The African legend says that this bird, the Pin-tailed Whydah (Afrikaans name, Koningrooibekkie) is so in love with himself that he has developed into a real nuisance during the breeding season. He has the loudest mouth and does not tolerate any other birds anywhere near any food as he believes that it all belongs to him. The legend says that all the birds reported him to the Wise Old Owl and complained about his loudness, his aggression and of him chasing them all.

So the Wise Old Owl called upon the Falcon and told him to go out and sort out this untenable situation. The Falcon set out, found the Pin-tailed Whydah and sat watching him for a while, what he noticed was that the Whydah was particularly proud of his long tail plumes and that he took every opportunity to show them off. He would fly up high and present these beautiful plumes to the little female and so the Falcon came up with a plan. As the Pin-tailed Whydah flew up into the sky to show off his plumes, the Falcon swooped down and plucked his long tail plumes. All of a sudden the forest and woodland and wetlands became quiet and peaceful, the Pin-tailed Whydah now had a short tail just like the female and all was well once again.

Each year the Pin-tailed Whydah’s tail grows back and he reverts to his old noisy self, but the falcon is nearby and will de-plume him once again. To this day you will find the Falcon’s nest all beautifully lined with those long black tail plumes.

His wife on the other hand is quite different without a long tail but she is the cutest little thing you have ever seen.

This guy is a regular visitor to our feeding trays and true to the legend he bullies all the birds that may be feeding there. He is loud and flits around the garden sitting on the shrubs and shaking up his feathers and tail.

He really puts a smile on my face with all his antics.

This is a non-breeding male

47 Comments

  1. Shirleen
    29 September 2013

    Hi, i found one of these birds in my garden, i watch him for a few minutes, and i could not believe this little bird wants to take on the larger birds, like the doves in my garden…i was so interested in this bird, so i looked him up. There is a another small birds that is always with him, i take it it is the female…cause it also have a red beak, brown in color, but a shorter tail than the male. I live in a small town in the Western Cape, Oudtshoorn. In the Little Karoo. Do they usually lives in this areas or where is this bird usually located from? It is the first time that i saw this bird, are they common birds or are they a rare species?

    Reply
    • admin
      29 September 2013

      Hi Shirleen

      Thanks for stopping by. These little birds are really quite stroppy and would you believe it, they don’t even build their own nests, they are like cuckoos, they lay their eggs in other birds nests, like the common waxbill and the swee waxbill, but unlike cuckoos they do not eject the host eggs but hatch and grow up with them.

      They are common and are found almost everywhere throughout South Africa. The other bird you see with him with a red beak could be a female or a non-breeding male, they don’t get a long tail.

      It is so fascinating watching garden birds, you always find surprises.

      Enjoy and stop by again

      Reply
  2. Ian Shortreed
    20 November 2016

    We live in Randpark Ridge, Randburg. For the past two days, a very chirpy male pin-tailed whydah has taken over the window ledge just outside my study. He is incredible active, not only showing off (I assume) to the reflection of himself, but regularly flying off onto our boundary wall, coming back up flush against the window, eating seed that I put down onto one of our pot plant containers and then chasing almost every other bird away, e.g. weavers, sparrows, dices and even Cape robins. He seems to have enormous energy and determination, continuously carrying on like this from first thing in the morning to early evening. Lovely to watch and listen to as I work away on my computer. No sign however as yet of any females.

    Reply
  3. Ian Shortreed
    20 November 2016

    Typing error sorry – dices should be doves. The i & c are both immediately left of the o & v on the keyboard!!

    Reply
  4. Elize
    27 November 2016

    This is such a beautiful little bird. He came feeding with the doves and finches whilst they were all enjoying the wild bird seed. He was not aggressive at all that morning, in fact, he was quite weary of the doves. Perhaps he got a hammering some time before. He came a couple of times and I did not notice him again. This was during November. He was a real treat to see, he can return any time for a visit. Both times he was alone. If we take time, we can acknowledge ourselves or friends with the wildlife behaviour! Just ponder on that thought for a moment …. I am so grateful that we have a garden and to host breeding couples, i.e. the Bulbul and Cape Robin, as well as those just stopping over just for a day. Thanks for the info I think I am going to start following on Wildlife Den. Au revoir….

    Reply
    • admin
      27 November 2016

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences. We really have such wonderful wildlife in our country.

      Reply
  5. Lucille
    28 November 2016

    Hello.

    I always throw bird seeds in the garden and then watch the various types of birds that stop by.
    Whilst watching one day I wondered why these doves and the other orange and black birds would eat peacefully and suddenly fly up into the air randomly and start eating again. And this happened several times.
    So I watched closely.
    Then I noticed the pin-tailed whydah with it’s long tail just chasing the other birds.
    Then it would nibble at some seeds and then chase them again even though there was plenty for all. It would take on the pigeons too but they don’t budge much unlike the doves.

    A tiny cute bird with such an aggressive and possessive streak. I thought the Indian Myna was bad.

    Reply
  6. Nigel East
    1 December 2016

    This bird terrorises the rest of the birds in our garden for 5 months a year. Is there any way we can deter this bird from visiting our garden. We must have over 50 birds a day visit the feeders. It is just so wonderfull to watch them.
    Thank you
    Nigel East

    Reply
    • admin
      1 December 2016

      Thank you for visiting our Den, love having new visitors. This particular bird is a brood parasite, in other words it lays its eggs in other birds nests. The host bird then raises the Whydah as though it was its own. So you may in time have more of them in your garden. Unfortunately we have no idea as to how to chase them away as it seems you are giving them food every day too, so they loving their environment. 🙂

      Reply
      • Nigel
        16 January 2020

        The best strategy is to have two feeders. The ‘king of six’ can only dominate one at a time😀, leaving a window at the other, altho he will try to flit between the two😂

        Reply
  7. Karen Koch
    14 December 2016

    I spotted one of these in my garden this morning. Had no I idea what it was, except that I thought it looked like a black and sparrow with a long tail 🙂 Thanks to Google and your site, I found out what it was! Lovely to look at, and I didn’t notice the threatening behaviour. Had I not had to come to work, I would have stayed watching him the whole day. Thanks for clearing up the mystery

    Reply
  8. Karla Cronjé
    4 February 2017

    Hi, we have the beautiful pintailed wydah in our garden, doing all that is explained in your article. What he does extra is flying up to our kitchen window and pecks it! We have two theories, either he sees his reflection and wants to show his dominance and the other is that he sees us and also wants to show his dominance. I personally think it is the second because resently he started the sam thing at my bedroom window. I am a student and for the last few weeks I’ve been home. I believe he started noticing my movement at window and literally every morning I am woken by hom pecking on my window.

    It is so interesting and amazing to notice it! But dare I say he is a damn obnoxious loud little bugger but I still like him! 🙂

    Reply
    • admin
      4 February 2017

      Hi Karla

      Thanks for visiting our site. You could be right about him noticing movement in the room. We also recently experienced the same behaviour with the common sparrows pecking at our windows so perhaps it is a type of domination aggression at breeding time?

      We also love these annoying loudmouths 🙂

      Reply
  9. Lindy-Ann
    25 March 2017

    Love the story of how he lost his tail. We have them at Sundays River and while there on a break last week I was watching him be his busy loud self. Loved it.

    Reply
  10. P. Ames
    9 July 2017

    I have this little guy in my garden – what a beast – doesn’t let any other birds eat at the feeder and even chases away the Mocking Birds and Doves. I don’t think he’s loud – but has a small squeaky song.

    Reply
  11. Adri
    8 October 2017

    I have pintailed wydah who not only chase the other birds but he pecks on my glass windows. Its very besutiful, but I am curios to why he would do that. Love to hear some answers…..

    Reply
  12. Dominique
    2 December 2017

    This bird is a recent visitor to my garden, however, he appears to wait while the red bishops, sparrows and doves feed before he comes down from the telephone line to feed.

    Reply
  13. Les
    17 December 2017

    Hi, we have one of these beautiful little “terrorists” in our garden and he has managed to chase all our birds away except the Louries. Is there any way we can get him to move on? We recently put up a bird feeder and we had nine different species of birds which have all disappeared now. Wish I was a falcon ??

    Reply
  14. Sue
    9 January 2018

    I have one in my garden in KZN Midlands, and after 2 years have fallen in love with the little guy. It was so funny when he lost his tail feathers and carried on dive bombimg all the birds as they completely ignored him! I have made another feeding station on the other side of the house, so the birds do manage to get to the seeds when he is busy on the other side! We’ve named him Bully Boy, and I think I would actually miss him if he didn’t return each year after winter.

    Reply
  15. joy
    16 February 2018

    there was a pin tail in charge of my garden with 3 to 9 little females a a time. now he has gone & another bird has taken over – looks just like a pin tail but a short tail. he makes the same sounds & is just as agressive. is this a non-breeding wydah?

    Reply
    • admin
      19 March 2018

      hello Joy

      Thank you for stopping by. Yes it could be a Pin Tail just coming into breeding and his tail hasn’t grown yet or it could be a sub-adult. Look for the red beak and stripes on the head

      Hope this helps 🙂

      Reply
  16. Tori DeGroote
    16 June 2018

    I am located in Southern California, USA and I have this bird in my back yard. I am concerned as I see this bird is not common for our country. Could it be that this bird has a human owner and it got out? Is there anything I need to do?? Thank you, in advance, for any assistance.

    Reply
  17. Gary
    17 June 2018

    I just saw this bird in my back yard in Southern California. Beautiful bird and he has an attitude as he chased other birds away from some bird feed we laid out.

    Reply
  18. Larry
    7 July 2018

    We have them here in Huntington Beach California. I just saw one in our backyard. It is very aggressive and drives other birds away from their feeder. This is the second year that I have seen them in our backyard. They nest in a park nearby called Central Park.

    Reply
  19. Debra
    27 July 2018

    I’ve seen two now. One in August 2016 in Peter’s Canyon which is in Orange County and now one in a tree in front of my house. Very unique type of bird and I read we may be seeing more in our area. I also read that they are brood parasitic. I also saw the Long-tailed Paradise Whydah when I was in South Africa. It is fun seeing different birds but I would hate for them to destroy our native birds.

    Reply
  20. Bernice Allan
    19 September 2018

    Hi, today being the 19 of September 2018.
    I saw one of these birds in brackenfell, flying without a care who hears him or not. i found him quite cute and pretty.
    My daughter does horse riding and so for that i saw this little guy fluttering about calling. I took a video of him and a few pics. He is absolutely stunning

    Reply
  21. Philip Veerman
    19 October 2018

    OK so the whydahs are nest parasites of other (Estrildid) finches. But from what I read, they are unlike cuckoos, in that they do not actively remove the eggs of the host species. Nor it appears do the chicks eject or kill the legitimate chicks of the foster parents. With cuckoos, host chicks never survive. Also the chicks’ mouth markings mimic the mouth markings of the foster species, and adults males mimic songs of the foster species and chicks begging calls also show mimicry. Do the baby whydahs also use the same odd posture whilst begging of crouching and twist their head upside down, in the way that typical Estrildids do? So they have undergone a quite selective evolution towards this mimicry. The whydahs then being a recent and specialised group have evolved quickly and it appears in a very special way to adapt to particular host species. Given that, the question is to what extent are the foster parents harmed by this parasitism. What evolutionary strategies have the finches used to counteract this? I am in Australia and we don’t have any of these birds here. So I have never seen them. They are African and apparently introduced into USA. How do they survive in USA?

    Reply
  22. Atoosa Hashemi
    26 October 2018

    I have had a resident Whydah in my yard for almost a year, and I am soo in love with him! He is a remarkably determined little bully, but it’s interesting to watch the other birds stand their ground, especially when they get fed-up with his antics! He has come to accept that he has to share, and it’s such a joy to get to watch him! Despite his size, he is incredible! I love waking up to his chirps, and getting to watch him flutter around. He is really such a fearless little guy, with a personality 100x his minuscule size!
    This morning however, I noticed he is missing his long feathered tail…Would anyone know if that might be a sign of something? I’m trying to do some research but haven’t found anything yet. I know that Whydahs are considered parasitic birds, but we have such a large assortment of various birds, and they seem to all live together fine! I’m one of those over the top animal lovers, so I’m in heaven!

    Reply
    • admin
      16 November 2018

      Hi Atoosa, the male only gets his long tail in the breeding season, then it drops of until the next year, when it grows again. Hope this assists

      Reply
      • Suben
        30 April 2019

        This bird really causes so much mayhem in our garden from around November to Feb of each year. No other bird can feed at the birdfeed and he is constantly dive bombing them. I suppose this is the breeding time for these birds as he is also constantly chasing after the females. He will only allow the females to feed at the birdfeed, no other bird. He disappears from around March and we have seen several of his offspring now feeding at the birdfeed. They also seem to be aggressive towards other birds. He loves to peck at the car mirrors and windows where he sees his reflection and this is probably about dominance. Where does he go from March to November??

        Reply
  23. Philip Veerman
    23 December 2018

    I am following up on my message of 19 October 2018. A bit sad that there is no response or comment. Maybe the answers to my question are too difficult for you or are not known……….. Although I would have thought my last question would be pretty easy to answer. I do wonder: How do they survive in USA? As in how do they breed?

    Reply
  24. Phil Grobler
    9 April 2019

    We live in George, WC. We had the privilage of watching the Pin-tailed Whydah performing all the typical rituals as described above, eg. chasing all the other birds away at the bird feeder, showing off around the feeding area and watching himself in the reflection of the windows a while ago! This morning, after a few weeks’ absence, he’s back with his tail feathers plucked! I just love the legend as shared above! Are the feathers really plucked or do they just shed them after mating? I managed a few parading pictures which I’ll try to share wih you as I’m also a keen photographer.
    Please advise how to share some pictures as I’m unable to paste them to the comments.

    Reply
  25. Boni
    13 May 2019

    I don’t know if I am lucky or unlucky as the Waydah is back for the 3 rd year. We really enjoy him in the yard. I am I So. Ca. (Monrovia) I do feel honored that he has made a place in my yard. We have a huge Chinese Elm where he hangs out. He comes to the feeders and I noticed that he feeds from the ground rather from the various shapes and sizes of feeders in our yard. I love to take pictures of him and post on Facebook. He is quite entertaining.

    Reply
    • admin
      13 May 2019

      Hi Boni

      Hope you have many happy days with your Whydah, they really are entertaining and so photogenic

      Reply
  26. Barry
    19 May 2019

    We’ve had “Pinny” doing his thing in our Knysna garden, but now he has suddenly disappeared completely. Surely they don’t migrate? But not a sign of him or his three females for over a month now

    Reply
    • admin
      24 July 2019

      Perhaps it is nesting time? Or perhaps they in their non breeding feathers so don’t look quite the same.

      Reply
  27. Patti Y.
    7 September 2019

    I live in Poway, California (inland San Diego area) on an acre and a third of land. Except for our house, our property is full of trees and shrubs (plus an assortment of birds, bunnies, squirrels, and an occasional gopher🤨.

    Four days ago at dusk, I went out front to sprinkle a nightly birdseed treat for our resident birds and bunnies. As I swiveled around to return to the house, a small LONG-TAILED bird swooped by me (in waves, up and down, back and forth), landing near some other little birds and doves. I was startled and transfixed and stood still to admire him! On the way down, he had sung a lovely little greeting, followed by some staccato-clacking (?) sounds.

    He stayed about a foot and a half away from the other birds on the ground and pecked at a few seeds. After about a minute or so, he swooped up, up, up, up to the tallest-nearest tree, which was nearly barren on top. Only then did I see the full length of his tail. WOW!

    He came back the next night, and I was able to take a few photographs of him. It was getting dark and he was far away, but as I looked up at him, in the same tree, I easily could see the separation in the back portion of his tail. How exciting! The pictures have to be enlarged greatly to show him, as he looks at some other nearby birds (and they at him). But I am happy to have anything to remind me of his visit!.

    I feel privileged even to have seen him twice! I haven’t been home since then at the time he first appeared to me. But, maybe sometime soon, he will return, and my heart will flutter.😀

    Reply
    • admin
      10 September 2019

      So happy you had this amazing experience in seeing the Long-tailed Pintail 🙂 Thank you for visiting

      Reply
  28. Kenlyn
    5 October 2019

    I have had Why-dahs in my yard (in So. Calif.) for the last 3 years. I have noticed that they are aggressive about other birds feeding @ my feeders. The why dah is gone now ( I think) and have 2 questions. Where do the Why-dahs migrate to from So. Cal? Also , I have experienced disturbing decline in birds ( purple finches & any birds that eat reg. seeds) in my yard I have 2 Thistle seed feeders in the yard that are quite popular w/ gold finches. Any input that U can give me would be much appreciated.
    Thank you

    Reply
  29. Hennelie
    1 January 2020

    We recently spent a week at Mnt Champagne near the Drakensberg Boys Choir school and saw little “bomber” as we christened him doing his usual thing. He hovers like a chopper and bombs the other birds out the way. We saw him dancing on his tail in front of one of his females sititing on the grass and another time in the air in front of the branch she was sitting on. We loved watching his antics especially as we did not have a TV to distract us. Turned our chairs to face the Drakensberg mountain and watch nature on display. What an experience. And to think there are some people who shoot this little bird just because he annoys them by chasing the other birds away around the feeder. Yes we bought budgie seeds and watched all the birds enjoying the feast. Happy to say Wydahs also visit our garden in Durban from time to time.

    Reply
  30. Marike Jordaan
    5 January 2020

    I am afraid the Pig-tailed is going to destroy the bird eco-system in my garden. Is there anything I can do to prevent. Any way to get Whyadah out of my garden

    Reply
  31. GAPIRA NZAJYIBWAMI Aristide
    23 January 2020

    Hi everybody, I live in Rwanda, that bird is called MATENE in our local language . When we were young we used to think that if anyone found their tails and put it where a girl have urinated, automatically the girl will love you forever and you will make love immediately !!!

    Reply
  32. Jennifer Erskine
    3 April 2020

    Every day I spend an hour in the morning and again in the evening with my chickens and love watching my cheeky little PTW chasing them too! Beautiful little things ❤

    Reply
  33. Rose
    14 September 2020

    I have discovered the whydah in my garden and it is delightful to watch his antics! I absolutely love the story about him and the wise owl. Thank you for that.

    Reply
  34. Shafiqa Ariefdien
    21 September 2020

    Just spotted this pretty bird (with long tail feathers out) and what appears to be his mate in our home garden in Welcome Estate, Athlone, Cape Town.
    This is the first time we see them here.
    Such a pretty pair to watch.

    Reply
  35. Tammy Hanson
    26 September 2020

    Hi everyone. I found this to be quite interesting. I live in Cape Town. I’ve put up a bird feeder in our garden and we’ve attracted all kinds of beautiful birds. When this little bugger showed up I thought he was so cute and was feeding peacefully with the other birds. He is smart. He even calls me at my window when he wants more food. As the weeks went on, he became more aggressive, even injuring the larger birds. My neighbor and I found some blood splatter against the wall, wings, feathers ripped out and small dead birds. I’m not sure if this bird is causing all the damage but I’ve seen how aggressive he gets. The other birds stopped coming to the feeder, which saddened me because I enjoy watching them and I love the sound. I have since scattered some seeds on the other side of the house so that the other birds can at least get some food but he has found that spot as well and chases them away. Yesterday, I noticed a falcon on my wall for the first time in the six years I’ve lived here and it came back three times after that, so I’m wondering if that legend is true. 😊 The Whydah is still causing Havoc today though.

    If you have any suggestions on how to get rid of this bird please let me know. Alternatively, when do they lose their tail feathers?

    Reply
    • admin
      27 September 2020

      Hi Tammy
      Thank you for visiting our site. The Pin-tailed Wydah is only agressive when it is his breeding season, which is when he grows his long tail. This is usually just for a month or two. Although he is an agressive nuisance he is definitely not responsible for the blood spatter and small dead birds, this would be from a butcher bird or similar bird, could also be the falcon, however they would normally carry the bird away to their nest.
      The only advice we could offer is not to fill the feeder when he is in breeding season. Unfortunately there is no other way to get rid of him. For your information the Wydah lays their eggs in the nest of the weaver birds who then innocently raise these chicks up as their own and this is the reason you will probably have them in your garden each year. Hope this helps 🙂

      Reply

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