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Meet the Northern Red-Bishop: One of the Most Fascinating Birds on Earth

The Northern Red Bishop is a little bird measuring between 10 to 11 cm in length and is a familiar face across the continent of Africa. It is one of the smaller weaver finches in the Ploceidae family, distinguished by its bright red plumage and dark black belly. Its wings, bill, and face are all brown, with a black crown on top of its head. In addition, the bird’s short brown tail is tipped with a bright red patch.

# The Northern Red Bishop’s Unique Appearance

Instagram / @m_alqayem2

Formerly known as the Red Bishop in both North and South Africa, this bird has undergone a classification change. It has now been split into two distinct species: the Northern Red Bishop and the Southern Red Bishop. As sister species, the two birds look somewhat similar, yet there are some distinctions between them. The Northern Red Bishop is considered as one of the most beautiful birds on Earth, with its striking, attention-grabbing attire making it hard to miss in the wild. Many birders are intrigued by this graceful and brilliant bird, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world.

# Differences between the Northern and Southern Red Bishop

Steve Garvie / CC BY-SA 2.0

The main difference between the Northern and Southern Red Bishop is the positioning of the vivid colors on their plumage. The Northern Red Bishop has a black crown on top of its head while the Southern Red Bishop does not. The male and female Northern Red Bishop also has different feather patterns. The males have orange to red plumage on their back that wraps around their chin, back of their head, throat, and breast. While the feathers of the females (and non-breeding males) feature a diluted brown and white pattern, similar to the feathers of a sparrow.

# Habitat and Behavior of the Northern Red Bishop

Blake Shaw / San Joaquin Marsh, Irvine, California.

This marvelous creature can be found all over northern Africa, from Liberia to the Ivory Coast and across Kenya. Tall grasslands and cultivated areas near water and marshes are preferred habitats for Northern Red Bishops. This species has been found from the plains up to heights of over a thousand meters. Their primary food source is grass seeds, although they have also been observed eating a wide range of flora and insects.

# The Northern Red Bishop’s Breeding Season

Instagram / @simon_joubert_afromacro

The Northern Red Bishop goes through a color transformation before breeding. When not breeding, the male Red Bishop has a similar coloring to the female. However, the male’s coat turns into a stunning red or orange-red color during the breeding season. Males use their vivid plumage to entice a female to mate with them. Upon completion of the courtship, the female Red Bishop constructs a nest from a variety of grass and reed species, as well as marsh plants. Once the eggs are laid, the nesting phase can last anywhere from 14 to 16 days. The actual breeding season starts from May and continues deep into November.

# The Northern Red Bishop’s Conservation Status

Francesco Veronesi / CC BY-SA 2.0

Currently, the IUCN Red List evaluates the Northern Red Bishop as Least Concern. A stable population trend indicates that the species does not meet the requirements for Vulnerable status based on population trend criterion.


Instagram / @simon_joubert_afromacro


Luc Viatour / CC BY-SA 3.0


Instagram / @wildlife__lover


Thomas Varto Nielsen

In conclusion, the Northern Red-Bishop is truly a beauty of nature, deserving of much more recognition for its elegant, vibrant plumage. Whether you are looking to photograph this bird or want to appreciate it from afar, be sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to see one of these beautiful creatures. As a bird lover, what do you find fascinating about this little bird? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Written by Pasan Nanayakkara

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