I spotted this bird in Cherangany hills in Trans Nzoia County. A beauty, of 13 cm length (excluding tail streamers) found at altitudes between 1000-2000m above sea level. One might spot it in tall grass and herbage in open and bushed areas. It is distributed in South West Kenya and Northern Tanzania.
They feed on seeds of sorghum and other grass seeds. They also feed on nectar, small berries, and insects, specifically ants, caterpillars, and termites. They often form large roosts, with between 50 and 100 individuals, which feed together on the ground. (I saw two).
During non-breeding seasons, the male plumage is brown, while in breeding season, October to April, they have black plumage with a long tail, approximately 22 cm, and crescent –shaped carotenoid based chest patch. There is significant variation in brightness, hue, and chroma of the carotenoid badges.In contrast, females and sub adults, like non breeding males, are streaky dull brown with a short tail, approximately 4 cm. Non breeding males, however, retain their black tails, while females and sub adults’ tails are dark-brown. The tails and plumage are the bird’s sexual ornaments. Interestingly, although the males have a brilliant red collar in breeding plumage, females choose their mates based solely by tail length, not on the intensity of the red neck collar (Don’t even go there!) Males typically construct several nests by weaving grasses into a ball-like structure that dangles from the underside of thin tree branches, and entice the females into breeding with them based on her assessment the quality of his work. (Mmmmh! Food for thought). However, the females build and position the actual nests (I am sure I heard a lady hiss, “Typical of men!”)
Typical of polygynous species, male red-collared widowbirds do not provide parental care. In fact, the only resources males provide are potential nest sites in their territories.