Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Red-Billed Quelea

Male in Breeding Plumage
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Order : Passeriformes
Family : Ploceidae
Genus : Quelea
Species : quelea

Length : 5in (12.5cm)
Weight : 15-20g

IUCN Status : Least Concern

The Red-Billed Quelea is the most abundant species of bird on the planet. The estimation is that there are over 1.5 billion of these guys flying around Sub-Saharan Africa. They inhabit grass and woodlands, and live in nomadic flocks that number well into the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.

Red-Billed Queleas have actually benefitted from human encroachment. Farming has led to more grain crops which the birds enthusiastically feed off of. They are considered to be major pests throughout most of their range, as their sheer flock size can completely devastate crops. There have been efforts to control the Quelea population, but the birds are so numerous that even killing a few million has had little effect. There has even been a downside to these measures, as other species have been affected.

Quelea Flock
Red-Billed Queleas are a dull beige color, though during the breeding season males take on a more colorful plumage, and females' bills shift to a more yellow hue. Prior to breeding males begin weaving a nest that the prospective females evaluate. If the female approves, the pair finishes the nest together. 2-4 eggs are laid at a time, are incubated for 12 days, and the hatch. Young birds leave the nest after only two weeks, and themselves become sexually mature after a year. Red-Billed Queleas age quickly and have a short lifespan of only 2-3 years.

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