Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Village Indigobird, Vidua chalybeata, photographed in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, Africa. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Dan Logen, 17 January 2010 [larger view].

Nikon D300, 600 mm VR lens with 1.4 extender ISO 500, f/8, 1/1000 sec.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

This Old World genus of birds is filled with species that have a very close relationship with another species of bird — can you tell me the nature of that relationship and tell me which species this bird is associated with?

It is a brood parasite which lays its eggs in the nests of Red-billed Firefinches, also known as Senegal Firefinch, Lagonosticta senegala. Unlike the Common Cuckoo, it does not destroy the host’s egg when it adds 2-4 eggs of its own to those already present. The eggs of both the host and the firefinch are white, although the indigobird’s are slightly larger. The nestling indigobirds mimic the unique gape pattern of the fledglings of the host species.

Review all mystery birds to date.


  1. #1 Murray
    June 26, 2010

    Shouldn’t be taking up space, have no idea but look forward to comments– but how about an Indigobird–at least I’ve got the color right!

  2. #2 Adrian
    June 26, 2010

    Welcome Murray, no space problems here! Nearly there but which one?

  3. #3 Ann
    June 27, 2010

    Legs make me think violet indigobird, adult male; range would make me wonder about dusky indigobird, adult male, but I don’t think the legs look reddish enough, nor do the wing feathers look brown enough. (A song recording would be definitive.)

  4. #4 psweet
    June 27, 2010

    If I remember correctly, these are brood parasites, with each species specializing in one host species. They even learn the host species song, I believe. But I have no idea which species this would parasitize.

  5. #5 Adrian
    June 27, 2010

    Hi Paul,
    Purple Indigobird parasitises Jameson’s Firefinch,
    Variable Indigobird ” African Firefinch
    Village Indigobird ” Red-billed Firefinch
    They all appear to have two songs, their own and a mimic of the host species, although it is more complicated than this.
    Purple and Variable (Dusky) males are morphologically
    indistinguishable and presumably separated by range.

  6. #6 Murray
    June 27, 2010

    I got as far as the genus (“Vidua”) and thank you, Adrian!In other words, the indigobird can be identified by its “other” song — now that we have a tape: Anne’s point. Barring that, could we identify it at all? (I assume that Grrl’s question about another species is the parasitizing of the Firefinches’ nest.)

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