Four and one half inches in length. This is a dichromatic species, the males sprouting nuptial plumage that is quite different from the out-of-color phase. Breeding plumage is bright red with face and breast black; wings and tail pale brown; reddish-orange under tail-coverts. Non-breeding male phase resembles hens and juveniles, i.e. sparrow-like and streaky above. Voice consists of various twittering calls.
GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Local resident, migratory in non-breeding season, through East and Central Africa. Inhabits tall grass, sugar cane, maize cultivation, elephant grass and rank herbage near water. Wanders to open plains and short grass bush country after nesting season.
Green and ripe seeds of grasses and small brush. They may feed on the ground or hanging from seed heads of grass and plant stems. Have been observed feeding on new leaves and flowers of small shrubs.
LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Males in color gather in large flocks to locate a nesting territory, usually thorn scrub thicket. They weave neat, suspended globe nests from long grasses and await the arrival of the flocks of hens. The females inspect the nests and accept the best architects. From 3-5 white eggs are the usual clutch and the chicks, fed on insects and green, milky grass seeds, fledge in 25 days.
Short heavy bills for seed eating.
One of several species of bishop weavers. Red bishops are very conspicuous during the breeding season, making display flights over the grass with rump feathers fluffed up.
STATUS IN WILD:
Flocks numbering thousands are blamed for grain crop damage when they stop over cultivated fields. Attempts to eradicate them as pests have included setting fire to their roosting trees at night which, while killing thousands, seem to have little effect on the overall population. They are listed on Appendix III of CITES (a specific country considers them threatened within that country).