The long-tailed widowbird is a medium-sized bird and one of the most common in the territories it inhabits. Adult breeding males are almost entirely black with orange and white shoulders (epaulets), long, wide tails, and a bluish white bill. Females are rather inconspicuous, their feathers streaked tawny and black with pale patches on the chest, breast and back, narrow tail feathers, and horn-color bills. When flying, male long-tailed widowbirds are readily visible due to their extremely long tails. Between six and eight of their twelve tail feathers are approximately half a metre (approximately 20 inches) long. The tail during flight display is expanded vertically into a deep, long keel below the male as he flies with slow wingbeats 0.5 to 2 metres (20 to 78 inches) above his territory. The males fly with their tails drooping and somewhat spread, and with slow regular movements of their wings. In wet weather, they are unable to fly due to their elongated tails. During the non-breeding season, long-tailed widowbirds congregate into flocks, which can be found roosting in reed beds

Habitat and Distribution

Long-tailed widowbirds are generally found in swampy grassland in flocks consisting of one or two males and a number of females.


The long-tailed widowbird's diet generally consists of seeds, supplemented occasionally by arthropods. The birds do most of their foraging in flocks on the ground, though they are occasionally observed hawking insects airily.


Males defend territories in the grasslands the species inhabits. Females have a long nesting period and survey these territories and the males that inhabit them prior to mate selection. Breeding takes place from February to July, reaching its peak in March and April. Females weave nests, shaped in large dome structures with a lining of seedheads, in the high grass within males? territories. The nests are placed 0.5?1 meters (19 to 40 inches) off the ground in the upper third of the high grass (Eleusine jaegeri), where the females raise their two to three young. Females often mate with the male within whose territories they nest. Females lay one to three eggs after mating. These eggs are pale bluish green and streaked with brown. These are usually around 23.5 millimeters (0.9 inches) by 16.5 mm (0.6 inches) in size.