird (Mulola in Bemba) which used to occur in almost all thickest back in the 90’s but has since become rare.

General Information

The Long Tailed Widow is a medium sized bird which occurs in Southern and Eastern Africa. Adult breeding males are almost entirely black with orange and white shoulders, long, wide tails, and a bluish white bill. Females are rather inconspicuous, their feathers streaked tawny and black with pale patches on the chest, breast and back, narrow tail feathers, and horn-colour bills.

During flight, males can be visibly identified due to their extremely long tails and about six to ten of their twelve tail feathers are approximately half a meter long. The tail during flight display is expanded vertically into a deep, long keel below the male as he flies with slow wingbeats 0.5 to 2 metre above his territory.

Males defend territories in the grasslands the species inhabits. Females have a long nesting period and survey these territories and the males that inhabit them prior to mate selection. Breeding takes place from February to July, reaching its peak in March and April. Females weave nests, shaped in large dome structures with a lining of seed heads, in the high grass within males’ territories.

The nests are placed 0.5–1 meters (19 to 40 inches) off the ground in the upper third of the high Elephant grass, where the females raise their two to three young. Females often mate with the male within whose territories they nest. Females lay one to three eggs after mating. These eggs are pale bluish green and streaked with brown. These are usually around 0.9 inches by 0.6 inches in size.