THE CRIMSON-CROWNED WEAVER.
Euplectes flammiceps, Swains. Birds W. Afr. i. p. 186. pl. xiii. (1837). Euplectes flammiceps, Rupp. Neue Wirbelth, p. 100 (1835-40) ; Rupp. Syst. Uebers, p. 76 (1845) ; Gordon, Jard. Contrib. Ornith, p. 9 (1849) ; Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. p. 446 (1850) ; Hartl. J. fur O. 1854, p. 112 ; Eyton, Cat. Birds, p. 245 (1856) ; Hartl. Orn. W.-Afr. p. 127 (1857) ; Hartl. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1860, p. Ill ; Hartl. J. fur O. 1860, p. 180 ; et 1861. p. 175 ; Reichb. Sing¬vogel, p. 57. pl. xxiii. fig. 203 (1861) ; Mont. Ibis, 1862, p. 338 : Scl. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1864, p. 109 ; Hartl. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1867, p. 826 ; Heugl. (Wurt. Icon. 26), J, fur O. 1867, p. 297 ; Heugl. Syn. der Vog. N.-O.-Afr. J. fur O. 1867, p. 373 ; Bocage, Aves des Posses. Portug. d’Afr. J. S. M. Lisb. i. 1868, p. 139 ; Heugl. Peterm. Geogr. Mitth. 1869, p. 415 ; Cabanis, Decken-Reisen, i. p. 59 (1869) ; Sharpe, Ibis, 1869, p. 191 ; et Cat. Afr. Birds, p. 62 (1871) ; Heugl. Ornith. N.-O.-Afr. p. 567, Append, p. cxxxii. (1871) ; Shelley and Buckley, Ibis, 1872, p. 289 ; Sharpe, Ibis, 1874, p. 69 ; et Proc. Zool. Soc. 1874, p. 306 ; Bocage, J. fur O. 1876, p. 426 ; Cab. J. fur O. 1878, p. 231 ; Fisch, et Reichn. J. fur O. 1878, p. 263 ; Fischer, J. fur O. 1879, pp. 280. 282, 289, 303 ; Fisch, et Reichn. J. fur Ornith. 1879, p. 351 ; Fischer, J. fur O. 1880, p. 187 ; Shelley, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1881, p. 585 ; Schalow, J. fur O. 1883, p. 362 ; Scl. Vert. An. Gard. Z. S. p. 243 (1883) ; Rochb. Fauna Seneg. p. 241 (1884) ; Fischer, Zeitschr. Gesam. Ornith. 1884, p. 327 ; Fischer, J. fur O. 1885, p. 134.
Ploceus flammiceps, Gray et Mitch. Gen. Birds, ii. p. 352 (1844), et ii. p. 353 (1849) ; Gray, Hand-List Birds, ii. p. 46 (1870) : Russ, Stubenvogel, p. 241 (1879).
Pyromelana flammiceps, Finsch et Hartl. Decken’s Reis. O.-Afr. p. 414 (1870) ; Salv. Cat. Coll. H. E. Strickl, p. 244 (1882) ; Shelley, Ibis, 1883, p. 552 ; Bohm, J. fur O. 1883, p. 199 : et J. fur O. 1885, p. 59 ; Shelley, Ibis, 1886, p. 352.
Euplectes oryx, Fraser, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1843, p. 52 ; Hartl. Jardine’s Contrib. Ornith. p. 131 (1850).
Pyromelana oryx, Horsf, et Moore, Cat. Birds Mus. E.-Ind. Comp. p. 519 (1856-58).
Euplectes Petiti, Des Murs, Rev. Zool. ix. 1846, p. 242 ; Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. p. 446 (1850) ; Hartl. Ornith. W.-Afr. p. 127 (1857) ; Reichb. Singvogel, p. 58 (1861) ; Heugl. J. fur O. 1867, p. 375 ; Finsch et Hartl. Orn. O.-Afr. p. 415 note (1870) ; Heugl. Ornith. N.-O.-Afr. p. 570. Append, p. cxxxii. (1871).
Loxia (Eupleetes) Petiti, Des Murs, in Lefebv. Voy. Abyss, vi. p. 112. pl. x. fig. 1 (1845-50).
Ploceus Petiti, Gray et Mitch. Gen. Birds, ii. p. 353 (1849) ; Gray, Hand-List Birds, ii. p. 46 (1870).
Ploceus craspedopterus, Schiff, Mus. Francf.
Euplectes craspedopterus, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av. p. 446 (1850) : Heugl. Syst. Uebers. p. 39 (1856) ; Reichb. Singvogel, p. 58 (1861).
Euplectes flaviceps (laps, typ.), Hartl. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1863, p. 106.
Euplectes pyrrhozona, Heugl. J. fur Ornith. 1864, p. 247.
Figures, Swains. Birds W. Afr. i. pl. xiii. et Des Murs ; Lefebv. Voy. Abyss, t. 10. 1.
English. Crimson-crowned Weaver. The Flammiceps Oryx. Petit's Fire-Finch. White-bordered Fire-Finch.
French. Le Cardinalin flammiceps. Le Cardinalin Petit. L’Ignicolor de Petit. Le Cardinalin craspedoptere.
German. Der Flammen-Webervogel. Swainson's Flammenkopfiger Feuerfink. Petit’s Feuerfink. Der Feuerfink mit weissem Fliigelsaum.
Habitat. North-East and West Africa. Extending “from Abyssinia to Linda on the cast coast, and from the Quanza River to Senegal on the west coast” (Shelley).
Male. Crown, hind neck, sides and lower part of throat, fiery orange-red, which passes up to an acute point, to the angle of the lower mandible ; mantle and scapulars bright chestnut, tinged with orange ; rump and upper tail-coverts like the crown and throat ; narrow frontal band uniting on the culmen, narrow line over the eye, lores, cheeks, ear- coverts, chin, upper part of throat, chest, and belly velvety-black ; wings, wing-coverts and tail black, narrowly edged with white and pale buff ; flanks, thighs, abdomen and under tail-coverts pale fawn-colour, slightly tinged with orange ; axillaries pale buff ; under wing-coverts, and under surface of wing nearly black ; iris brown ; bill black ; feet brownish flesh-colour : length 5.3, wing 2.95, tail 2.1, tars. 0.75, culm. 0.65.
Female. Above rufous-brown ; crown of head and hind neck narrowly striated, mantle and scapulars broadly striated with dark brown ; rump and upper tail-coverts faintly striated and uniform pale brown ; wings and coverts, and tail dark brown, narrowly edged with pale rufous-brown ; eyebrows yellowish buff ; cheeks and ear-coverts like the hind neck ; moustachial ; line faint yellowish buff; chin, throat, abdomen and under tail-coverts nearly pure white ; breast, sides, flanks, and thighs, brownish buff, slightly tinged with yellow, and very faintly striated ; axillaries, under surface of wing and coverts dull brown ; iris pale brown ; bill pale fleshy-brown, darker on the culmen ; feet pinkish flesh-colour : length 4.65, wing 2.45, tail 1.7, tars. 0.75, culm. 0.6.
Young. Similar to the female but paler.
Obser. The brilliant colours of the male are assumed by a gradual moult of the whole of the feathers, and after the breeding season they become like the females and young males.
In the adult males, the fine shafts of the feathers on the crown and nape terminate in long black hair-like points ; and immature males have the wing-coverts, secondaries and tail broadly edged with rufous-brown ; in some the longest under tail-coverts are white ; the bill being silvery-white at the base.
The secondaries of the adult female are narrowly, and in the young females broadly, edged with pale rufous-brown.
THE group of Fire-Finches (so called from the brilliancy of their plumage) to which the Crimson-crowned Weaver belongs is one of the most extensive and beautiful of the whole family of Ploceidoe found on the continent of Africa. The exquisite arrangement of colours, although opposed to each other, harmonizes, and lends beauty to the everlasting activity of these very amusing birds ; their movements and most ludicrous song, or I might say chatterings, always create merriment among those who keep them in confine¬ment and watch the grotesque attitudes into which these extraordinary birds put themselves.
The distribution of this Weaver-bird appears to be very great, and from the number of localities in which it has been procured by many ornitho¬logists shows that it occupies in its migrations the whole of the central portion of Africa.
The vast humid reed-covered swamps of the interior are the homes of this beautiful bird ; in these situations they assemble in countless hundreds, and during the breeding season suspend their globular grass nests on the tall reeds.
This species was first separated from the more southern form (Euplectes oryx) by Mr. W. Swainson in 1837, who described it from a skin sent from Senegal, and although easily recognised by its black wings, it has been confused with the South and East African birds of the same genera, in which the wings are dull brown.
During the Niger Expedition in 1840, Mr. Louis Fraser found it “common about Cape Coast, West Africa, frequenting the Indian-corn plantations,” and placed it under the name Euplectes oryx. In 1847 it was obtained by Dr. Gordon at Cape Coast Castle, where according to his observations “they are very familiar, and hop from branch to branch, within a few yards of the person who visits their retreats.”
In Angola, according to Mr. J. J. Monteiro, it was “very common at Bembe, Cambambe, and about the river Quanza, but not seen on the coast ; keeping always among the high grass ”; and Dr. Welwitsch obtained it at Golunge also in the interior of Angola.
Major Harris brought home examples from Abyssinia ; specimens were also collected by Dr. Petit in Abyssinia in 1840 while travelling with M. T. Lefebvre’s expedition, which were described by M. O. des Murs under the name Loxia (Euplectes) Petiti.
Captain J. H. Speke also found it at Mininga, in Central East Africa, where he says it “flies about in large flocks, feeding in corn-fields, and roosting at night in the rushes in the swamps.”
Herr von Heuglin says he found “this magnificent Fire-Finch breeding in almost solitary couples in August and September in the high grass and thickets in the territory of the Djur and the Kosanga rivers. The nests are built like those of E. ignicolor, and contain three verdigris-green eggs, 8.1/3 mill, in length, which are usually sprinkled at the blunt end with extremely small violet-black spots. They disappear from the above¬mentioned regions when the breeding season is over. This species seems to be found in Abyssinia also, only during the rainy season, in the neigh¬bourhood of Adowa and in the lowlands of the Takazze.”
M. Bojor observed it at Zanzibar, and Dr. Kirk sent home specimens from Melinda and Usambara in Eastern Africa. Dr. R. Bohm says it is “common on the coast of Zanzibar, and near Kakoma, not, however, in particularly large numbers. They prefer to live in patches of very tall grass on fallow ground or (not only at night) on marshes. Killed here in its transition plumage in the first half of February. I found and received nests of three to five eggs from the beginning of April (on April 11 featherless nestlings), until now, the second half of May. I saw several nests, some with young birds quite close together in very tall, thick grass.
“As long as the Fire-Finches wear their ordinary brown plumage, they fly about in such close company with Ploceus sanguinirostris that a shot sent into the closely-flying swarm regularly brings down a number of specimens of both kinds (Mdaburu in Ugogo). At eventide these flocks settle among the reeds of almost dried-up swamps to drink and sleep. From every direction, first singly, then in ever-increasing numbers, the flocks come with a particularly rapid and loudly whirring flight, wheeling around closely packed together, with precipitate movements like a flock of grey plover, to and fro, then sinking down noiselessly into neighbouring bushes, where they begin their confused noise, which ever increases then decreases. Hence they fling themselves among the reeds, then back into the bushes, and soon increase so much in force that their ascent resembles distant thunder in quite a deceptive way. The masses thus gradually advance to the border of open lakes, and then throw themselves on to the water from suitable spots where the clumps of reeds are bent downwards in the form of a terrace owing to their constantly being used for this purpose ; here they fly up and down for a long period, forming an unbroken stream. If one hid oneself in one of the thick bushes into which the birds were accustomed to fly, one felt a considerable compression of the air when the flocks flew towards and into it like a living wall ; and if one goes through the reeds when it is dark, black, noisy waves, formed by the birds disturbed from their sleep, seem to roll over the marsh. The rapid, restless, shy and fugitive behaviour of the Fire-Finches at this time contrasts wonderfully with their composed, self-complacent manner when they are accustomed to sun themselves and strut on the tops of stalks, twittering and shaking their wings with bristling plumage in their garb of the mating season.”
No. Sex. Mus. Locality. Length. Wing. Tail. Tars. Culm.
a Male E. B. West Africa. 5.4 3.05 2 0.8 0.65
b Male E. B. West Africa. 4.7 2.8 1.8 0.8 0.65
c Male winter E. B. West Africa. 4.95 2.75 1.75 0.8 0.65
d Male imm. E. B. West Africa. 5.25 3.1 2 0.85 0.65
e Female E. B. West Africa. 4.4 2.5 1.65 0.75 0.6
f Female E. B. West Africa. 4.65 2.45 1.7 0.75 0.6
g Female E. B. West Africa. 0 2.55 0 0.75 0.6
h Adult E. B. Fantee, W. Africa (Ussher). 4.7 2.9 1.85 0.8 0.6
i Adult E. B. Ushambala Mt., Paugani R. (Kirk). 5.1 3.1 2 0.8 0.65
j Adult E. B. Melinda, E. Africa (Kirk). 5.3 2.95 2.1 0.75 0.65
k Adult E. B. Somali, E. Africa. 5.4 2.9 2 0.8 0.65
The figures are taken from f and j.