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Red-billed Quelea

Red-billed Quelea
origin:Unforested sub-Saharan Africa
life expectancy:3 years
scientific name:Quelea quelea
family:Ploceidae
dimensions:0 to 13 cm
compatibility: goodsinging ability: good
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History [ edit ]

The Red-billed Quelea is the specie most numerous in the wild. They are regarded in their native territory, the savannas and grasslands of Africa, as a pest. Despite their large numbers in the wild, in captivity it is rarely bred successfully.

The Red-billed Quelea is a gregarious bird, leaving in very large flocks. They are nomadic birds with very predictable migratory patterns in some regions. At distance the large flocks, of thousand or even millions of individuals seem a massive dust storm. These birds prefer seeds of wild grasses to crops, but due to their numerous flocks, even a small percentage of those in their diets mean a lot of damage to the farmers. International programs were created to manage the specie population.

The difficulty of breeding these birds in captivity has its origin in this gregarious trait of them. Red-billed Queleas need the company of the flock to stimulate breeding activity. However, pairs form strong bonds indicating that they are monogamists.

Red-billed Queleas are part of the weavers group, so called because of the shape of their nests.  
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Temperament [ edit ]

Queleas are gregarious birds that enjoy company. They aren´t pet birds, since they wouldn´t be happy living in a cage. They need other birds to relate to. They are quite easy to maintain, but not that easy to breed.

Red-billed Queleas are part of the African songbirds. They have elaborate songs but this trait is thought to be reserved to males. 
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Housing [ edit ]

These birds are quite active and need their flock to reproduce themselves. They aren’t cage birds, since Red-billed Queleas live happier with the company of other birds in aviaries.

Planted aviaries are a good idea. Generally they don´t need eating, except in especially cold winters.
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Diet [ edit ]

These birds are seed eaters, so a good foreign finch mix complemented with green food is the proper diet. Live food, like insects need to be present when there are chicks, but they also make a good treat.
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General appearance [ edit ]

This is a small weaver bird, with no more then 13 cm. The Red-billed Queleas are sexually dimorphic: the male has different color from bill to toe, which makes sexing quite easy. The hens have brownish tonalities, orange feet and an orange bill that becomes redder during breeding season. Queleas males have one of the most variably plumaged. During breeding season, all males acquire vivid colors, but the changes aren´t the same in all specimens. They all form a face mask that can vary from white to black and grayish colors in between. Around the face mask and in the chest area, they have red to yellow feathers or shades in between (oranges or pinks). Their feet are pinkish, the bill is red and the wings are brownish with white trimmed feathers.

On contrary to other birds, the cocks´ plumage doens´t symbolize male quality. Instead it is though that the colors facilitate the individual recognition. In these birds, experts defend that are the unfeathered parts of the body, like the legs, eye ring and bill, that are more related to reproductive success. However, there´s still many uncertainties about this trait of Queleas. What seems to be established is that plumage traits have unusual frequency distributions that is not environmentally determined and that is established for life being strongly genetically determined.

When out of matting season, the cocks resemble much like hens with duller grays, browns and creams.
 
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