Birders are asked to keep an eye out for the pin-tailed whydah, a pretty songbird native to sub-Saharan Africa, which could be making its way to Southern California – which could spell trouble for native songbirds.
Prized as pets, especially when the males grow their long tail feathers during the breeding season, the birds have escaped captivity or been released in the wild. The problem is that these birds are a brood parasite – females lay their eggs in nests of other species and the foster parents end up raising the chicks, often neglecting their own offspring.
A recent study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications by Mark Hauber, an evolutionary ecologist at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and colleagues employed computer modeling to pinpoint likely places for pin-tailed whydahs to show up – one possible site includes Orange County.
It’s not a sure thing that the pin-tailed whydah will make a lasting interference; the bird is not a particularly good flyer, doesn’t migrate and can’t handle crossing bodies of water.
Still birders can help the cause by reporting any sightings to e-bird which could mitigate any possible invasion.