Orange Weaver

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Is the Orange Weaver right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Orange Bishop; Red Bishop; Northern Red Bishop (E. franciscanus); Little Bishop; Southern Red Bishop (E. orix)

Scientific name: Euplectes franciscanus / Euplectes orix

The basics:
The Orange Weaver, often affectionately referred to as the Orange Bishop, is the most popular weaver in captivity. These birds are easy to feed, but because of the male's aggressiveness, they require a lot of space for each male and his harem. Keep in mind that you still have to house the birds when they're out of color and not beautiful show pieces. Therefore, they are usually only realistic for aviary owners who have lots of room.

The Northern and Southern Red Bishop was once considered a single species with two subspecies, but they have now been split into two separate abundant African species that can be easily seen in tall grasses and reedbeds near water, where a displaying male can make a truly impressive sight, especially in bright sunlight. The Northern Red Bishop is the species found north of the equator up to the Sahara Desert, while the Southern Red Bishop is, of course, found south of the equator.

There's a mystery about the color of Orange Bishops, because they take on this rich orange color only in captivity. The wild birds are an equally rich crimson red in all the places where you see orange in pet or aviary birds.

Breeding males possess stunning black and orange plumage. However, the females are unimpressive mottled brown birds, and the male will resemble them in his eclipse, although he may have black or orange feathers scattered about somewhere in his plumage. If you have an adult male in breeding condition, it's easy to tell the pure species apart, since the Northern Red Bishop male has a red (or orange) throat while the Southern male has a black throat. Telling the females or males in eclipse plumage apart is a difficult challenge and it is likely that many of the birds bred in captivity are hybrids.

10 - 15 grams (3.5 - 5.3 oz.)

Average size:
11 - 15 centimeters (4.3 - 5.9 in.)

7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
While the Orange Weaver may be seen in huge flocks in the wild, the aggressive showboating males simply won't tolerate rivals in a confined space where they can't get away. You may, and probably should, have several females in a large aviary, but you should only maintain one adult male per display flight. You must take great care in creating a mixed-species flight, because this aggressive species could attack other birds. One breeders says that he has successfully placed them together with Cockatiels. Go slow if you consider something like that. Yes, the Cockatiel is quite a bit larger, but they sometimes allow themselves to be pushed around by aggressive smaller birds, so always monitor the situation very carefully for the safety of all birds concerned.

Do not skimp on the weaving and nesting materials for the Orange Weaver. Watching their courtship displays and architectural efforts is half the fun of this species. Don't expect much of a song.

Housing the polygamous, territorial Orange Weaver is a project for hobbyists with plenty of room. This species can't be recommended for a cage, although sometimes colonies of out of season or immature birds are held in large flights for a short time. The ideal set-up will be a large planted aviary with plenty of platforms, boxes, and weaving materials, as well as bird-safe potted greenery that can be swapped out as the birds consume or create with the greens. One adult male should have a harem of several females. He might defend all of the territory but he will choose to mate only with as many females as he wishes to construct nests for. Each nest will be distant from the other, and one breeder recommends an area of 12' by 12' per nest. It's possible that he will breed only with a favorite female. In all cases, the colony will need plenty of room, and there should never be more than one adult male in full color in the colony.

The Orange Weaver is a well-known escape artist, with sightings of escaped birds regularly reported from California and the southern United States. Make sure your flight has double doors, because you are unlikely to be able to recapture a runaway bird, although you may receive a photograph from time to time if it's your colorful male that gets away.

The backbone of the Orange Weaver's diet should be a high quality small seed mix that includes a variety of fresh seeds including red millet. However, these birds cannot survive on an austere diet of hard seed alone. It is very important to soak or sprout fresh seed, so that you can offer healthy sprouted seed, including sprouted millet sprays, on a regular basis. They particularly enjoy greens, which they should receive several times a week. Chopped spinach, broccoli, kale, chickweed, dandelion, and other greens from pesticide-free sources will be cleaned up regularly. Shredded apples and carrots can always be added to the salad. You can also offer a high quality small bird pellet. All weavers should have access to grit, as well as clean cuttlebone or another source of calcium.

Warning: Orange Weavers also demand an astonishing amount of live food, especially if you expect to breed them. Make sure you have a reliable supply of mealworms, crickets, and other live food before you start the breeding. A male given insufficient protein may not molt out into his nuptial finery properly, obviating the entire purpose of keeping these birds.

Written by Elaine Radford

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