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Bird of the month: Bishops

My Magazine 2022/09
1 min
Bishops can only be seen in their glorious colourful mantle during the breeding season, which mostly coincides with the rainy one. Furthermore, you need to be lucky enough to spot a male, as females always remain in their casual suit, similar to the non-breeding one of the males. By their appearance and behaviour, bishops are related to widowbirds. They are both small, brown and black, with short bills.

The Gambia has three main bishops: the Black-winged Bishop, the Northern Red Bishop, and the Yellow-crowned Bishop. They are difficult to distinguish outside of the breeding season, and it is even more difficult to tell males from females because they all resemble widowbirds in appearance. The Northern Red Bishop is larger than the Yellow-crowned Bishop but smaller than the Black-winged Bishop; the difference is in size; males are larger than females. The Yellow-crowned Bishop has distinct stripes on its breast and flanks, but the Black-winged Bishop only has them on its sides. These stripes are most noticeable in the Yellow-crowned Bishop.

Northern Red Bishop

Yellow-crowned Bishops may easily be distinguished when breeding. The cloak of these creatures is a vivid bright yellow, and its belly, lower chest, mask, and collar are all black. On the other side, the Northern Red Bishop resembles a yellow-crowned bishop, except that there are red components instead of yellow. Additionally, it has a black crown, which helps set it apart from the Black-winged Bishop, which additionally has black wings in addition to a red crown.

Yellow-crowned Bishop

All three are common residents. The Yellow-crowned Bishop prefers moister habitats such as swampy and riverside areas, rice fields, and floodplains. The other two are more widespread, staying in moist grassland, rank vegetation and forest clearings, also close to farmlands.

Yellow-crowned Bishop

The male displays are similar – bouncing flight with puffed-out plumage and song. Their voice differs, but each consists of chirping and twittering as well.

Photo Credits: Mark Goddard

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